The Netherlands-born writer Manon Rinsma is the author of a new book called “13 Diamonds – Life before death from a Child’s Perspective.
In her book, Rinsma writes about losing her mother at a very young age - something so traumatic that it completely changed how she viewed the world. Rinsma's mother died of a form of brain cancer.
For her remaining family - finding an answer to the question "how do you help a child when a family member has cancer," was not only difficult, it was also one without a definite answer.How do you help a child:
- If the family member is a parent, father or mother, or a sibling, brother or sister.
- To understand a parent’s illness? An illness such as cancer - especially if there is no hope for a cure?
For most people this is a very painful and personal topic, be hard to deal with and emotional. Some people don’t want to talk about it at all because they don’t understand the disease. By the time a patient’s is told that his or her cancer is terminal, he or she has probably already been dealing with it for a while and its effects on the family may even be clearly noticeable. This may be the case, for many months or even years.
But in other cases, a patient may find out that he or she has cancer when the disease is quite advanced. As a result, they may not have a lot of time to deal with the effects on their family. If there is time, it may be good to help the child prepare for the loss of a parent. Preparing means to give them information and support. This helps them understand what to expect.
The pain of losing a parent may be worse if a child is not prepared. It may confuse them, hurt them, and make them angry that important facts – explained on the level of understanding of the child’s age – where not shared with them.
Children truly rely on parents to bring order and security into their lives. Parents help them understand the world around them and their place in it. But no matter how long cancer has been part of a patient’s life, it still can be very hard for him or her and their loved ones to think about all the things that go along with the end of life. The remaining partner may understand what this means.But what does it mean for a child to lose a parent?
What are the psychosocial effects – now and later in life? Especially if this is a parent and the child is still young?
In this edition of The Onco'Zine Brief we will try to answer some common questions parents have and help patients take important steps to prepare a child to cope with death. Although it’s not possible to control the reality of dying, it is possible to make a real difference in how a child manage it … and go on with his or her lives after a parent is gone.
Rinsma’s book is proof of all of this.