Read this parents heartfelt account of her story
Having to tell your children that a loved one is dying...
I remember it like it was yesterday, the day I found out my Nana was dying, it was after nearly a year to the day when she first fell ill and weeks later we received the prognosis (Cancer of the lung stage 3).
Kids “Nana is ill”.
My children had seen the difference in my whole extended family and myself during the period she was ill, they were with me the nights I stayed over to care for her and saw her become frail and tired. I was always honest about it to them, that she was gravely ill and the doctors were trying everything to help her, they saw her head out to treatment and come home exhausted. My older daughter and niece understood but the little one’s didn’t and we tried desperately to avoid terrifying them.
Once I realised how bad it was when Nana became ill, I talked to my kids as did other family members to their kids. We agreed that they needed to know once we could tell them without getting upset ourselves, they are intuitive creatures and I’m sure all our little ones sensed the sadness around. We didn’t take too long in telling them as I think they were beginning to wonder why all the family were acting weird and all the hushed conversations.
After they knew it was easier than trying to hide and by the time treatment started a couple of weeks later, the kids were at ease with it even while we weren’t! It is actually amazing how children are so resilient and adjust to any situation (we really underestimate them).
As things progressed and Nana couldn’t cook or clean the house and all the family took on the duties we explained why, and the kids did get well cards and pictures. They were given out to as well a huge amount as Nana needed rest and they had to be quiet, not play the piano (badly) like the mad tots love to do!
The inevitable news.
Months passed by in a flash and while Nana had been doing well enough, it wasn’t to be and the inevitable news came. The news that no matter what preparation you have in your head it just gets blown apart and then you need to tell the little ones while you feel so wounded by it all. The truth is you can, your strength when pushed is remarkable and those wee kids are the pillar you need.
Comfort and Reminders.
My cousin and Father came to tell me the news at my work, the second I saw them I knew, it’s like been ripped from the seams. Later that night I went home and told my kids that she was getting worse and that she will have to go to heaven soon. My youngest (4 years old) even though she adored Nana brushed it off easily enough and went back to drawing. My eldest went quiet but a few days later while packing my bag to go back to stay with Nana (with all my family on what would be Nanas last few hours) I found her cuddled on the couch with Nanas blanket. It came from her house and it smelt of her essentially it was like she was there, it was her comfort and reminder. I asked both my kids during those last few days if they wished to see her (they didn’t) but my other little family members did, I guess all kids are different and we need to respect their wishes.
Funeral and wakes.
None of the smaller members of the family were with us when she passed away peacefully that night, the kids were present at the wake but some of them chose not to enter the room and that’s ok too. The day of the funeral came and went in a blur I chose not to bring my youngest as I didn’t want her to see my pain and anguish. My eldest chose to come (I did give her a choice) however hard I tried I couldn’t conceal my tears and I know it upset her.
Remembering her and moving forward.
We talk about Nana the whole time in our house even now two years later she remains a huge part of our lives, and we still have the blanket! There are loads of pictures of her in all our houses, and we constantly talk about her together as a family or separately. My little girl looks for feathers white and fluffy, and yes we have found some in the weirdest of places sent by Nana we say.
Our Nana loved robins she would chat to them outside (we thought she was mad!) and now any robin we see is “our Nana” a beautiful reminder of her. My kids, cousins, sister, niece and nephew all do it when they see a beautiful robin. It helps us all have faith in that she is with us and that she is in heaven (but moonlighting as a robin)!
In memory of all those whom we have lost x