How do children cope with serious illness?

Illness, more specifically terminal illness, is something that you’d never wish on anyone and their families, but with children involved there’s always a worry about how they’ll cope and deal with it.

I have to say, so far, N’s been brilliant, likely because of the age he is.  His Grandma’s now in a local hospice but to him, over the last few months, everything just seems to have slotted in to be another part of life.

As a parent, concern about the child is another thing to worry about.  You don’t want them to get upset.  You want to keep life as normal as possible for them.  You don’t want to dump them on all and sundry while you go off visiting.   You want to be able to take them in to visit to help the person who’s ill with disturbing everyone or getting them confused.  You want to tell them the truth about what’s happening without them worrying about other people who might have a minor illness.

N’s been around as my mum’s worsened and the hospice are really good about having children (and even pets) brought in.  I think now is the stage we’ll be stopping taking him, but even that is a juggling act to ensure he can stay with someone else while I go.  I’ve been so proud of him though when he’s been there.  He’s been quite happy playing in the playroom or while we talk, he’s chatted to the staff and other patients, and he’s not charged around like a loon as you might expect some children to.

toddler eating sandwich
Give him food, he’ll do anything you ask!

I’ve explained to him that Grandma’s poorly, very poorly and can’t get better, although obviously that doesn’t mean a lot to him.  But given I’ve now come down with a DVT and have a poorly leg, I’m having to make sure I can differentiate between the levels of seriousness so he doesn’t worry about me.

He’s also been really good after work and nursery, where I have to leave him at home with his dad to go visiting.  Not once has he moaned, but quite happily got on with playing, having tea, or going to see his other Gran.  It makes life easier having other family close by.  Although it’s hard to not spend as much time with him as I’d usually do, N does get the bonus of 100% dad.

Weekends are especially hard as normality means continuing with swimming lessons, but it’s harder to see friends so to me it feels like we’ve gone totally off the radar, and that we can’t plan anything just in case we have to cancel.  I feel bad for N as life really must be pretty boring…as his dad works 7 days a week, it’s always me who takes him out to places, meets up with friends, but at the moment everything’s based near home, feeling a bit cooped up (and not helped by the weather).  Inbetween odd bits and pieces, it’s visiting, and me dragging him around.  Thankfully he’s too young to think this at the moment.  To him it’s just seeing Grandma in a different home, rather than in her house.

I guess we’ll see what happens over the next few days and weeks, and just hope he takes everything to come in his stride too.  Just that little bit older and it could all be so different.

How’ve you found your children cope in similar situations?

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  1. I’m sorry to hear about your mother and I’m glad you are able to spend time with her.

    My mum died from cancer last year, and as she lived up north instead of fitting in visits each week, I went up there for a week or so. This meant taking M as I was still feeding him and leaving 4 year old B at home. The last time B saw Grandma was a few weeks before she died, when we went for a birthday visit. She was very poorly that weekend, but B didn’t notice and was just happy to be at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Even after we’d explained Grandma had died, it apparently only hit during the funeral while I was giving an eulogy and she got upset.

    But since then, it appears not to have had a negative impact on her, it is just a fact of life. She will see pictures of Grandma and tells me that she died and it is sad. Or she sees a cat and says “our cat died and Grandma died”.

    I think you’ve been doing the right thing with N. It is important for them both to see each other. But if it becomes awkward, upsetting or a distraction for any of you it is best that you concentrate on your mother. You must make the most of the time you have and as I was advised ask all the questions you want to know the answer.

  2. This is a really tricky situation. Grace knows her Nana died (her fathers Mum) and is sad about it but at the same time she is pragmatic and understanding. I agree with Fiona. Thanks for linking to PoCoLo x

    1. I think you’re right. The hardest bit is knowing when to stop taking him, although he’s never seemed bothered about how Grandma’s changing. To him it’s just facts. I think hopefully the whole being on a farm and being used to change in life there might help a bit too.

    1. You’re so right. I’m glad he’s this age rather than another year older, as I know I struggled when my dad died when I was 4…I just wouldn’t talk about it for years and years. But N will likely just continue as he is and it won’t be a problem.

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