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Dying and Children

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by tcadam, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. tcadam

    tcadam Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 12, 2007
    I'm hoping to hear some experiences about children being present as a loved one passes away.

    Here's the situation: My much loved mother-in-law has been in hospice care (cancer) since December. As the inevitable draws closer, my wife and I have been wondering what we should do with the kids (15 and 11) in the final hours. Has anybody had their kids present and regretted it? Had them elsewhere and regretted that choice? Obviously, the huge caveat would be what she wants but she's not expressed a preference.

    Since this has all happened I've operated under the rule that I will be far more likely to regret things I didn't do instead of things I did but I'm hoping to get some insight from those who've been through this.


  2. I think they are to young. My wife's father died in our home 5 days after he came home from the hospital when they ran out of ideas to keep him alive. It was peaceful but i wouldn't want kids of mine those ages to see it.

    Up to you guys though. Sorry to hear this and god bless all of you.

  3. dconeill

    dconeill Tele-Afflicted

    I think kids must be exposed to death, it's part of life. We haven't had a relative die locally since we've had our children (now 17 and 15), but they participated in their grandmother's funeral when the oldest was 10. They have been present at the deaths of the various pets that have died over the years.

    I guess it depends how close they were to your mother-in-law. Give them the chance to visit her, whether she's conscious or not, and give them the opportunity to sit with her awhile if they want to. The thing you can't expect is for them to sit patiently with not much to do for long periods of time, as kids that age can't do that. It's important, in my view, for them to have the chance to say goodbye, and if it's true to tell grandma that they love her, whether she's awake or not.

    Good luck, it's a difficult time.

  4. getbent

    getbent Telefied Ad Free Member

    depends on the kid. You know your kids better than anyone... some kids do well by being there, some do not... it is completely situational and the best advice is to evaluate your kids and decide what you think is best for them.

    I was with my dad up until the day before he died (I was 12) I watched him waste away to cancer for the previous 6 months... the only reason I wasn't there at the very end was that I had school...

    I was with my grandfather and great grandmother when they died (at 9 and 15) and while it was very sad, I was taught that living and dying are all part of the human process...

    when my grandmother died, my niece (12) was there holding her hand and I think it was good for her (she and her granny were super close and her mom had prepared her for it) but, the other children were kept away....

    If your kids are ready for it and will benefit, do it. and, of course, if the person dying is okay with it...

    it is really a person to person thing....

  5. horsespatoot

    horsespatoot Tele-Holic

    Nov 4, 2011
    Some folks don't go peacefully at the end. You never know. In my 50's when my mother passed and it was horrific to be there. I wouldn't want my kids exposed to that. Before and after death will be meaningful enough for your kids. May God guide you through this trying time.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012

  6. tweeet

    tweeet Tele-Holic

    Oct 2, 2008
    My son,10,wanted to see my brother before he died (I didn't tell him that he was dying though but I figured my son knew from what progress etc he wasn't making that he wasn't going to make it).We went to the ward where we stood around 15ft away from his bed.He was on a vent and dialysis at the time and looked pretty bad.He had liver disease.My brother's final moments were peaceful and my parents were there,however I wouldn't want my son at that age to go through the trauma of watching someone die and someone so young (46).For a few weeks after my son was very clingy to me and often said things like 'dad don't ever die'...after all if my son lives to a good old age there will come a time when he'll have to deal with death quite a lot anyway.A friend of mines just died of cancer and he coughed up a lot of blood in his last moments so not all people go without incident.

  7. Bones

    Bones Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Dec 31, 2005
    Luddite Island, NY
    The kids are old enough to understand what's going on and also old enough to understand that it is better to leave this world surrounded by loved ones than it is to go out alone and treated like something to be afraid of. Sharing this experience can do nothing but strengthen the bonds of your family. Your children may get to see you and their mother profoundly affected by this process and will share in your grief and see you as caring human beings in a way they may not have seen before. It's not easy, but it's good and perfectly natural. Hiding them from it is the exact opposite.

  8. tfsails

    tfsails Friend of Leo's

    Oct 11, 2010
    Richmond VA
    I think it'll be beneficial to the kids to be exposed. Dying is as much a part of life as being born is, so the kids have to be exposed sooner or later. Eleven is not too young for that.

    My condolences to you and your family. I lost my Mom 2 1/2 years ago and was not present when she died. I saw her the day before, and for at least two weeks before she died, I said my final goodbye to her every day. That got real old real fast, and started wearing heavily on me. On the one hand, I'm glad I wasn't there; on the other hand, I wish I had been there. I'm not beating myself up over it, but would like to have been able to tell her I loved her one more time.

    Whatever you decide to to, it'll be the right thing.

  9. tap4154

    tap4154 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Apr 14, 2009
    Southern California
    IMHO I would let them see her close to the end, but not have them participate in the death vigil, or be there when it occurs. For an adult, and I've been there several times (both very peaceful at the end, but some frantic times near it), it is something that helps to bring closure, and I'm glad I was there. But I think you should probably let the kids keep a bit of distance. I know I wasn't ready at 15, or even in my early 20s.

    But you know them best, and all my best wishes and prayers to you during the process, and future.

  10. Two Steps

    Two Steps Tele-Holic

    Oct 12, 2010
    Sacramento, Ca
    I am 26 now, but 15 years ago, I was present when my Grandmother - and later on, my Grandfather - were on their death beds. I don't know if my parents were going through the same thing that the OP was going through, but I definitely think it was necessary. As someone said before me, death is a part of life.

