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DS (6) has suddenly started getting upset about MIL's death, almost a year later

(8 Posts)
poachedeggs Sun 22-Sep-13 22:36:42

He's been in tears at bedtime all week and really struggling to sleep. So now he's overtired and even more emotional.

MIL lived a long way away but we visited each other's homes for a few days several times a year.She died last year after 18 months of secondary cancer. She was wonderful with the DC, she literally lived for them.

DS was fairly accepting of her death at the time, a few tearful times but on the whole he was OK. Suddenly he's very fretful and sad. I made him a worry doll earlier to take to bed tonight and he seemed enthusiastic about it at bedtime but he was still up an hour and a half later. He told DH he was worried about what happened to her ashes (they were interred and he was with us).

When I spoke to him later I was firm and said it was OK to be sad and he could always talk to us,but at bedtime he had to try hard to put sadness away so his body and mind can rest and be strong for school and sports.. I explained that being tired makes him more sad and so he needs to think about nice things like what fun he had with grandma. He took that on board and settled down quickly.

I don't know if it's developmental, or if there's an element of attention seeking (he is a serious drama type!) or what. I don't want to dismiss his sadness but I'm not sure how to help him deal with it so he can be peaceful. We look at lots of photos and talk about MIL often.

BlueSkyandRain Sun 22-Sep-13 23:20:04

Hi poached I don't know if this is any help but I thought it's worth sharing our experience. Our baby died just before he was born in April. Our other dcs were very much affected by his death, but in different ways. We have had some support from a children's worker, who explained that our 4 y old behaved as he did (upset at times, then fine, then asking the same things again; sometimes 'getting it' and then not) because its not usually until around age 5 or so that kids understand the permanence of death. And so they seem fine at times because it's not real to them. Our 6 y old reacted very differently, and grasped what death was, and grieved much more like us (but was less able to cope as the shock was even worse as death and the reality of it was a totally new thing to him iyswim and he had no experience of loss like that or how to deal with his feelings). I'm not sure I'm explaining this very well, I need to go to bed!

Anyway, when I read your post it just made me think that perhaps initially your son was reacting like my 4 y old but as he's got older he's now more able to understand that grandma really isn't coming back, and so it's only now that he's grieving her loss iyswim? From what the children's worker said it is very much a developmental thing.

It's really hard seeing them so upset isn't it? But it does sound like you handled it really well. I can't think of anything else to suggest. I'd carry on just like you have - don't dismiss how he feels but encourage him to look after himself so he can enjoy himself etc. The advice seems to be to reassure them you love them, answer questions the best you can and honestly - including saying you don't know an answer when you don't etc. good luck x

poachedeggs Mon 23-Sep-13 07:10:02

Bluesky, thank you so much for your helpful post. I'm very sorry for your terrible loss sad

What you've said makes a lot of sense. Perhaps he needs some time to get his little head round it. I think we'll keep on as we are and hope that it settles down in due course.

christinarossetti Mon 23-Sep-13 07:22:56

Yes bluesky has it.

Our first baby died and we have always been open about this with our subsequent children.

Dd never seemed that interested until literally the month that she turned 6 since when she's spoken about it alot.

Once your son has processed it all a bit, he will be able to put it away.

mummytime Mon 23-Sep-13 07:24:56

It could also be that as his language develops so his understanding and ability to express develops too. Sometimes with small children they seem absolutely fine, but then 6 months or so latter it starts to come out. The information on Winston's Wish might help you, and they are a resource if you need them.

poachedeggs Mon 30-Sep-13 21:44:52

He seemed to get a bit better, but more floods of tears tonight. He couldn't explain why. It's really, really hard not to get cross with him because he needs sleep but instead he's getting himself in a right tangle, despite being fine all day and at school.

I know there's probably nothing I can do, but I wish I could help him.

BlueSkyandRain Tue 01-Oct-13 18:21:29

Oh it's so hard to know what to do for the best sometimes, isn't it? Particularly at bedtime! There's the thought that maybe they're not really upset about the person who's gone in particular and actually something much less serious has set them off but they can't articulate it. Or that it's a tactic for procrastinating at bedtime/ getting attention /avoiding being told off about something...

FWIW this has been my thinking on it so far: I have figured that I am fine a lot of the time, particularly when I'm busy but my grief does have to come out somewhere and it's not always when/where you'd expect. But often it is when I'm unwinding and my thoughts aren't being diverted elsewhere. And yes, it's a long time later but actually in many ways my grief is no different (just the shock part has changed). So why should any of that be any different for my kids? (or in this case yours)

For that reason I've tried to err on the side of listening and making sure I take their feelings seriously, although also trying to be firm that whatever behaviour is normally expected is still expected iyswim. So if they're upset at bedtime we do have an extra cuddle in bed, and talk about how we feel, but then it is still bedtime and that means we try to sleep. So bedtime isnt massively delayed by that, and I also try where possible to make space earlier on to talk about things to try to have done that before actually being in bed.

I think also, for kids the thought of death itself can be new at that sort of age. There's all the 'but what if...' thoughts to go through that are linked (... I die/mummy dies/etc). I know my eldest (now 9) went through those sorts of thoughts at that age despite there not having been anything obvious to trigger it, and there were times then at bedtime when it caused upset. And I'm pretty sure that my 6 yr old had those thoughts for the first time when our baby died, although he didn't say so. I think even at that age they're aware that they don't want to upset you. But these things are definitely normal, and I really think the only way we can help is the same as for anyone else of any age - being there to listen, and letting them know that it's ok to feel sad (& other emotions), and to talk about how we feel and what our worries are. You may well feel that you can't /aren't doing much to help, but actually in the long term, you're teaching your son to be emotionally aware and enabling him to develop his own abilities to cope with the hard things in life. That's what I'm hoping anyway...

I don't know if that's any help, I realise I've waffled a bit now!

poachedeggs Tue 01-Oct-13 20:54:23

That is a huge help, and I really appreciate it. Thank you. You sound like a lovely mum smile

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