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What would you do ?

(46 Posts)
Lindey Mon 14-Oct-19 12:27:37

My daughter and her husband have two little boys (3 years 2 months and 18 months). My son-in-laws parents are wonderful grandparents to the boys but they are both now terminally ill. We are all trying very hard to come to terms with this awful situation - they are both in their early 60s and grandad is expected to live now only for a further few weeks or less. Granny is obviously having to try and cope with the prospect of losing her dear husband very soon as well as her own life within the next few
months. It is a very difficult time.

They are such lovely caring people and are desperately sad about leaving their grandchildren before they have even started school. Losing them both at much the same time soon will leave a huge hole in our family and it is heart-breaking that the little ones will lose such wonderful grandparents from their lives and may hardly even remember them. Of course, we will never forget them and will tell the boys about them as they grow up.

I am worried about the effect on the children of losing their beloved granny and grandad at around the same time. I know it is important to tell them (particularly the 3 year old) what has happened and why he cannot see them any more. He is particularly sensitive little boy and the loss for him will be immense. I know we need to tell the children the truth that they will not be coming back (obviously gaged at an age appropriate level).

My feeling is to wait until both grandparents have died before telling the children as I am afraid telling them about one death and then another shortly afterwards will be far too much for a little one to understand and will cause too much sadness and possibly mental harm to a very young child. I know children have to learn about the harsh realities of life and death to become well rounded adults, but I want to protect them at this very young, vulnerable age and help them deal with the loss of their grandparents in the best way possible.

I know children lose their grandparents every day and hopefully cope with it as children are very resilient, but losing two loved ones at the same time is going to be especially hard for us all and of course particularly the little ones.

If you have had any experience of supporting small children through great loss, I would value your opinion and thoughts. Many thanks.

tanith Mon 14-Oct-19 12:36:52

In my experience children are very resilient and accepting of a death in the family. As long as it’s explained sensitively and simply they may be upset initially but soon are able to just carry on.
Perhaps not letting them see how upset the adults are would be a good thing as children do take cues from the adults in their lives and if the news can be given in a matter of fact way and not dwelled upon it may be easier for everyone.
Not easy by any means I know.

BlueBelle Mon 14-Oct-19 12:51:44

I don’t think its wise to wait till both are dead before telling the little ones that would be very harsh on the grandparent left who might go on for months having to lie to the kids where granddad is
You need to deal with each event separately and as they happen but they need to be prepared and know that both Nan and granddad are very poorly so it won’t come as a shock to them
There are lots of books to read with little ones about death and organisations which can give you advise about understanding death for young children
When my son in law died my grandkids were 6 and 4 my daughter took advise from this organisation and it was really helpful

Anja Mon 14-Oct-19 13:12:53

This decision is best left to their parents I think. You should be there if there are questions they want answered after being told.

Sadly I doubt they will remember these lovely people.

Oopsminty Mon 14-Oct-19 13:23:57

I think at their tender age they will 'cope' far better than older children. I lost my maternal grandfather when I was 3 and have no memory of it at all. My maternal grandmother died when I was 5. I was staying at my paternal grandparents and I vividly recall my Grandma telling me that my other Grandma had died.

I stood there and asked if I could go back to colouring in my Teddy Bear comic.

I'd been close to them and they'd been in my life a lot but at such a young age it just didn't seem to register with me.

Thinking back it was just before Christmas. My mother, an only child must have been heartbroken. She was in her early 30s. But she made that Christmas as magical as always.

Very sad and I feel for your family.

Go with what the parents want.

Personally I'd tell them the truth.

MiniMoon Mon 14-Oct-19 14:08:56

My DD's step mother-in-law died of cancer when my DGD was 4 and her little brother 2.
My DGD loved going to visit her grandma and grandad and had fun with grandma, dressing up and wearing her jewellery.
My DD prepared the children before M-i-L died, telling them that grandma was sick, and that soon she would be going away.
When the children asked where she was going, my DD told them that grandma was going to the "summer place", where she would be happy and healthy, but she wouldn't be able to come back.
They accepted this, and when the inevitable happened, and grandma was no longer there, they never asked about her.
DD thought this sort of explanation about death was fitting for the age of the children.

