These past few weeks have been a bit of a blur for me and our family. It seems that trial after trial is hitting our family all at once. But, it has given us great talking points with our 6-yr old.
I consulted a friend who worked in Hospice for 9-10 years on how to handle this whole situation. I had so many questions. How do we tell him? What do we tell him? How much should we leave out? How often do we let him visit the hospital? And on and on. Her answers, from her past experiences, were very helpful. So, I thought I’d share a few of her tips with you all, just in case you find yourself in the same situation someday.
How do we tell him?You just need to sit him down and calmly explain what is going on. You don’t need to give too much detail, unless he asks questions. You need to find a time when it can just be him alone and no other distractions, such as when the other children are napping.
What do we tell him? Enough, but not too much. (Now how vague is that?) In our case, we should tell him his Papa has cancer and that it is making him very sick. My husband also went on to say that “God may take Papa home soon. Do you know what that means?” My son says, “Yes, to his house down the street.” “No. When God takes us home, it means to Heaven.” He was real quiet. And my husband followed up with, “Do you have any questions?” That left it open for him to pursue anything he didn’t understand.
How much should we leave out? You don’t need to give gory details. Give just enough for them to be satisfied.
How often do we let him visit the hospital? As often as you want or he wants, as long as it is okay with the patient. It is the parents call whether or not you want him up there when things are nearing the end. But, some kids need to see things to process them and others are okay with just knowing it happened. You know your children and their personalities, so the parents need to judge.
She also said, that in her experiences, the more the child(ren) were involved in the process the more at ease they were. For instance, one of her patients had a feeding tube and she invited the child over to help with the “feeding.” This made the tubing less scary and gave the child more confidence to visit his loved one.
If the child asks questions and is extremely curious, its okay to answer them. They will know if you’re lying to them, so don’t! BUT…ONLY answer their question. Don’t give them more information than they ask for. It can be overwhelming to them, just as it is to us. They will need more time to process. So, don’t be surprised if they shake it off and go play for a while and come back with more questions. That is normal.
Overall, the point is, don’t hold back if the child is curious. It’s normal and perfectly okay (and even advised) to involve them in the process. Death can be a scary thing for a child because it is unknown and confusing. But, with PRAYER and God’s guidance you will have the right words to say at the right time.
I hope this helps those of you dealing with grief, trials and death. Just knowing what to say and have some of those questions answered was comforting to me as a mother.
I will leave you with an uplifting, child-like faith story: On the way to church last night, I was asking my 6yr old if he understood what Daddy told him earlier. He said yes and I asked if he had questions. He said no. I said, Really? (Not that I particularly wanted him to ask me a question, but I want him to understand.) He paused, took in a deep breath and exhaled quickly. Then, he looked at me and said (in a semi-sarcastic tone, as in…duh Mom…), “Mom…it’s okay. I know Papa’s a Christian and has Jesus in his heart. He’s going to heaven. Don’t worry…I’ll see him again!” Tears of JOY filled my eyes as I heard my son speak those sweet, sweet words. I am blessed!! Truly, truly BLESSED!!
Have any of you dealt with a trial in your family? How did you handle telling your children? What advice would you give others going through such trials?
Update on my daddy: They are still running more tests. Today their primary concern is stopping the bleeding in the bladder after his procedure on Monday. He is starting to have back spasms which cause his heart rate to jump up, so please be in prayer for this. They are able to control it with pain medication. Thank you for your kind words and support during this time. We feel a peace that only our Lord and Savior can give and I know it is because we are being bathed in prayer.