Thursday, March 11, 2010

To tell or not to tell

I wanted to get that last post off the top, but the circumstances that brought it to mind in the first place are still at play in my life. My mother-in-law passed away 2 weeks ago, which is why I had to be in the same place as my in-laws.

Mainly what I'm thinking about now is telling my children. The days after she died were not the right time to tell them. We were informed the morning of my birthday and AT(6) was quite excited about being part of the dinner preparations at home that night, then GR(4) was to get her weekend alone at my parents' starting the next afternoon and AT was going to her first spend the night and that Sunday, we were gathering at my parents' to have our usual celebration of my mother's and my birthdays (random interjection - I cannot figure out the proper grammar for that sentence.) Until that Sunday afternoon, when I discovered through the obituaries that the funeral was late in the week, we had thought we'd need to leave on Monday or Tuesday at the latest. It was a series of rushed, hectic and upsetting days. The children did not go with us and the time spent not telling them hasn't seemed quite right, but it also doesn't seem necessary as she hasn't been part of their lives in a long time. I initially wrote out the time line of her living with us, but basically she was in our house for the better part of 3 years including the first year and a half of AT's life. AT remembers her - I don't know how but she does - but by the time I was pregnant with my 3rd child(AK, 2.5) she had succumbed to senility and didn't understand who my husband was, didn't understand that she had a grown man as a child. So other than knowing the name "Granny" and seeing some pictures, she hasn't been part of their lives.

We know we can't shelter them from death forever, but being young we're not sure it's necessary to confront them with it now. Especially AT, who broke down sobbing last year when I read Charlotte's Web because it made her think of Hubs' father's mortality (he lives close to us) and she so far wants nothing further to do with the book. I think we are prepared with the words to tell them, but we're not sure we even should. What would you do, or did you do?


ViolinMama said...

That so hard. I love that book too, (and honestly forgot about the ending for kids, but I still think at some point we will read it this year too...maybe being prepared for it more, and having lost some pets to death will help start more communication). Lovely has been to funerals, but they just seem like another church service to her, so they have never upset her or started questions, but our guinea pig's death made her connect with my dad and his age (86) since the pig was "old" and she did get fearful for him. But we talked about it, heaven, and how though we never know when we are called "home" (again, talking with your kids can depend on your beliefs as well, what they can handle, and their questions. So far we don't really talk about illnesses, accidents - I don't want her scared every cold is going to be deathly!!!! She would! But we feel her out and answer as we can) so being called "home" we need to make each day very special - laugh, hug, have fun, do our best. She seemed to be ok with this (she was age 5 at the time) and when she learned of a favorite neighbor's death at my parents condo (there was no way for her to avoid figuring out his passing, cause she saw him ALL the time) she took it really well. She said "he is in a better place and will not need a walker anymore and can run again". I thought that was pretty neat for her.

Some days (probably because of mentions at church, readings, etc) she'll say "If I go to heaven today, it would be so fun...." and she has also said "Hmmm, I don't want God to meet me to heaven yet" and looks concerned and we talk about it. Since she's pretty deep, we CAREFULLY tell her everyone hopes for a long, long life, but sometimes that doesn't happen so we repeat that it makes each day special - like a b-day gift - so we need to enjoy and do our best. She seems to get that - but again, she surprises me with her deepness.

Because of the dysfunction in our family, my parents are all she has for grandparents, and they are older. We never know when we could lose my dad - and I feel I should prepare her with words like this (especially when SHE brings it up), so her shock and sorrow can find their way to some meaning and processing she already understands. Because I think losing her Mema or Pop will be a devastating time for her - and to have a foundation and past conversations with us about heaven, death, angels, whatever could help her process. I pray every day we have years before we face it. But at 86 and 73, we never know.

I have no idea if what we do/have done is right. I think it depends on your gut, your child, or EACH child. I'd love to see other responses, and maybe if you feel you should tell AT, or all of them, maybe there are children's books that you can preview that were written to help parents help their kids talk about a loved one's passing that align with your beliefs or your instincts?

As I said, Lovely does well with it....but she has not been tested within our family like yours now has. I have no idea if we've done anything right - or if "right" exists with telling and preparing our children.

So many hugs to you guys. There is so much to deal with, and it will go on for a while. Write things out as you need, and you always have a hug and shoulder waiting for you, or a listening ear. Much love to all of you in your loss.

Thanks for sharing this with us. I hope I learn as well...

marymac said...

This is really a tough one, but am guessing the words 'heaven' and 'angel' (especially 'guardian angel') may be helpful? I have not yet had to do this, so I will simply say a prayer it goes well for you!

Crystal Escobar said...

oh that is rough. First of all, sorry to hear about your loss, and second, I can understand your dilemma. I think it's important that children know about death, but know of it as not so scary. I believe in life after death, so I teach my daughter about heaven and that we will all see each other again after we die. I hope that by doing so I am not sheltering her too much and giving her hope.