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Thread: Explaining death to a child

  1. #1

    Explaining death to a child

    My father is very ill at the moment, and it could be any day now that he passes. He has told the doctor that he does not want any CPR or life support in the event something bad happens. I do not blame him, as he has had his fair share of crappy times the past 12 years or so. He lost both of his legs to diabetes. He now has a hole in his heart that is apparently inoperable. My step mother just died from liver disease, so my step brother stayed at the house to care for my father. They were unable to pay their rent so they got evicted. My brother went to the house the other day and cleaned it out. He will move most of it into storage.

    Having heard that my father was evicted from his apartment, his doctor told him to come into the hospital until they could find a hospice center to care for him. When my father arrived the doctor found my dad in very poor shape. He has multiple pressure sores all over his body, his two stumps, and a fairly large one on his arm, which has claimed a nice chunk of flesh. He now is missing skin and muscle from that arm, and the infection is still there. He desperately needs surgery, however that is not an option because he is in such poor health. They are treating him with antibiotics, cleaning his wounds and changing his bandage every three days. It does seem to have improved slightly. He also has emphaseema (sp?) and a few other things to deal with.

    It can be any day, and we are all prepared. He will be cremated and his ashes skattered with his wives, who just passed away about a year or so ago. I need to sit my oldest son, age 7, down and explain to him what is happening and prepare him for what is going to happen. I know he is young, and the last thing I want to do is scar him for life. I do not know how to approach the subject. I am afraid he is going to start crying, which is going to make me cry, and we're just going to sit there and cry and nothing will get accomplished. I want him to have an understanding of what is going to happen and why he might not see "grandpa" again. He is a very sensitive little boy. He has always been that way, and that is one of the things I love so much about him.

    If anyone has been in this situation before, and can give me some tips I would greatly appreciate it. This is a tough time for our family, and I would like to try to make this as easy as possible.
    Fuzzies for Furries
    Northwest Opossum Society
    Zoology Major
    2 Virginia Opossums, 6 cats, 4 bearded dragons, 1 iguana, 1 red foot tortoise, 1 tripod chihuahua, 5 mice, dubia and hissing cockroaches as well as other misc animals that wander in and out of my home.

  2. #2
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    I am sorry to read this about your father. This must be difficult for both of you at this time.

    I don't have any ideas re your son, I will leave that to others.
    I've been BOO'd!!
    Thank you Karen, for fixing my siggy!

  3. #3
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    When my mother died I had been expecting her for dinner, a week before she had been diagnosed with an enlarged heart. When she didn't arrive I got scared and she didn't answer her phone.

    I had no choice but to take my kids who were 7 and 9 at the time with me to her house, I left them in the car for a few minutes and peaked in the garage, I saw her car in there and no answer at the door, I broke in and found her dead. It was hot in the car so when I called 911 I told them my kids were in my car.

    The mediical examiner arrived and she asked me if I believed in heaven, I said yes so she went and explained to my kids that their grandmother had gone to heaven. My 9 year old asked to see her grandmother, her mouth was open so the medical examiner covered everything but her hand and let my daughter hold her hand.

    I don't think all of that scarred my kids, my poor kids have had a lot of death, a few year prior to that it was my dad, a few years after was my sister in law and then my brother.

    I think its good to tell them that their grandfather is not suffering anymore and is in a better place. Hugs to you I am sorry about your father.
    don't breed or buy while shelter dogs die....

    I have been frosted!

    Thanks Kfamr for the signature!


  4. #4
    Thank you for the help. I chose not to talk to him about it today. I just couldn't push myself to do it, even though I know the sooner that I do it the better. I went across the street to Borders and picked up a few parenting books about the subject. Hopefully it will guide me in the direction I need to go.
    Fuzzies for Furries
    Northwest Opossum Society
    Zoology Major
    2 Virginia Opossums, 6 cats, 4 bearded dragons, 1 iguana, 1 red foot tortoise, 1 tripod chihuahua, 5 mice, dubia and hissing cockroaches as well as other misc animals that wander in and out of my home.

  5. #5
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    You can tell your son about death, and that it happens to every living thing at some time. Plants die, people die, and pets die. But we love them, and the love they have taught us lives on in everyone whom they loved.

    I do not know if you or your Dad have any religious beliefs, but if you are Christian, you can explain heaven and God a little. You don't need to go into a lot of details or have a giant theological discussion, just explain that that is where good people go when they die, and he'll be reunited with the ones he loved.

