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MIL critically ill - what to tell DD

(21 Posts)
Gem2016 Wed 04-Jan-17 14:07:35

My MIL is currently critically ill, and we have been told to expect the worst within a couple of days. DD (4) knows her grandmother is ill, and in hospital, and Daddy has gone to stay for a few days. I am likely to go and join him tomorrow (we live about 60 miles away) and my parents will come and stay to look after DD and DS (2).

My plan was just not to say anything further to DD until MIL dies - it seems to be an easier message to say "grandma is dead" than explaining that she is going to die, iyswim. I worry that if you say she is going to die, she'll want to visit, which isn't going to happen, and also there's the concept of "why can't we stop it?". However, I know honesty is considered the best approach. DD is pretty bright, but perhaps a bit behind with emotional intelligence generally. She is likely to understand, but I imagine bottle it up and it will come out in challenging behaviour and sadness.

So, is it better to wait until afterwards, or prepare her now? I genuinely don't know. It's totally unexpected incidentally - we saw MIL on Christmas Day, and although she was poorly, we had no idea what was coming.

HeyMacWey Wed 04-Jan-17 14:11:46

Just a quick response as you know your child best, but with mine they'd accept/process this better if they had done prep for it beforehand, so I'd be saying that granny was ill and unlikely to live for very long.
You could also do some creative work - ie drawings/card with happy memories etc.

lalamumto3 Wed 04-Jan-17 14:14:56

So sorry your MIL is so ill. When you do tell your dd be careful with your words i.e. don't say she has gone to sleep, as this may scare your dd about sleeping.
I'm sure there will be some books or leaflets that you could get advice from. Also if your parents are there you could agree some words with them.

Gem2016 Wed 04-Jan-17 14:19:52

Thanks. I genuinely can't work out what is for the best, I think because I am also very sad, and shocked.

I think maybe I am just delaying telling her because I am dreading it. But also it seems unfair to tell her and then leave her on own without me or DH tomorrow (although tbf my mum was a grief counsellor, so probably well placed to deal with it)

The creative idea is a good one though - DD is very crafty and creative in general, so probably a good outlet

ALemonyPea Wed 04-Jan-17 14:21:20

So sorry your MIL is ill 💐

DS1 was roughly that age when DFIL died. He knew he was in hospital and had visited him a few times, even the day before he died. We told him that he was very poorly and the doctors tried to help him but couldn't and that he had died.

I think it always helps to be very open about dying, and not to use words like 'went for a long sleep' or 'passed away'.

Gem2016 Wed 04-Jan-17 14:25:23

Thanks all. I've done some reading, so have read up on the importance of not being ambiguous, which makes total sense (I spent some time over Christmas explaining to DD that the song Ring of Fire wasn't about someone actually falling into a burning ring of fire for instance!). We've got a few books where animals die, and she's asked a few questions, so I think she has a basic understanding of death.

ALemonyPea - did you tell your DS how ill your FIL was beforehand? I just worry that will be unecessarily upsetting and confusing I guess.

SallyInSweden Wed 04-Jan-17 15:10:27

Say nothing until she has passed.

My own MIL died when our kids were just 5 and just 7. They knew she was ill, but we said nothing rather than upping the ante. 7 year old was upset for a bit, 5 year old not really actually,

Expect some very odd questions: so we explained about burials and cremation and got asked "will they burn up Granny's eyeballs"

SallyInSweden Wed 04-Jan-17 15:11:52

Should say they knew she was ill because she was in bed/in a chair/ couldn't play with them/they had to be quiet or were taken out.

user1483387154 Wed 04-Jan-17 15:22:29

so sorry for you all going through this.
I know you said you have a few books but a very good one is Badgers parting gifts which deals specifically with bereavement

ALemonyPea Wed 04-Jan-17 15:26:45

No we didn't think he would comprehend just how ill he was, he had terminal cancer. He just knew that he was poorly and in hospital. He was only diagnosed 4 weeks before he died, so very quick.

