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JediTricks
11-18-2003, 08:52 PM
Ok, some serious stuff has come up in my family this week, let me give you the backstory first...

When my mother was in her mid-teens, she stayed for a short time with her uncle & aunt and their daughter. Some years later, the aunt was given some bad medical advice that caused her to be unable to have more children. When my mother got pregnant again, our family was too poor to support a second child, so my mother's uncle and aunt adopted my sister upon her birth and raised her as their own. Eventually, my sister and I re-entered each others' lives, and in her teens, my sister ended up almost fully reintegrating with my family while still maintaining her adoptive family relationships. Now, she's 26 and had a daughter (my niece) a while back with a man she's no longer living with, my niece splits her time between the 2 parents' homes. Several years ago, when my niece was 3, her father's grandfather was spending his dying days with them and died in their house, and it greatly affected my niece and still does. That's pretty much all the backstory needed, I think.

So here's the sad dilemma, on Saturday, my sister got a call from her sister that their mother - my mother's aunt by marriage, whom my sister was VERY close with - had died alone unexpectedly in her apartment a few days prior and they had just found her body. My niece was at some Saturday school thing at the time and did not know. My niece's birthday is this Thursday and we had something with my family planned for Wednesday. However, my sister's ex doesn't want my niece to know about her grandmother's death ever, and my sister has decided she wants to hold back the information until next Monday. But, while my sister is understandably pained by her mother's death as are we all to a lesser degree, we still have to see my niece on Wednesday and hide what has happened from her -- even if the funeral is the same day.

So my question is, how do you deal with all of that? How do you try to salvage a 6-year-old's birthday, how do you put on a happy face, how do you hide such a horrible truth? I've never lost a close family member like that, so I don't really have the emotional tools to fall back upon.

Lord Malakite
11-18-2003, 09:15 PM
So my question is, how do you deal with all of that? How do you try to salvage a 6-year-old's birthday, how do you put on a happy face, how do you hide such a horrible truth? I've never lost a close family member like that, so I don't really have the emotional tools to fall back upon.
Honestly, I wouldn't hide the truth from her. She will only end up resenting you and your family later on for it if/when she finds out, even if your intentions were good. As far as salvaging the birthday, not much you really can do other than wait maybe a few days after before you inform her of her grandmother's passing and possibly telling her that you just found out. Although the day may be ruined for the rest of your family, it wouldn't be ruined for her, and when she later finds out a few days later she will less likely associate it as traumatizing event related directly to her birthday.

James Boba Fettfield
11-18-2003, 09:26 PM
So my question is, how do you deal with all of that?

You don't deal with it in two days, JT. No one does, man. Well, I've never known anyone to.


How do you try to salvage a 6-year-old's birthday, how do you put on a happy face, how do you hide such a horrible truth?

Wow, I don't know how to answer something like that. Hiding a death from a child for a few days so they can have a good birthday, I can agree with that. But how do you pull it off? I guess that all depends on how well you can keep yourself composed emotionally.


I've never lost a close family member like that, so I don't really have the emotional tools to fall back upon.

This is how people get those kind of emotional tools, by going through experiences like this. Those kind of emotional tools aren't something you can just pick up in a few days, Tricks. Sucks, doesn't it?

I don't think you're going to be getting any easy answers, and from what I can guess about you, you know that already. I wish you the best in getting through it, but I'm confident you'll be able to handle this appropriately.

InsaneJediGirl
11-18-2003, 09:37 PM
My niece was at some Saturday school thing at the time and did not know. My niece's birthday is this Thursday and we had something with my family planned for Wednesday. However, my sister's ex doesn't want my niece to know about her grandmother's death ever, and my sister has decided she wants to hold back the information until next Monday. But, while my sister is understandably pained by her mother's death as are we all to a lesser degree, we still have to see my niece on Wednesday and hide what has happened from her -- even if the funeral is the same day.

I would tell the girl.Have her birthday,try to put on a brave face and be 'happy'.A few days later after tell her Grandma went to Heaven(or whatever you believe in).I think not telling the child will lead to some serious problems down the road.Besides,by the time your niece is in her teenage years she is bound to find out about Grandma from a cousin or some other relative,making the situation much more sticky in my opinion.

bobafrett
11-18-2003, 09:52 PM
I think you should tell her. Perhaps you could put her birthday celebration off for a couple of weeks until everyone has had the chance to grieve. I lost my grandfather when I was very young, but I have happy memories of him. We are all dealt tough choices in life, no matter how rich nor poor nor race nor creed. A death in the family is always a hard thing to deal with, and each of us deals with it differently. Good Luck to you whatever you decide JT.