    We as youngsters are sheltered from so many things today, and some of those things end up biting us on the ass; because we weren't prepared/equipped to deal with them later in life. Start the process early - with guidance and refrain - and see how it pans out. Open dialogue as well...

    Just my humble opinion...

    Sent from my DROIDX using TDPRI

  11. JDO

    JDO Tele-Holic

    Mar 17, 2003
    Pittsboro, NC
    I was close to my grandma. She had liver issues and passed away when I was about 10 or so. She was in the hospital and we all knew she was going to die. Everyone got to go in and see her. Everyone except for me because my parents didn't want me to see her like that. They wanted me to remember her the way she was. Looking back, it was the wrong call. I'm 34 now. My imagination can fill in the gaps and I see her hooked up to machines (even though I didn't actually see her that way). So that didn't work out too well. But I did miss out on being able to say bye. It's not a source of contention in our family, but from that experience I won't try to shelter my children. I'll be there to teach them and help them work through the realities of life and death.

    Good luck on your decision.

  12. imsilly

    imsilly Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2009
    Death is a natural part of life, you can't hide it from them forever.

    I think it's more important you do what you think the dying person wants while they're alive. If your mother in law wants the kids to be there then they should. The sad truth is in life you can't avoid observing death. It's not necessarily what happens to you in life that dictates who you are, it's how you deal with it. Dealing with grief is just another life lesson everyone has learn. As long as you manage the situation properly it doesn't have to be a negative experience.

  13. telleutelleme

    telleutelleme Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 15, 2010
    You don't have to be in the room to experience the loss. I held my mother's hand through the last breath. My brother died 10 minutes after I left his death bed. Both experiences were similar, loss. The grief forms when you realize they are actually gone and there will be no communications or shared experiences anymore. Seeing death is not necessary IMO.

    It is however, as others have said something very personal and should be dealt with according to your beliefs. I wish you and your family best wishes and condolences at this time.

  14. Jakedog

    Jakedog Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 26, 2003
    The North Coast
    I went to my Grandfather's funeral when I was ten. I wasn't there when he died, and had never had anybody close to me die. I didn't know what to do, how to act, how to feel, and nobody would tell me. It was miserable.

    I remember at one point, people got up to talk about him and such, and having no idea how these things worked, I was terrified somebody was going to call on me to go up and speak. I ran out of the room and hid under a table out in the hall, which got me in plenty of trouble. It was an awful experience.

    I'm telling this story to make the point, that children have no idea how to handle these things, unless we teach them. As a parent myself now, I forget sometimes that kids don't know stuff. They don't have the benefit of our life experience. I sometimes look at my kids and think "why in the world would you do that, or think it's ok?". The answer is because they've never been in that situation before, and haven't been taught by me how to handle it.

    I've never shied away from death with them. I've never forced them to sit through it either. My oldest is twelve now. I think he's definitely old enough to deal with it, but I would not force him if he didn't want to. What I would do, is make sure my kids got to say their goodbyes. They would want that. They wouldn't have to say the actual words, but I would definitely make sure if their Grandmother were dying, that they went to see her one last time and spent some time with her, saids their "I love yous" etc. Without that closure for a kid, it feels too much like somebody they loved just kind of disappeared.

  15. xStonr

    xStonr Friend of Leo's

    Jun 26, 2005
    W. Palm Beach
    My wife was in home Hospice care and passed in September. All the kids were present, but their ages are 21, 23, and 25. Only the oldest wanted to be with Joanne in her final moments. So it's more of a personal thing of how one wants to say goodbye.

  16. Alex W

    Alex W Friend of Leo's

    I think the primary concern would be what do the kids want. I would not dream of forcing a child to watch a person die. Discuss it with the kids and see what their thoughts are on the matter.

  17. tcadam

    tcadam Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 12, 2007
    I just wanted to say that I really appreciate all the thoughtful responses both in this thread and by PM.


  18. purpletele

    purpletele Friend of Leo's

    You'll know.

    If it's a situation that is disturbing for you get the kids out of there, they're disturbed X 1000. If it's the more common passing it could be a life lesson.

    If they don't want to do it I wouldn't make them though. Some kids just aren't ready for it yet, they'll learn soon enough.

    The worst thing to do would be to ignore it all together to protect them.

    Good luck, they are hard times. Only you will know what's best for your kids in the end.

  19. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    Been there.

    My then-young nephew was disturbed by the death of my mother (his granny). He wasn't there at the time but was upset for a long while by the concept of death, was afraid of going to sleep - and not waking up. Young children do not cope with it well. Older children, teenagers, can learn to cope philosophically, as adults have to. And unfortunate as it is, it is an inevitable life experience that needs to be learnt.

    Keep nippers under 10yo away. Handle the older ones in a sensitive but solemn manner.

  20. jazztele

    jazztele Poster Extraordinaire

    Sep 19, 2006
    The actual moment of death can be quiet and peaceful or very disturbing.

    The hospice worker will be able to tell when the time is close, and it's time for the girls to say goodbye, but I don't think they need to be there at the actual moment.

    Nothing can really "prepare" you for the death of someone you's not something that exposure to at a young age will make any easier later on.

    And my best to your family in this tough time.

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