Receiving news that a loved one is dying is never easy. Mixed feelings can cloud your judgment and affect your ability to go on with your daily activities. If you’re a parent and your kids are also close to that loved one, this makes it even more complicated. You have to stay strong for your family, especially your kids. But sometimes, a parent’s instinct will tell them to protect their kids from the possible heartache.
Every parent wants to shield their kids from experiencing great pain and suffering caused by death and dying. But then, this is one reality of life. It will only do them more damage if we wait until it is too late before letting them know what is about to come.
Telling Kids That a Close Loved One Is Terminally Ill
It is your role as a parent to help your kids cope with the death of your loved one. The more you hide the situation from your kids, the more anxious they will become. It would be best to tell them the news in a way they will understand.
There are times when kids are too young to understand what death means. It would be better to use simple and specific words that will help them understand what is about to come. Tell them that it is never their fault and that sometimes, things like these happen.
Instead of avoiding their questions, choose simple and honest answers. Listen carefully to what they have to say and don’t put them off. Be sensitive and accept their feelings and how they choose to react.
Walk your kids through what is about to happen. For instance, your loved one opted for hospice care at home. Let your kids know that a nurse for hospice will be at your home to make sure that your terminally ill loved one gets the kind of care they need.
How Kids May React
Some kids will feel different emotions after learning that a loved one is about to die. They may feel depressed, angry, or guilty. Some kids will regress and will require more of your attention and care.
Kids can have many questions. The more you cover the truth, the more it will be harder for them to accept the situation. Be honest and patient when answering their questions.
When you are unsure of what to say, tell them you will find answers to their questions. There is nothing wrong with accepting the fact that there are things you are not sure of. Find help if you need it and as much as possible, keep them close to you.
Understand Anticipatory Grief
Even kids can experience anticipatory grief. This refers to the deep sadness one can feel during the nearing death of a loved one. Allow yourself and your kids to grieve and don’t deny your feelings.
It is crucial that you, your kids, and your dying loved one gets to express your pain. There is no point in grieving alone when you have lots of people willing to listen to you. Do the same with your kids and let them express their sadness, anger, or whatever feelings they may have.
Listen to their feelings and offer validation. Don’t try to fix things as there is no right way to feel when a close loved one will soon face their death. If you feel like you can’t handle your kids’ or your own grief, find support from the pros and support groups.
Help Kids Learn How to Spend More Quality Time with Their Loved One
Your kids may still be unwilling to accept the fact that their loved one is dying. What you can do is to help them spend more quality time together and build good memories that will last. Of course, there is a need to ensure it is safe for your child to visit and help your loved one.
Teach them how they can help make their loved one’s last days happier and a lot more comfortable. Let kids help your loved one in their own ways. This can be as simple as sharing stories or helping you during feeding time.
If kids find it hard to spend time with their terminally ill loved one, consider telling them the possible consequences. The last thing you want is for them to miss the chance to tell everything they need to say to your loved one. Once they are ready to spend quality time, use creative ways for them to be together.
For one, kids can read the person’s favorite books out loud. One can ask questions about their loved one’s favorite hobbies or reminisce their best memories yet. Young kids can draw pictures of their loved one or write letters to help with grieving.
There is no easy way to talk to your kids about death. But the sooner you tell them of the situation, the better. Feeling intense emotions is normal and your role is to help them through the pain. Ask professional help as needed. Choose to prepare your kids to deal with death to avoid costly repercussions in the future.