This is not the first time I’ve had to ask myself this question. I had to prepare my daughter for the death of her grandfather a few years ago and then lost an uncle not long after that. I also lost my nan when I was young meaning my mum had to try and help me through her illness and death. So over the years I’ve often wondered whether it is actually possible for parents to really prepare their children for losing someone they are close to.
But this time is different.
I have a very close family. Both figuratively and literally. I live on the same road as my mum. And my granddad lives next door to her. He’s lived there for around 20 years. I’ve grown up with him around and so have my children. We spend most days there, every week. So both me and my daughters are very close to my granddad.
Sadly, as you might guess this isn’t a pie in the sky, I’m just speculating blog post.
I’m asking this question today because our family is about to be devastated by the death of my granddad. And I don’t want my children hurting or suffering more than they have to.
So I’m asking myself – how do I prepare them? How do I help them? How do I protect them?
Is it even possible?
Over the last few days I’ve had to make difficult decisions. What do I tell them? Do I let them go and see my granddad at the hospital? Do I warn them or just tell them after the event?
And make no mistake. They are really fucking difficult decisions.
Because what if I get this wrong? What if I do something that makes it worse for them or gives them life long issues?
This is the ultimate parenting dilemma. Working out what to do for the best. Balancing what we want to protect them from with what they need to know to make it easier.
So how do we do it?
Firstly, by considering what we know about our children and listening to our instincts. We know our children the best, so it’s natural that we know what is best for them. I know that my eldest is very emotional so will need a lot of support. I know that my other daughter is more reserved so will need coaxing to talk about this in a healthy way. My instincts told me that seeing my granddad for one last time would be helpful for them to deal with this. So that’s what we did today.
Secondly, by taking our cues from our children. My eldest has a lot of questions so I’m trying to answer those as best I can. My other daughter is reluctant to talk about what is happening so I’m respecting that. I have asked them what they want. I know that my eldest wants to know as soon as possible. And to be picked up from school early if necessary. Which means I know what I can do to help her when the time comes.
Lastly, by making sure we are not projecting our own fears, past or ideas on to them. I lost my nan at the same age my eldest is. So it’s hard for me not to project how I felt as a child on to her. I also know that I want to be with my granddad in his last days. Which means I’m in danger of assuming that they want to be too. And just because I think it will be good for them to attend the funeral doesn’t mean that they will want to and I need to respect that.
Whilst I sincerely hope that you are never in this position it’s a sad reality of life that most of us will, at some point, have to help our children through the loss of a loved one. And you’re never too old to have to do it. I know my mum, aunt and uncle are all preparing to help us, their grown up children, deal with this as best they can. Whilst dealing with their own grief.
So whilst this is the shitty side of parenting, remember this. As a parent you are the one who can best prepare, support and help your child through the loss of a loved one. You will be the one that they want to talk to. The one that they want to be around, just to know that you’re still there for them. The one that they trust to show their true feelings to. Which makes you the most important person that they have in the world.
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