How to tell kids about dying Grandfather?


#1

Hello,
I just found out yesterday that my father has brain cancer and has about 3 months to live. My girls are 17, 14, and 11. I am not sure how to tell them or if I even should tell them. They know he has the brain cancer—he has been dealing with cancer for about 2 yrs already. They just dont know that the full extent of it now. My sister is not telling her college age kids because she wants them to be able to focus on school and actually finish. One will be graduating in the spring.
Do I tell them so they are more prepared or just let things be so they arent preoccupied with it?
We do live close and will be seeing him regularly. They will be able to see when things start to progress. My husband says tell them…at least the oldest, possible the middle one. I just wouldnt want them to then talk to their cousins who wouldnt know.

Thank you all


#2

Don't be shocked if they already have it figured out and are not letting you know because they think it will upset you. Kids pick up on these things far more readily than we give them credit for. If it were me, I'd tell the older two and keep them informed without overwhelming detail. They may, if your dad is up to it want to spend a lot of time with him. I know I did when my grandfather died when I was 14 or so. But, he also got to a point where he didn't want me to come see him anymore because he wanted me to remember him as lucid, funny, caring, etc. He said his goodbye about a month before he died. And the last year, spending so much time with him and learning so much about him and his life is still one of my best memories.


#3

I say tell them all. I think it would be terrible to find out that I'd been kept in the dark about something so life changing. We don't always have the opportunity to say good bye to our loved ones, but it seems especially cruel to keep that opportunity from kids under the guise that it was somehow protecting them or meant to help them stay focused. The very best and most meaningful conversations I had with my mom were in the weeks before she died of throat cancer. My older children were 15 & 17 and I know they appreciated being in the loop too. Those last visits were particularly hard for them, but also great moments of grace.

Kathy


#4

[quote="Lutheranteach, post:2, topic:181370"]
Don't be shocked if they already have it figured out and are not letting you know because they think it will upset you. Kids pick up on these things far more readily than we give them credit for. If it were me, I'd tell the older two and keep them informed without overwhelming detail. They may, if your dad is up to it want to spend a lot of time with him. I know I did when my grandfather died when I was 14 or so. But, he also got to a point where he didn't want me to come see him anymore because he wanted me to remember him as lucid, funny, caring, etc. He said his goodbye about a month before he died. And the last year, spending so much time with him and learning so much about him and his life is still one of my best memories.

[/quote]

I agree. My one grandmother died of brain cancer a few years back when I was in high school. My other grandmother just died about a month ago from a very rare cancer, biliary cancer. We all knew she was sick. Kids are smarter than most people think. They are very, very observant. I sometimes even say that I was probably more observant as a kid than I am now. Even very little kids and toddlers will notice when something is wrong.

Just tell them gently, that they need to pray for their grandpa because he is very sick (make sure they are praying for God's will, though. God may want to call him).
They may take it better than even you will. I would even tell them how he is sick, and how long they believe he will live. My sisters were about the age your kids are when they were told about my grandma possibly dying. Death is part of life. Don't worry. Kid's understand that.

God bless you. I'll pray for his soul.


#5

So sorry to hear about your Dad. I lost my Dad about 12 years ago.

My Grandmother died of cancer when I was 17. No one explained to me the extent of her illness, but I felt it. I ended up being very afraid of when her time would actually come, and afraid to sprnd time with her.

16 and 17 is old enough to speak with them honestly. They will be able to process it. It will help them deal with your sadness as well. When parents are sad, and the children are not sure why, it frightens them.


#6

Do the best you can to tell them with ease. Your children should be given the chance to say their good-byes to their grandfather. Also know that your father will be going into the arms of our Lord. Best of luck and may you have peace.

God bless,

Art321


#7

Oh of course, tell them! Death stinks, but it should not be stigmatized. To not tell them might instead transmit more fear to them, as though what’s happening is so terrible that they can’t handle knowing about it. Maybe it’s different for different people, but I don’t think a grandparent with a terminal illness is something that would typically keep a child from being able to function reasonably well. That’s not to say there won’t be any distraction or sadness, but it would surprise me if it would actually stop a person in their tracks (like it might if it was a parent who was dying), aside from the days immediately before and after the death. I suppose if the relationship between the grandparent and child is unusually close, it would be different, but then they would definitely need to know, so that they could prepare, say goodbye, etc. If I were your neices/nephews, I’d get pretty mad at my mother for keeping something like this from me.

Yes, do tell them. Let them ask a million questions. Answer them honestly. Let them know that you are sad. Let them see how you are handling it, so that they can learn from you, and so that your example helps them to cope. And let them be able to be a comfort to their grandfather, who might be relieved not to have to be whispered about because of “the big secret.”

I’m sorry to hear about this. I have lost grandparents, but not parents. It must be very difficult. Prayers for you, your father, and the family.


#8

I'm so sorry to hear about your Dad.

I can tell you my own experience of this. My Dad died when I was 10 years old. Because of how the hospitals were back then, I wasn't able to see him very often and he had died before I realized it was serious. I had no time to prepare myself. I have often thought it would have been kinder to have some inkling what was going on.

Praying for you!
Steph


#9

Prayers to you from me, I am so so sorry to hear about this, i lost my dad early this year it is heart wrenching but stay strong for your children as i have had to. God bless you all and i will pray for you all.


#10

#11

My grandfather died of cancer when I was about 10 years old, and even at that point I had already known for a few years that there was always a good possibility that he would die from it. (the doctors originally gave him "a few weeks" to live, but somehow he managed to turn it into a few years, instead). At every step of the way, my parents just gave it to me straight and I had no problems at all dealing with it. Your daughters all seem more than old enough to handle the truth, IMO.