Beast
11-18-2003, 10:05 PM
I gotta agree with everyone else. Keeping something like this from her, will just come back to bite everyone on the backside when she does find out. Especially if someone lets something slip around her. And you know how kids are, if she doesn't see her Granny at the party she may be upset. Or ask about her. And make things even more akward. So I would suggest that she be told, but it's carefully done by someone that can deal with her questions. I hope everything works out for the best, JT. :(

MTFBWY and HH!!

Jar Jar Binks

Exhaust Port
11-18-2003, 11:04 PM
I too agree with the masses here. Nothing good would come from hiding the truth from her other than delaying the inevitable. Of course there is a chance that she would understand the circumstances and be able to deal with it but that's a long shot and isn't worth taking the risk in my opinion. Perhaps even knowing the truth she would still want to have her birthday events.

Best of luck with your decision, it's a tough one for sure.

EricRG
11-19-2003, 12:25 AM
When you lie to a child, what do you get? A liar, of course.

Life is full of the unexpected. And the tragic. The earlier one learns this, the "easier" dealing with such situations becomes. Everybody here seems to agree.

What do YOU think should happen, JT?

Kidhuman
11-19-2003, 10:03 AM
Honesty my friend. I remember I was 5 when my grandmother died.(one of em). My mother woke me and my brother up and told us at 4 am. When my other grandmother died, we were at school, my mother told us as soon as we got home. DOnt hide the truth. WHat is she asks why she is not at the party? WHat do you do then?

plo koon 200
11-19-2003, 02:57 PM
Tell her now, dammit. Tell her before her birthday. Delaying only makes matters worse. The longer you wait the longer you will delay. Tell her before it is to late. Tell her before her birthday if you can.

JediTricks
11-19-2003, 06:05 PM
Obviously I can't tell my niece, it's simply not my place as I'm not her parent. The problem I foresee about waiting till after her birthday to tell her is that next week is Thanksgiving, does that get sacrificed in the name of the truth? I say "yes", but again, not my place.


About the "not seeing grandma at the party" thing, that's not a likely issue since this grandma rarely did this sort of stuff with our side of the family or her (my niece's) dad's side, so hopefully it's not something my niece will be expecting and ask about. Of course, I am totally worried that she will indeed say something like that and everybody will lock up and go in different directions.


I don't know what I think should happen, the majority of my opinions says to tell her now, but I can see the philosophy of waiting too. It feels like asking a bus rider his opinion about the bus being out of brakes - nothing I can do because I'm not in control and have no experience driving a bus.

Anyway, it's T-150mins, so hopefully the bus won't crash into a wall. ;) Thanks for the advice gang, too bad this stuff isn't more by-the-book material.

bobafrett
11-20-2003, 12:42 AM
Anyway, it's T-150mins, so hopefully the bus won't crash into a wall. ;) Thanks for the advice gang, too bad this stuff isn't more by-the-book material.

Being a parent, or in your case, a caring Uncle never is. I had my son recently come back to live with me, and I so wish all the answers were laid out in a simple to read manual, but everyone has there own way of parenting, and you'll get different answers from just about everyone on what's right and wrong, and how to handle tough decisions. I know I had to ask on another forum I post on after I thought I had made a bad decision about letting my so go across a 5 lane road with his friends to a McDonalds after school. I told him no, and he was very mad for the next day. I began to question my decision. As it ends up, I feel I made a good and right choice. I'm sure I will face challenges like you are at the moment JT. After all, my son was in Florida for 6 years without me. Now I go from being this person who got to visit and play a friend part running him all over Disney, to actually having to step up into a father roll. It's a hard thing to adjust to. Have you talked to your sister, and if so, how does she feel about the choice to tell her daughter?

r2dee2
11-20-2003, 06:38 PM
JT, my take on this is not to mention this to the niece before the party, unless of course she happens to ask about the grandma, then by all means tell her the truth. She may be disturbed by the news, but down the road, no matter how you try to rationalize to her, she will remember the lie if you choose that tact.

As for putting on a happy face to help make a child's birthday a nice event, I'd assume the Grandma would have wanted that. This IS one of those situations that will show by example, how to handle what life is going to throw you.

