The Difficult Talk
One of the most difficult talks to have with your child, is that when it concerns death. Experts have all kinds of opinions on what to say, when to say it, the do’s and don’t’s of what to say to children.
My own memories as a child and dealing with death, I do not have many memories of funerals until middle school age, one particular Christmas break. Four family members had passed away over that one week timespan. I recall it sending some of my “older” relatives into a tailspin, often making flippant comments about their “time.”
Over the decades of my survivorship, I have said goodbye to many fellow survivors who either faced insurmountable further challenges because of theirs health, or their bodies simply could not take anymore.
Personally, I have dealt with two major deaths in my adulthood, that to this day still leave a hole in my life. The passing of my grandmother, and my father.
I was obviously well into my adulthood when they both passed on, so besides dealing with the emotions of the loss, I was able to process and prepare for when these events would happen. It does not make it hurt any less. I am fortunate that I had both in my life as long as I did, and did not have to deal with the sorrow as a child.
My daughters have been fortunate not to have seen or heard of many deaths either, that they can recall. The closest family member to them, was their Uncle Mike, who was definitely a “fun” uncle with them, until his passing from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). But again, they were so young to have had the awareness of what had happened to their favorite uncle. Today, they do still get to hear wonderful stories about him.
But as my daughters have grown, they understand that they have some friends, who have a tragic story, having lost a parent while they themselves are still a child, a loss so unimaginable as a child, to never see their mother or father again.
My daughters are very empathetic and sympathetic, so they grasp the tragedy and the sorrow. They also know that they are fortunate to still have both of their parents. As they are older now, however, they understand more about my health issues related to my late health issues from my cancer treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma decades ago. On many occasions, the situations could have resulted in never seeing this post. I have seen their friends live with and occasionally struggle without having their deceased parent in their lives. And as I face each challenge, that is the last thing I want to do to my daughters. As I lay on any hospital bed, I make sure I let every doctor and nurse know, they need to make sure that I pull through.
Through family, my daughters fortunately have not had to deal with death. In school, among friends, they have been fairly isolated from that as well, though there has been a classmate or two over time who has died, their personal interaction had been limited, so the emotional toll was not as great.
I received a text yesterday from my younger daughter. Evidently word had spread, via social media, as her former guidance counselor in middle school had passed away. Details are unknown, so I will not speculate so as not to be disrespectful. But social media being what it is, I reached out to a few people I knew that would know if this was indeed true. Sadly, it was.
I spent a lot of conversations with this man, seeking help for my daughter as she progressed through middle school, along with the challenges of dealing with a divorced dad who in spite of not having custody, was still involved in his daughters educations. He spent a lot of time, guiding her in decisions on course selections and some other struggles. In other words, this was someone who passed, who she personally interacted with in her older childhood years, likely to remember.
I told her that it was true, but we did not have any further conversations. I take it, that there were “stories” that she had seen, but did not feel the need to question any of them. But there was one situation that I do not think she is aware of, but I am. And if she were, it could likely have a bigger impact on her that I do not wish upon any child.
Besides being popular among students and other staff, his passing left behind a wife, but also two children. Again, children who would grow up without a parent, just as some of their friends have.
I try not to burden my children with how serious some of my health conditions are, or how they are corrected, because I do not want them concerned with “what if.” For now, my children remark how “tough” I am, and have no issue boasting that I am a cancer survivor. That is what they know. That is what they expect. And that is why I do all that I can for them, and to make sure that I am always available to them, and to be there with each milestone they have. I never take any day for granted, as I am sure neither do they.