Advanced search

What to tell young dc about grandparent's illness

(8 Posts)
TheMildManneredMilitant Sat 14-Nov-15 19:20:21

Hi all. My mother has been struggling with cancer for a couple of years and is now stopping treatment. I have two DC age 5 and 7 and really not sure how to play it in terms of talking about her illness. Since she was diagnosed there have been times when she was obviously not well, and we've talked about her having a poorly tummy which they have accepted with no additional questions. This was fine when they were younger and there was a chance she would get better, however now that's not the case we feel we can't keep alluding to it as such as it could really freak them out in the future if they also then have a 'poorly tummy' and think they might also die. We could tell them she has cancer, and that doesn't mean much to them I think to be overly concerning, but if they then mention this to other adults they could react strongly to it. I don't really want to tell them the whole truth while she is still fairly mobile too and not obviously that ill, although there may come a time when we have to, either because she is so ill we can't not, or they start asking questions.
Generally I'm pretty open with them about lots of things, but I don't know that being told grandma is going to die some time soon, but we don't know when, is going to help them at all. Thanks for reading, sorry this is a bit long.

FilbertSnood Sat 14-Nov-15 21:17:17

My mum died just over a week ago of cancer. I can tell you what I told my 5 yr old but I can't say whether it was the right thing to do.

A few weeks ago when my mum got iller I explained that she was ill with something called cancer - which is not something you can catch and might mean that she doesn't get better. I said lots of times that it is very different to a cough or a cold or something that she might get from school etc. I explained that my mum had had it for a very long time. i said nothing more until telling her that she had died. I repeated what I had said a few times to explain why I was away so much etc.
she has been fine with everything. Sad when I told her she had died and cried a bit, but now fine. And she will attend the funeral.

Sorry you are having to go through this xx

TheMildManneredMilitant Sun 15-Nov-15 11:11:47

Thank you for replying and i'm so sorry for your loss xx
I think that sounds a really sensible approach, up until now I haven't wanted to worry them when there was nothing they could do anyway, but the more I think about it and the more that I realise how much I'm benefiting from being able to talk openly with my parents makes me think that perhaps the time has come to be a lot more honest. Perhaps get them used to the idea of her being very ill with cancer first, but then answer any questions they may have honestly (and knowing my two there are bound to be a fair few blunt questions!). My mum wants to do whatever will help them the most.

FilbertSnood Sun 15-Nov-15 20:00:46

My take was that they need the truth (my 3 yr old was also there for the talks but he doesn't really understand). But that they also need reassurance. I did say that she could ask me any questions and I would answer them honestly.

I have found my children a great distraction for our whole family (they are the only grandchildren). Because they still play and laugh even though the rest of us are the saddest we have ever been.

Much love to you xx

eltsihT Sun 15-Nov-15 20:07:06

My ds are 2 and 4 am mil has been just been given 6 months, so I am reading this with interest.

My two already know granny is very sick and they haven't been able to see her as her medicine makes it easy for her to catch what they have.

They haven't seen her for 6 months as when she has been up for seeing them they had had a cold/hfm etc.

We are hoping now she is off her meds and is feeling well we can see a lot more of her.

Our thoughts are with you also x

TheMildManneredMilitant Mon 16-Nov-15 18:59:40

Thank you both and so sorry eltsihT. Filbert I know what you mean about them being a distraction, mine are great to have around. i think it's trying to deal with the questions that could be tricky, my mum is pretty calm and really encouraging us all to share our thoughts and feelings, but I think having to answer the 'granny are you going to die' question will be very difficult for her and there is a fair chance one of them will ask it if they get an inkling that this is something serious. But then it's all difficult and somehow you just deal with it and move forward. I've been dreading the 'it's back and they can't treat it' conversation for 2 years and then we had it and the world didn't end. At the moment she really doesn't appear particularly ill so they may not even notice anything is amiss at first, but that could give us the chance to introduce the fact she has cancer without it seeming a huge deal at first.
Sorry I'm rambling a bit. Suspect that in the end they will probably be the ones who deal with it the best.

FilbertSnood Tue 17-Nov-15 13:54:21

This is partly what has been so hard - even in September my mum was "fine" especially from their point of view as she was still herself and playing with them etc. The last time they saw her was 5 weeks before she died and I wasn't prepared to let them remember her like that, so I told them she was very ill and they could see her if she recovered a bit - at this point we were still being told their was hope of a recovery to some extent. Then the last 2 weeks it was obviously that things were going the other way, so I explained again at that point. They are fine about it because they don't deal with stuff in the same way we do.. They are very matter of fact. I expect you will find yours are similar - they will be sad, but they can't sustain it and they just get on with things. much love to you both.

CharleyDavidson Tue 17-Nov-15 21:45:06

My dc are older (11 and 14) and we told them what was wrong when my Ddad was diagnosed with cancer as it was clear that some of his treatments were going to have a visible effect. They had experience of my Dsis having had, and being successfully treated for, breast cancer, so the cancer word in itself wasn't scary.

When we were told that he was terminal a few months ago, we started to broach the fact that Grandad was an old man who was very poorly and sometimes people don't always get better from cancer. I made sure they didn't opt out of the routine visits we made and we also had some small family occasions when he was up to it.

When he became very ill it was after a lovely weekend where we'd celebrated his birthday and had a birthday meal which he'd very much enjoyed. Then he ended up in hospital. For a few days he was too ill to visit, then he was made much more comfortable and was still quite 'with it' as far as being able to talk to people was concerned. I gave my Dcs the choice. I explained that it wasn't scary to see him, but that he was a bit muddled from his infection - something that they'd seen before - and that he was very poorly and wasn't going to get better. I told them and it might be the last time they could see him. They could choose to go for a short visit or could not go and remember the lovely weekend he/we'd had.

That was the Monday. By the Wed he was no longer with it enough for them to have been able to talk to him without them getting worried about his lack of responses, even though we could still see little glimpses that he was still there. So the possibility of them being able to visit wasn't brought up again. Because they were older, they heard some of the factual updates that were shared (carefully if in their earshot) about how he was and when he finally passed away on the Saturday it wasn't a surprise.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: