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How do I explain to a 6 year old that someone he loves is going to die?

(17 Posts)
MrSlant Fri 29-Mar-13 20:24:33

I know that this section of MN is amazing and supportive so I come to you for help and full of sadness to be joining you all here.

My lovely, young, bil had an awful accident nearly 4 weeks ago and sustained a terrible head injury. He has been unconscious ever since and despite the best treatment in the world we have now been told that it is highly unlikely that he will ever regain consciousness and as a family we are planning what steps we will take ie not giving him antibiotics next time he gets a chest infection and allowing nature to take it's course.

We have been totally honest with our children throughout as we live in a small community and the thought of them hearing gossip or seeing it in the local paper means we want them to hear the correct information from us. Their uncle has always been a big part of their lives, somewhere between a fantastic big brother and extra parent and is especially close to DS3 who is 6 as bil helped out a lot when he was born. We told the boys today that their uncle will never wake up and it is likely that he will die in the next few months, the older boys sobbed their hearts out but they understand and we are a close family and we will get though it together. DS3 though just didn't understand, he has no concept of death. Is this ok? Can I just leave him happy in his ignorance or is there a way of preparing him for the awful day when we stop visiting the hospital all the time and darling bil won't ever come home?

I know that there are some wonderful websites out there, I seem to have spent my days on there looking at various things but I just wondered if anyone had any experience of this, I am so sorry if you do, but it would really help to have some pointers because I just don't know how to act or how to help them. I'm am broken too because I have known bil since he was a boy and I love him like a brother. This is all just so stupid and awful and difficult.

Thank you in advance and I hope I don't upset anyone by making them think of their own awful times.

BumpingFuglies Fri 29-Mar-13 20:30:05

So sorry OP - don't have much advice to give, but I do feel for you. When my Dad was dying, I encouraged my son to see him, just for 5 mins. My son tells me now that he is glad I did this, even though his Grandad didn't really know he was there.

Best to be honest I think, in a 6 year old kind of way.

Scootergrrrl Fri 29-Mar-13 20:30:07

I don't have any experience which would be helpful but I don't want this to fall out of active conversations in case someone comes along. Thinking of you and your family at what is obviously a horrible time.

elenotfun Fri 29-Mar-13 20:30:52

Hi. So sorry about your bil. When a young girl we know died a couple of years ago I got the goodbye mog book for my dc. Not sure if it's goodbye mog or good night mog actually. It shows what happens when the cat dies, you can see it's spirit and how it stays with the family although they can't see it. It's a lovely story.

LayMizzRarb Fri 29-Mar-13 20:32:41

I'm so sorry too hear your news. I can't offer you the advice you need, but please consider contacting
They will be able to give you support and advice.

hugs (())

KnockKnockKnockPenny Fri 29-Mar-13 20:33:49

I think 'Badger's parting gift' is another good book for children.
I am sorry I don't know how to advise you though. What a terrible situation for you all. sad

MrSlant Fri 29-Mar-13 20:35:16

Thank you, it is unbelievably hard and yet breathtakingly amazing because the love and help that we have had makes you see how much goodness is out there and how many people love bil so much. It's also horrible to see how many people have been through similar but they carry on, so we know we will too.

The older two have been in to see him and they looked so relieved because I think the not knowing is harder than the reality. I will have to persuade mil to let DS3 in this week, she doesn't want them to be upset.

LunaticFringe Fri 29-Mar-13 20:36:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrSlant Fri 29-Mar-13 20:36:31

Those book suggestions are great, thank you, I will order them now.

thewhistler Fri 29-Mar-13 20:44:43

I am so very sorry, how heart rending. Much sympathy.

We told Ds when his DGM died that her body had got tired out of struggling on, so he wouldn't see her any more. But the love she left behind her and that she had given lived on.

There was an anxious period when he was afraid of sleep, so try to avoid " he has gone to his final sleep/ rest " etc. We explained in her case it was she was very very old, and it would not happen to younger people like him or us.

you could say it was such a big accident in his case that the body can't cope but very few people have such accidents .

I do think it is sensible to take him to see him. 5 mins will be enough both to say goodbye and to put over imagination to bed.

