Telling Carys about her father's death

Telling Carys about her father's death
was incredibly difficult,

but not because I'd really thought
of the significance for her entire life.

It was a difficult thing to do
because of the emotion involved,

but I think at the time it was just

"How do we find the words
to explain what's happened

and how do we do it
without completely falling apart?"

I had advice from the Child Bereavement
Charity right at that very early stage.

I'd been put in touch with them
by the hospital,

which was absolutely brilliant.

When we're thinking
about explaining death to a child,

for a parent we need to remember

that it's natural for them
to want to protect their child.

They need to be honest

because on the whole
children do need to know the truth.

I just told her basically
that we'd had to take Papa to hospital

because he'd breathed in some poison

and that unfortunately
he'd breathed in so much poison

that his body had stopped working

and the doctors
hadn't been able to fix him

and so he had died,

and that meant
that he wouldn't be coming home again.

She told me what was wrong with Papa
and why he did it now,

because when I was younger
I wouldn't really understand.

And she tells me that he did love us

and that he did it
because he had an illness.

She didn't at that point show
very much emotion or interest at all.

Children aren't like adults
in terms of how they are

when they have
some bad and difficult news to manage.

They quite often take it on board,
they feel upset,

but they move off
the painful part of it quite quickly.

Children don't stay
with very painful news for long.

It's not that they don't feel it,
they do,

but they need to get on
and do something else.

And lots of parents and lots of adults
misinterpret that.

They think that the child wasn't upset.

Usually I asked, "Why didn't Papa
tell us what he was doing?"

and "Why did he never say goodbye?"

Children learn about grieving
from watching us, from watching adults.

That's how they learn.

I didn't try to stop myself from crying

because I think I felt it was important
that she saw me showing emotion

and that she could see
that it hurt me and it upset me

and it was difficult for me as well.

With something like suicide there's
a lot of anger associated with it

because somebody has chosen
to go off and leave you

and it doesn't feel very nice.

It makes me feel quite sad

and sometimes it makes me feel
quite angry with Papa for what he did,

that he didn't tell us
what he was going to do,

he didn't let us even try to stop it.

Most children worry a lot
about feeling angry.

They can feel very angry
for no apparent reason.

It's a natural reaction
to someone you care about

not being there any more, dying.

I understand how
that now he's not coming back... ever.

When you talk to a child
about death or dying,

it's really important to use the words
"dead", "dying", "death".

Even quite little children learn

that "dead" means
that you're not there any more.

Be very specific,
very honest and very real.

I think it's very important
to tell children the truth.

In some ways it feels quite scary

and that you actually might be causing
more pain and more hurt,

but actually
it's quite a protective thing to do

because it helps them to feel safe,

it helps them to feel
that they can trust you.

Children revisit grief
at different stages and ages.

You have to keep answering
often the same questions,

and as a parent
that sometimes can feel frustrating

and feel as though you're
constantly going back over things,

but if you think about it it's the way
that they deal with everything.

Children ask questions
to make sense of the world around them.

My mum got me loads of books
to explain death

and she got me loads of books that I
could write about my papa in, personal,

and that helped me quite a lot

because I could get my thoughts out
and not worry about them any more.

With any grief, with a child,

there are lots and lots of different
feelings that children will have.

They can feel very anxious.
Anxiety is a big part of grief.

Your whole world's changed.

That can make a child behave
in a very agitated way,

maybe not want to be left at all.

Children can feel very worried

that if one person's died in the family
someone else could die.

When I was younger I was worried
that Mum would die as well

and that I wouldn't have anybody
to look after me any more.

Reassure them that they are safe,
that they are loved,

that they will be looked after

and that other people
aren't going to leave as well.

Grieving is about remembering,
it's not about forgetting,

so we need to help children remember.

(Carys) I remember that he was funny.

When I did things
that weren't really funny,

he still laughed anyway.

As a child you do not expect

that you're going to have to live
your life without your mum or dad.

They're the one person
that normally loves you warts and all.

You expect them to be there for you
as you grow up.

He used to walk with me to nursery

before he went to work.

After work sometimes
I'd spend time with him,

but it's just that I wanted
to spend more time with him.

Being a single parent
is quite a lonely thing

and in that kind of situation
it's also scary for you as an adult.

Just because you're grown up
doesn't mean that things aren't scary.

So to have that support, to know
that it's there at the end of a phone,

that you can ring up and ask for advice

is so reassuring and helpful.