Suicide, when can you tell the children?

(19 Posts)
jmg1 Sun 30-May-04 21:23:07

Two things which are more for the future but I can't help thinking about them now.
1. At what age would it be appropriate to tell your children that their Mother took her own life?
2. If other children made fun of them because their Mother took her own life what would you do?

OP’s posts: |
Janh Sun 30-May-04 21:33:28

oh, god, jmg, you do have troubles ahead

Why are you asking now? Has your DS said something?

jampot Sun 30-May-04 21:35:14

This happened to a little girl in my dd's class. Her and her sister lived with their mum who was heavily dependent on drugs and alcohol. Lucy would spend part of a term at school then disappear for a couple of terms - this went on for a few years until it appeared that she was stable at school (it turned out her aunt who lived elsewhere often had the children when the mum was hospitalised). Her mum eventually took her own life whilst her kids were out with their aunt - came back and found her. Lucy must have been about 8 at the time. I know she lived with her dad afterwards and was moved to another local school. No-one laughed at her (what is there to laugh at) and I'm afraid I don't know how it was explained. I just remember feeling very very sorry for the children.

spacemonkey Sun 30-May-04 21:38:40

This happened to a good friend of mine, and IIRC she didn't find out the truth about her mother's death until she was grown up. I will ask her about this and post again.

Posey Sun 30-May-04 21:45:21

My only experience of this was nearly 30 years ago when I was in junior school. A boy in my class had had a really rough time with his dad walking out etc etc. Eventually his mum met and married another chap and this boy was the happiest you could imagine. He adored his stepdad. One day, the boy wasn't in school and we were told that his stepdad had died. Obviously being 8 year olds we wanted to know why/how he'd died and we were told that he had killed himself. I'm not sure if we were told how, but I found out as my dad was a teacher in the school and I asked him (he knew I would tell no-one). I remember we were all shocked, having never heard of suicide, and we felt very sad that a) his dad could be SO sad he wouldn't want to live and b)that this boy didn't have his wonderful stepdad anymore.
When he returned to school, I don't think anyone said anything at all on the subject. He certainly was never teased and I remember eceryone was very kind to him.

Whatever your reason for asking, I hope that helps and all is okay with you.

hercules Sun 30-May-04 21:53:50

If it were me I'd seek professional help when the time was right (god knows when that is) and get them counselling.

hercules Sun 30-May-04 21:54:18

What I mean is it's too big a thing for you to have to deal with on your own.

jodee Sun 30-May-04 22:27:03

This question has really worried me - hope you are OK, jmg. xx

lilibet Sun 30-May-04 22:31:47

I wish that I had wise words for you and your children, but I don't, but I know from reading your posts that you are a wonderful Dad to them. Loads of hugs and support coming your way.

People who have more experience and knowledge than me will post and give you really good advice. Please stay strong.

littlemissbossy Sun 30-May-04 23:00:06

oh sh*t jmg, i really don't envy you on this one...As you know, i have 2 dss's who lost their mother and I have brought them up as my own. We've always been very honest about the circumstances of their mother dying (from breast cancer) and dealt with it in an almost matter of fact but sensitive way. I don't know how much professional advice you've had, but we were pretty much advised to do this. She died when the boys were babies, so they really have no memory of her, which I think, is why one of my dss's has in the last couple of years struggled to handle this part of his life. The problems started when a boy in his class bullied him for this reason (the little sh*t!!). This then led to feelings of guilt because he couldn't remember her. In the end, we have gone down the therapy route. My dh was against this to begin with, but it's turned out to be the best thing we ever did. My advice to you if they were having problems with other children teasing is try and protect them as much as possible, deal with it straight away, go to the school or speak to their parents. With regards to an appropriate age, I really don't know the answer, only you know your children. In years to come, some family therapy may help. Try not to be dismissive of this (what a loads of b*ll**ks was my dh's response!)it can help. For now I would try not to worry about the detail, other than to tell your children that their mother was ill and there was nothing you could have done to cure that illness. At the same time, remind them of all of the great times you had together and the wonderful person she was ... and even though she's gone, she'll always be around. For the boys sake I've always tried to remain positive even in the hardest of circumstances IYKWIM HTH LMB

Beccarollover Sun 30-May-04 23:03:52

My Step Dad killed himself when I was 9 - he left behind me, my older sister and his little girl (my little sister) who was 2 at the time.

Obviously she was too young to know at the time and it was many years before she found out the truth, until then she was told it was a car accident.

It was truly heartbreaking seeing a toddler try and make some sense of her Daddy going away - she used to wait for him and ask where he was and make a space in her bed and leave a teddy for "daddy when he comes back from holiday" Very sad

My sister and I were told very quickly (we were all on holiday at the time and had to fly back early because of what had happened - initially we were told it was a car accident but he was ok then when we got home we were sat down and told) I think I was just very confused, I knew what it meant but didnt know what it meant IYSWIM

Looking back it must have been so terribly hard for my Mum, dealing with the grief of losing her partner as well as deciding what to tell her children.