But then a few months or weeks later find an excuse to take him to see someone else in hospital who is not going to die, eg with a new baby or broken leg,so he doesn't associate hospitals just with death.


MrSlant Fri 29-Mar-13 20:50:47

Lunatic, so sorry for your loss (and I know that is a hopeless phrase, sorry doesn't cover anything but what else is there), we have avoided 'sleeping' what a daft euphemism to use for a little child, betimes are hard enough! I have had lots of little cries and we've done an awful lot of hugging. I am utterly hopeless at holding in grief so I hope they will cry too. It was such a relief to see the older boys crying today, they have been trying to be so strong for me over the last few weeks. We will have so, so many happy memories, I hope we can be strong like you and have happy days.

I have ordered the two books, this is why MN is great, there is always someone out to help and show you good things that you wouldn't find yourself. I just have to work out how to hold myself together to read it to him now!

Thank you so much everyone.

Potterer Fri 29-Mar-13 21:20:01

So terribly sorry to hear this sad news. I know you have ordered the books already but we had Badger's Parting Gift when my Mum died.

It was lent to us by the school's learning mentor who is a trained counsellor. She helps children to deal with bereavement in whatever form it comes in, death, divorce, separation from someone they love. I don't know if your school has a teacher like this or counsellor but it may helpful for when they are in school and may feel a little low.

My two boys were almost 4 and almost 7 when my Mum died. Ds1 took it especially hard. We have photos of my Mum round the house and we talk about the fun stuff they did with her, they especially remember the books she read to them before bed and we have kept those.

I think it is normal for some children to seem to accept death but we made it very clear that although they wouldn't see my Mum physically, we could watch videos of her, look at photos and talk about her and we do. We are 3 year on from it. I still cry about my Mum and let them see that the sadness hasn't gone for me, that it isn't something you just get over.

We didn't let them attend the funeral; I wanted to grieve without the responsibility of someone else to look after and DH was a pall bearer so I went into the church with my sisters (BIL also a pall bearer) and quite honestly I was a wreck the whole day.

thewhistler Fri 29-Mar-13 21:29:43

Another, happier, book is Debbie Gliori's No matter what.. it covers love continuing through bad behaviour Nd death. We used it again and again and it became a catch phrase.

I'm in two minds about funerals. The most important thing is that you do what you think and feel is right.

But it was awful that the first I had attended was for my father, at the age of 13. Not good.

Agree with Lunatic ( and am so sorry) that celebration is important. Maybe they could start a memory book about BIL in the funeral time?

MrSlant Fri 29-Mar-13 21:33:47

The school have been amazing the whole time, the SENCO has had a chat with me and next term I think they will help me organise someone to come in and talk to them. We have thousands of photo's of him with the boys but I think the only video we have is him and his friends playing drinking games, I think we'll leave those for now!

I daren't even think about the funeral, somehow that seems too unreal yet. It will be absolutely massive and hopefully full of laughter because his friends are all like that. I don't know if it will be helpful for DS3 to be there or not, he's still at an age when I can't be sure that he will behave well.

elenotfun Sat 30-Mar-13 07:53:03

Hi, forgot to say we also bought a special notebook where we could all write messages to the girl we knew who died. I started it by writing to her how we were missing her but knew she was watching us. The kids used it a lot in the first few months to tell her about school or swimming certificates etc. it is still occasionally used, mainly at Christmas and birthdays. It really helped them to write things down and they felt like they still had some point of contact.

thewhistler Sat 30-Mar-13 21:48:22

Don't worry about Ds 3's behaviour, it will be understood and forgiven.

But could you have someone with all 3 doing something different at that time? And joining you later? Eg making something to give BIL's parents or family?

MrSlant Sat 30-Mar-13 22:04:37

I only have my in laws as support really to look after the boys (it isn't convenient for my parents to help out apparently) and I think they will be busy then. Sorry, I'm having a trying not to cry day so I daren't think too much. Thank you for all the brilliant suggestions on here though, I don't have the brain co ordination to thank everyone properly though, I have the attention span of a mayfly at the moment smile

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