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Single grandparenting

(42 Posts)
Singlegrannie Mon 19-Mar-18 08:51:20

My DH died 12 years ago, before our only daughter had met her future husband or had children. I have not been in another relationship since, haven't met anyone who interested me, and am now used to being on my own.
I now have two adorable grandchildren, a girl of 3 and a boy of one, and I live within walking distance. They have two grandparents on their father's side who live a couple of hours drive away. I have a few pictures of my DH around, and my DGD has asked who he is.
I have said "Grandad X" and that was enough but recently she asked where he was and if she could see him. It is hard to explain death to a three year old without upsetting her or getting upset myself.
Had anyone found a good way to cope with this one ? I realise it must be so much worse for a child if a grandparent they have known and loved dies when they are very young,

MissAdventure Mon 19-Mar-18 08:56:39

I would just tell the truth, in very simple terms.
Children are quite matter of fact at that age, and death is a fact, however awful it is to face up to.

Singlegrannie Mon 19-Mar-18 09:01:37

Yes, I have told the truth, but 3 year olds don't understand death, and more questions follow which are very difficult to answer.

Luckygirl Mon 19-Mar-18 09:02:12

I agree that children are very matter-of-fact about these things at that age. My DGD asked my how old I was and when I told her she said "Hmmm - I expect you will die soon."

I think you should just tell her and then answer any follow up questions with as much/little detail as seems appropriate.

How lovely that you have your DGC nearby to enjoy. smile

Nannarose Mon 19-Mar-18 09:26:51

My 'take it or leave it' advice:
Absolutely tell the truth. Use the word 'died'. Be prepared for questions to come up at odd times. Acknowledge your sadness, and say how much you wish he could have met them, and how happy they make you.
You can use photos & little anecdotes from your childhood to talk about your own parents and GPs, so they get the idea. When I talk about my GPs & G-GPs, my GC will say things like 'are they dead' 'were you sad?' and I will say that I remember them and the things I learned from them.
If you ask at your library, they will point you in the direction of suitable books - you may or may not wish to share them with your GCs, but they will give you ideas about what words to use.
I don't know if it's still about, but I loved Clare Rayner's book about how your body works. John Burningham's Grandpa is lovely (but the little girl did know her grandpa so may not be suitable for your situation) and I love The Snowman for very young children as an introduction to loss. I also thought that the recent film of Going on a Bear Hunt referred to loss in a gentle way.
I would add that personally I think religion and spirituality can be used if you or the family believe, but not otherwise.
Don't get too bogged down in explaining - keep it simple and children will take what they can. As long as you appear open, they will ask again.

Singlegrannie Mon 19-Mar-18 09:31:38

Yes, they are matter of fact. After I explained that he was very nice but that he couldn't be around any more because he died, she then asked when she could see him. I think it's me getting upset that's the problem, I don't want her to see that ! I changed subject and distracted her with something else

Singlegrannie Mon 19-Mar-18 09:36:23

Nannarose, thank you.I agree with all you say but I wondered whether she is still a little too young to talk about him. Unfortunately I can still get upset after 12 years . We are not a religious family.

MissAdventure Mon 19-Mar-18 09:43:29

Its not unfortunate though, to get upset when talking about a loved one who has died.
You can explain this, too.
Perhaps your granddaughter senses your reluctance to speak, and that fuels her interest.
Just explain that you can't see somebody who has died because they aren't here anymore, but you can look at a photo, or think of them.

trisher Mon 19-Mar-18 10:16:58

Singlegrannie I do think it is difficult. I think you should tell your GD that you find it difficult to talk about him. Children do understand, But I know it is very hard sometimes to explain your feelings to a child. I am a single GP in a different position-divorced many years ago. My GD sees my ex (her grandad) and started asking me questions about him the other day. It took me by surprise and I am afraid I changed the subject I am currently thinking it through and hoping I can be more honest with her next time. I think we want our GCs to live happy and carefree lives and don't want to upset them, but it is amazing how resilient children are and once she knows that it upsets you she may well show less interest and understand.

mamarclaire Mon 19-Mar-18 11:17:21

Has anyone got any advice on explaining suicide? My father killed himself when my children were little and I know their children will be asking about their great grandad they never met one day cx

Daisydoo2 Mon 19-Mar-18 11:19:48

Singlegrannie, my dh died 12 years ago too and we didn't have GC either but I have 3 now. I, and my daughters have been honest and open all the way. There are photographs out and we refer to him quite a lot in general conversation. The children are very matter of fact and ask questions about his life too knowing that they cannot see him in person. Just be honest, mine enjoy stories about him and love to see pictures of happy times, you may be surprised how you could enjoy sharing these moments too. Good luck. X

Kim19 Mon 19-Mar-18 11:24:40

I never had any problem with it whatsoever other than the inner sadness that my H never met the GC he longed for. I think they 'found out' about him by doing a kind of verbal family tree in the process of the 'Granny is Mummy's Mummy' process. Children are so natural in their questions and so interesting in how they respond. It may sometimes be with a shrug and off to the next toy or a subsequent question. I well remember one of my GC asking me a very difficult and painful question. I answered and steeled myself for the obvious supplementary. She paused for a minute, looked thoughtful and then cheerily said 'OK then' and skipped away over the grass of the park we were in. Her Mum squeezed my arm lovingly and on we went with our day. Children are delightfully (sometimes scarily) unpredictable but I would always be as honest with them as I could.

