Where Do We Go When We Disappear?

Where do we go book

Where do we go book

I love buying and reading new books to the kids, but I have a few tucked away in my wardrobe which I read once and couldn’t bear to open again. These look like nice little stories about woodland animals going about their day to day lives, but they are dealing with much darker and more difficult themes. These books are written about death and dying, to try to help explain to children things that most adults have difficulty taking in.

I bought them a couple of months ago, when we were struggling to think of a way to tackle telling our children that their daddy was going to die. We found out in March that Roger had a tumour on his bowel, which had metastasised to his lung and could not be treated. Devastated, we struggled to come to terms with it ourselves and I guess we still are doing, but what was at the forefront of both our minds was how on earth would we break this awful news to our kids? Our son, especially, who at six is well aware that his dad is poorly, but not old enough to really understand what it all means.

Rog and I first thought the best strategy would be to wait until things became much worse to tell him what was going on. After all, why upset him about something which was going to happen months away? Surely it would be better to keep the worst from him until he really had to deal with it. Where do you even start getting advice on this sort of thing? After speaking to members of staff at the hospice where Roger is being looked after, we came to realise the sooner we got this news out there, the better.

Apparently, children who have problems after a bereavement are the ones who feel they didn’t know what was going on at the time. Even for very young children, it seems it’s so important to keep them involved and make sure they feel included and that nothing is being kept from them. We spoke at length with the hospice social worker about how to approach it, but at the time I couldn’t even speak to ask questions because as soon as I thought about the whole thing, I just fell apart.

We were told the best way to handle it was to make sure the children saw our grief, or mine especially, and not to hide feelings of sadness from them at home. It’s a horrendous experience for everyone, after all, and it wouldn’t be healthy to pretend otherwise. I’ve had no problems on that front, as my tears often come out at home when I’m not expecting them.

Sam knows I’m upset, and when he’s asked me why I’ve just had to say “I’m upset that Daddy isn’t well”, and hope that that was enough. But ultimately, when that wasn’t enough, I had some very tricky questions to answer. I was told to just be honest and frank at these times, make sure the kids know what’s going to happen and not sugar coat it. So when the question came so directly, “Is Daddy going to die?”, I just had to say yes. It was a heartbreaking moment, and one that I haven’t felt I could write about until now, a few months after it has happened.

Where do we go book

It will seem unimaginable to most, but now death is a subject we mention often at home. Not only between myself and my husband, but when our son asks questions too. He has wanted to know why daddy can’t be made better, why he became ill in the first place and why he is in the hospice when he can’t be cured. As you can imagine, the answers to most of these questions have to be, “I don’t know,” but sometimes that’s ok too. I’ve made it clear to Sam that we don’t have all the answers, but maybe we can just be there for each other and make the most of daddy while he’s still around.

As for the books, well the ones I mentioned earlier – Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley and Always and Forever by Alan Durant – are still in the wardrobe for now. I cried so much when I read them the first time that I doubt I’d be able to get through them a second. Maybe in the future they will help, but just now I think it’s too soon.

I bought a book yesterday though which I really enjoyed and think might help too. Though not written specifically about dying, it’s called Where Do We Go When We Disappear? by Isabel Minhos Martins and Madalena Matoso. It’s beautifully illustrated and asks wider questions like where does noise go when it’s quiet? Where do socks go when we lose them? And do people really disappear when we can’t see them?

My favourite page reads: “It always takes two for someone to disappear. (One that stays and one that goes.)”