Luckygirl Mon 14-Oct-19 14:18:24

Two people close to our family died in quick succession when my first 2 DDs were small. I went into their bedroom one day and they had built a complicated construction out of bits of furniture and blankets. When I asked them what it was, they said it was a dying machine - you go in here, round here and come out the other side dead. I was momentarily horrified by the seeming callousness of it all while we were all still in shock. But then I took a step back and thought about it - they were processing this situation in the only way they knew - by making it concrete - something they could touch and feel and be in control of. So it did make sense.

What I am trying to say is that children have their own ways of dealing with life's tragedies and we have to go with their flow. Sometimes their first reaction can seem quite callous; but you need to be ready to pick it all up again bit by bit over time as and when they bring the subject up.

I agree that they should be told of the deaths as they happen for all the reasons that others have said. And also that you should be guided by their own parents, so you are all talking in the same way.

I am so sorry that you are all having to deal with this very sad situation.

M0nica Mon 14-Oct-19 15:08:25

Lindey, my deepest sympathy for you and your family. What a terrible situation to be in.

One reaction the children may have that hasn't been mentioned yet, especially, as they will lose both grandparents so close to each other, is a fear that if it can happen to Daddy's parents, could it happen to Mummy's parents? Or could Mummy and Daddy also die and leave us.

A friend who lost her father when she was very young said that throughout her childhood whenever her mother wasn't with her she was terrfied in case she didn't return and she and her sister would be left all on their own (despite having a loving and supportive wider family).

These young children may be very clingy after the deaths and you may need to talk to them to help them understand that although one set of grandparents died. it doesn't mean that this will happen to other family members.

Dawn22 Mon 14-Oct-19 15:15:27

None of us ever know the day or the hour. No certainty with death except that it will come to each of us sooner or later. No second guessing death. We can presume nothing.

Nonnie Mon 14-Oct-19 15:28:12

Found this on Google:

Daisymae Mon 14-Oct-19 16:12:51

Children are very resilient and accepting. I am sure they will come to terms with this loss very quickly, especially at their age. Sadly death is a part of life and the human spirit is very powerful.

Hithere Mon 14-Oct-19 19:09:58

Kids are way too young to feel the void and miss them.

The main impact will come from their parents and their grieving process.

I am not 100% sure children this young need to be prepared for this fateful outcome, I would be more worried with traumatizing them knowing that it could be the last time they see grandma or grandpa.
It is better to enjoy those last visits compared to clouding them with tears while grandma and grandpa are still alive. Good memories vs sad memories

crazyH Mon 14-Oct-19 19:38:06

Oh Lindey- what an awful situation. My sympathies to the family. As for the kiddies......they are too young to feel the effects of death. No need to explain to them. If they do ask, just say that grandma/grandpa have gone on holiday. It's sad, but the fact is, children forget quite easily. Thats nature's way of protecting them from the harsh realities if life.

Luckygirl Mon 14-Oct-19 19:43:42

"gone on holiday" - I disagree with that. Never lie to children - sweeten the pill in whatever way you might feel appropriate to their age; but lie? - no.

sodapop Mon 14-Oct-19 23:39:45

I agree with Luckygirl don't lie to the children but tell them in an age appropriate way.
Children are resilient but need to know also why their parents are sad.
MOnica is right they will need lots of reassurance that others in the family will be there to care for them.
I'm so sorry for you and your family Lindey such a difficult time ahead.

Flossieturner Tue 15-Oct-19 09:05:03

My Grandchildren lost their Wonderful Granny last year. They are an extremely close family having, lived in the same house with them in the early years.

My son and daughter-in-law both work for the NHS and took advice from other professionals. They told the children straight away about the fact that granny was very ill and was going to die . They were used to visiting her in hospital and were taken for a final visit to say goodbye in her last few days.

