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My son is about to turn 10 years old. About 7 months ago his grandfather passed away, due to cancer, and it appears to have impacted him more than we expected. He was never really that close with his grandfather up until the last year when his grandfather began spending a bit more time with him (once grandpa found out he had cancer). Since then, my son cries at night, not every night but quite frequently, as he remembers his grandpa. My husband talks and consoles him every time he cries. He/son states that he saddened for my husband now that he no longer has a father. He also expresses concern about growing old (himself) and fear that my husband grow old. He has always expressed concern about growing old even before the passing of his grandfather. My son is somewhat shy...not completely...but certainly not an extrovert. Note- My husband and his dad where not exactly very very close..they loved each other quite a bit they were just not the type to express it much. How long does this continue? Will it taper off? Do we just continue consoling him? Any recommendations?


Tara Paterson Replied: Dear concerned mom, This raises so many emotions for me as I too have a 10 year old and my father passed away suddenly about a year and a half ago. However, I am going to share advice we used for our 4 year old, because he reacted in a very similar way to the way your son is grieving. A few things are happening here for your son. Children don't often think about the death of someone they love so when it occurs, they are faced with the very real life occurrence we all know to be true, death or the way he may be processing it- gone forever. The strong emotions he is feeling are one of sadness for his dad for losing his father, because he can feel what the pain would be like if he lost his own dad; he is now faced with the fear of losing his dad which is now being reflected for him through the death of his grandfather; and he is also grieving. These are some very powerful emotions and there really isn't a timeline for how long it can last. My son is now 6 and he still cries about his papa. People often don't realize that children process all of the same things we do and feel all of the same emotions, but they have an even harder time understanding how to express them. Your husband's willingness to embrace your son's feelings is one of the greatest gifts he can give him. We can't predict the future or what will happen next so take from this experience the lesson of staying focused in the present moment. Allowing your son the right to express what he is feeling and talking with him about it is the best thing you can do for him and I applaud you both for doing the best you know how to do and for seeking support to assist you in caring for your son's wellbeing. My heartfelt blessings to you all, because I truly know how difficult this situation can be. Warmly, Tara Paterson, Parent Coach
Posted On 2007-06-26 10:55:28
Margaret Heffernan Replied: I can't imagine that there is any reliable estimate for how long this will continue. Mourning varies hugely among adults and there's no reason to suppose it would be otherwise for children. What seems striking about this instance is that the grief your son is expressing seems, from your account, to be out of proportion to the relationships involved. Often, I find, when the response to something is so disproportional, what's happening is that one event is being used to contain many other griefs. So when we moved countries, a small incident, like falling over, would release a torrent of grief from my daughter who was mourning the loss of her friends. It may be that you son's grief contains many other anxieties and griefs that he can't talk about, but appearing to mourning his grandfather gives him an outlet that he needs. What should you do? I think you're doing the right thing in consoling him. The only other thing you might want to think about is showing him the way to let go of his grief, so he doesn't get stuck in it or even learn to enjoy it. So console him, of course, but use each of these incidents to lead him into discussing something happier - even memories. Let him go to the sad place in his mind but make sure you lead him out to a happier place every time. Do think of leading - setting the example of how you get out of sadness. This may sometimes feel a little heartless but it's important for you to set the example of digging yourself OUT of grief.
Posted On 2007-06-25 04:20:16
Lou Longo Replied: My condolences to you and your family and my heart goes out to your son. I was blessed to be able to survive cancer when I was diagnosed over 4 years ago at age 34. My sons were 3 and 5 years old at the time and thankfully just young enough not to be able to fully understand the horrible time my family and friends went through. But they still talk about it to this day and my wife and I can tell both do get anxious and even scared should I get sick (like the flu) or if they break out in a strange rash etc. I was speaking with someone once who gave me a unique perspective about death especially when someone dies unexpectedly. First, it is helpful if we all have some sort of faith and believe that there is a plan for all of us both here and after we leave our time here. This person said that there is a constant battle every day both in Heaven and on Earth of good vs. evil. God always needs strong people here to do the right thing and help others but sometimes he needs strong people with him up there. This can also be helpful in coping or trying to understand why a child or young adult leaves us at an early age. Continue talking as much as you can to your son and focus on the great times spent with his grandfather and that his grandfather will now be looking over him and the family. You cannot make promises about his dad or anyone but explain that you all expect to be around for a long time and you want to enjoy every day of your life to the fullest. My oldest son is now 9 years old and he is wise enough to understand that people and animals die so we talk about it whenever it comes up. My wife also had him speak to a professional a few times when I was sick as it was rough and scary for him especially when he saw me in the hospital, unconscious and hooked up to machines. Thankfully, I survived but it was hard on him as he keeps his emotions pretty guarded. With regards to your son's fears about his own dad, keep focusing on the fact that although we never know what tomorrow brings, most people live into their 70's and 80's and some much longer which is a long way away and that he (your husband) and you plan on spending lots of time with their grandchildren (your son's kids). Keep in mind, I am not a psychologist or specialize in this area, I am speaking as a parent and cancer survivor. Finally, are there any cousins about the same age of your son that could talk to him and help, kids always respond great to positive peers? Good luck and God Bless, I hope this helps.
Posted On 2007-06-24 20:41:38
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