Hang in there, this will resolve itself, most likely not in the way you have probably imagined. All you can do is to be there for moral support for your sister.

Do let us know how this turns out.

jjreason
11-20-2003, 07:18 PM
Kids are a lot more perceptive that most of us would give them credit for. At 6, she's going to know full well something's wrong at her party. I think it's important to let her know what's happened, but to try and put on a happy face for her birthday. She'll be sad to know Gram's gone, but the big thing will be for her to have fun on her big day. Everyone walking around on pins and needles trying to be sad, and keep it from her will just add to the stress. She'll likely move on a lot more quickly from the sad news than the adults will.

If the family chooses not to tell her until she's had her party, I think that will be fine too. Im not convinced that it's "lying" to her - unless she asks and gets the runaround. I don't think she'd ever see it as betrayal, and I don't think it will lead to her becoming a liar. If she asks what's the matter, I would support telling her the truth. I think she'll impress you guys with her ability to understand both the news and how everyone's feeling about it.

JediTricks
11-20-2003, 11:02 PM
frett, I have spoken to my sister about the issue, but she's conflicted and still in shock from losing her mother so there wasn't much to be had there unfortunately.

Thanks for the advice R2. It turned out that she didn't ask about grandma and although there were some tense parts, it didn't weigh anywhere near as heavily upon the group as I was expecting. I guess it's easy to omit when you have to have fun with the kid.

The dinner went well, although it was a little hard to hear half the group because of the odd acoustics of the room. My sister faded but put on the "happy face" as best she could. My niece seemed none the wiser about what was under the surface, and she was fairly well-behaved until desert came without sacrificing fun. She was WAY into my gift (hot wheels cars and track) when the presents part came which took me off-guard. At the end of the night, when we were all saying goodbye, my sister tried to talk to me about the funeral this weekend which was a little awkward, but again, my niece didn't catch any of that.


Now comes the part where I have to keep up on the current events though, because I don't know when the next time I see my niece will be and I won't know if she'll be told by then. Again, thanks for all the advice gang.

Hellboy
11-20-2003, 11:28 PM
I wouldn't hide the truth from her. Unfortunately she's probably going to associate it with her birthday for some time no matter what you decide on doing.

My Father passed away at the young age of 49 10 yrs. ago on December 28th and the last time I or any of my family members saw him (because my parents were divorced) was on Christmas day. Most would automatically assume because of that the Christmas holiday would be ruined for me and my family but because we're all around each other during that time of year it makes it easier to deal with.

Your Niece will probably be reminded of her grandmothers passing around her b-day for some time but having family around will comfort her and might eventually take her mind off it like it did with me.

Good luck

JediTricks
11-21-2003, 12:29 AM
Only if they tell her, which I'm worried my sister may cave and not do. :( I don't think I could handle that.

plasticfetish
11-21-2003, 01:24 AM
Sorry to hear about your loss JT.
Equally sorry to hear about your problem. There's probably no more difficult situation in life to deal with, than having to explain to a young child that one of his or her close relatives has passed away. Frankly, there's no perfect way, time or place to do it. Even in the best of circumstances it's bound to be awkward ... that's simply the way life is.

I do think that your family made the right decision in not telling her just before her birthday. Understanding death is a very difficult thing ... let's say impossible, for a child at that age. It's a concept that she'll be grappling with for a long time and letting it wait until after her birthday is probably OK. Give her that day, and then have your family explain what's happened when there's less distraction.

About three and two years ago, our family lost both of my wife's grandparents. We ... my wife, my son, my in-laws, the grandparents and I ... were all pretty close. Very close-knit. When the Grandmother passed, my son was really too young to understand anything and too young to remember. When the Grandfather passed exactly a year later, my son was about four, and understood the loss. Having to explain that his Great-grandfather has gone, that he's died and just what it means to be mortal is pretty awful. But, it's something that can be explained. It's a concept that really needs to be taught, and given the circumstances, it's possible to also teach the more important concept of "remembering." Having this stuff happen around the holidays may seem like a huge burden, but the reality is, there isn't a better or easier time to share memories ... as a family ... and to focus on how those memories can and do live well beyond the life of that Grandparent.

