My grandmother, who I called my nan, died when I was nine. She had been ill and confined to a wheelchair for a long time. My mum looked after her for years, making a daily bus trip, or walking across Liverpool when she had no money for the bus.
This was a huge amount of stress and work for my mum, particularly when you consider she also had to hold down two part-time jobs. I went with her to visit my ‘Nan’ every day.
I remember being afraid of my Nan. Not that she was a frightening person. She was a very gentle person, but illness can be a very scary thing for children to be around. My Nan’s fingers were encased in bandages and there were various dressings on her legs. These frightened me.
My mum was busy with her job looking after my Nan and I was told it was my job to be quiet because my Nan was very sick and in pain. I remember also being afraid of this pain.
When my nan died I understood that it was my job to be even quieter. All I remember was being told not to upset or bother my mother and to be quiet.There was no discussion about death and I kept my questions to myself, together with my fears and worries.
Today’s world is very different from the world I grew up in and today a lot of people are more open about death and loss.
FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS
That doesn’t mean all today’s parents manage to say exactly the right things to their children while trying to cope with their own feelings of grief and loss. We are all only human and sometimes we just can’t find the words. This is where stories come in.
A story shared within a family can help prepare your children for coping with difficult times of their life. For a family going through a period of loss and grief, sharing a story can open up questions and discussion so that questions can be answered and children’s fears can be understood and reassured.
In my short story ‘Football Crazy’ I explore the theme of death through the eyes of a young boy called Jimmy. Jimmy loves football and his whole family share many happy times together watching football and playing football. Jimmy’s grandfather was very much involved with these family activities.
The death of Jimmy’s grandfather puts a stop to these activities and Jimmy struggles with not just the loss of a grandparent but also the loss of an activity that had formed an important family bond.
Sharing this story can help your child understand that painful things can sometimes happen in life but that however awful these events feel at the time the truth is that time will heal.