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mkgirl's picture

mkgirl

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Helping a child cope with Grandparent's illness.

My father-in-law, who lives in another province has late stage bladder cancer.  It has already spread to his lymph nodes and a few sites in his bones.  He is currently undergoing chemo, but the prognosis does not look good.  He has requested that the family do not travel to visit him until this summer (after the chemo is done), so we are respecting his wishes. 

My problem is helping my six year old deal with her fears and feelings.  We have been truthful with her.  She knows Grandpa is sick and getting medicine that will help but most likely not cure him.  We have had the talk about cancer not being contagious and not her fault.  How do I help her with her fears about not seeing Grandpa again and the worry that Grandpa will die? 

We have gotten the "When a Loved One has Cancer " Workbook from the American Cancer Society and she was given a pray shawl by our church.  Does anyone have other suggestion of things we can do to help her?

Thanks

 

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busymom's picture

busymom

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Hi mkgirl,

Sorry to hear of the sadness and challenges in your family.  Such a trying time for you as a wife, daughter-in-law and mommy.  It's not easy.

Sounds like you are making some great decisions already in respecting your father-in-law's wishes and in explaining things to your daughter.  She will be scared and she will be worried....assurances and hugs from you will help that. 

 

I have just come through a similar situation in my family when my dad was sick.  One suggestion I would give to you is to have your daughter make cards/write letters for grandpa to send.  While he may not want visitors right now, I'm guessing that regular letters in the mail reminding him that he has a sweet little girl thinking about him will help him a great deal.  Another thing we did was have my kids tape messages for my dad.  Do you own a small tape recorder....does your father-in-law have something he could play the messages back on?  It was good for my dad to hear the kids voices telling him about their days.  Sometimes he managed a message back.  We still have the voice message of him wishing my daughter a happy birthday. 

 

Wishing you strength, courage, and a cup of tea. Don't forget to lLook after yourself while you look after everyone else in your family.

 

Big hug to you

Beloved's picture

Beloved

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Greetings mkgirl,

 

Sorry to hear about your father-in-law's illness.  A difficult time for all your family.  Sounds like you and others are already doing some pretty great things to help your daughter through this time.  I thought it was nice that your church thought to give her a prayer shawl.  Continue to meet her fears and questions as they arise with truthful answers suitable to her age and understanding.  I like busymom's response of things to do for a grandparent that focus on things to do for a grandparent while they are still living - the cards, taperecorder, etc.

 

Thinking of you,

Hope, peace, joy, love . . .

 

busymom's picture

busymom

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Thanks Beloved,

When I re-read my post I realized that I didn't make it clear that it was helpful for my kids to be writing letters, making cards and sending voice messages because then they were doing something.  I think that the worst thing about a situation like this is that we feel helpless.  Explain to your daughter that she is really special because as his grand-daughter there are things she could do to help him that others might not even think of.  then you could help your daughter think of things she could make or send to him.  Is it possible to make cookies to send to him.  (even if he's not hungry, making the cookies will be therapeutic for you and your daughter, and receiving them will put a smile on his face).  Perhaps she could sing a new song she's learned at school into the tape recorder.  Do you own a camcorder?  Have her make a special picture about a memory she has of something fun she did with grandpa. 

I would think that all of these things will make your daughter feel better because she is doing something.  While she can't make the cancer go away (and maybe even doctors can't do that) she can do something that only a little six year old can do.....make her grandpa smile because he knows that little girl loves him and is thinking about him.  That's a pretty huge thing to do.

lastpointe's picture

lastpointe

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I agree with the suggestions above.

 

I would like to comment though on the summer visit.

 

Late stage bladder cancer, that has spread to lymph system and bones may not last till summer.

 

I wonder if your husband can talk to his father about the time line.  Perhaps the father knows he will die this spring and doesn't want to see anyone.  that is a valid wish.  Perhaps he thinks he will be there in the summer.  That needs some checking out.

While each cancer is different, my father in law went from March, where there was nothing "wrong" to dead by May 24th weekend with bladder, bones and lymph issues.  ( 2 months from diagnosis to death with chemo in there as well)

 

My son studies over seas so he came home that March to see his grandfather and never saw him again.

 

If visiting grandpa is a big deal for your daughter i woudl get your hubby to talk to his father about that.

mkgirl's picture

mkgirl

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Hi!

Thanks for all the suggestions and comment.  We are trying to get my daughter to do things for Grandpa.  We got an 8 x 10 frame for her to do some art work to send.  We are also sending lots of photos and e-mails and more frequent calls. 

As to the timing, that is the hardest thing.  He seems to be responding to chemo (they have added a few more rounds) and says he is holding up well.  But I don't know if he is not tell us the whole story.  It is hard to be understanding and not pushy.

 

Thanks for the concern

 

footprints165's picture

footprints165

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I'm sorry to hear about your father-in-law's situation. Cancer at any time or age sucks.

All above suggestions are great. I would add on the obvious - let your child be sad, scared and upset over it. It's not just about teaching her to cope, it's also about teaching her how to grieve properly and in a healthy way. My grand-mother died and my parents did not prepare me for it - it triggered a deep depression in me that lastest for years because I didn't know how to express my pain, and nobody told me it was okay to cry and be sad after the funeral the was over.

Sooner or later the inevitable will happen - your daughter needs to know that whatever she's feeling is okay and is important to express to you. Tell her you're her go-to person any time she needs you - sometimes, even though parents think the child knows it, the child still needs to hear it to believe it.  

 

seeler's picture

seeler

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footprints - you say that no one told you your grandparent was dying.  No one told me that my mother was.  It would have been nice to say "Good-by" on my last visit, when I presumed she would be home in a week or so when her medicine was adjusted (like had always happened before) rather than only having a few hours left that everybody else knew except my brother and me.

 

lastpointe's picture

lastpointe

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 It is a terrible thing when children are kept in the dark.  I think in the past people thought they would get over it quickly but that is just so wrong.  The ability to say good bye and see them on more time is important

footprints165's picture

footprints165

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seeler - that sucks too. We all have stories and experiences that affect us deeply. I think regardless of who died or how, the importance of honnesty and closure is obvious to help the grieving process.

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