    Most of all explain that you love your Dad, and may be sad and need a few extra hugs. That gives him something concrete that he, as a little boy, can do.
    I've Been Frosted

  6. #6
    Thank you Karen for the suggestions. I really appreciate it. He is just so sensitive that I worry about how he'll react. He can't even stand to be in the same room when the lizards gobble up their mealworms because he'll cry.
    Fuzzies for Furries
    Northwest Opossum Society
    Zoology Major
    2 Virginia Opossums, 6 cats, 4 bearded dragons, 1 iguana, 1 red foot tortoise, 1 tripod chihuahua, 5 mice, dubia and hissing cockroaches as well as other misc animals that wander in and out of my home.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckies4me View Post
    Thank you Karen for the suggestions. I really appreciate it. He is just so sensitive that I worry about how he'll react. He can't even stand to be in the same room when the lizards gobble up their mealworms because he'll cry.
    That's okay. Crying is okay, and normal, and he is learning about life, which does have sad parts, and happy parts. You can give him an extra hug from me, okay?
    I've Been Frosted

  8. #8
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    This is so difficult. I'm so sorry. Best wishes to you. I know you'll do the right thing and he will be fine. When I was young, I lost a couple of family members. I remembered that I had lost someone but it didn't scar me. That was many years ago but my mother chose to not let us go to the funerals. She explained quietly that those relatives had gone to heaven. I think I was more affected by death as I got older.
    {{{{{HUGS}}}}}


    I've been Boo'd...
    Thanks Barry!

  9. #9
    The best way, IMO, to explain death in my situation was for my parents to take me to a funeral home. I saw the deceased and how peaceful she looked. She was a little girl, only 3 years old. I was around 6 at the time. She looked so happy, had a smile on her face even, as though she was having a pleasant dream. When I asked "Why did she die?", my dad told me that this isn't really our home and that she wanted to go home. That wasn't anything to be sad about for me so I asked Dad "Then why are people are crying?" and he said "Because they'll miss her until they can be together again."

    He gave me just enough of an explanation that I wasn't overwhelmed and it made perfect sense to my 6 year old mind. He didn't tell me how she died (her family was moving and she followed her dad up the stairs while he and another man were carrying a sofa that they dropped and it fell on her and killed her.) That would've been too much and too cruel for me to comprehend. When I became an adult and had my son, I followed suit and took him to a funeral when he was only 3 and we took walks almost daily in the cemetery. He was curious and I gave him the same type of answers that my dad gave me when I had questioned him so many years before, so my son wasn't crippled by sadness when a death occurred later in our own family.

    I hope that this helps you a little. Please know that my PT family is so important to me and that you're in my prayers always but especially during this trying time. It's a lot to bear for all of you. Keep the faythe.
    Blessings,
    Mary



    "Time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all." Ecclesiastes 9:11

  10. #10
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    I cannot imagine a situation in which taking a overly sensitive 7 year old to a funeral home would be beneficial. .

    I really like Karen's idea, about Heaven, about the love, that your father will no longer be in pain, and that we will see our loved ones again at some time. My friend just went through this with her two young children, their dad died. She took them to hospice, and the older one (8) reacted a bit negatively to the situation, and was withdrawn. So, you know your child best, and you might want to talk to/with a mental health counselor concerning this. Maybe talk to your son, around the topic, and see how he responds? IDK, it is hard enough for me, at 43 to "accept" death or understand death.

  11. #11
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    I'd explain to your son that we're from God & will return to God when our time on earth is up.. that his grandfather is now HOME with God & will peek over the clouds & watch over him for the rest of his life.. that he can still talk to his grandfather in prayers.. that death is not the end, but the beginning of new life.

    Your 7 yr old son may not grasp the theological meaning of it, but he'll understand that his grandpa is now in a better place, and that he can still maintain a relationship with him through thoughts & prayers.

    *hugs* & lots of prayers for your dad & your family.





    Thanks ~Jessie~

  12. #12
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    My dad, my grandkids great-grandfather died about a month ago. Christy and I sat down the Jasmine who is 5 and Dominic who is almost 3 and told them he had died and now was in heaven with my son, Rob. Dominic at not yet 3 had no idea of what we were talking about. Jasmine started to cry right away which made both Christy and me cry. But she had seen him in the hospital and knew he was sick and we explained how sick he really was and how he was no longer in pain. We told her how he was in heaven now with God and Rob. We told her now he could walk steadily again, breath better again. Since we have talked to her since she was little about death (Rob died when she was 18 months) and she has lived here when we had to put two of our dogs down she seemed to come to her own acceptance about her pa-pas death. She also goes to Sunday School and knows that Jesus died and went to heaven so she also brought up that he was now with Jesus. And told her how happy Rob was to see him and she said that Oreo and Snoopy were very glad to see him too.

