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How to tell my sons about their granny's illness?

(18 Posts)
Jianning Wed 22-Jun-11 08:14:30

My mum is in hospital having tests - they thing she has some kind of lymphoma which does not sound too good. I don't know yet what the doctors think, but it seems to me that they are preparing her for the worst. They have told her she will probably need chemo and because of her other health problems this could be quite dangerous. I hope I'm being pessimistic, but things don't look good. Quite apart for the nightmare this is for me, I have 2 sons (13 and 9) and my mum has been a very important part of their lives and they really love her. I don't know what to do - how honest should I be with them? Should I pretend everything is OK until I can no longer deny it? Or should I prepare them for the worst? Anyone out there dealing with the same problem?

throckenholt Wed 22-Jun-11 08:19:15

Be totally honest - they are old enough to understand. And it will make it easier to talk about things in front of them as things progress. If you try and hide bits of if now you will forget what they know and what they don't, or they will overhear conversations and make up their own conclusions.

My mum has cancer, and my kids are 8 and 9 - they know what is going on and seem to take it in their stride. They have their sad moments, and understand when I do too. It is all part of life and you can't shield them from reality.

I hope things are better for your mum than you fear.

GooseyLoosey Wed 22-Jun-11 08:28:32

I woud agree with total honesty. My mother would have come up with load of euphemisms and avoid mentioning it and, partly as a result, my own attitude to death is not great. I am open with my children and completely honest, and I think they have a better relationship with the subject. Tell them she is ill and its not clear whether the doctors will be able to cure her or not.

Merrylegs Wed 22-Jun-11 08:36:07

My mum also has lymphoma. She was diagnosed two years ago. At first it was a 'watch and wait' scenario, so we didn't tell the kids (they are around your DS's ages) as actually, there was no real need.

However, since the illness progressed and she started chemo, we have told them, as she has been quite ill with the treatment.

They know she has cancer and they are sad for that, but they also know she is being treated. We haven't said 'but it might not work'. We have said 'It is working at the moment.' Which it is.

There will come a time when it might not work anymore, and then we will face the 'what next stage' together. But that time isn't yet.

Lymphoma can progress in so many ways - it may be a while before your mother has to face any treatment or it may be now. I would tell your kids on a 'what is happening now' basis and be quite factual about it.

throckenholt Wed 22-Jun-11 08:36:46

My mum was talking about the other day about when she was 12 and her grandfather was dying. She said there was lots of furtive conversation - she and her brother knew something was going on but not what and made up lots of scary things on their own to explain what they observed.

HSMM Wed 22-Jun-11 08:44:24

We told our DD when her Grandmother was ill. She accepted it and just treated her the same as usual. Just be ready to answer any questions they may have.

Jianning Wed 22-Jun-11 08:45:31

Thank you for all your responses. My inclination is to be totally honest with them. After all death is part of life and they would not be so upset if they didn't have the very special relationship that they have with her. It's the price you pay for love - isn't it? It just seems so complicated - the last thing I want is them being so upset and then upset her. Merrylegs - thanks for your response. Sorry to hear about your mum. We don't know yet what type it is and I am scared to google the disease yet. At the moment I don't know what will happen and I don't want them to worry too early.

LunaticIsOnTheGrass Wed 22-Jun-11 09:01:07

Agree with total honesty as well.

I was in a similar situation last year. My Dad was dying of cancer & I had to sit my 2 boys down & talk to them about it ( they were 12 & 10 at the time)

I simplified it a bit for them, but they had the main facts - that Grandpa was very ill, it was Cancer, & he was going to die - probably quite soon.

They took it better than I expected & were very mature about it, they were very sad about it obviously, I think they coped better because they had some understanding of it. They were very supportive towards me as well.

I was SO proud of them.

I really do believe that I did the right thing telling them though, they were able to say their goodbyes to their beloved Grandpa properly & when the worst did happen it wasn't a complete shock to them.

I'm so sorry this is happening to your family.
It's a horrible, horrible time
You're all in my thoughts x

ruddynorah Wed 22-Jun-11 09:12:21

Yes be honest with them. My mum died of cancer when I was 9. It wasn't good hearing that's what she was ill with from a school friend.

