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How do you explain Cancer and Cremation to kids?

My Dad was diagnosed with Cancer in January. He went to live with my sister in Milwaukee in order to recieve experimental treatment there. My Dad is fading fast. My family moved into the house next door to my parents ( We've never lived away from them and so they have a really special connection to him. My oldest son is changing, I see it clearly, I'm just not sure what to do. I believe they all expect him to make it back home, and Im not sure how to explain that he can't, and that we're down to the last days of his life? He's chosen to be cremated and my kids just dont understand?? And if you have had to deal with a loss with your children, any advice on how to hold it together for them? We went through something similar last year and Im afraid I failed miserably? I can't fall apart with my kids and my Mom hurting...Thanks for letting me vent a little.

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Asked by flo79 at 4:38 PM on Aug. 15, 2010 in General Parenting

Level 1 (3 Credits)
Answers (7)
  • first of all ((((((BIG HUGS)))))) its SOOO hard losing a loved one, and Cancer is just the shittiest way too :( I recently lost an uncle to a fast deteriorating cancer and he also chose to be cremated. I didn't really explain it much to the kids cause they weren't that close to him. plus they are still pretty young (7, 3, and 1). What ages are your kids? I would just explain as best u can what cancer is, how it can harm your body and there's really no cure. start preparing them for death though because you don't want them to be in shock when he does pass... I will say that one of the worst memories i have as a young child is seeing my great-uncle in the hospital during his last days, so if there's anyway to avoid that with your kids... they need to see your dad and know he's dying but to see him in the hospital all hooked up to machines is not the way they'll want to remember him, kwim? i'll pray for you and your family :(

    Answer by DreainCO at 4:44 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • Just be honest tell them that this is his wishes and we have to stand by it..

    Answer by MTM at 4:44 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • Big ((HUGS))- I'm sorry your dad is not doing well. When we explained cancer to our kids, I told them that it's a disease that happens when some cells in the body begin to grow out of control. They grow and grow until they crowd out the healthy cells in the body and make it not work properly. We said there are medicines that help to kill the bad cells so the good cells can survive, and that sometimes surgery can take the bad cells out and leave the good, but that sometimes even with the best medicines the bad cells can't all be removed and the person can die. As for cremation, my grandmother was cremated and the kids were fine with that and didn't find it weird. We just said that after the person is dead, their energy/soul isn't in the body anymore, so the body can go back to being part of nature. We said usually it is either buried in the ground or cremated into ash. That seemed okay to them.

    Answer by Freela at 4:56 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • As for holding it together, that can be a hard one. I don't think it's terrible for your kids to see you cry. I know my kids saw me cry when my grandmother died... we all cried together earlier in the month when we unexpectedly lost one of our pets. I would just tell them that you are sad because you miss your dad and it's okay to be sad and miss someone who has died... it's not anything that they have done to upset you, and in time you will feel better and not cry anymore.

    Answer by Freela at 4:58 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • It really depends on how old they are and what you think they can comprehend. I've always been of the mindset that you talk to people in an age appropriate manner. That said, if your son is old enough to understand what is going on in your father's body, and what he is doing to help his situation.

    Children have an amazing ability to look at situations objectively, and you may be able to find a lot of strength through them. Children are also very resilient in the face of adversity, and most just want to help. I would tell your child as much as you think he's able to comprehend, and let him make "get well" cards, and express himself as much as he needs. Address the fact that you know he and your dad were close, and shared a special bond (I was very close to my grandfather, but I lost him when I was 31 so it was different for me), and that he'll ALWAYS be able to keep those great memories of your dad in his heart.

    Answer by LoriKeet at 5:21 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • Be honest and explain it in terms they can understand. Allow them to ask questions and let them know it's OK to cry and to feel whatever it is they're feeling. I was in a similar situation about 18 months ago; my father died of cancer and was cremated. We kept my kids informed all along the way and tried to prepare them as best as we could because the cancer was aggressive and there really wasn't any hope. My kids, particularly my son, were extremely close to my dad and it was difficult for all of us but we leaned on eachother. I really think they helped me more than I helped them. My son was 16 at the time so he was able to comprehend exactly what was going on; my daughter was 9 but she's always had a strong spiritual side to her personality that I thinked helped her. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    Answer by FootballMom85 at 6:02 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • My MIL died of cancer, and was cremated. We actually have her urn right on our shelf. DD is 3 now, and she knows that part of Grandma is in there, and she can talk to grandma at anytime. She's never asked about HOW she is in there, she just accepts it. Perhaps when she's older she'll ask. She understands that some people die and are remembered that way, and others are buried in a cemetery.


    Answer by KairisMama at 9:18 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

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