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My Dad always played Santa.... what do I tell my kids? 
Started by lilbear
18 Oct 2012, 3:44 PM
My Dad has metastatic prostate cancer that has now invaded his brain.  He has played Santa every Christmas Eve to my kids.  My 6 year old has had this pleasure since a newborn and has no idea it is him.  My 12 year old knows it is his "Papa".
My biggest fear is of my Dad passing at Christmas time - but he will not be able to be Santa this year for sure as he is too ill. 
How do I explain to my daughter why Santa didn't come visit this Christmas Eve?  I do not want someone else to be Santa and I don't want her to be upset or think Santa didn't come because of something she did.
Any ideas?  I appreciate your input. 
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Reply by Cath1
18 Oct 2012, 7:26 PM
Hi Lilbear:

It is very sad that your Dad has cancer that has spread to his brain. You must be going through a lot right now as you come to terms with everything that means. I am sending you hugs!

For you, it is hard to imagine losing your Dad at any time of the year, I'm sure. I understand your worry that he may pass away by or during the holidays as that thought only adds to your anxiety, especially since you have young children. As a family you've enjoyed the holiday celebrations together and have honoured certain traditions, such as the annual "visit" from Santa for which your Dad played the starring role. Sadly, this year and in the year's to come your Dad will not be able to fulfill his grandchild's Christmas wish.

I think that your feelings about such a possible if not inevitable change is a shining example of how broad, layered, complex and individual is the experience of anticipatory grief. When our loved one falls ill and we begin to imagine our life without them, we mourn in advance the person we love, our relationship with them, and our connections to all the little things and personal memories that we fear losing.

For many people the thought of or the actual experience of a close loved one dying during special seasons such as Christmas is heartbreaking. I understand your worry for your youngest child, but I think s/he may suspect already that Santa is Grandad. If you are certain s/he has no clue, I suggest you may want to start a new tradition and begin to prepare your child for it now.

Perhaps you could start a Santa and Mrs. Claus blog on the Internet and you could post "updates" from Santa's elves and Mrs. Claus. They could report that this year, Mrs. Claus is going to be visiting some kids instead of Santa because they simply have too many good children on their list for Santa to visit them all on his own. Of course, someone will have to step in and dress like Mrs. Claus on Christmas Eve for this plan to work. You coud explain, that like parents, Mr. & Mrs. Claus are a team and are equally magical in their own right. You could add photos and a Christmas Wish List that your child could print and then "mail" or email to you. I'm sure a 6 year year old would love to be engaged in such a project and your 12-year-old could help as well. If possible you could record your Dad's voice saying, "Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas" and perhaps if he is up to it he could give the kids a special message from the "North Pole". This may not be possible if he is too frail or if you would upset him by asking him to do such a thing. These are only ideas to spark your imagination.

I hope that your Dad does not pass away during Christmastime, Lilbear, but we have no control over when anyone's life will end. You and your children may find ways to cope with the holidays without any extraordinary effort on your part to ensure that life remains as it has always been. Life does change, and children and we change with it yet we can find through experience that we will receive the grace to accept and adapt to the changes we cannot control. It is not easy, but it is possible. The familiar traditions you and your family have lovingly shared will always be warm memories, and in the future you will create new memories together.

Lilbear, you may from now until Christmastime have very different worries and feelings about what is happening to your Dad so please know we are here for you as things change and evolve in your situation. You need not feel alone.

With affection -hugs- xo
Cath1      
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Reply by Cath1
18 Oct 2012, 7:33 PM
Dear lilbear:

I just noticed that you did mention that your youngest child is your daughter and that your Dad is known to your kids as "Papa". Sorry I missed those important details when responding to you.

With affection -hugs- xo
Cath1     
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Reply by Cath1
19 Oct 2012, 12:45 AM
Hi lilbear:

I see you tried to post and it didn't work out. May I suggest that when you try to post again that before you press SUBMIT, copy your text in case it should happen again and at least then you will be able to paste it in a new message and you will not lose the content.

I just tested a theory as to why some people may be losing their posts and I think I may have discovered one reason. If you press by accident the REPLY button (at the top left corner above the post) instead of SUBMIT (at the bottom left corner under the post) when you want to finalize your post, it will automatically bump you out of the system and your post will be lost. Only press SUBMIT when you want to publish your post. It never hurts to copy your post every time ... just in case!:-)

We look forward to hearing from you again soon, lilbear.

With affection -hugs- xo
Cath1   
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Reply by moderator | modératrice
19 Oct 2012, 1:29 AM
Cath1,
That's it!! I suspect that's exactly what has been happening. Without scrolling, I don't even see the submit button as I write this post. The natural tendancy is to click the Reply button above this text window. I will contact our designer tomorrow and we'll come up with a better design as soon as is possible.
Why didn't I see this sooner?
Many, many thanks.
Colleen 
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Reply by Cath1
19 Oct 2012, 1:47 AM
Hi Colleen: Thanks! Maybe the techs could figure out how to remove the reply button from showing up once someone presses it and the text box opens. If there was only a submit option that would be ideal.

Have a great evening!:)

With affection -hugs- xo
Cath1  
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Reply by moderator | modératrice
19 Oct 2012, 12:17 PM
Thank you Cath1 for working this out with us. The redendant Reply button disappears once the text window opens, leaving the Submit button as the clear choice to post a message. Thanks again.

Now let's return this thread to the very important subject that Lilbear started.

Dear Lilbear,
As a mother myself, I can relate. It's heart-wrenching to be losing your father and even more so when you start thinking about your children having to face such a harsh reality early in life. We revel in children's ability to believe and make-believe, perhaps wishing we still could too.