Be honest, they are old enough to know the truth. Kids are clever anyway...when my mum was dying of lunch cancer my DS (who was 7) knew exactly what was happening even though we tried to play it down. I never told him what mum had or that she was dying but he told my close friend "that nanny is ill and I think she is going to die".......I wish I had been honest with him from the start so that it wasnt such a shock for him when she did die!

vogonmothership Wed 22-Jun-11 14:17:45

So sorry you are going through this.
My beloved dad is slowly coming out the other side of a lymphoma, we have been open and honest with dcs 5.5 and 2.5 . It's opened up some heart wrenching discussions but I am glad that we have been able to deal with is as a family, they have been active making things for Grandad and the hospital staff, taking lots of photos and videos etc for him.
I hope you find the strength you need to carry you through.

nagynolonger Wed 22-Jun-11 14:28:52

As others have said be honest from the start. The 13 yearold will certainly pick up on words like lymphoma and google it anyway. My 14 yearold did when I mentioned a family friend was having treatment for a malignant mole.
They had been learning about cancer cells in biology.

Jianning Wed 22-Jun-11 14:57:47

Thanks everyone - just spent the day crying. I don't know whether to attempt to 'be strong' in front of children or what. I have been dreading this for decades - but I am really horrified at some of the feelings I am having. I have been on really great terms with my mum since I had the children, but before things were not always easy. I just feel there is so much unresolved stuff and it will never be resolved - but that's normal, isn't it?

vogonmothership Wed 22-Jun-11 17:08:39

Yes it's normal, you're going to go through a whole raft of weird emotions, anger, sadness, regret, helplessness etc etc about the past, present and future
I think it's ok not to be ok in front of your children, then they know it's ok to be sad too. Once the initial shock wears off you will find a way to cope. I think all the mums in the playground got used to my erratic weeping and looking like 7 sacks of poo.
If you want to talk to someone or need practical help them Macmillan have a fabulous helpline weblink here

Sexonlegs Wed 22-Jun-11 17:34:05

I am sorry you are going through this.

I agree with others; be honest.

My Mum was diagnosed with cancer when the dd's were 2 and 6. I have to say I only told them what was happening when Mum's life was coming to an end - they were 3 and 7 then; I was so emotional and stroppy, that I felt I owed it to the girls to explain why I was behaving how I was.

DD2 didn't really get it, but dd1 understood fully and was incredibly supportive.

We also questioned whether, when Mum was in to her last few days, the dd's should see her. Mum was worried that the girls would be scared sad DD1 went up to see Mum and came down and said "Gran wasn't scary at all!"

I wish you all the best.

bibbitybobbityhat Wed 22-Jun-11 17:39:46

I didn't tell my dc that their Grandpa was going to die until about two weeks before he actually did. Because up until then we didn't know exactly when he was going to die - there was hope that he might have been well enough to see them one more time.

I don't think there is any need to tell little children that a grandparents disease is terminal until the end is getting near - what can they do about it? other than feel very sad and worried.

LunaticIsOnTheGrass Wed 22-Jun-11 21:03:14

I agree with not telling til you know the end is quite near.

As I said above I explained to my boys, but my Dad had very agressive lung cancer & there was only a couple of weeks between the diagnosis & him dying.

It's totally normal what you're feeling by the way - you are going to feel all sorts of emotions, it is a huge thing to have to be dealing with & a big shock as well I should imagine.

Just try to get through it one day a time. Tears are okay, so is anything else that helps you to deal with it x

Al1son Sun 03-Jul-11 23:54:48

When FIL was diagnosed with Cancer we decided to tell the girls because we wanted them to get used to the idea when there was hope. Since then we have answered all of their questions honestly but not offered much extra information.

When he came home from hospital for the last time DD2 (aged 8) asked if Grandad was going to die and we said yes but we didn't know when. Then when DH went to see him at very short notice she didn't ask for 24 hours then when she was ready she asked more. I was honest about the situation and when he died 48 hrs later she was prepared.

We felt that the girls would suspect things and needed to know we would be honest with them. We feel it was the right way to handle it. We approached his funeral on Tuesday in much the same way and it felt right.

I hope that helps you but you are probably best following your instincts as you know your children best.

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