One of them is 5 and the other 3 and they have coped remarkably well. They visit her grave and talk about how sad it is that they no longer have granny to play with. The honesty seems to have worked very well.

My children lost their grandfather when they were 2 years and the youngest just 6 months. I kept him alive for them by having pictures around the house and by talking to them about the things I did with him. It is heartbreaking that they could not enjoy the wonderful grandparent he would have been, but I know I succeeded in making him real for them.

Please continue to talk to them about the Grandparents and don’t be afraid to cry in front of them. My little granddaughter talks about ., ‘when she is old she will go and live in the grave with granny’. Then babbles on about something totally different. Death does not seem to hold any fear for them.

GrannySomerset Tue 15-Oct-19 09:35:24

Our local village school was investigating the old buildings in the village and were visiting the church. Walking round the churchyard a small boy tugged at my hand. “My granddad lives here” he said, so we went to look at granddad’s grave. It struck me as a simple and helpful way for a young child to accept death. Later that day we talked about what the children had seen and the churchyard had fascinated them.

Summerstorm Tue 15-Oct-19 10:44:22

I was a childminder when my husband died. He had been ill a long time and therefore the minded children were used to seeing him every day. I only had a few days of afterwards. On my first day back their mum took them to school to take the pressure of a little bit and when I collected them they said they were going to miss him and that he wasn’t in the cemetery like there granny. He had gone up to heaven in a puff of smoke from the crematorium. I thought that was the perfect explanation from a 5&7 year old

nipsmum Tue 15-Oct-19 11:02:27

I think you are worrying about yourself. The children are very little and accept most things without fuss at that young age. My children lost 3 grandparent in a very short time and they coped with no problems longterm.

teabagwoman Tue 15-Oct-19 11:07:22

I’m so sorry that you and your family are having to deal with this. I’ve had a bit of experience and agree wholeheartedly with the advice to be truthful, to be gentle and to be prepared to have to deal with it several times over as the children will take time to process the deaths. Children often appear more resilient than they are because they don’t want to upset their parents. On a practical note how about making memory boxes with the children for each of their grandparents? They do this at our local hospice and it can be very helpful.

Anrol Tue 15-Oct-19 11:16:38

How sorrowful to read this. My heart goes out to you all. Children are matter of fact about life and death.
One piece of advice I give everyone who knows a loved one is dying is to take a photograph of the persons hand. Even better if you can take a shot of the person holding your hand, or the children’s etc. Strange as is seems this simple tangible picture of the deceased hand brings much comfort to those left grieving. It may help your Family when they are grieving, and a lovely link for when the children are older and don’t remember their GP’s.

ania123 Tue 15-Oct-19 11:19:18

This is an excellent book to share - also a Utube video.

sarahellenwhitney Tue 15-Oct-19 11:27:59

Lindey You have my deepest sympathy for what you will be experiencing .If you have religious beliefs then may I suggest you seek guidance from those best qualified to do this.

Juicylucy Tue 15-Oct-19 12:16:07

Some very good advise already given. But I would just like to add that a close relative in our family was terminally ill and given months to live and that was a year ago and there still here, so they may live longer than you think. So I’d suggest waiting as telling children now will confuse them if there Grand parents are still alive in 6 months time. Then you would have explained all that to them just to do it again when it finally happens.

Gransooz Tue 15-Oct-19 12:39:27

I honestly don’t know what would be best to do. Perhaps children nowadays are further forward than in my day. I was born in November 1952. 3 of my grandparents died in November 1955, December 1956 and February 1957, so I was 3 and 4. I can remember my maternal grandmother being ill in bed and “helping” to carry lunch to her. But they all just disappeared from my life. I don’t think I was told as I can’t remember that and I certainly wasn’t traumatised by it. When I was older I did wish I still had them as I’d have loved to have conversations with them. I don’t think these kind of things were spoken about and children were sheltered from bad news. I was 21 when my remaining grandfather passed away at 84 and I was devastated. I think that as long as they still have mummy and daddy, they are happy. Shame my mum isn’t still around to ask what she did for me and indeed did I need anything done!