Patriciathestripper1 Wed 04-Jan-17 15:31:04

flowers sorry you are having to go through this.
My DD was 5 when her nanny was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
We told her straight away and we let her visit right up until the end. She sat with nanny and tslked to her (nanny was practically in a coma by then due to drugs)
We felt it was important for her to be a big part of it and we found she understood it.
Nanny lasted 6 weeks.
DD also read a poem at her funeral which was so touching.
I am glad we made her part of it. We did face criticism from my Db whose children were not allowed near (age 6 and 4).
I felt we did the right thing and we talked alot about life and death but at the end of the day you must do what you feel is right for your family op. My thoughts are with you.

Yoarchie Wed 04-Jan-17 15:31:40

I personally think since the kids are away from you and so little, it would be better not to say anything until MIL passes. Then at that stage I would tell your 4yo quite directly and simply but have a distraction ready, like going to park or swimming so that she doesn't immediately dwell on it. If you believe in heaven then tell dd that's where MIL has gone.

ALemonyPea Wed 04-Jan-17 15:45:06

I agree, since your DC aren't there, to not tell them much until she does die.

bertdynamite Wed 04-Jan-17 15:56:22

When my father was dying my children were young, 3 and 5. They knew grandad was very poorly but I didn't tell them he was dying, I wanted them to visit him in the hospice acting normally. I have no idea if this was the right thing to do or not, I just didn't want my dad to be upset by their reactions.

Gem2016 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:03:13

Thanks all. The point may become a bit moot as DD has just been summoned to hospital to say his goodbyes.

Mil went into hospital on the 28th, and has gone downhill very rapidly. It's pneumonia. There has been no opportunity to visit (only DH, SIL and FIL have been), which is a shame, as I feel the same about being open about death with kids. My family is very different to ILs, so I'm conscious of respecting their wishes.

I'm going to join DH tonight, but have decided not to tell DD beforehand. DSis will come over after bedtime, and DD has been having semi regular bad dreams anyway, so I don't think it would be helpful. The tip about having something planned after telling is a good one, thanks, and also thanks for the book recommendations. I accidentally read one called Grandpa's island in waterstones last year and it had me in floods, but I suppose it's no bad thing for our children to know it's ok to cry.

Thanks all for the help and kind words.

Gem2016 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:04:04

Sorry, DH has been summoned to hospital, not DD

Gem2016 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:06:04

Patricia - I'd like to give DD the option to attend the funeral if she wants, but suspect the reaction will be similar to your DB.

Nemesia Wed 04-Jan-17 16:09:20

Sorry to hear about your MIL. I just wanted to say to be prepared for your DD to not be upset at all! My DD was upset because I was upset but she didn't really show much upset of her own. Children are sometimes much more matter of fact than adults are about death.

Note3 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:11:17

I used to live next to a graveyard and on our many short cut walks through it we were prompted to discuss death. It was a subject I had no intention of starting with my children then aged 3 and 5. That said, children process information very very differently to adults and they were very logical about it in response to my logical explanation. My children are aware bodies cannot live forever for various reasons and that when we die we choose to either become fairy dust (cremation) or worm food (buried). Every now and again they would bring up the subject and they discussed how we all wanted to be fairy dust. Fast forward to 2 yrs later and some close relatives died and the children were as prepared as they could be as they discussed how these relatives had chosen to be worm food and help flowers grow better.

Perhaps explaining it in simple logical terms like that may help?

Sorry to hear of what your family is going through.

MrsJayy Wed 04-Jan-17 16:12:59

Aww im so sorry about this it is very hard say grandma isnt well then grandma has died is what we said to dd1 dd2 was to young to know anything.

Basicbrown Fri 06-Jan-17 16:30:01

Really sorry about your MIL. When DM died my 4 year old did the bottling up and challenging behaviour. My 7yo grieved more like an adult, but for a shorter time as a year is forever at that age. I think it depends on how close they were to the person as well as age. The ITU gave me some books to help explain death and grief which was helpful at the time flowers

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