Last night my 5 year old son was extremely distressed. He sat on my bed and asked who was going to be his mummy when I die. As you can imagine, having had Breast Cancer in 2014, this was like a knife to my heart.
“Who will cook me dinner when you die? If you don’t cook me dinner I will starve”.
“I will be alone if you die, I don’t want to be alone mummy”.
“Please please please can I come in your box with you when you die”
“I don’t want the worms to eat my skin when I die”.
Excuse my language but WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK????
I am not used to my little boy crying and there he was sobbing his little heart out begging me to say he could come in my box with me when I die.
Have I caused this death anxiety for my son from being ill previously? I am fully aware that discussions around death need to be age appropriate and any questions he has had previously have been answered truthfully and sensitively. I have tried to incorporate the life cycle into his understanding: everybody lives and everybody dies. I have tried to explain that even when people we love die, we always remember them in our hearts and when you close your eyes you can see them in your memory.
The most painful part about having Cancer was thinking that I may not see my son grow up. It was all about how I felt and building precious memories together. I didn’t think how Rory would feel because it just wasn’t going to be an option for him not to have his mummy. But what if I am taken from him? As with most people it just doesn’t bare thinking about. But as a single parent I have to think about it. Who will raise my son and love him like I do if I die? Rory needed these answers and I couldn’t quite give them to him. He needed reassurance that I wasn’t going to die, but again I couldn’t give it to him. Instead I had to use phrases like “I am hoping to be your mummy for a very long time” and “I will always love you no matter where I am”. My little boy clung on to me and fell asleep in my arms. I have been left traumatised by his distress and his thoughts.
Is this questioning part of his learning and understanding of the world? Is it ‘normal’ inquisitive behaviour? Is my son at a point in his life where his emotional development is at a cross roads and he requires so much more reassurance? Or am I just failing in motherhood because that is what it feels like. What do you say to such a young child?
Rory has seen me in and out of hospital appointments for over 2 years. The transition from a healthy mummy to a poorly mummy was one we all had to accept and I thought by including him in my treatment and care plan, this acceptance would develop naturally without fear or distress. Has it had the opposite effect? Has he seen too many poorly people in his short life?
Unfortunately, in my ‘cancer world’ many people die. Young mother’s die. It is so painful to hear about. I cannot promise Rory that I wont die though, I don’t think any parent can. But my child should not have to carry this burden around with him. How can we possibly talk about life without each other?
All I can do is reassure my son that I am here now. That he is loved more than anything in the world. Our catalogue of adventures has been made for a reason, and long may they continue.