Conni7 Mon 19-Mar-18 11:24:50

My first husband died in a car accident when my children were four and five. I explained this by saying that most toys would last a long time, but sometimes there was an accident and the toy was broken. This had happened to Daddy and he had gone to Heaven. I had to explain the accident over and over as a bedtime story, but they seemed to accept it. Now my second husband has died, and the two granddaughters seem to accept the Granddad is up on a cloud watching them. They have even drawn pictures of this. I think children are very resilient and come to understand death as they get older, and perhaps have pets.

mabon1 Mon 19-Mar-18 11:49:07

Tell the truth and do say he died. Dont use words such as passed away etc. Young children accept the truth and are very resilient.

Peardrop50 Mon 19-Mar-18 11:49:43

I agree with other posters, honesty is always best, done gently with your love and your sadness in full view is perfectly fine and will teach your grandchildren that it’s OK to feel and to show emotion.

grandtanteJE65 Mon 19-Mar-18 11:57:54

Singlegrannie - I don't think it harms your GD that you are sad when you remember your DH, but please sit down with your daughter and tell her what you have said to the little one, as she will probably ask her mother about her granddad too.

Marmarclaire, I would personally not try to explain suicide to small children, just say that your father died when your children were little. I don't know how old your grandchildren are now. If they are old enough to understand that a grown-up can be so depressed that the kill themselves, or so ill in another way that they choose that way out of an intolerable situation, then that is a different matter, and it is probably better to tell them the truth.

I had an aunt who committed suicide when I was about nine. My parents told me that Auntie K had been so unhappy that she had killed herself, but did not give more details than that. Looking back, I don't remember being very distressed, but then I hardly knew her as my mother and that aunt did not get on. I do remember wondering at the time, why they did not just tell me she had died.

littleflo Mon 19-Mar-18 12:30:24

I would contact Winston’s Wish. They are a charity who look after bereaved children. They have literature you can read and also books. I would also speak to your daughter about how she would like to handle it.

My GCs maternal Grandmother is very ill and is in an out of hospital. They have been very honest with the children and my GS does occasionally have a few tears and says he does not want her to die. My son and DiL feel this is best for their family . When he is with uswe are trying to keep the explanations as simple as possible.

radicalnan Mon 19-Mar-18 12:39:11

It is hard but honesty is the best policy. Children can be very matter of fact and then come back and ask again, as someone else posted, making it a bit of a story helps them.

It may help you too, I hope it does.

123kitty Mon 19-Mar-18 12:47:33

Agree mabon1- another word best avoided with little ones is 'lost'. For a child a lost item will often turn up again.

rizlett Mon 19-Mar-18 13:19:54

mamarclaire - my father took his own life too - when I was young. We tend not to use the word suicide as it implies a time when taking your own life was a criminal act.

I explained to my children [at an appropriate age] that he decided that life was too much for him and he wanted to leave it and that actually that was ok. It helps that I have completely accepted what happened and no longer blame myself - or him - for what happened to us.

I sometimes think we're afraid to discuss this in case we 'put ideas' into someone's head but even with people who are feeling as though they don't want to go on any more they often feel better if we do talk about it rather than we don't.

There's information about this on the Samaritans website if anyone wants to find out more.

harrigran Mon 19-Mar-18 13:37:00

GC used to ask where my mummy and daddy were and I used to say they had gone to live with the angels. Three and four year olds understand about angels and heaven, they accept the story of the Nativity without question.

Luckygirl Mon 19-Mar-18 14:01:44

Two of my grandparents committed suicide, one by deliberate starvation when I was an adult; the other by gassing himself (at Christmas!) when I was 5 - my parents did not mince their words - they said he had killed himself. My main distress at that was having to walk by the gas oven where it happened and imagining him lying there dead. But I do think they were right to be honest - it was obvious that something was amiss and at least I knew what it was.

BlueBelle Mon 19-Mar-18 14:08:44

You just need to be truthful and answer questions as they come in the simplest possible way Two of my grandkids were 4 and 6 when their daddy became ill and subsequently died it had to be done and the only way is to be totally honest and up front if they want to know anything I m a single Nan through divorce and I ve been asked questions that I ve answered honestly without going into any detail
Only yesterday a grand daughter asked me to do a family for her to see who everyone was tree and the question of divorce came up and she matter of factly asked if he’d cheated on me so I matter if factly said yes that was it nothing more asked

janeainsworth Mon 19-Mar-18 14:20:35

My maternal grandfather was killed in a road accident 3 years before I was born.
I was aware of him though, as his photo was on the sideboard both at our house and at Grandma’s, and nearly every week we would go to tend his grave.
At 3, I knew he was dead and that I would never see him. My family had no religious affiliation so Heaven etc was never mentioned.
Mum talked in a matter of fact way how sad they all were and how much he would have loved me and my sister, but it was many years before I appreciated his loss emotionally and realised what a tragedy it had been for Grandma and my mother.
So I wouldn’t worry too much at this stage about your DGD getting upset. She would be more upset seeing you upset, I think.

rizlett Mon 19-Mar-18 14:27:33

Being upset is part of life though and it's a positive thing for children to learn that they don't have to hide or bury their feelings and they can only do this if they see other people upset but then be able to manage those feelings and then see them happy again.