It’s one which I know I’ll read over and over, and hopefully both Sam and Florence, when she’s a bit older, will take something from it too.

x Julia

Badgers parting gifts

Where do we go book

I’ve made the finals of the MAD Blog Awards in the best writer category – if you’d like to vote for me you can do so here – Thank you! x

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  • Reply
    Cath Jolleys
    June 19, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    What a brilliantly written post, Jules, if this doesn’t win you the MAD blog awards I’ll eat my hat in a Paddy Ashdown stylee. Still keeping you in our bedtime prayers at casa Jolleys. Hope R gets home for some family time this

  • Reply
    Rachel @ tenminutesspare
    June 19, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    Julia I’m so terribly sad you are having to deal with all this. I know it’s little comfort but I’m sure that you will be helping others who have no idea how to face the awful task of discussing grief and death with children. virtual hug xxxx
    Rachel @ tenminutesspare recently posted…How healthy is the Dad Bod?My Profile

  • Reply
    June 19, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    In our house we have been talking about death and dying for some time now, not because we have to but because the girls (age 5) seem to be at an age where this is such an important question for them. They like to hear stories about people that I know who have passed away who I miss and how I miss them. I do my best but the reality is, as you say, there are many questions we do not have the answer to. There are so many ideas that we could easily cling to and get caught up in like heaven, reincarnation, etc but I think the very simple, we could imagine stories but in the end we don’t know and that’s ok, has a psychological stability in it that no belief system will ever give us.
    The people who do the suffering are the ones that are left behind and that does not mean we have to suffer. I sometimes tell them about our 2 holidays in turkey, on the first one we found a secluded beach with cool rocks at the end of the main beach, we had an amazing holiday and a couple of years later we decided to go back again. We had been dreaming about how much we would enjoy that little beach again but when we got there it was gone. We had not gone there with a fresh mind, open to new experiences, we had gone there with an idea, a plan, all lost on arrival. We had a sad moment where we realised we could never go back to our favourite spot but then it was just a spot, not a person, an idea, a memory that we were happy to keep but not a stuck idea that meant we couldn’t enjoy our holiday anyway. We talk about how much we invest in our ideas about what we want, verses our actual participation and enjoyment of what is really going on and our conversations are always so interesting.
    The kindest gift is honesty and openness and I am touched by the many ways that you are expressing yours.

  • Reply
    Abigail Bryony
    June 19, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    I am so so sorry for what you and your family are going through. I think the way you’re openly talking about it with your children and writing about it on your blog is truly inspirational. x

  • Reply
    June 19, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    If my kids are anything to go by, it’s surprising how much kids understand about death and how maturely they cope with it if you treat them maturely too. We used Always and Forever with Isaac (who was not quite four at the time) when one of his grandparents died – nowhere near the same as losing a parent, but still a thorny subject to tackle. I read it to him and was amazed at his understanding and the thought that went into some of his resultant questions, from both a factual and emotional standpoint.

    Death within any family is a horrible, horrible thing to have to talk about. But I firmly believe that brushing it under the carpet ultimately does more harm than good. For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing the right thing.
    Tim recently posted…Thunderbirds Are Go DVD reviewMy Profile

  • Reply
    June 20, 2015 at 7:45 am

    I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this. Kids are so inquisitive aren’t they? Z went through a whole phase obsessed with death and I found even answering general questions really difficult. I am praying for you all and I hope you have many more months together yet xx

  • Reply
    Fiona Lee
    June 20, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Hiya. I was a staff nurse on 17 and met you all two years ago. I was really upset to hear what was going on. I enjoy reading your blogs and have voted for you to win. I remember Flo when she was born. She is such a beautiful little girl now. Nobody deserves what you have all gone through. Wishing you all lots of love Fiona

  • Reply
    Mama, My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
    June 21, 2015 at 7:48 am

    I’m really sorry that this is happening to your family. I loved this post and think it will be a great help to others going through the same thing. thanks for sharing *hugs*

    Mama, My Kid Doesn’t Poop Rainbows recently posted…An Unexpected OasisMy Profile

  • Reply
    You Baby Me Mummy
    June 21, 2015 at 8:06 am

    It is so unfair my darling, you have all my love. The book sounds really good, I just wish with all my heart that you didn’t have to read it xxx
    You Baby Me Mummy recently posted…5 Things; To Stop You Feeling OverwhelmedMy Profile