    We took both kids to visitation. We decided to let them decide what they wanted to do. At first they looked at the casket from a distance. Then slowly they went up and we talked to them about how he looked (like he was sleeping). Kids are very surprising in what they say when you don't make things too complicated but let them ask you questions. Jasmine was more interested in the casket than papa. What a pretty white pillow he was laying on. When different friends would come in they would go up to the casket with us and very respectfully look and listen.

    My sister's grand daughter is 8 and spent a lot of time with my parents since she lived in the same town as they did. They were not going to take her to the viewing or the funeral because she has such an active imagination. A counselor friend of ours said that is all the more reason to take her. That her imagination could take her all kinds of places. The reality isn't as bad as their imaginations could be. She also took it all very well.

    Only you know your son and his sensitivity. I think I would explain to him about his grandpas death and about God and heaven. I would explain to him what he would see (Grandpa in a casket). But for him the important thing would be to arrange for him to go before visiting hours start so he is alone with you and can cry (crying is good, it is okay to miss him) and ask questions. In case he does not do well with it, be sure you have someone who can take him home and be with him. Most funeral homes have areas for the family and things for the kids to do (TVs with DVD's, coloring books, toys)- he can be at the funeral home close to you but not so close that he has to see Grandpa all the time.

    God Bless you no matter what you decide. My thoughts and prayers were with you.

    "That they may have a little peace, even the best
    dogs are compelled to snarl occasionally."
    --William Feather

  13. #13
    Thank you all for your suggestions. I still haven't had the heart to sit him down yet. Perhaps it is I that is more scared to talk about it, rather than me freightening my son. It's just a very difficult thing for me to deal with, as some of you know my father means everything to me.

    He has since been moved into a care facility, and it is very nice. His doctor says he is doing a bit better, but again, you just never know.

    Does anyone know if a DNR order is valid outside of the hospital? For instance, if something happens at the nursing center, will they withhold emergency treatment should he have a heart attack or something?
    Fuzzies for Furries
    Northwest Opossum Society
    Zoology Major
    2 Virginia Opossums, 6 cats, 4 bearded dragons, 1 iguana, 1 red foot tortoise, 1 tripod chihuahua, 5 mice, dubia and hissing cockroaches as well as other misc animals that wander in and out of my home.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckies4me View Post
    Thank you all for your suggestions. I still haven't had the heart to sit him down yet. Perhaps it is I that is more scared to talk about it, rather than me freightening my son. It's just a very difficult thing for me to deal with, as some of you know my father means everything to me.

    He has since been moved into a care facility, and it is very nice. His doctor says he is doing a bit better, but again, you just never know.

    Does anyone know if a DNR order is valid outside of the hospital? For instance, if something happens at the nursing center, will they withhold emergency treatment should he have a heart attack or something?
    Yes, if he has a DNR, the nursing center should have a copy of that in his medical records. If that is his wish, you should just doublecheck with them that they have it.

    When Aunt Bertha moved into a nursing home, she asked about her DNR. She said, "If I am outside and get hit by a car, what happens?" They said "Of course, we would try to help you as best we could." So she understood that, if for example, she had a heart attack, they'd abide by the DNR, as was her intention, but would help her if other things happened. That is what she wanted, and that is how it happened. She eventually passed away from heart failure, very peacefully, no tubes or machines or anyone pounding on her chest.

    Don't delay, Cass, have that conversation with Dylan today. With all the highly publicized deaths in the news, it is a good time to discuss the topic in general, even if you cannot bring yourself to mention your Dad.
    I've Been Frosted

  15. #15
    You know, you have a very good point. He woke up this morning and during breakfast asked me if I had heard that Michael Jackson died. Kids pay attention more than most people would like to think!

    Maybe I will do it tonight before bed, or is that not a good idea? I'm nervous.
    Fuzzies for Furries
    Northwest Opossum Society
    Zoology Major
    2 Virginia Opossums, 6 cats, 4 bearded dragons, 1 iguana, 1 red foot tortoise, 1 tripod chihuahua, 5 mice, dubia and hissing cockroaches as well as other misc animals that wander in and out of my home.

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