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what do i tell my 4 year old when his gran dies?

(6 Posts)
apollo11 Sun 02-Nov-08 22:04:52

my mum is terminally ill with cancer (non hodgkins lymphoma). my ds is very close to his gran and knows she is not well as she is in hospital most of the time now and we go to visit her, but he doesn't know to what extent.

he knows a wee bit about death. when passing a cemetery a few months ago he asked me what it was and i told him its where people go when they die. he asked me what is "die", and i feel as if i f*ed it up because i told him its when you stop being alive and that everyting dies. in my stupidity i hoped he would see death as part of life, but of course he just said he didn't want to die. i have tried to reassure him as much as possible, but i dont want to make it worse in the future when my mum dies. i don't want to scare him and i feel he's a bit young to be aware of his own mortality.

we are not religous and he doesn't have any concept of heaven. i just dont know how i'm going to tell him he wont see his granny again. i would appreciate hearing any advice or ideas from people who have maybe had some similar experience. how do you explain these things to a 4 year old?

mabanana Sun 02-Nov-08 22:10:54

I think you need to be honest. YOu do need to say he won't see her again and that she is gone. Tell him it is sad, and that you are sad and it is OK to be sad. Say you will both carry on loving her, even though she is dead, and you will remember that she loved you, that our feelings carry on. My children found it very comforting to think about all the things they'd inherited, and to see the line go on (ie eye colour) and that she would be happy to see her genes and her family go on after her death. Tell him how much she loved him and how happy she made him. Let him look at photos and draw pictures. Children are so resilient. It will be OK. I hope you are OK too. It will hit you harder.
Also encourage him to be affectionate when he sees her, then you can remind him of all the cuddles.THat will help you too.

luckylady74 Sun 02-Nov-08 22:16:37

My dad died just before I had kids and I am an atheist too. My 3 yr old twins had similar reactions when I explained death to them - I don't want to die. I went with generally people are very old, but occasionally people like my dad have an accident. They do stop for ever, but what's wonderful is that ds2 has dad's eyes and dd has his bashfulness so that helps mummy stop missing him so much.I say that I'm sad, but all of these things make me happy too.
I think it's always important to tell the truth as you did, but you can stop where you like in a s much as you want to say. So I didn't explain cremation I just said that the body turns into dust and they didn't ask how.
We're having a memorial celebration on tues for my dad as it's ther anniversary of the day he died and they are excited about fireworks, but know mummy and nana might be sad and that's ok because they give us lots of cuddles.
I'm so sorry about your mum and I think you're a really lovely mum for thinking so much about this.

wrinklytum Sun 02-Nov-08 22:23:09

Aww.I think you have done the right thing being honest.DS dad was extremely ill last year and I had to try and prepare him as we thought he wasnt going to live at one point.so we had a lot of talk about death (Am not religious either).I think Mabananas advice is good.DS found a dead bird in the garden and became quite fascinated about observing it every day for a bit shockI tried to explain that everything goes back into the soil and just bones are left and helps the flowers grow and so on,though it is important to remember about the person that has died and that is why people take flowers to graves to remember people they loved and talk to them,and look at their photos etc.

I'm so sorry your mum is poorly.FWIW DS was quite matter of fact about it all,though needed reassurance that neither I nor he nor his little sister was going to die in a hurry.Much better to be honest I feel tahn give a load of false platitudes.

apollo11 Sun 02-Nov-08 22:39:09

thank you for your good advice. i also just found some good links on another thread on this topic.

i really like the idea of inheriting characteristics too. he is pretty affectionate so it will be good to remind him of that. i feel reassured by what you have all written. thanks again.

lottiejenkins Mon 03-Nov-08 09:15:45

Winstons Wish were very good at helping my ds when his grandad died!
www.winstonswish.org.uk/

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