Childhood Cancer

Whether your child is dying at home or in the hospital, any siblings should be included in the family response. Being part of things and having jobs to do help brothers and sisters remain involved, contributing members of the family. Young children can answer the door, go on errands, or make tapes or CDs to play for the sibling. Older children can help with meals, stay with the ill child to give parents a break, answer the phone, or help make funeral arrangements. These jobs should not be “make-work”—children should truly be helping. This not only allows them to clarify their role in the family, it helps them to prepare for the death, as well as have an opportunity to say good-bye.

We gave our children free rein to pick out the clothes that Jesse would be buried in. They made very thoughtful choices: her favorite, very comfortable pajamas with little tea cups on them, and her teddy bear.

The Compassionate Friends (see Appendix B, Resource Organizations) has dozens of resources to help all members of the family.