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My dad terminally ill - how to tell my small children and should they go to funeral- anyone been in similar?

(11 Posts)
cjsausie Wed 16-Jul-08 15:48:48

Hi
My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer 5 years ago and has had surgeries and all the treatments since - surviving quite a long time for lung cnacer. Anyway just before xmas we found out is terminal now and past few weeks he has really gone downhill. I just don't really know what to do when he does die - should i take my kids (6,4 and 2)to the funeral (he will be cremated)? DS was only 15 months when he was diagnosed and we have always been open with all of them about why Grandpa gets tired sometimes, can't play etc . We are a non religious (scientific) family and have always been honest in telling our kids about everthing eg where meat comes from and always answered their questions openly although obvioously putting it into context a small child will understand. Apart from the logistics of finding sitters for them when the time comes , I don't think i could leave them as they will be upset too and DD2 is 2 and a demanding toddler. Certainly DS 6 and DD1 4 are very close to their Grandpa and Granny and i think it would be easier for them to understand he is gone if we take them. They know Grandpa is very ill and not going to get better and we have spoken about him dying too. We have had pets who have died and as children are they do ask the usual blunt questions which again we have always answered in a non religious matter of fact way. i am not saying i am going to be totally non spiritual about it though. I would really appreciate any thoughts anyone may have as it is not a subject i feel i can discuss with my mum as she has enough to deal with and DH although been wonderful in his way is a typical man and finds it hard to communicate and emphathise especially as his family are all very non emotional (he writes best wishes on emails to his folks for goodness sake!)
feel awful as we just returned from holiday yesterday to news Dad is worse and had Mum very upset on phone and i feel i am turning into a shouty angry mum and taking it out on the kids sad

mum2taylor Wed 16-Jul-08 15:57:21

So sorry to hear that cj, my mum passed away 2 years ago ... she had a brain tumour due to lung cancer so I know how you must be feeling right now. I didnt take my dd to the funeral (who was 2 at the time) as I just felt she was too young to understand so much grief. The kids will probably ask you many questions on the day and you may not be in a position (emotionally) to deal with it. Something like this though is by far a personal choice and you should do what you feel is right...not what someone tells you is right! Go with your heart. BTW the shouty mum part is to be expected....i still have shouty mum moments two years on, its just all part of the grieving process. Luv and hugs.

WideWebWitch Wed 16-Jul-08 16:01:15

Poor you, sorry to hear this. My dad died of lung cancer too and fwiw I didn't take my ds, who was 3 at the time, to the funeral because, selfishly, I was devastated and I wanted to be allowed to say goodbye without thinking about anyone else. And I tihnk it was the right thing to do for me at the time. Is there someone who can have them if you feel the same? I think a funeral is an important ritual and you need to say goodbye but only you can guess how much they need to go against how much you want to go alone. Good luck making a decision, it's not an easy one.

andiem Wed 16-Jul-08 16:04:47

Hi cj my mil died of pancreatic cancer about 3 years ago so sorry to hear about your dadsad
I am a children's nurse so have looked after siblings of children who have died
my advice is to be open and honest about everything and if you feel up to it then take them to the funeral. For children of this age the unseen is much worse than the seen in that their imaginations can run riot a bit if they don't know what's happening. It is much better to do as you have already done and be open with them. Going to the funeral will give them a chance to say goodbye as we all need to when someone dies
my ds didn't go to his grandmas funeral as my fil didn't want him there but I would have taken him if I could have
I am not religious and I didn't want to go down the old heaven road so what I said to ds (he was 4) was that when you died your body went away and never came back but that people live on in our hearts through the lovely memories and love that we shared with them
there is a really good book called Badgers Parting Gifts which has this sort of theme and I read this to him prior to her dying

take care love to you and your family

cjsausie Thu 17-Jul-08 21:20:51

thanks so much for all your thoughts and the book recommmendation andiem. really appreciate it x

Jux Thu 17-Jul-08 21:57:03

Sorry about your dad cj.