  • Reply
    Little Treasures
    June 21, 2015 at 8:33 am

    This really touched me, such a hard thing to think, write or speak about. It sounds like you are doing a really good job helping your children through this awful time and helping them understand. Thankyou for sharing what you have found, I will def turn to these to help with some hard losses we have faced and are trying to explain. Your family are in my thoughts and prayers xx #sundaystars
    Little Treasures recently posted…A note from mums to friends and familyMy Profile

  • Reply
    mummy tries
    June 21, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Oh hon I’m sat here with tears in my eyes now. You’ve written so beautifully about this. I know it’s not the same at all, but we have two very old and unwellgrandparents to contend with, so I’m going to buy this book for the girls. Thank you xx
    mummy tries recently posted…Why You Won’t Find Me at #britmumsliveMy Profile

  • Reply
    June 21, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Hello Julia, Me too, I had tears in my eyes reading this post. The line ‘it takes two to disappear, one to stay and one to go’ just makes me fill up. You are both doing such an amazing job putting the children first and answering all their questions when it must be so hard to find the words or even admit it all to yourselves. I’m so glad you got your BIBs nomination, because it’s not always easy to write about what’s truly in our hearts but you do it so beautifully. Lots of love Tor xxxx
    teacuptoria recently posted…Camping on Lake UllswaterMy Profile

  • Reply
    Emma's Mamma
    June 21, 2015 at 11:11 am

    What a beautiful post. I’m so sorry you’re going through all this. Sounds like a really good book though. #SundayStars
    Emma’s Mamma recently posted…Best daddy in the worldMy Profile

  • Reply
    June 21, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    I am so sorry. A lovely post though and hopefully it will help others too #sundaystars xx

  • Reply
    Random Musings
    June 21, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    I’m so sorry this is happening to your family. I think you are doing the right thing in being honest with the children. When they ask questions and you lie, even if they don’t know what the truth is, they still know they are being lied to. The subject of death is never an easy one to talk to young children about, and I can’t even begin to imagine how heart breaking it is in this situation. Stay strong! Thanks for hosting #SundayStars
    Random Musings recently posted…Genres Of Fiction: Best And WorstMy Profile

  • Reply
    June 21, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    prayers to you and yours

  • Reply
    June 21, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    This is a beautifully written post and an honest and frank address of the most difficult questions at the most difficult times. It is at times like these when we feel our weakest and I actually believe it takes strength to let those emotions out and let them come at you rather than hiding them or pushing them away. You are really strong and brave. A wonderful mother and a wonderful life partner to Roger. Good luck and live to you all.
    Pen recently posted…Yippee, we sold our house todayMy Profile

  • Reply
    Mrs H
    June 21, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Awwww, Julia, the beauty of your writing astounds me. You always bring me to tears. I just wish I could make this situation better for you. It sounds like you are doing all the right things; as much as you can in this situation. Hugs Mrs H xxxx
    Mrs H recently posted…Moving on after a miscarriageMy Profile

  • Reply
    Lyn Bown
    June 21, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    My heart goes out to you after reading your post. I hope the books help your children. sending you a hug. x

  • Reply
    Katie / Pouting In Heels
    June 21, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    It’s a brave and beautiful post Julia but my goodness, I sure as hell wish you didn’t have to write this or buy those books. Your courage, honesty and dignity moves me continually and you are your family are often in my thoughts. Love to you all. X
    Katie / Pouting In Heels recently posted…A YOUNG SOUL IN YOUNG SOLESMy Profile

  • Reply
    International Elf Service
    June 21, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    I’ve just left a comment on your FB page where I read this post first and then discovered you’re hosting #SundayStars this week too :). This post is so beautifully written and I’m so sorry you’re all going through this. It’s just too soon. I wish I could wave a magic wand for you xxx
    International Elf Service recently posted…Sensory Processing Disorder: Therapeutic Listening – Guest Post by CaroleMy Profile

  • Reply
    Mackenzie Glanville
    June 22, 2015 at 6:33 am

    So beautifully written. Thinking of you all
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…An amazing new book.My Profile

  • Reply
    Megan - truly madly kids
    June 22, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Your posts are written with such honestly and openness. I felt every word you wrote.