It's really odd how easily my son took to the idea. It was weird hearing him talk about things like death, spirits, memories and listening to him think out-loud about it. All in a most matter-of-fact kind of way. But in the end, he seemed to come to a healthy understanding about it ... it's an age 4,5,6 ... when their minds tend to be very receptive to ideas in general.

But like I said, there's no perfect way to handle the situation ... the best you can do is share your feelings with the kid and let them know that you're just as sad as they are. Let them know that it's a part of life, and a family thing.

JediTricks
11-23-2003, 06:55 PM
Thanks PF, and sorry to hear of your loss as well. Part of the concern with us has been how much the loss of her great-grandfather a few years ago still bothers her today, but hopefully your experience will hold here and it will help her cope with the current loss.

Turbowars
11-23-2003, 09:51 PM
JT, I lost my great grandmother when I was about 7. I really didn't understand the whole death thing at the time. I saw her go down hill to the point where she didn't know who I was. The thing is I do remember the good times and that's what counts. I haven't lost any close family since and I know it will hit hard when my Grandparent pass. God I don't know how I'll act, but it brings tears to my eyes as I type this. People take death differently and whether it will affect your niece on the surface or inside you wont know until later. I don't know how to tell a 6 year old that their grandparent passed, but I do know that the truth is the best anyone can do. I know I appreciated my parents always being truthful to me and I believe I have a better bond with them because of it. I wish you and your family the best and don't worry, she will be fine.:)

JediTricks
11-23-2003, 10:28 PM
Turbo, I honestly don't know how I'll deal with the loss of any of my close family members, the very thought seems foreign to me. That's a real kicker.


I just found out that my sister is going to hold the news back from my niece until after new years. I can't say I think that's a good idea, but apparently her ex is claiming that if anybody (my sister and my father especially, who are both very close to my niece) tells my niece about this, he'll tell her they're lying. I was outraged when I heard that. I can only hope that callous statement was misguidedly made out of love for his child, but it's really hard to see beyond the selfishness and manipulation that it expresses.

Turbowars
11-23-2003, 10:41 PM
Turbo, I honestly don't know how I'll deal with the loss of any of my close family members, the very thought seems foreign to me. That's a real kicker.


I just found out that my sister is going to hold the news back from my niece until after new years. I can't say I think that's a good idea, but apparently her ex is claiming that if anybody (my sister and my father especially, who are both very close to my niece) tells my niece about this, he'll tell her they're lying. I was outraged when I heard that. I can only hope that callous statement was misguidedly made out of love for his child, but it's really hard to see beyond the selfishness and manipulation that it expresses. New years?? Wow, now that's not good. I hope things work out, but it may be hard on her later when she gets older. I see that her parents are just trying to protect her, or are they doing this for themselves? Sorry to get personal, but I'm just thinking of what I would do with my own child, if I ever get the chance. I don't think my wife can have kids.:(

EricRG
11-23-2003, 10:48 PM
JT-

Don't be surprised if New Years goes by and the situation is the same. "Oh, we'll tell her in the Spring sometime." Ad infinitum.

JediTricks
11-24-2003, 11:56 PM
I think both parents think they are doing the right thing for the kid, but are letting the "easy road" and other selfish motivations cloud their judgement. Of course, it's easier for me to say that since I'm just here armchair quarterbacking now, but I think at the very latest, telling her the Monday after thanksgiving is as late as it should go.

UPDATE - just got off the phone with my sister, who cleared up the above info. My sister wants to tell my niece immediately now, but her ex has completely stymied that and even got my niece's school principal to back the decision not to tell her, which I think is terrible. My sister even cancelled seeing her today because she couldn't handle not telling her this soon after the funeral, so my sister told her something about grandma being sick and in the hospital to try to set up a time when she can finally tell her the truth. Personally, it eats me up inside to see this go down this way and to see my sister torn up so badly by this stuff, I hate that feeling of being angry and unable to really say or do anything to help. Such a mess. :(

EricRG
11-25-2003, 02:35 AM
It is messy. Dealing with relatives can be tough because the "rules" are different. It can be really strange. Hope things work out for the best, JT!

arctangent
11-25-2003, 07:42 AM
I just found out that my sister is going to hold the news back from my niece until after new years. I can't say I think that's a good idea, but apparently her ex is claiming that if anybody (my sister and my father especially, who are both very close to my niece) tells my niece about this, he'll tell her they're lying. I was outraged when I heard that. I can only hope that callous statement was misguidedly made out of love for his child, but it's really hard to see beyond the selfishness and manipulation that it expresses.

