A reader asked: “Our family is dealing with a loved one who has stage 4 cancer, we have sheltered them from this diagnosis for a while but now it is time to tell them. We are struggling for the right words to explain this to our 5 and 8 year old. Are there any books or groups that help children and parents cope with this.”

What a great question.  My family has not had to deal with the death of a loved one since having children.  My dad passed away two years before we had our first child, who is the first grandchild in my family.  We talk about my dad on a regular basis and have several pictures of him around the house.  He knows funny stories about his grandfather, what he did for a living, and some of his hobbies. He knows that Grampy is in heaven and it makes me sad sometimes, and that’s enough for him.  They even look alike:

My dad and my older son, both around age 6

Here are some suggestions from the moms on helping kids deal with death:

  • I would speak to the oncologist to see if they have any recs. Check with American Cancer Society because they have great resources.
  • There is an online resource called The Self Esteem Shop that carries books on all sorts of difficult subjects – for adults & children. This link will take you directly to books for children about cancer.
  • If you are around a hospice facility they offer ways to tell children and offer grief classes and groups that really help
  • My mother-in-law has been battling stage 3c uterine cancer that’s spread into her lungs for the past year. My boys are 5 and 8. We had to tell them within the first couple of weeks because they see her all the time and when she no longer had hair we owed them an explanation. We did it in the car so it wouldn’t seem confrontational, I guess. We asked if they knew what cancer was, and thanks to some kids in their school, they actually did know it was a bad sickness that some kids grandparents died of. We said grandmom had cancer and needed an operation and medicine that would make her lose her hair. My 5 year old took one look at my mother-in-law bald for the first time and said “well I still think you’re beautiful”. My 8 year old asked if she was going to die and we said maybe, but we’re all going to pray really hard that she doesn’t. That was all they needed, they’ve been ok ever since.
  • There is a place called the Center for Good Grief. its at Baptist Collierville. they would be more than willing to help with the whole family. they serve the community at no charge and are amazing!
  • Also on the Baptist website: Grief Facts & Resources and information on Camp Good Grief, a free camp for kids ages 7-16 (they have one for adults too) who have lost a loved one in the past two years.
  • Camp BraveHearts is hosted by Methodist Hospice for kids ages 6-16 and their parent/caregiver.