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willaful
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24 Jan 2012, 6:55 pm

One of our friends is dying, the father of two boys my son used to play with a lot. (Not so much now since he's been sick.) I'm not sure how to talk to my son about this. Or if we should wait until he's actually gone and talk about it then. I know he's going to want to know how this affects him being able to see his friends, and I don't know the answer to that question.

I feel I'd like to bring it up now, in the hopes that it will be easier for me and my husband, rather than having to do it later while we're grieving. But perhaps that wouldn't help at all.


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Marcia
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24 Jan 2012, 8:05 pm

I'm so sorry about your friend. That's very sad and especially hard with young children in the family.

I think you are right about telling your son about this before your friend dies. I have no experience of this, but I can imagine it would be very hard to deal with your son's feelings and questions while you are grieving the death. It must be hard for you already.

My son likes to have books to refer to when he's introduced to a new concept, and I'm sure both Amazon and the major cancer charities, for example, will have age appropriate books about death and dying. If your son likes books too, then that might take a bit of pressure off you as he can turn to both you and his books for answers and to help him reflect on this.

Telling him sooner will let him know that his friends haven't abandoned him, and you can talk with him about ways he can help them and care for them. Talk to him as well about how big events like this can mean that people are not able to look very far ahead and that his friends won't know yet what will happen after their father dies, but that as soon as they and you know, you will tell him. Just now, it must be one day at a time.

I think you'll have to be prepared for your son becoming distressed as he may only now fully appreciate that you won't always be there and he may become fearful that you too will die.

I don't know how old your son is, or whether you have any faith, but these will also affect what is discussed.

I wish you well with all of this. A difficult time for you all.



willaful
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24 Jan 2012, 10:04 pm

Thanks for the suggestions, Marcia. I hadn't thought about getting books for some reason; have placed some on hold at the library.

We're arranging a weekly playdate -- for the kids, but also to give their mom a break. I'm not sure now if we should say anything, because I don't really know how much they know. Guess we should check first.


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willaful
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13 Mar 2012, 3:40 pm

Our friend died on Sunday. We had prepared our son as best we could, though he wouldn't look at the books I got for him. He has been extremely affectionate of late, even more so than usual.

So far his only comment has been, "It's very sad that J. died" but I don't know if he feels the sadness for himself or just for us because we're sad. My husband gave him the news while I was sleeping, and says he hugged him for a long, long time.

I sort of wish he would say something that would give me a chance to reassure him and am sort of relieved that I don't have to lie or equivocate. The advice is to assure kids that their parents won't die for a long long time and I don't feel like I can honestly say that, and I might easily set off his bullshit meter anyway.


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momsparky
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13 Mar 2012, 4:38 pm

What we say to my son (also very literal) is "I am taking very good care of myself and doing everything I can so that I'll stay around as long as you need me. I eat right, I sleep, I exercise, I do all the things the doctor tells me to. You don't need to worry about me dying, my health is my responsibility and I am taking care of myself."

If he says "But..."

I say "I see the doctor regularly and get checked out. I have no risk factors, and the doctor has checked for (cancer, etc. - whatever the concern is that the doctor can actually check for.) It's nothing to worry about."

ETA: I also tell him that I promise to let him know if there is any cause for serious concern. I hope I never have to make good on that promise, but I think half his concern was that I might not tell him about it, or tell a half-truth.



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14 Mar 2012, 3:08 am

I'm very sorry for both your losses. All though someone told me it was inappropriate to associate my kind of death with people's death, something I don't really understand. We recenty lost a family member and so all this talk about death and losing someone gets me all choked up to that feeling again. I also know what it is like to lose a people person too. He was my mentor and advisor. But I digress, I wanted to say I understand how hard it can be to lose someone so close to the family especially with someone younger. The youngest is not taking the family member's death well, neither am I miss him so much, but we did try to prepare J-bird [the youngest] as much as we could. All though again I don't know if this is inappropriate since he didn't have cancer. But we tried telling him, "He's getting old and soon he won't be able to live on" J-bird insisted and tried to make our family member promise him he wouldn't leave him. I don't think J-bird really liked the talks and watching our family member wither away. It's probably one of the hardest lessons you can give a young person at any stage of their young lives.



liloleme
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14 Mar 2012, 4:43 am

