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need advice desperately

Heather M.

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I am struggling with how to deal with my three year old baby girl. For the past few months (since my mom's dx) she has been asking questions like "Is grandma better?" and "Is grandma going to be okay?". I have explained to my older kids what is going on and that we may have grandma for two more hours or 10 more years. That the doctors are doing everything they can, but that it is in God's hands. How do I answer my baby? Up to this point, I have been telling her that Grandma is getting better. And she is. But should I go into details about what could happen? Or is she too young? Thank you for your help on this one. I'm at a loss.

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Good morning Heather, I am up early worrying, too.

Just a lay opinion - three is too young for detailed explanations, especially when no one knows what may come. The good news is - she is easily distracted. Here is what I would do. Give her a simple answer for today. "Today Grandma is doing okay." Then change the subject. Interrupt, redirect as we used to call it in my old child care days. If the time comes that Grandma is not okay, keep it simple. "Grandma is sick today."

Sorry you have so much to deal with, wishing for the best possible for all of us. Margaret

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I was amazed by how much Katie understood and understands about Becky dying. She was three when that happened. I think one of the things that helped with that is that her great-grandmother died in December. It was someone she knew from pictures but not from much personal experience. They met but once and my grandma was in the nursing home by then. And so we explained that we were all sad because great-grandma was gone and that we would miss her, but that she was an angel now in heaven and could see us and watch over us even though we can't see her anymore. We miss them because we cannot see them, but they are happy in heaven.

So I guess my advice is to be on the lookout for a chance to explain to her what death means with somebody/something not as close to her. Again, I was amazed from the very first day with how much Katie did understand.


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I told my son who was 4 3/4 when my dad was diagnosed that you just never knew with cancer.

Right now, grandpa is getting better and we pray that the chemo works.

Right now, grandpa is getting chemo, and that really makes him tired because the chemo is fighting the cancer in his body.

Right now, grandpa is hurting because the cancer moved into his bones.

Right now, pray that the radiation and chemo work.

Right now, grandpa is having a good day, so lets make the most of it and have a wonderful day.

Right now, grandpa is alive, let's be happy we have today.

>>Of course he asked me if sometimes people with cancer die. And I told him yes. Then I told him we would have to keep hoping and praying that grandpa got better and that we must cherish he time we did have together.

>>After my father died, my son withdrew alittle. I waited for him to come to me. I told him many of the things curtis wrote about. I told him that grandpa wasn't hurting anymore...and that we were very happy that grandpa was an angel and was living with God now....but that we all cried and were very sad because we wouldn't have him here with us everyday and that we would miss him.

I hope some of that helped. Kids understand alot more than what we think, especially if your baby girl has older siblings. They may have talked with her already about this.

Good luck and I am praying that things keep improving for you guys.

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I think a child of three lives in the moment and probably wants the questions answered in that vein. How is grandma now? Be honest, but I would keep it simple. Encourage her to ask questions as to what is on her mind and heart. They do tend to know and understand more than we give them credit for. Don

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Hi Heather,

I don't have a thing to add to any of the above. I completely agree with everything that has been said.

I just wanted to say that I'm sorry you even have to deal with this. A cancer diagnosis affects the entire family and friends, even our little bitty ones.

God bless you and your little one!