i am absolutely appalled by your sister's ex's attitude. he is using emotional blackmail on your sister to get his own way and punish her and that is disgusting, especially at such an emotionally hard, sad time for her and for you all. to involve the child's teacher does, as you so rightly feel, indicate selfishness and manipulation rather than what is best for the child. you are right to be outraged - anyone who truely cares for this child should. as hard and upsetting as it may be, your sister should call his bluff and tell her daughter the sad news, backed up by the rest of your family. it will be tough, but it really should be done. i feel the girl will be damaged more by not telling her than by telling her the truth and dealing with the consequences, whatever they are.

is her ex really going to tell their daughter that your sister is not telling the truth? he obviously has not thought of the consequences of his intended action. it will only lead to the girl resenting him one way or another when she gets older, either for lying to her about something so important, or for forcing your sister to withhold the information.

JediTricks
11-26-2003, 12:31 AM
i am absolutely appalled by your sister's ex's attitude. he is using emotional blackmail on your sister to get his own way and punish her and that is disgusting, especially at such an emotionally hard, sad time for her and for you all.As a child of divorce, I can say that this is pretty much the par behavior for one or both parents to undertake. And watching one parent shrink away to the other's behavior can be detrimental for both parents in the long run, in different ways, in the eyes of their child.


is her ex really going to tell their daughter that your sister is not telling the truth? he obviously has not thought of the consequences of his intended action.Anybody else out there, I'd be surprised by that sort of statement, but this guy lives with his parents and brother still, they have a weird, twisted family dynamic that seems to create a mindset that makes it seem like hiding real feelings is the same as protecting a family member, and that no one person has more importance than the family as a whole except on the short-term "treats" level. That's one thing I really feel torn about, my parents, no matter how much the fought, were always honest with me, but my sister was not raised in the same situation at all, almost the very opposite, so while I know how I'd try to deal if I were in her shoes and how my mom or dad or grandparents would, my sister doesn't have that same background and thus has a different set of internal conflicts that seem to short-circuit her a little. Then again, I don't know, maybe I'd totally cave in that situation.

arctangent
11-26-2003, 05:55 AM
As a child of divorce, I can say that this is pretty much the par behavior for one or both parents to undertake. And watching one parent shrink away to the other's behavior can be detrimental for both parents in the long run, in different ways, in the eyes of their child.

Anybody else out there, I'd be surprised by that sort of statement, but this guy lives with his parents and brother still, they have a weird, twisted family dynamic that seems to create a mindset that makes it seem like hiding real feelings is the same as protecting a family member, and that no one person has more importance than the family as a whole except on the short-term "treats" level. That's one thing I really feel torn about, my parents, no matter how much the fought, were always honest with me, but my sister was not raised in the same situation at all, almost the very opposite, so while I know how I'd try to deal if I were in her shoes and how my mom or dad or grandparents would, my sister doesn't have that same background and thus has a different set of internal conflicts that seem to short-circuit her a little. Then again, I don't know, maybe I'd totally cave in that situation.

i guess i am lucky becuase my parents are still together so i have no insider's view on what happens when parents do divorce but it seems to me that too often the child/children are used as a weapon against each other.

one of my grandfathers died when i was a baby so i never knew him but it was always there. i am sure i must have asked why my nan was on her own when my other gran had grandad and it was explained to me what had happened - in a gentle way that i was able to understand and i certainly remember going with my mum and nan to visit my grandad's grave at the cemetary.

i lost my other grandfather when i was seven. i was told what had happened and i was asked if i wanted to go to the funeral. although i understood what his death meant i decided to go to the funeral but not the burrial at the cemetary. i am glad that my parents didn't try and hide it from me and gave me a choice.

unfortunately since then i have lost many people close to me. coping with death is never an easy thing but i think that learning about death at an early age helped me to eventually come to terms with the losses that i have suffered. death is part of life and your niece will one day have to deal with other losses. it is only my opinion but i don't think that hiding her grandma's death serves your niece well, however well intentioned your sister's ex and his family are being and it will only make it harder for her in the long run. i hope for your niece's sake that some sort of agreement can be reached between your sister and her ex which is for the good of your niece.

it must be very hard for you to have to stand there and not be able to interfere, because you obviously care about your niece. i am sure none of your family need this sort of stress and conflict at this sad time. you have my sympathy.