I agree with Cath1 about making new traditions and collecting memories of when your father played Santa as these will outlast the belief that Santa is real. Children are incredible and I suspect your daughter will surprise you in her understanding of the truth about your Dad playing Santa. I don't know if this will help, but when my daughter was 6 she stopped believing in Santa because her classmates burst that bubble. I think I was more sad about it than she was. Much to my surprise, the following year she said, "Mom, I don't think my friends are right. I think there is a Santa Claus." So for the following Christmases, we were able to hang up the stockings, put out the glass of milk, etc." We still know that the Santa in the malls are just fill ins and that's okay for her too. Somehow she arranges all this in her brain.

Here are some resources about talking to children about losing someone.

I hope to continue talking about this with you and with others. 
Bon courage.
Colleen 
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Reply by lilbear
19 Oct 2012, 5:44 PM
Looks good.... :)


First I want to thank you for being here and replying to my message.  This is the very first time I have reached out to anyone for help/support outside of my family. 
After reading your post Cath1, I realized that my daughter probably does have some idea that "Papa" was Santa.  I am thinking of sort of telling her that the real Santa is very busy and Papa was helping him before.  That way, maybe it can be a special shared moment to show her how special she is to Papa that he would do that for her.  Maybe we can even gather past years pictures and make a special album for her?
I am glad that you ladies understand.  i am constantly being told that I worry too much and "over think" everything - but these are my kids!  They need to be taken into consideration though all this too.  I can't remember if I mentioned that my parents live with us....that means they see them all the time so it is very significant.
I think the hardest thing right now is feeling like we are all living on the edge...waiting for what may  happen and when?  I know my kids feel my stress and of course, they have seen me break down - even though I try not to very much around them.
I wish I knew what to expect.  Sometimes I feel so alone...even when I hardly ever am.
Thanks for 'listening". :)       
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Reply by Cath1
20 Oct 2012, 11:02 PM
Dear lilbear:

I am so happy that the posting issues have been resolved and you could post your message without any issue!:) Thank you for your feedback! I'm glad to hear that Colleen's advice and mine inspired you so quickly to come up with a great solution to your Santa dilemma.

Thanks as well for sharing more about your situation. The fact that your parents live in your home with you and your children is indeed very significant to your situation. Don't worry about what others tell you about how you should be thinking, feeling or reacting. Your thoughts and feelings and responses are your own and you have every right to express yourself in a manner that is true to you!

As Tian (a member of Virtual Hospice) taught me a long while ago and which I will never forget, there is no "normal" really when it comes to dealing with life, rather all thoughts and feelings and reactions are vaild. Every individual reacts personally in their own way to situations. What I have learned from experience is that we cannot be conveniently predictable to pacify the concerns of others when our loved ones are facing serious illness and perhaps death. Trust your instincts and please feel welcome to share any worries you may have as your Dad's illness progresses. You will not be judged here among your Virtual Hospice companions. We are your aliies.

You are right, lilbear, you are all living on edge and not knowing quite what to expect and when. That's a hardd place to be and I understand your anxieties. Your Dad's deteriorating health of course affects not only him but your whole family, including you! I can relate as a mother to how you want to protect your children and spare them from having their innocence stolen unfairly by such sad realities that you cannot control. I believe that while children may be strongly affected by a grandparent's illness or death, children also often have the ability to process and express their feelings and fears naturally when gently encouraged and reassured by parents and/or other loving adults in their lives. I guess, from what I have witnessed in my own family, I have found the youngest among us to be the most accepting of the Nature of life and death.  Kids can teach us all about acceptance and resilience, I think.

In my view, your tears and the expression of your grief in the presence of your children is a beautiful thing because it teaches them that you are human while it also shows them that you have the courage and integrity to be vulnerable as circumstances dictate. In those moments when overcome by strong emotion, you are showing them you have very deep feelings and that it's okay to express them when in a safe place surrounded by those you love and trust most. What a wonderful example you are for your children, lilbear! You are balancing everything as best as can be expected in the situation and in my opinion you are indeed very strong!

Your parents and children are very fortunate to have your sweet love, your care and concern. Trust that you cannot make any mistakes as there are absolutely no rules to break when a loved one is seriously ill and dying. Follow the wisdom of your heart and trust it. Know please that you will not be alone! We are here to listen and to share with you our guidance and support as you help your family go through this hard journey. I know you will be a loving light for your Dad, your Mom and for your children along the way. We are here for you!

With affection -hugs- xo
Cath1  
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Reply by lilbear
21 Oct 2012, 7:32 PM
Cath1,
You manage to epress so eloquently my thoughts and feelings.  I cannot thank you enough for your support and reaching out to me.  I needed to hear what you said even more then I think I realized!
I finally feel like someone out there gets me! :)
It all gets so very overwhelming at times and the juggling/balancing act is tough.  I sometimes feel so pulled in all different directions!  I feel guilty too, because I want to just scream and be left alone.  I am tired of having everyone turn to me for help and support.  I want a life too!  But, then I think - calm down...don't be selfish, my kids need me and my parents need me and my husband needs me.  But, I don't know who I am anymore.  All my decisions seem to be based on what makes everyone else happy.
I do not want to come off as sounding like a martyr and I know others feel this way too...I am just so tired and scared. 
How are you dealing with it?  Some days I just want to get in my car and keep driving..although I know plenty of Moms who feel that way without the extra stress of an ill family member :).
You make me feel like I am going to be okay...and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I am hoping that my kids are as resilient as everyone seems to think they will be.  I don't want them to see my Dad when he does get bad.  I want them to remember "Papa" not a sick old man.
Okay, I have to go as I am going to cry and since I am at work that's hard! ;)
TTYL - >Hugs<
Paula          
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