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What would you say? Did I say the right thing?

(13 Posts)
scattercushion Mon 10-Aug-09 11:19:20

My dad died in April and this weekend was the first time we'd been back to the family home since then (mum also dead - dad remarried). My dd aged 3 asked where grandad was and I said 'he's dead I'm afraid. But look, here's a picture of him with you as a baby'. She wasn't upset but my dh was shocked at how blunt I was and we ended up rowing about it later. He doesn't want to upset her unduly but I'm not religious and don't want to lie either.

I'd much rather be open and honest about it. What would you have said?

cocolepew Mon 10-Aug-09 11:21:36

What does he think you should have said? You told the truth.

RubberDuck Mon 10-Aug-09 11:23:24

Pretty much the same as you - 3-year-olds are very matter of fact about death.

I think ds1 was about 6 or 7 when he started asking much more about death and needed more detail (and for that I gave the "some people believe" speech and when he asked what I believed I said that I believed death was the end and that's why I felt it was important to make the most of all the time that we have).

MissM Mon 10-Aug-09 11:23:53

My DD is 3 too. When my brother died last year (and she was still 2), I told her he was dead, which meant that he wasn't coming back. I'm not religious either and couldn't say anything that would remotely hint at the existence of a god, an afterlife or a 'better place'. Why say it if you don't believe it?

In my opinion you should be honest. They will work things out in their own way but dishonesty won't help them do that. I keep telling my DC about their uncle, looking at pictures of him with them, telling them stories that involve them and him. I also tell them that I thikn about him when I see a beautiful sunset, or birds or butterflies. They know he's not here, and I presume will ask me questions about what death is as they get older.

IMO you did the right thing. What did your DH think you should have said?

RubberDuck Mon 10-Aug-09 11:25:00

And actually, given that it was YOUR dad who died then your dh is being rather insensitive towards YOU by rowing about how you should explain it to your dd.

I would have had more sympathy for him if it was his father you were talking about and you were being blunt in front of dh, iyswim.

RubberDuck Mon 10-Aug-09 11:26:40

Oh, I have also said to ds1 in the past (if you want to be more poetic about death) that we live on in each other's memories and thoughts - that gives an opening to start talking about all the nice things we remember about the person who died.

scattercushion Mon 10-Aug-09 11:34:38

Yes I agree it was insensitive of dh! It ended up with me gulping out that I prefer to cope with things by talking about them and he prefers to avoid uncomfortable topics - a nasty exchange that was only sorted out by luxury M&S picnic in the park! He refused to say exactly what he would've said - but then he is agnostic so perhaps it would've been about heaven, which just doesn't do it for me.

DH's mum died when he was young and his dad coped by not talking about it - so you don't have to be Freud to work out what's going on there!

scattercushion Mon 10-Aug-09 11:38:19

MissM - I try to do that with DD - eg we made a crumble together and I said how much grandad liked crumble etc.

But a part of me does worry about me saying too things that are too heavy for her - as part of my grieving process or something, iykwim.

gingerbunny Mon 10-Aug-09 11:55:44

i think you did the right thing. my grandad pasted away in jan, as we came out of the wake there was a really bright star in the sky and my ds (3) asked what it was, i said that i thought it was grandad watching over us.
big mistake - a few weeks later ds got very upset and asked me to ring grandad and ask him to come down from his star because ds thought he would be getting lonely!

Poledra Mon 10-Aug-09 12:06:34

I think you did the right thing, Scattercushion. She asked the question, you answered her factually and truthfully. When DH's cousin and (the cousin's)son were killed in a car crash, DD1 was 3.5. She wanted to know why Daddy and Grandma were sad, so I told her much as you did. She then asked what dead was, so I explained that it meant we couldn't see X and Y again, that their bodies were so hurt the doctors couldn't fix them, so they died. It hasn't caused us any problems (she is now 5.5).

When I was putting her to bed recently, I said that I'd love her forever, and she said 'Even after you die, Mummy?' So I said yes, even after I die, which satisfied her. Then I had a little weep after I kissed her goodnight blush

NorbertDentressangle Mon 10-Aug-09 12:20:50

I think that what you said was appropriate to your DD's age.

If you start trying to skirt around it and use "nice" alternatives/language 3 yr olds can get very confused (like gingerbunny's DS with the star!)

MissM Tue 11-Aug-09 08:55:59

Poledra sad at what your daughter said! Not surprised you had a little weep!

Children accept things so much better than we think they will. I'm constantly surprised at my DD's matter-of-fact acceptance of things that I think will be really difficult. Just proof I think of the need to be honest with them.

Scattercushion - my DH is the same. He's doing the 'right thing' cos it was my brother who died and I insist, but his way of dealing is by silence too. I'm sure if it was the other way round he'd just say nothing to the kids. Not easy for you though.

scattercushion Tue 11-Aug-09 11:30:33

Thanks for the reassurance - I think my DH is of the 1950s model, where it's best to roll out the old stiff upper lip (if that's possible) and not mention it.

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