Dealing with the news that a parent has been diagnosed with a terminal illness is a difficult process. However, this process is much more difficult if you have to break the news to a child. Grandparents play an extremely important role in a child’s development, so it’s understandable that many parents aren’t sure how to approach the topic with their child. To help you deal with this situation, consider the three tips below:
Make Sure They Are Aware of the Situation
Sometimes, parents feel the need to speak euphemistically to their children about the sickness of a loved one. This is understandable; nobody wants to see a child become upset over the loss of their grandparent. However, children are much more aware than many people believe. They hear about death in storybooks, see death on television, and come across dead animals on the road. Whilst they may not understand the true magnitude of death, they are aware of the consequences on some level.
Some experts believe that beyond the age of six, children start to understand the concept of death. Therefore, if your child is older than this, it’s best to be open and honest with your child if their grandparent has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This doesn’t mean you have to be blunt; rather, take the time to discuss the changes that will soon happen in their life as this will help prepare them for the eventual loss of their loved one.
Be Ready to Answer Difficult Questions
Communicating with a child over the illness of a loved one can often throw up difficult questions. Children can find it difficult to fully understand what is going on, and moreover, why this is happening to their grandparent. Therefore, it’s vitally important that you are well prepared to deal with some of the fears your child may have over the terminal illness of their loved one. Some common feelings that children express include:
Blame: Many children express the fear that their grandparent’s illness was due to their own bad behavior, or because they had fallen out with their grandparent over something trivial. As a parent, it’s vitally important that you are there to listen to these fears and offer reassurance that illness is a natural part of life and that your child’s behavior has nothing to do with their grandparent’s illness.
Regret: It is very common for many people to feel regret when they discover a loved one is terminally ill; however, children are often more sensitive to this emotion as they are unable to rationalize the situation at hand. The best way to address this problem is to explain that they have nothing to regret and to make sure they make some lasting memories before their grandparent passes away.
Fear: Because children don’t fully understand death, they may be worried that they will become ill themselves. It’s important to handle this as carefully as possible, ensuring them that death is natural, but they have a long and happy life ahead of them. Taking the time to explain how wonderful their sick grandparent’s life was can help alleviate these worries.
Prepare Them for the Funeral
Once your loved one has passed away, you face that difficult task of deciding whether or not to take your child to the funeral. Funerals can be very upsetting for family members, and some parents feel that it’s best their children don’t attend. However, taking your child to their grandparent’s funeral can help them mourn their loved one and help them cope with their loss. Some ways to help them to cope at a funeral include:
Speak to the funeral directors about how your children can express their sorrow during the service. Perhaps they would like to put a handwritten letter in the casket or say a prayer alone in front of the body. Whatever it may be, funeral directors will take the time to understand your child’s needs and help them express their sorrow. For more information, contact a business such as Memorial Mortuaries.
If this is your child’s first funeral, take the time to go through the different parts of the service with them and explain why each part is important. This will ensure they are not confused by particular parts of the burial process and will be able to cope throughout the day.
Ask them if they have any special messages they would like to include in a wreath of flowers or if they have any particular songs they would like played at the wake. This gives your child the chance to express their sorrow in a way that is meaningful to them, ensuring they feel a part of the funeral process.