A couple of years ago the kids’ first pet died. It was their little goldfish and I knew they would be heartbroken.
Josh and I went through the usual discussion of do we replace the fish and say nothing or tell them that the fish was dead? I recalled reading an article previously that claimed you should inform your kids when a pet dies because being their first encounter with death, they would be able to deal with the death of a loved one more easily.
Little did I know the death of a loved one would come so soon.
My dad died from lung cancer last month. Lung cancer we knew nothing about until a week before he died. Although hearing the diagnosis from the doctor was extremely difficult, my thoughts immediately turned to Ciara and Ryan.
How am I going to tell them when he’s gone? Should we tell them that he’s dying? My dad had gone into hospital the week before the diagnosis feeling unwell, and they just thought that Grandpa went to hospital to get better.
In their minds that’s what hospitals do - they make people better.
Having only just turned 5 and 6, I wasn’t even sure how much they would understand. I did some research and decided that it was better to break the news that he was dying.
We only live around the corner from the hospital so there were a lot of people coming and going, and the kids were surround by heightened emotions and a lot of tears.
At first, I tried not to cry in front of them until I realised I was not setting a good example. They could sense that something was up and I wanted to teach them that it is OK to cry when you're sad.
I sat them down the following day and gently broke the news that Grandpa’s lung was broken and the doctors can’t fix it so he won’t be around much longer. Seeing my kids upset was worse than receiving the diagnosis, especially when Ciara sobbed “but Mammy, I don’t know how to pray”.
As hard as it was to break the news to the kids, I’m glad I did. When we received the diagnosis, my dad was given months to live but he died five days later. Luckily the kids had been allowed into the hospital to see their grandpa so they got to say goodbye.
Losing my dad completely destroyed me but at least Ciara and Ryan knew it was coming. The day he died, Josh broke the news to them because I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and although they were sad, there were no tears because they were prepared for it.
They still cry sometimes, as do I, but I think giving them some warning was the best thing I ever did. They will grow up listening to stories of their grandpa and they already know how much he loved them.
My dad was worried they might not remember him when they are older because they’re so young, but I will make sure that they never forget what a truly amazing man their grandpa was.