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how to tell DD1 my father is dying

(14 Posts)
flipflopson5thavenue Sun 05-Jun-16 22:34:39

DD1 is 3.10yo. My dad is very ill and receiving palliative care for a number of cancers and is slipping away very quickly.

He and my mum live in France and we see them every couple of months and skype regularly. DD1 is fond of him but I guess only as far as is possible given the distance, although I am sure he already has lots of lovely memories of our trips to France to visit his grandparents, and he and my dad have enjoyed lots of baking and gardening over the last couple of years.

I've visited my dad about three times in the last 4 weeks (just for 1/2 nights), and each time I've told DD1 where I'm going and why and that he's ill and that's why I'm going to see him, but haven't really said much more and DD1 hasn't asked anything.

It's not going to be long now until my dad dies and I've been wondering how I might tell DD1 when it does happen. We're not religious.

Any suggestions? Should I prepare him now or wait until after he's died to tell him?

flipflopson5thavenue Sun 05-Jun-16 22:39:49

I don't mean DD1 I mean DS1!!!! Wow, I'm more tired than I thought....

I don't have any daughters........

starry0ne Sun 05-Jun-16 22:47:22

A very close friend of mine was terminally ill when my D's was 4
I told her she was very poorly before she died. I have no idea if it was the right thing. It was school holidays when she died. D's was clingy until he returned to school. I think you can only do what you think best in these situations

IsSpringSprangedYet Sun 05-Jun-16 22:57:26

I'm so sorry flipflop, I lost my mum last year to cancer. She had had it for three years and after losing the use of her legs, they told us she was coming to the end of her life. One of two worst mornings of my life. I'm so sorry, I really am.

My four boys (then 6, 5, 4 and 2) all visited her in the hospice and again at home. As my mums partner didn't drive, it was down to me to take him back and forward and I believe DH told them then that nanny was very poorly. They asked me some questions and were a little weary of her as the pain relief made her incoherent sadly. After she died, we were honest and said she had a very poorly neck that the doctors couldn't fix. Not even with special medicine. We told them she went to heaven to see her mummy and daddy, as she missed them so much, but she loved them and me and daddy very very much. We also told them she was very tired of trying to stop the very poorly part.

They seem to be happy with that. We didnt call it cancer either. Just that she had a bad lump in her neck. We didn't want to scare them into thinking all people with cancer will die. Sorry I have no advice really, just experience if it helps. I always let them talk about it if they want, even if I'm having a bad day and cry. I don't hide my tears.

Sorry that's all a bit of a ramble!! Sending lots of love to you and your family. Xxx

fatowl Sun 05-Jun-16 22:59:26

My Dd2 was nearly 4 when FIL passed away.
She did know DH kept going to hospital because grandad wasn't well, and when he died, she seemed to understand and took her cue from others.
She asked if MIL was very sad and we said yes, so she was a sad.
But at pre-school she was fine.
We took her to the funeral and she was fine, to her it was like a family get together, and MIL was glad she was there

I'm sorry about your dad flowers

nailslikeknives Sun 05-Jun-16 23:03:48

Winston's Wish is a website set up to help adults help children cope with death and grieving.
I've found it helpful with my own and children I've taught. It's very practical, I hope it's useful to you.
flowers for you and your family.

JustABigBearAlan Sun 05-Jun-16 23:04:11

I'm so sorry for the situation you're in. I lost my dad when my son was a similar age, but it was sudden so didn't have the chance to prepare him. It was his first encounter with even the idea of death so it took some explaining. I have to say that even now, two years later he still asks quite a lot of questions.

So if you have the chance to prepare him, at the very least by explaining that grandad is very ill, that might help. I remember asking for help on here too and was recommended some books. I can't remember the titles, but they were helpful. Also don't use euphemisms like going to sleep as that can scare them at bedtime. It's best to be as honest as you can. Also if you find it too hard, perhaps get dh/dp if you have one to field some of the questions. flowers

JustABigBearAlan Sun 05-Jun-16 23:09:09

I've just checked. One of the books was called 'Badger's parting gifts'. There's also the Mog book too.

leghoul Sun 05-Jun-16 23:12:39

Sorry to hear about your dad. Look at the age specific guidance here and also Winston's Wish are brilliant.

queenofthepirates Sun 05-Jun-16 23:30:11

I lost my Dad when my DD was the same age so I know what you're going through. I am so sorry, it's not a pleasant time.

I was honest with my DD and answered her questions and she accepted the replies. I explained that Granddad had gone to sleep for ever and was 'in the clouds' (btw, that was a tricky one when we next took a flight-she was expected to see him floating by the plane!). We talk about him a lot and she loves hearing stories about him. I find it therapeutic a year on. We have lots of photos of the two of them together

Her grief was nothing compared to mine though so don't stress about it too much. Keep yourself safe and sound and be kind to yourself xx

leghoul Sun 05-Jun-16 23:57:09

general advice aside from above is to be honest, without sugarcoating it - DC can handle a surprising amount -things to watch out for are questions about them coming back/getting better (answer honestly) and though it's different for everyone, avoid expressions like 'gone to sleep' which can cause a lot of problems for small children (if they go to sleep they might die/ what if mummy goes to sleep and dies, etc) - so honesty is best policy

Dingdingdong Mon 06-Jun-16 07:44:22

Hi OP - I'm in exactly the same situation as you pretty much my eldest DS is 4. Macmillan's website also has some good information as well as Winston's wish.

As others have said the advice is to be honest so the child understands that the person isn't coming back. So far I have said Grandpa is very poorly and the doctors can't fix him which is very sad. I am struggling a bit though with how not to frighten him that this happens whenever someone is ill.

I'm so sorry - it's such a hard time isn't it. The support boards on the macmillans website have also been very helpful to me - incase you haven't found them as yet - they have a lot of support and practical advice from kind posters in the same situation.

knittingbee Mon 06-Jun-16 20:09:01

DFIL died when my DS was a little older than yours (he was 4.2). He'd been ill for some time and lived several hundred miles away, so like you, contact was limited to the odd week when we went there on holiday. We said that Granddad was very poorly, and when he died I explained to DS that DH's daddy had died and he would be sad. I emphasised that Granddad was very old and very ill, so he didn't worry that one of us might die next. He accepted that pretty much without question. However, we went to the funeral without him as he has a very active imagination and most things give him nightmares, plus I didn't know how DH would be so best that he felt free to grieve without worrying about upsetting DS.

So sorry that you're going through this - you know your son best though so tackle this however you think will work for him.

AristotleTheGreat Mon 06-Jun-16 20:14:41

My dcs were slightly older when my gran died. We had seen her just a few weeks before too.
we just told them that she was quite ill and unwell and then that she had died.

Neither of them actually asked why and how. Dc1 in particular did NOT want to talk about it or have a fuss made of him.
So we kept it very very simple.

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