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How to tell children the hardest things

Since my mum was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer back in March, inoperable, we knew that some day this year, we’d have to say goodbye.  With my brother and me being local, it made her last months more bearable with us being able to do things for her, and then once she decided to go to Katharine House Hospice, be able to spend a lot of time there with her.

In a way, you do your grieving beforehand as a family, as you see the person change further from the person they were.  You also wish for some relief for them, as well as selfishly a return to some kind of normal life for yourselves.

N’s been brilliant during the months his Grandma was ill.  He’s taken everything in his stride, the change in her appearance, whether she had a hat, wig or nothing on her head; has been shipped from pillar to post as we’ve amended usual weekend plans to spend time with her.  And he’s barely moaned when he’s been dragged off to the hospice for visiting with me when he could have been with his dad on the farm.

She loved having him around, and the staff there were fabulous and loved having him around too.  He made their playroom his own, and was happy chatting to everyone – obviously gets that from myself and my mum.

The last week my brother and I spent each day with her, and it was time to stop taking N.  She wasn’t able to speak and was mostly sleeping and that would definitely have made him ask questions as to why Grandma was always sleeping.

To that point, we’d just told him that Grandma was very poorly, and that she wouldn’t be able to get better.  Then when she died last Friday, it was time to tell him that we wouldn’t be able to see Grandma anymore.

Trying to get an almost 3 year old to sit still and listen properly isn’t the easiest thing to do, so it was hard to know whether he’d taken in the fact that Grandma was gone, she’d died because she was very poorly, and that we wouldn’t see her again.  He ran off to play so I had no idea what he’d taken in or not.

The OH asked me later whether I’d told N…er, yes but no idea whether he heard.

But the next day, he came in and told me Grandma was in the sky.  I was perplexed as I’d not told him that.  Turns out that the OH had told him that Grandma was now in heaven up in the sky around.  Seems that’s the kind of thing to let something sink in.

N loves the moon and the sky, so hopefully that’s a nice thought for him, although he probably doesn’t understand the full implications.  Or maybe he does as he’s not asked to see Grandma, and hasn’t stated that ‘Mummy’s going to see Grandma’ like he used to when I’d picked him up from nursery, dropped him home and then run out of the door again to visit her each evening.

It does concern me what he’s going to come out with at nursery.  I’d mentioned to them what the situation was, in case he’d mentioned something but so far they’ve not heard him say anything.  He was quite happily talking in the backseat one morning on the way there and telling me ‘Grandma’s dead’ over and over again.  We don’t really cover up the facts with flowery language so I do worry a bit a parent might hear him just yelling out something like that and getting a bit concerned.

But then he’s happy, it doesn’t seem to have affected him, and he remembers some of the things that Grandma did with him, including going to see the penguins.

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