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Thanks guys for all your responses. Since you did so good with my three year old, let's try my 8 year old daughter (Brianna). She had a major melt down this morning! She is really close to my mom. I wanted to bless my mom, so I gave Brianna my mom's beautiful middle name (Ellen). That pretty much sealed their fate as best buddies. I thought things were going okay with my older kids. No major changes in grades, attitudes, sleep patterns, behavior, etc. I took Brianna to the doctor on Tuesday because she's been having headaches at night. I was thinking maybe her asthma medicine needed adjusted or possible her eyes needed checked. Her doctor gave her a complete examination and came up with zilch. She did mention, however, that Bri has gained 5 pounds in the past two months. So, she ordered a blood test (CBC, lipid, kidney function, liver function, etc.) to see what is going on with the sudden weight gain. I explained to her what is going on at home (my mom lives with us and my kids get to experience every up and down she has--not to mention worrying about me because I cry all the time). Brianna is gaining weight because she is stressed out and is finding comfort in food. I am having a very hard time dealing with things lately and I'm 30! I can't imagine being 8. Anyway, this morning, Brianna started crying first thing when she got up. I took her in my room to talk and snuggle and she really opened up. She is so afraid her grandma is going to die. She said that yesterday (Thanksgiving) was hard because she wonders if Grandma will be here next year. It breaks my heart. She and I have lived in fear of this for so long (without sharing this with each other). Our worst nightmare has come true. Brianna says that she can't sleep very well at night and that she thinks about it all day at school. What can I do to help my baby? From the beginning, when my mom was in the hospital and not expected to live through the night, I was honest with my 10 year old son (David) and Bri. When I would come home from the hospital at night, I would tell them everything that had happened that day. When we found out Mom had cancer, I sat them down and cried with them and told them that Grandma has a disease that has no cure. I don't tell them the statistics, but I do tell them that we could have 1 more hour or 10 more years because it's in God's hands. Now, I'm wondering if I shouldn't have been so open with them. Especially Bri. I really don't know what to do except to hold her when she cries and try to keep her mind occupied with other things. This is such an awful disease! I have a hard time believing that we can put a man on the moon, but we can't find cures for these monsters that are killing us. I am so angry that my babies have to go through this. My grandma died when I was 17 (from lung cancer). I was extremely devastated when she passed away, but to be honest, we weren't that close. I maybe saw her 2 or 3 times a year because we lived in different parts of California. My kids haven't gone more than 5 or 6 days in their entire lives without seeing my mom. We've lived together for about 6 years of their lives. How are they going to cope with a loss that great? How am I going to be any help to them when I am going to be a total wreck myself? Will we ever be totally happy ever again? As hard as I try to be positive, everyday I think of her dying. I honestly don't know what to do. I feel helpless and miserable. I still need my mom to teach me things. I still need my mom to give me advice on child rearing, financial issues, etc. Oh God Please help us to get through this.

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Heather, how heart-breaking it is for your whole family. I am not sure of an answer here - just what I would do. I think you are right to be honest with the older ones. Maybe like the others said - don't elaborate on details so much but answer any questions honestly. I am afraid this might be a case of - we can't protect them from life.

That said, is there any kind of other support available to them? A minister? school counsellor? You might even call the American Cancer Society and see what they have available for support for children. Even get some books from the library on dealing with grief? For there is grief and loss even now for the changes in your lives.

It sound like you have all you can do to support your Mother, your children, and yourself - You seem to be doing so well, so sensible yourself but I know any human being needs help with this. Maybe there is something, a local support group, for you?

Bless you, especially bless you and your family, Margaret

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Heather, we can't save our children from the pain at the prospect of losing a loved one. That is life. What we can do is be honest with them and be there for them, and you are already doing a beautiful job of that. Cancer is a family disease, and all members will go weird at one time or the next. Lucie's daughter lashed out at her recently over a very small thing, and they have eventually worked through it. I had to explain to Lucie that her daughter did not love her less -- she was just also in a lot pf pain at the prospect of losing her mom. Hang in there. You're doing fine. Don

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Last year when I was sick, two of my grandkids were 3 and 4 and asked

loads of questions. We answered them, but did not elaborate. We never

told them cemo was medicine, because we were afraid they would think

there medicine would make there hair fall out. But Joseph who was the

three yr. old still thinks smoking makes your hair fall out. That's what he

picked up and I quess that's a good thing. You would be surprised what they pick up even though we thought we weren't talking around them. Little kids are way more perceptive than we give them credit for.

Good luck to you and take care.

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