    When my father died we had badgers parting gifts, and it helped me as much as it helped the children.

    Although my Dad is gone we never stop talking about him, and our memories are full of happiness. My husband said only the other day, he is very much alive in many ways as we talk (and laugh) about him so much.

    Big love as always, my darling

    Megan – truly madly kids recently posted…Image of the Week #20 – Father’s DayMy Profile

  • Reply
    Hayley (@hayleyfromhome)
    June 22, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Just reading the couple of pages of that book brings me to tears so it must be so hard for you to think about reading them to Sam and Florence. I can see why it is so important to be open about it all though and when Sam is older he will definitely appreciate that you were honest and always tried to answer his questions. What a tragic situation but I’m glad you have people to talk to at the hospice who can help you, their experience will count for so much when this is so difficult. We have Rabbityness which is quite a nice book about loss (if there is such a thing) and Lucas enjoys it, quite a nice overall message. I think keeping talking about it all, showing them your sadness is the best way xxxx
    Hayley (@hayleyfromhome) recently posted…Living Arrows {25/52}My Profile

  • Reply
    June 22, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    I wish you didn’t have to read these books to them but it does t surprise me that you’re approaching this with the same thoughtfulness that you do always approached everything else. Do you have the paper dolls by Julia Donaldson? I’ll send you a copy if not xxxxxxxx

  • Reply
    Jessie, FlusteredMom
    June 22, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    I can’t imagine what you must be going through Julia. My heart goes out to all of you. Thank you for sharing your story. I know it will reach others who are following your path and have no idea which way to turn. Sending you all my most joyful wishes.
    Jessie, FlusteredMom recently posted…9 Natural Tips to Win the Battle with Anxiety and Restore Emotional Health (from a Holistic Nurse)My Profile

  • Reply
    Sarah Doyle - let them be small
    June 22, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    This has made me spring tears in my eyes. Such a difficult thing to write about, Julia. The book Always & forever is beautiful but not one i can read either.
    The Co-op funeral care have some bereavement clips aimed at children, so it might be worth bookmarking them too.
    Sending much love x
    Sarah Doyle – let them be small recently posted…One day short of 16 MonthsMy Profile

  • Reply
    Rachel (Lifeofmyfamilyandme)
    June 22, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    Such wonderful books to hopefully help your children to understand. My heart goes out to you all. Your such an inspiring women. Good luck in The MADS finals xx #sundaystars
    Rachel (Lifeofmyfamilyandme) recently posted…Summer means new sandals!My Profile

  • Reply
    June 23, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    This is such a sad situation for you all to be in but it sounds like you are handling it beautifully. Sending you strength and patience.
    Fionnuala recently posted…Multicultural Family Life – Meet the Walsh-OlesensMy Profile

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Entertaining Elliot
    June 23, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    I’m so sorry that your family are going through this, life can really suck sometimes. You sound like you are handling things perfectly, I literally wouldn’t know where to begin! Lots of love to you and your family x
    Elaine @ Entertaining Elliot recently posted…10 Things I Never Expected To Do As A MumMy Profile

  • Reply
    sarah christie
    June 25, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Julia it must be so hard but you deal with it all with such bravery and dignity, you are inspirational to others beautiful lady x
    sarah christie recently posted…My Captured MomentMy Profile

  • Reply
    Jen aka Muminthemadhouse
    June 25, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    I can not imagine what you are all going through. But my boys were 5 and 4 when my mum died suddenly on Christmas Day 4 years ago, No matter what by Debbie Gliori was a great book for them. The lines “Small look at the stars – how they shine and glow, but some of those stars died a long time ago. Still they shine in the evening skies, Love, like starlight never dies”.

    BTW I adore your blog
    Jen aka Muminthemadhouse recently posted…Please vote for meMy Profile

  • Reply
    June 26, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    I still have no words. Lots of love and hugs xxxxxxx
    Lisa@intotheglade recently posted…Five on Friday!My Profile

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