Losing a Grandma – How I Told My 4 Year Old His Gran Was Dying

This is an anonymous post kindly submitted by one of the parents in our RagHeroes Parent’s Group. All identifying details have been changed.

No parenting manual can prepare you for some of the hardest situations you could face as a parent.

The only time I have really known grief and death was when I was 20 with the loss of my fiance and I found there was no way this could prepare me for a 4 year old’s reaction to losing a relative.

My son had always been close to his great gran, my only living grandparent (the rest died when I was young so I couldn’t remember). He would see her several times a week with my dad on the days I had to work early and he loved the trips over to watch the trains from her living room window.

At the age of 94, she was still in seemingly ok health. She lived alone in a 2 bed house, baked for the family weekly and lived for our visits. So it came as a massive surprise when my dad went over one morning and found her in pain.

On being rushed to hospital she was immediately admitted, placed on oxygen and antibiotic treatment started. Just 4 days later, whilst visiting her the doctor confirmed our worst fears, despite treatment she wasn’t improving and that if she remained the same overnight then they would be starting end of life care.

How do you tell a 4 year old that his beloved great gran would not be coming home, that he would never see her again?

The best opportunity came the day after end of life care started. Whilst having cuddles in bed I asked him what he knew about his great gran. He understood that she was poorly in hospital and this led to the conversation that while some people get better and leave hospital like he did as a baby, other people unfortunately don’t get better and go on to die and join the angels in heaven and become the bright stars in the sky. He managed to relate this to what happened to his grandmas dog. Just an hour later we got the call that we had lost her and then came the hardest conversation ever.

Whoever told me kids don’t understand death, was lying. An hour after I broke the devastating news that his beloved great gran had died my  poor little boy was still hysterical.

I never want to break my boys heart again, but honesty is truly the best policy when it comes to telling them


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