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Bereavement has caused DS to become anxious. Looking for advice please.

(21 Posts)
hippohead Sun 09-Jan-11 10:59:52

Our elderly cat died two weeks ago, DS (3.75), was pretty upset. We explained she was very old and her body had stopped working, she has gone to heaven etc (incidentally I am undecided about the heaven bit, but hoped it would make death less upsetting for DS).

Last week my Granny died (DS greatgrandma). I have told him, he seemed OK but really struggled with the idea that she is not coming back.

He has been asking lots of questions about death, which I have tried to be honest about, except that I have implied that only very old people /animals die. DS has been upset before bedtime 3 times, mostly about mummy, daddy or our dog dying. I have told him this will not happen but he is still very upset and making vague links between death, skeletons, ghosts.

I am sorry if this makes difficult reading for anyone else who is recently bereaved.

To add to this, my other granny is not well, DS is closer to her than the one that died recently and I am worried about loosing her too.

Can anyone help me find a better way to handle this as I have obviously only managed to make DS over anxious so far which I feel terrible about- it seems so sad to be worried about choosing mummy or daddy, and some of his questions are heart rending.

earwicga Sun 09-Jan-11 11:04:29

I think I did pretty much the same as you did at this age. Tbh, kids have phases of getting upset about death whether they have experienced it close to them or not. Now my kids are older (8) they know if I died they would go live with my sister. They know that I will die as everyone does, but I don't plan on doing it anytime soon.

I don't think you have done anything wrong, and giving him an opportunity to talk about his feelings is good.

I'd knock the ghost talk on the head though. Not real etc.

earwicga Sun 09-Jan-11 11:05:37

And I also think the heaven bit is good for young kids.

hippohead Sun 09-Jan-11 11:33:36

Thanks earwiga, your point that many children become concerned with death is a good one- I suppose this would have arisen eventually.

I have explained that there are no ghosts etc. luckily he is at an age where he does believe what I tell him (which comes with such a sense of responsibility I feel). His questions are frequent despite attempts at diversion- do we shrink before we die, how do we get to heaven etc. all natural curiosity I guess. It's just the fear of loosing me or his daddy and the bed time tears that I am struggling with.

Thanks again.

hippohead Sun 09-Jan-11 11:35:12

I just realised I typed your name incorrectly- sorry!

earwicga Sun 09-Jan-11 11:39:09

It is horrible hearing all those questions, and thinking of answers. And yes, that sense of responsibility that we can shape children in any way is incredibly huge!

I hope your gran recovers, and that your son's phase passes soon.

I never figured out how to do the body/burial bit before they asked, but this was taken out of my hands as one week when my children were in Reception they went to school mass when there was a coffin in church.

I do think you are doing exactly the right thing though and will be interested in what others do.

earwicga Sun 09-Jan-11 11:39:54

I didn't even notice! Btw, I think I did a special magic ladder as the way to heaven.

hippohead Sun 09-Jan-11 11:52:12

What a lovely idea.

I have decided to swerve around the funeral by not taking DS. I just don't think having it all in his face, seeing my parents (who he is very very close to) and me upset, and the coffin disappearing behind a curtain will be good for him at the moment.

Thanks for the good wishes for other granny, she is 94 and very frail but tough as old boots so fingers crossed.

Lamorna Sun 09-Jan-11 11:53:23

I think that you just answer questions honestly. I wouldn't say that 'mummy or daddy' won't die because it simply isn't true. He will work out that it isn't only older people and that people die in car crashes etc. I would just explain that everyone dies eventually and that you intend to be around to see him grow up and it isn't something to worry about at the moment.
With Granny I would ask him if he still loves Granny even though he can't see her any more? When he says yes, I would say that it is the same for Granny and love lives on. What did he like best about granny? Did he like her being happy? They would granny want to see him sad? I would miss out any talk about heaven as it is very confusing.

Lamorna Sun 09-Jan-11 11:54:36

I would also take him to the funeral to celebrate a life.

Lamorna Sun 09-Jan-11 11:56:29

Sorry, I see he is only 3yrs so I wouldn't take him but I would still go with the rest of my advice.

