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Alcohol support

Telling children about death from liver failure

11 replies

sleepraptor · 06/12/2020 13:27

A family member has died in their 40s from liver failure. We don't live nearby but our children (aged between 5 and 10) see them a few times a year. It appears the family member was drinking excessively - we knew they did in the past but not recently. I plan to tell the children that we have some sad news, X has died, their liver stopped working, we don't know exactly what happened, but we think they had an illness that meant they put far more than was safe of certain things in their body. This is very rare and the person was poorly.

I don't want them to think it's normal that your liver stops working. But I also don't want to tell them more than is appropriate. Plus we don't know the full facts - whether solely related to drinking or other issues. Not sure we'll find out as their partner is unlikely to want to give details.

What do you think?

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HollowTalk · 06/12/2020 13:29

Do you need to tell them why he died? Can't you just say he had been really ill for a long time and that he died in hospital? When they are older you can talk to them about alcoholism.

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FusionChefGeoff · 06/12/2020 13:32

I would also just say they were ill and died. If pressed you could say it was their liver that stopped working because it was damaged but I can't imagine at 5 and 10 they would ask more than that to be honest.

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sleepraptor · 06/12/2020 13:33

I'm not sure HollowTalk They hadn't been really ill for a long time. It's all really sudden. So the children will not know about any illness nor did we. It was either very hidden or happened quicker than I would expect. I also don't want them to think you go into hospital to die.

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Takethewinefromtheswine · 06/12/2020 13:33

You are really overthinking this. Just tell them: sad news, x died, he was very ill and the doctors could not make him better. You really do not need to give them any details at all, they are only young.

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sleepyhead · 06/12/2020 13:34

I would stay away from the exact details (while answering questions honestly). It's never "normal" for someone in their 40s to die. There are also lots of reasons that people of all ages die from liver failure (albeit it sounds like your relative's was alcohol-related).

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FatGirlShrinking · 06/12/2020 13:34

At that age it is just a matter of saying that the person got very poorly, so poorly the doctors couldn't fix them and they died.

Young children don't need the details behind the cause of death.

Sorry for your loss Thanks

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sleepraptor · 06/12/2020 13:34

Maybe I am just overthinking. Everything I have read seems to talk about being honest with children. Maybe best to just give the basic facts and as Fusion says, tell them liver if asked.

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sleepyhead · 06/12/2020 13:38

Yes, it's important to be honest because children can sense shame and secrecy and will fill gaps themselves - usually with something worse than the truth.

But in this case, you're speculating as to what happened yourself. The truth is that sadly this person died suddenly. They were ill and although the doctors tried to save them, they couldn't be helped.

If they want to know whether it could happen to you, or someone else you know that's a similar age, then you can talk about how they had been ill before (alcoholism is an illness) and this might have been the reason they got ill again. That it's not common for younger people to die and that (if true) the other people they know are healthy and hopefully will stay so.

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UncomfortableSilence · 06/12/2020 13:39

At that age it is just a matter of saying that the person got very poorly, so poorly the doctors couldn't fix them and they died.

I agree you are overthinking it at their age, my kids are older and my DF died recently, his illness was sudden and he died quickly. I was honest from the start with what was happening and kept it fairly basic but didn't go into details and they didn't question me or ask for further information.

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Hayeahnobut · 06/12/2020 13:39

You can be honest without going into detail. The important message is that it is very unusual for people to die so young, not that the damage was due to alcohol.

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sleepraptor · 06/12/2020 13:41

You're right, I can do it without the details. Thanks everyone, that's been really helpful.

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