Probably nothing useful here JMG1 just wanted you to know I was thinking of you.


Janh Sun 30-May-04 23:06:32

becca, do you think you were old enough at 9 to be told? I mean I know it had happened just then, but do you wish your mum had left out the specifics until you were a bit older? Would you rather have been told it was a car accident, like your little sister?

Miaou Sun 30-May-04 23:07:35

I know its not the same but my dh's mum died of cancer just before we met, and ever since the dds have been able to ask questions we have always explained about my MIL, just said she was poorly and she died. It has actually been a good learning experience for the dds, because although we thought they were beginning to be obsessed with death, when our neighbour (who was like an uncle to them) drowned last year, they were much better able to deal with it because they had always accepted that death was part of life.

PS i think that littlemissbossy's advice is spot on.

Miaou Sun 30-May-04 23:10:23

Specifically I mean "tell your children that their mother was ill and there was nothing you could have done to cure that illness." Don't differentiate between physical and mental illness at this stage, IMO.

cab Mon 31-May-04 00:29:20

JMG typed out a message and is disappeared so here goes again:
I'm very sorry that you're having to deal with this at all and have absolutely no experience to offer.
Think I would tend to be totally honest from before the time your children start nursery, particularly if you live in a small community where someone less sensitive than yourself might say something before you do.
Obviously check with professionals, but I THINK (don't know) that younger children tend to bounce back quicker???
Whatever you do I wouldn't leave it too late for the sake of your relationship with your children: Until you can tell them it's always going to be something that you will worry about 'witholding' from them so you might feel that you are not being totally honest with them?
Would ensure that those close to you are as well advised as you about how you intend to handle the situation because your children may not want to worry you, but might speak about it more openly with someone else?
Would also look for age specific books about children in similar circumstances that you can read together.
Whatever you do will be right because you know your children best!

sibble Mon 31-May-04 04:56:35

i don't know if this helps but somebody I knows husband committed suicide last christmas. The children are 5 and 7 and their mother told them at the time what happened. She said she would rather them know from her than hear it from somebody else (smallish village/community). The children went to the funeral. I think the hardest thing for her was ensuring that they knew (and still know) that their father loved them and that it had nothing to do with them. She left the specifics out. Nobody teased the children at school, in fact we all told our children what had happened as well so it wasn't made to feel something to feel ashamed of or a secret.
I agree that professionals may be of help with the wording or providing support for everybody involved.

Beccarollover Mon 31-May-04 07:45:20

Janh - I think yes it would have been best to have been told later - the only memories I have of the situation are mumbled, confusing and frightening - I can remember laughing with my sister the night we were told which makes me feel awfully guilty but I can only think it was confusion or fear that meant we just didnt understand the enormity of the situation.

It caused trouble for me at school as I start trying to talk about it and I didnt really understand it and neither did the other kids so they started to sort of pick on me about it which made me very upset.

I can also remember not seeing my Mum for a little while because we stayed with my Dad for a few days/weeks to give my Mum some space to arrange and attend the funeral and get to grips with it all.

He committed suicide in the garage of our house in his car with no note left or anything - Im just thankful somebody ended up realising or it could well have been one of us that found him which would have made it much much more horrific!

fisil Mon 31-May-04 08:46:00

Oh jmg1, it is going to be so tough for you.

I'm sure as with all aspects of parenting there are loads of different answers and loads of factors involved - I suppose what I'm saying is that it is going to be really difficult for your children at times, don't beat yourself up that you could have handled things differently and made it easier for them! You are loving and thoughtful and whatever you do will be the best.

My instinct is to be as open as possible, and encourage your children to be. The clearer they are about their understanding of what happened the less susceptible they are to the silly things that other people (children) might say. I teach a student whose dad was murdered by a close relative. Some (teenage) children have been cruel to her, but she knows when they are making things up and knows that they have a problem. Also, it seems from what other people are saying that primary school children are more caring - if their mother's death was something that friends had accepted at a young age, it won't be an issue when the children are older (if ever).

tigermoth Mon 31-May-04 08:48:51

no experience of this but littlemissbossy's advice sounds good.

jmg1,I hope for your sake that you will know when your children are old enough. I feel this must be what happens. I don't think anyone else can tell you at what exact age or time to do this. It will depend what is going on their present lives as well I should imagine.

I suppose you will also have to decide whether to tell the oldest more than the youngest or tell them exactly the same.

I've never had to do anything as difficult as the task you are facing, but when I've tried to break hard news to my children, I think it helps to prepare them first, stressing the good things in their life and how much they are loved. Then tell them the news clearly but in small chunks - perhaps over some months, and wait to see how much they can take in and what their reaction is each time.

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