What do I tell my daughter when she says to me mom what am I going to do if Dad dies?

Our daughter is 9 now...dealing with her dad being sick now for 8 months...her entire 3rd grade. She opens up and talks to me alot and her dad about her fears. What do you say to your child when they start crying and so afraid her dad is going to die...now or sooner than we had imagined. I just tell her we don't know what's going to happen but we will cross that bridge when we come to it together. She's always been so afraid of being alone(us both dying)...now she is realizing everyone dies but not knowing what is going to happen with her dad is terrible. Most days she's extremely moody and anger/hateful towards me...and I'll take it, it hurts tho. Our family is torn apart by cancer. It's so frustrating. I wish I could take this pain away from her.


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  • I'm so sorry Autumn. My kids are too small to understand whats going on, which is kind of a mixed bag. They know I have a bad "booboo", but they are way too small to comprehend the mortality issue. What you told her is true. None of us know what the future holds, but cancer puts a giant question mark on the future. There is nothing you can say to her that will make her "okay" with what is happening, just like there is nothing anyone could say to you. Just assure her that you are all doing everything you can to make the best of what is going on and hoping and praying and working on a wonderful future together as a family. Validate her concerns and be as honest as possible with her (age appropriate of course). I hope you two are able to stay connected through all of this and its a good thing she's so open with you about what she's feeling.
  • Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to your problem. When my dad got cancer I was older than your daughter, but I remember the fear, the anxiety, the general feel of frustration over not having any control over the situation. What did help me, was my mom and dad both being honest with me about what was going on. I don't think you're ever really prepared for dealing with a parent's illness, but it is so hard on a child. Try to have her spend time with her dad as much as possible. She is going to be upset, she is going to be mad, and unfortunately she doesn't have the coping skills to comprehend all of this yet. I hope this is helpful, I wish I had a better answer to give. You are doing the best you can, and remember we are here if you need to vent.
  • CareyCarey Community Member
    When I was a kid I had a very serious immune disease. When I was diagnosed, I was about your daughter's age. For several years it was touch and go as to if I would survive. My parents were fairly truthful with me and that helped alot. I think being upfront with kids is important. As a kid I know I had a very active imagination and if I was kept in the dark, I could conjure up some pretty scary outcomes. Also it helped that my parents tried to do "normal" things. When I was out doing something that everyone else could do, I didn't feel so alone or angry. What helped out the most though was being around other kids who had cancer or other immune diseases. I could talk with them and felt like I was part of a group, even if it was under less than ideal circumstances. There might be a group at your local hospital or that your social worker can hook you up with where your daughter can meet other kids who have parents who are fighting cancer, or just disease in general. Our local hospital has a couple of groups, one for kids who have a sick parent , grieving a parent, and so on. Groups were helpful especially the first couple of years when I was still trying to get a grip on what was going on.
  • When I was in junior high, my favorite uncle, my moms brother came to live with us, since my dad was out of the picture he was totally a dad to me. What I did not understand, and was not really explained to me, was that he had stage 4 cancer and he was doing chemo, but the prognosis was really poor. I understood cancer and chemo but was kept in the dark about EVERYTHING else, I ended up shutting everyone out and hiding in my room as my uncle got weaker and sicker. It became obvious that he was not going to survive but no one explained it to me, they just told me to pray. One day a family friend came to pick me up from school, they told me my uncle had died. I didn't even get to say goodbye. It was horrible and I became very depressed afterwad. I guess thats an example of what happens when you don't let kids know what is going on. I just wish someone had let me ask questions and let me cry or be angry or just know what was going on. It sounds like, for all of the difficulties you are doing the right thing and its so awesome that your daughter is open about her feelings with you. I felt like I lost my mom becuase she was too scared to talk to me about death and cancer and loss. "A heart can be broken but it still keeps beating just the same..."
  • Thanks LuckyOne~I'm sorry that happened to you.
    I am honest, I have no choice sometimes. Because brain cancer is/has changed her dad so much she sees what I see and deals with it daily like I do. It's so subtle that most people see him/talk to him and are thankful he's doing well...but on a daily basis behind closed doors things are different...sometimes not good. Like normal life right, but it isn't the normal day to day stress that does exist for us, but no it's cancer/meds/side effects all of the above. she sees it daily. He's changed alot and I feel like a single parent living with a man that daily is slipping away from me. He might be physically doing ok, stable...but we do not have the relationship we once had. And that affects her also. They dont' have much of a relationship anymore. He keeps to himself alot. I will always remain open with her and hope she can talk to me. As much as she worries about him and all that might happen, she still is 9, and doesn't quite get it. Cuz she will say things like when you and dad are 60...so she doesn't understand. Thanks!