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MIL has terminal cancer, how do we tell the children?(10 Posts)
My MIL has been unwell for sometime (despite maintaining a very active life style). In the last few months she became seriously ill, had life saving surgery (which was touch and go). She came through this to discover that in the course of the surgery they discovered cancer. The cancer has now spread to (amongst other places) her bones. She has lost a huge amount of weight and if this continues (which is expected) her organs will fail. The consultant has given her months to live. The whole situation is horrific.
We have 2DC. One is 5, the other 11 and about to start secondary school. How do we begin to tell them what is going on? They know she is unwell, they have seen how weak she is compared to how she was a few months ago. We had wanted to wait until the eldest DD has settled in at school; she is incredibly sensitive and already has huge phobias of loved ones dying. She already knows something is up, I haven't lied to her, I couldn't,
but she doesn't know the diagnosis or prognosis.
How and when should we talk about this? WWUD? Can anyone recommend any good books or information to explain this to my children?
Maybe tell them now so they have a bit of time to get used to it before they go back. I had to tell my dc their much loved dad had died unexpectedly a couple of months ago, and i just had to come out with it. It was the only way really.
I'm so sorry. I can't even begin to imagine how hard that must have been
I am so sorry
You can't really put it off for long, but as term starts next week unless there is immediate decline, I would wait until your eldest has been at school for a week or two. Just so she'll have found her way around a bit.
Brief the both their form teachers, and the head of pastoral care.
Macmillan have booklets about talking to children about cancer, and this website
has a books which may be helpful DC of various ages.
If there is a cancer support centre near you, it might be worth calling in, as they can offer support for those dealing with cancer in loved ones (not only the patient themselves) and may be able to signpost services you ight find helpful , eg a counsellor with whom you can talk it all through before you talk to your DC.
Also tell the parents of their best friends.
First of all I am so sorry you are going through this. We’ve been through this twice. I think it’s always best to be honest with kids tell them in an age appropriate way what they need to know and be prepared to answer questions. Granny’s really sick, she’s had an operation, but she’s not getting better. The doctors are doing everything they can, but sometimes people don’t get better. In my experience kids are more accepting of death than we are, but the more notice you can give them the easier it is to get used to the idea. I don’t think waiting for the perfect moment is particularly helpful - it is upsetting and they may well be upset, but you can help to reassure them. Granny is very old, we don’t want her to suffer any more, she’s had a wonderful life, you’ve both made her really happy. You are the best person to do this - you know them best and it is the way you react that will reassure them.
Macmillan have a free booklet that the send very quickly, it will have some ideas for you.
Telling them together, making sure they understand that not everyone that becomes ill will die.
The word cancer is often more frightening for grown ups, but again, call it what it is so there’s no confusion.
Thinking about the language you use and also what beliefs you have in your family about what happens when you die. Your youngest might struggle to make sense and it’s best everyone gives them the same understanding.
I had to do this a few weeks ago. My children are older (19, 17 and 12) and I confess I was blunt. I said that there was no easy way to say it but their grandad had a brain tumour and wasn’t going to get better. I’d already had to hold the information back as I found out the day before going on holiday and didn’t want to ruin it for them.
Once that was done and had sunk in, there was time for questions and hugs and anything they needed.
I have a dc about to start secondary too and both the primary and secondary schools dealt with it well. They had a well practised procedure as it had happened before. The secondary offered dd1 a counsellor who she saw with someone who'd also lost a parent. She also had a card to be able to leave a lesson without question if she got upset and told where to go (although didn't use it). Plus was told of a nurture type place she can go if she needed a break at breaktimes. I contacted the school in the last week of term to ask if the same would be offered to dd2 starting in sept and they are going to speak to her. So worth contacting the school to give them the heads up
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