KristinaM Sun 09-Jan-11 11:59:14

We didn't take our 5yo to her older siblings funeral, although she came to the "reception" afterwards .

Wethought she was too young for the committal at the crematorium

earwicga Sun 09-Jan-11 12:00:25

I would not of taken a child this age to a funeral. I took mine to one when they were 11 months, and not again until they were 7 - and it was hard for them at that age, but they were ready for it and it was part of our grieving process for our neighbour who we had a lot to do with.

'He will work out that it isn't only older people and that people die in car crashes etc.'

But that is VERY unusual, which always has to be stressed. As you say, honesty is good - but also tailored to the age of the child.

hippohead - I think that the coffin disappearing behind the curtain is the worst bit of a funeral.

Lamorna Sun 09-Jan-11 12:06:20

It isn't unusual at all earwicga, many DCs have to deal with the death of a close, young, family member. I would stress that it is unusual, but as you might go out in your car tomorrow and never come back I don't think it is a good idea to say it won't happen. I wouldn't dwell on it but neither would I promise something that is outside your control.

hippohead Sun 09-Jan-11 12:07:22

Lamorna I see your point and believe me lying to DS feels wrong but in all honesty Shan he is clinging on to me and so upset I cannot tell him that mummy or daddy could or will die one day.

His concept of time is not great so telling him this would happen a in long long time will not help.

I know I am being dishonest and possibly not teaching him correctly but it seems too much for him right now. If god forbid, he wad to loose one of us I don't feel being "prepared" by knowing I could happen would lessen the pain IYKWIM.

Thanks for the support regarding him not attending the funeral. It was a hard decision.

earwicga Sun 09-Jan-11 12:10:53

Lamora - It is unusual and as I said, that is what I stress. Not sure where you got the idea that I would say it couldn't ever happen.

Anyways, I am sharing what I have done and do with my children and it has worked for them. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

Lamorna Sun 09-Jan-11 12:13:20

I wouldn't tell him that you would die, I am just not comfortable in making a promise that I can't keep. I would fudge around it with 'we have no intention of dying, we want to get to 100yrs and have a big party'. Try to keep it lighthearted. Death is a big taboo subject in our society.

hippohead Sun 09-Jan-11 12:28:03

Lamorna his questions are pretty direct and he wants to know if it will, or won't happen.

You are right death is a taboo subject and I know many people think it should not be such as it is the final stage of all our lives. Having said that, in my opinion it is a hard thing to understand, to accept and is very sad even when it was ones "time" as with my very old granny. I was with her when she died And it was her time but it's still very sad.

Anyway, I have wandered off the subject. I was looking for opinions and am grateful to you both for yours. As earwicga said "different strokes......"

Lamorna Sun 09-Jan-11 12:33:17

It depends on the individual, but it a DC asks me a direct question I will try to answer in a way that is not worrying for them but I couldn't bring myself to tell them something that I can't keep to.

MammyG Sun 09-Jan-11 22:14:01

Hi hippo
I lost my dad this year and both DS's (4 & 3yrs) took it differently. DS1 was all questions and can get anxious. He was afraid that God would try and take his new sister to heaven etc. I went with heaven -its easier on children I think. I answer his questions as gently as I can. I felt that he took it very hard and was afraid to be away from me but a few other mums with boys the same age were all commenting on how clingy/shy their boys had gotten around the same time. I wonder if there is a developmental stage of just becoming self conscious and more aware of the wider world at this age too that just coincided with my dads death? Anyway, I also got a few books aimed at children his age to help him with the topic. there was a dragonfly one and a badger one. Check on the bereavement thread and they will give you great advice.
Just keep answering him and reassuring him. I dodge a few questions - the mama going to heaven one is usually answered with a big 'I dont want to be anywhere you are not' big hug and then descend into tickles and distract him from the rest! I wish I had a giant roll of cotton wool with magic powers to just keep them from harsh realities! best of luck!

deemented Sun 09-Jan-11 22:19:17

Can i reccomend this book?

It's absolutely fantastic and would be very age appropriate, imo.

I have it and DS2, now six, and DD, now two sometimes choose it as thier bedtime story. It deals with death in a way that children can really understand.

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