Im sorry for your loss!
We lost my oldest in August and it came as a shock and we were all in shock and not thinking. I had just got the kids ready for bed and my husband was going to take them to bed and the phone rang. It was my Dad and he told my husband what happened. Luc, my 9 year old aspie, followed my husband and he told me later that he got goosebumps because Daddy was talking funny and he was afraid. My husband is my sons step Father and they were not very close most of the time my son lived with us which was off and on for many years. My son had bi polar disorder and drug addiction so my son wanted to be with me and to him my husband was this man who was in between me and him. He also seemed to take the anger that he had for his real Father out on my husband, he even got physical with him one time when he was really loaded on drugs.
They did start to build a relationship toward the end which made it even more sad but my husband did not explode with emotion the way I did, of course. He was in shock though because he just came in my room where my daughter, Maddy, who has classic Autism and I were, with my son following him and he just said "J.T. is dead".....Of course I cried and I kept asking what I should do? I didnt know what to do, when ever J.T. got himself into trouble I was there to help him, I didnt know what to do.....I called my parents and asked them what to do. My Dad told me there was nothing to do right now, that was hard for me to accept and continued asking. My husband took care of Luc who was crying hysterically (I didnt even notice until then), he took him to his room and talked to him. I had my parents and I called my two daughters on skype.....my oldest daughter called me every day and wanted me to stay on skype with her all day so that is what I did. My 19 year old who also has Aspergers was and is the same way as Luc, as long at she brings it up its ok but Im not allowed to talk about it.
Maddy was very confused and upset that I was crying. She kept telling me to stop crying and to take deep breaths ;)...self calming techniques she was taught in therapy. She still does not understand that J.T. is gone or what death is but she has been talking about her dolls being dead. I tried not to cry in front of her but she still catches me sometimes and now she knows why, at least, that I am crying.
Luc knows what being dead is as he lost his beloved rat and his kitten (she had a kidney malformation and she died right after we moved to France, he has a shrine for her with her ashes and her bowl and collar and picture of him and her. This was different though, this was his big brother. Even though he did the older brother (although he was too old, he was Bi Polar) harassing and teasing, he would take him out for donuts in the morning and take him to the park. He would come in the house and pick him and put him on his head and walk around and say "do you hear something" or "I have this sudden headache" as my son would be yelling for him to let him down and laughing :). J.T. was 6ft 4inches tall so he was a big boy.

Anyway, sometimes Luc will remember something and talk about it but I am not allowed to talk about J.T. or death around my son at all. I tell them both that J.T. is an angel, we are not religious but since we lost Donut out kitty (I wont go into all that happened to make me believe, too long of a story but I do have a video up that describes it) I just now believe that part of us goes somewhere. Either that or I just can not deal with the fact that my son is just gone. All his thoughts and dreams, his loving. non judgmental and sweet childish nature, his hard work ethic and his wonderful sense of humor. His highly intelligent mind. his persistent way of getting what he wanted (even if it was annoying sometimes) and his love and passion for music.....all that cant have just disappeared, I refuse to believe that.
I think Luc and even Maddy will ask more about J.T. as they get older. I can tell them stories about when they J.T. was little and Ill always remind Maddy that J.T. who would only sing in his car, sang Happy Birthday to her when she turned six over the phone....Maddy will be 7 in a few weeks, I will be happy for her but I will be sad that her big brother who thought she was the force that made the earth spin can not sing to her!



bethaniej
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14 Mar 2012, 12:47 pm

This is a tough one. When my daughter was 7-8, I felt it was necessary to talk about a friend's father who had a brain tumor and we didn't think he was going to live. I think I got it wrong. I explained about how sometimes parents die and we'd do everything possible for her friend and my friend to help them get through it.

She really didn't handle that new well at all. I think now that I shouldn't have been so detailed, and should have "prepared her" less for it. It became an obsession, and stressed her out royally. I'm a divorced single mom and really the only "active" parent. So this idea that i could up and die really didn't go over well, esp since I kind of "get her" and not many people do. At times I'm really her translator for the world, even now.

Another time someone died unexpectedly at her school (her teacher)...she was older, and this upset her to, but we handled it differently. She called and asked if I could get her some legos...at the store (she hadn't plaid with these kinds of toys in several years). All evening, she just sat and built legos. That's all she wanted to do. She talked a little about what happened, but mainly she just needed to build something.

I think sometimes we overthink and there are times when less is more. Wait until he's gone, or when you know it's happening soon....or just explain his friend's dad is sick and his friends may be sad....and then at each new step you can update with new information.



willaful
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14 Mar 2012, 9:20 pm

Pandora_Box wrote:
I don't think J-bird really liked the talks and watching our family member wither away. It's probably one of the hardest lessons you can give a young person at any stage of their young lives.