DH and I are 'older' parents and quite a few relatives and friends have died since dd was born. I have taken her to every funeral from when she was less than a year old. We have been very open and truthful with her about deaths. She didn't understand death until dh's elderly cat died when dd was getting on for 4. Before that, she understood that funerals were occasions where people were sad and were quiet in church. Once the emotional atmosphere was quite overwhelming and dd started crying which opened the gates for many other people to start crying. Quite a few told me afterwards how good it was that they had been able to break down in the church - too many stiff upper lips in my family.

After a funeral there is usually a get together of some sort, and dd has a lovely time running around, chatting to people. It reminds them that there is stiil things in life to be joyful about, a new generation, and brings all sorts of memories back about people's own childhoods etc. I've always found dd to be very welcome at funerals.

A couple of times, if the ceremony is going to be very long, a separate room has been set aside for smaller children (dd never wants to go in it).

Last year a much loved aunt died of a horribly debilitating illness (bit like motor neurone). DD, by now a fairly seasoned funeral attendee (sadly) at 7yo, was fabulous and brought a great deal of pleasure to many of the older people there afterwards, being very attentive, bringing them food and drinks and looking after them.

She is not scared of dieing (sp?). She remembers those who are now dead with love and affection and a certain sadness, but also is happy that she was able to throw some petals in the grave, or a handful of earth - it is a form of closure for her which she sees in some way as her giving them something and helping them on their way.

hotchoc Sat 26-Jul-08 19:30:40

so sorry to hear about your dad. my mum died 12 weeks ago and i let my older boys decide whether to come to the funeral or not. the 8 year old was keen and so came and was a great help to me and i was so proud of the way he handled it. mum would have been so chuffed he was there, tearful now, anyway the 6 yo decided he did not want to come since it would be too sad. he went to school then came to the afterwards at mum and dad's house so i feel he experienced a little of what was going on although i think he was expecting cake for some reason!!! my baby then 5 months came too but my sil had her in the buggy at the back. she spent so much time with mum and me at the end it seemed right she should be there. i think you will know what the right thing is to do. i am thinking of you at this really tough time.. it was cancer that got mum too. the shouty thing is ok by the way...

hope i've helped, hotchoc x

BunchesBunny Tue 29-Jul-08 16:43:59

Just a quick note to send you lots of hugs and to say sorry to hear about your Dad. My Mum was diagnosed with lung cancer in November and died 2 days before christmas so I can kinda relate to what you are going through. I remember being full of differing emotions, and just wanting everything to slow down and stop for a while, but as always, life goes on and still chucks everything at us even when we have something so hard to deal with.

I have no advice except to just take each day at a time, go with your emotions and if you can get help from anyone that offers it now, and afterwards. You will need a break from them to get your head around your emotions, and there is nothing wrong with that, it's a huge thing to deal with and my heart really does go out to you. Regarding the funeral, my DD was just 9 months when her Grandma died, and I did take her to the funeral which was the right thing for us - but go with your instincts.

Big, big hugs!

Jo xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Blandmum Tue 29-Jul-08 16:48:52

sorry to read about your father.

My dh died last month of pancreatic cancer, mu children are 11 and 8.

The advice that I was given is that you answer the questions they ask honestly. When they are ready to 'hear' that your father is dying they will ask, for confirmation of what they have already worked out for themselves, in essence.

Re the funeral, it was very helpful for my two to go

MumWith2Boys Tue 29-Jul-08 19:47:34

Am so sad to read these messages.

My stepdad died when DS1 was 2 and I was 38 weeks pregnant with DS2. I needed to grieve that day and try and be brave for mum, so we didn't take DS1 to the funeral.

He did come to the interment of the ashes though (together with new baby bro in carseat). I remember him asking "where's granddad?" He knew the day was about granddad but just couldn't work it out. I was just trying to come up with a rational explanation in front of the whole family when my brother simply said "granddad couldn't make it". That was all that needed to be said really. It was a difficult day but not as mindblowing as the funeral so I found it more appropriate for them to be there.

Elasticwoman Tue 29-Jul-08 21:47:33

My dad died suddenly although he was old and had been in bad shape for, well, decades really. All his grandchildren attended the funeral. They were nowhere near as sad as the adults, and that's natural - they didn't live with him and didn't have much history with him. They were all thrilled to have their names read out as much loved gc in the service. Except perhaps ds who was only 2 at the time.

Six years on, dc still ask questions about him from time to time.

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