I have an 8 year old DD and an almost 13 year old DS. My father in law is currently terminally ill with brain cancer. He's had surgery and radiation and is on chemo, but the outlook is 24 months at the most (this being somewhat unrealistic we're being told) to maybe 7 or 9 months at the shortest.
I think my DD will be okay when the time comes. I'm really worried about DS. He and his grandfather are extremely close. Last summer (before the diagnosis) DS and FIL would golf 2 or 3 times a week, go to the movies, etc. He was a very involved grandpa. DS sees a lot less of FIL because the first symptom of the cancer was seizures and FIL didn't want the kids to witness him having one, so we only saw him once a week or so. Now since surgery, we try to see him twice or more a week.
We have not told the kids about the time frame my FIL has been given. But I'm torn because I don't want this to "sneak up" on them either. DS is pretty smart and probably in some part of his mind knows that FIL isn't going to be around much longer. But he's also a kid with an optimistic attitude.
Last summer we lost our dog and DS was inconsolable. I can't imagine how losing his grandfather will hit him. Anyone who has been there, done that, or has a good book or any other suggestion, I would be extremely grateful!
We haven't experienced this first hand. However, we have been close to two families that did. Here is what I thought worked great for them.
-- 13 is old enough to understand that grandpa has a terminal diagnosis. Even if you want to avoid telling him a specific timeframe, I suggest that you let him know what is going on. If you are religious, pray together for him. If not, don't.
-- My sister-in-law got her boys a ring for them before she died. She also made a memory book for them. It has been nearly ten years, the rings have been resized many times and the memory book is very cherished. Perhaps making a scrapbooks or memory book of "times with Grandpa" will be beneficial to your children too.
-- My aunt didn't like knowing that she wasn't going to be around for certain life events (graduation, weddings, etc). She was always very artistic/crafty and made things during her final months that were entrusted to someone to give at those events. It is always hard to see those things given, but I know that her children feel like their mom "is still with them" because of it. My aunt died the summer before her youngest dd was a senior in high school.
-- when my sister in law died, the school planted a tree in her memory. The kids (now 18 and 21) still prefer to visit the tree vs the gravesite.
I know that these examples have been about a parent dying, but perhaps grandpa and you can come up with something together. Maybe he could write a letter to your son (to be given after his death) or maybe they could work on a project together now--that would help your son after he dies. For some reason, the tokens of affection have been really helpful to the grieving/healing process. Let your son see grandpa as often as he likes. If he knows what is going on I think he would be able to handle grandpa having a seizure (or whatever else might come). But if he doesn't get to spend this last year with him (esp. in an effort to 'protect' him), I think he might be inclined to feel resentful.
Amy, thank you so much for your reply. I think all of those ideas are good ones. I especially like the idea of my FIL writing the kids letters for when they graduate, get married, etc.
I agree that we need to tell our son that his grandfather is not going to get better. My husband made an off-hand comment last week, something like, "When Papa gets better we'll...." And I just looked at him, I was so torn about him lying to the kids.
And I'm so sorry about your sister in law and aunt.
Thank you, again.
My dd's friend's mom just passed away, he's 13 and she was 49. :( Obviously losing a grandparent is different, but I think some of the things that worked best for him:
1. a big photobook (not an album, but one from shutterfly or picaboo or something, a permanent book) that people donated photos for (you take people's photos, bring to CVS or another place they put them on a disc for cheap. then you download all the digital prints into one file, which you use to make the book which is REALLY simple! I did one for dd's bat mitzvah and it was about 1 hr of work and it came out GREAT!). Having different people's comments in the book, along w/their photos makes it really special. The photos do NOT have to be only of him, they could be from his friends or neighbors, or of them together, or of something he loved doing - like a golf partner.
2. They built a website for people to send pictures and notes to J and his dad. It someplace he visits a lot, he says. Daily, sometimes many times a day.
3. Going through together and remembering times, events. He likes remembering a party she went to, things she said that were funny or wise. It helps him to talk about him mom with people who remember her fondly.
Good luck, mama. These are hard things, death, loss, but they are amazing skills to have for him as an adult. I am sure you can figure out a way to manage his sadness and grief together.
A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. Excellent book. It's about a girl whose older sister is diagnosed with cancer, leukemia, if I remember correctly. I've read it 3 times, at 3 stages of my life, and always, always loved the book. It ends with a home birth, by the way. And yes, the sister dies. Sad and wonderfully written.