#12

My MIL died of cancer shortly before this past Thanksgiving. My own mother died a year ago this past October. My children are currently 22, 20, and 17. They had a very close relationship with my mother and a fairly close relationship with my MIL. Both women died of incurable cancer. My mother chose not to undergo a second round of chemotherapy, knowing her time would be limited. My MIL was prepared to fight until the end, although her doctors would not approve any further chemo treatments for her (about a month before she died.)

We made a point of telling our children that their grandmothers cancers were incurable, though treatable, from the time we learned it ourselves. We also told them when (aggressive) treatment was discontinued. This way our children were prepared for the news that death was imminent when that time came. We asked for the grandchildren to pray for their grandmothers; it’s important for all of us to have something we can DO about the coming death of a loved one. When death was but a few hours away we made a point of bringing my middle daughter home from college so she’d have a chance to say, “Good bye.” (In the case of my mother we don’t know if she was conscious or not.)

Yes, it was hard for my children. Their ages are a bit older than yours but I know it was important to THEM that they could help their grandmothers by being with them. And they knew they had done all they could. They got a chance to say their good byes.

You don’t know how much time your father REALLY has. It sounds as if your father’s terminal condition has perhaps taken the family by surprise even though you knew he had cancer. You may still be trying to process this yourself. But please let your children have as much of that time as they can. If Grandpa is going on hospice then let them know what that means. If he’s continuing with some treatment to maintain health as long as possible then explain that he’s not fighting the cancer anymore; he’s just trying to have the best quality of life possible, then explain that. If he’s still trying chemo, radiation, or surgery (which I doubt based on the time frame given) then explain that he’s trying desperate measures.

You don’t need to say, “Grandpa has only three months to live,” because you don’t actually know how much time he has. But be clear to your children that this holiday season is almost surely Grandpa’s last so you want to make the best of it with him.


#13

I am very sorry to hear about your Dad; peace be with you and your family at this time. I would tell all of your children. Being exposed to the dying process is an important part of life. Just be available to whoever needs to talk.


#14

My son was 8 when a favorite aunt (like a second mother to him) died of PPH, 13 when his paternal grandfather died of a brain aneurysm and his uncle died of liver cancer, and 15 when his maternal grandfather died of pancreatic cancer.

We did not hide the seriousness of any of their conditions and he, in fact, assisted my husband in caring for my dad in his final days. When my husband's father came home from the hospital to die, my then-13-year-old son sat by his grandfather's bedside and held his hand as long as he could and was at his side (with the rest of the family) when he died.

He always thanked us for giving him the opportunity to be there with his loved ones as much as he could in their final days. I think your girls are old enough to do the same.

Prayers for all of you.


#15

Death is part of life. You talk about heaven and hell and death and being ready for death to your kids from the time they are born, that is part of raising them as Christians.

Allow your children to learn about death - to help grandfather prepare for a happy death.

Prayers for your family!


#16

Thank you all for your kind replies. Dad is home today and looking good.

I do know that I will tell them. Just not sure exactly when or how :slight_smile: I, myself, had my Grandfather die on my 8th birthday. We knew he was sick but it was still a shock.
My girls do know that things are very serious. And that there isnt much time. They just dont how short the time is. They will get to spend as much time as they want with him. My girls are pretty sharp. Im sure they have it figured out already.Its just going to be hard for me to get it said to them. This is the first death they have had to face. We will get through…

Thanks again for all the support :slight_smile:


#17

I would tell them in terms of faith. Grandpa is very ill, we don’t know exactly how long he has, the doctor thinks perhaps a few months. Since only God knows, it may be shorter or longer. But grandpa will be going to heaven soon. We will be sad when that happens, and we will miss him a lot, but he will be with God and that is what all of us hope to do someday. We will be able to pray to him, and he will be our own family’s special saint.

When we teach our faith to our children they learn that our earthly bodies grow old and are imperfect, and that the goal of each and every one of us is to have everlasting life. Death should not be treated as something to be feared, or kept secret but as something inevitable in this life.

I’m sorry to hear about your father. It is never easy to lose a parent, and it’s not easy to watch them suffer. But this end of life time can be a time of grace for your family.


#18

[quote="Arlene, post:17, topic:181370"]
I would tell them in terms of faith. Grandpa is very ill, we don't know exactly how long he has, the doctor thinks perhaps a few months. Since only God knows, it may be shorter or longer. But grandpa will be going to heaven soon. We will be sad when that happens, and we will miss him a lot, but he will be with God and that is what all of us hope to do someday. We will be able to pray to him, and he will be our own family's special saint.

When we teach our faith to our children they learn that our earthly bodies grow old and are imperfect, and that the goal of each and every one of us is to have everlasting life. Death should not be treated as something to be feared, or kept secret but as something inevitable in this life.

I'm sorry to hear about your father. It is never easy to lose a parent, and it's not easy to watch them suffer. But this end of life time can be a time of grace for your family.

[/quote]

He might want to tell them and talk to them, if and only if, he has come to terms with his situation. It wold empower him in a way and could teach them so much about this part of life. At least give him that option.


#19

Agreed. The 16 and 17 should be told, they are old enough to know and choose how to deal with it (extra visits etc…). It is part of life and trying to shelter them from the basic fact that people die only delays and retards their ability to deal with it later in life when they may not have you (or someone else close) to discuss it with.


#20

A suggestion... while grandpa is still lucid, it might be beautiful to have a priest come to his home and anoint him, with the family present. We did this with both my father and my father-in-law and it gave them--and the grandchildren--a lot of peace to see them prepared and strengthened for the journey ahead.


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