Yes -- my friend had two little boys and it was very hard for them to witness the changes in their father. I hope their good memories of him will outlive the bad ones.


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willaful
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14 Mar 2012, 9:26 pm

liloleme wrote:
Maddy was very confused and upset that I was crying. She kept telling me to stop crying and to take deep breaths ;)...self calming techniques she was taught in therapy.


Aww, that is so sweet -- and very wise, too. Though I hope she learns that it's okay to cry, too.


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liloleme
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15 Mar 2012, 4:27 am

willaful wrote:

Aww, that is so sweet -- and very wise, too. Though I hope she learns that it's okay to cry, too.


I think it was the way I was crying that was upsetting to her. I am typically not an emotional person but I was sobbing hysterically. My husband had to take the kids away from me because he worried about them, I was in shock and just so upset that I did not stop to think about the kids so its good that my husband was there. She sees me crying sometimes now a bit and she actually tries to comfort me so that is good.....her hugs last only a second of two unless she is ill then she wants to cuddle, sometimes she will pet my head like a dog, but any affection from Maddy feels good as it happens rarely :).



willaful
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15 Mar 2012, 4:52 pm

Yeah, my little guy can't take either of us being upset, he freaks right out. It's kind of awful when I'm hurt and just want to cry and be upset myself, but I have to hold it together for him. Good practice in some ways though, I suppose.


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TheBookworm
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16 Mar 2012, 8:06 pm

I have two theories, I'm not saying either one is more correct than the other, they can be/are both equally right.

This reminds me of when I was little, my grandmother died when I was seven, I don't really feel like I actually knew her now, and don't remember too much about her.
I feel I've always been a little unaffected by it all, the only death that hit me hard was my cat's 2 years ago.

I know that it looks like your kid is trying to be a 'trooper' and 'stay strong' but he simply may not be as strongly affected by it, like me. I remember I cried for about 15 minutes and then I was okay. My parents and sisters were still upset for weeks, while I had moved on. That may sound insensitive or cold, but it's always been that way, and maybe your son is too.
It's not a bad thing, nor can it really be a good thing, it's just a thing.

On the other hand, he may feel awful seeing you upset and not being as bothered by it as you are but just remember, it's not that he isn't affected by it, it's just not the same intensity as perhaps with you are feeling.
He may not quite know how to put to words what he feels and may indeed be very, very sad. So, either way, you should calmly talk to the kid, ask him questions, have him ask you questions, just be open.

Hope this helps you.



willaful
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25 Mar 2012, 1:42 am

My friend's memorial was today, and my son came with us. I thought he was reading quietly in the back room, but he actually come down and listened to some of it.

We'd arranged for a sitter to pick him up and take him home so we could stay later than he'd want to, but I was kind of wishing we hadn't, because he actually started to talk about the death right before he left, and I think he may be starting to process it. He said that it was really terrible for the boys not to have their father anymore, and that it was a really bad thing to happen. I think this is *huge* -- that he's seeing it as it affects other people, not just him.

Since the sitter is a favorite buddy of his (used to be his aide several years ago) I decided to stick with the program. The sitter told me that they talked about it some more on the way home. So sorry I missed that. I hope he'll share a little more with me or his father tomorrow.


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27 Mar 2012, 7:15 pm

Death is hard for a lot of people to accept but its part of living. The hardest to accept is when a young person dies before their parents.

Children think that their Grandparents and Parents will die at 80 years old when they are well into their adult years(not so unfortunately).

When people have an incurable health issue suffering is the worst feeling one can experience. If you see the person on a machine with no chances of living it can really make the joy of living tough.

Your son must have a hard time grasping that he saw the Father often a play dates happy,healthy and upbeat and then was diagnosed with a condition that led to his death.

Talk with your son and ask him questions about how he feels. No two people deal with grief in the same way. Whats normal for one person can be different for another.

If your son is up to it have him write a card or letter about how he enjoyed playing with the Father's son and coming over. He can share happy memories that he experienced etc.

This is the time for your son to support his friend and family. Offer to invite his friend over to give his Mother some alone time to grief, offer to bake cookies and deliver it to them.

With time your son will begin to understand that his feelings are normal. Support him , ask his school support staff including counselors for assistance. There is a Death and Dying Center which I am sure has resources for young children.

I'm sorry for your son and your son's friend's family.