From the Mommy Files…

To Tell or Not to Tell?

Posted on: October 15, 2010

How much do you tell your children? Do you tend to explain things in great detail or keep things simple?

When there is a loss or an illness in the family, what do you do? Do you try to pretend everything is normal or do you tell them?

These are tough questions.

Much depends on the age, maturity and temperament of your child.

Back in June, my uncle was very ill and subsequently passed away. We took the girls to see him a couple of times at the hospital. When he passed, we told them that Uncle went to Heaven and wouldn’t be sick anymore.

Boo had questions:

How do you get to Heaven? I told her the angels come to take you.

Are you still sick when you get to Heaven? I told her that in Heaven you are never sick again.

These simple explanations seemed to satisfy her curiosity.

Recently, tragedy has struck right here in our home.

Everything happened so fast, and honestly, I’m still struggling with how much to tell the girls.

Bebs is easy – she’s so busy with all her new discoveries to ask questions. Besides, she’s 19 months old.

Boo, on the other hand, at 3.75 years old, is very inquisitive, and she’s a very perceptive, yet sensitive child.

There are many resources available on the subject. One article has some good tips on speaking to children about illnesses.

They suggest:

Keep things simple.

Explain that these things are not contagious.

Let them help you.

They also have a handy chart broken down by age, on how to explain things, and what kids can process.

It’s pretty straightforward, though I don’t think I can do it. I don’t know what my own response will be to talking about it, and I know Boo will come up with questions that I don’t want to answer. I don’t want to scare her.

I go back and forth. To tell or not to tell?

Boo has had a rough few weeks with everything that transpired. She cried at school and said she missed her mommy. At home, she cries for every little thing and sobs uncontrollably – over nothing. She asks me repeatedly if I’m OK.

I was pregnant.

I hadn’t told the girls yet. I’m glad I waited. It makes this simpler.

I wanted to wait because I knew Boo would tell everyone.

We told some family members and a few close friends.

I decided after my 8-week prenatal visit, I’d share the news. I’d have an ultrasound picture in hand to show the girls. I couldn’t wait to tell them. I was very excited to be expecting again, and I knew they would be too.

I was feeling really good – a bit tired, an occasional bout of nausea to remind me I was pregnant.

My cousin came to watch the girls, and I was off.

I went to my doctor appointment, and my world was shattered.

You hear people speak about life-altering experiences. You’re changed forever. This was it.

We lost the baby.

Not only did we lose the baby, but there were concerns for my health.


I had to return the next day to have another ultrasound.

I went home and was like a zombie. The girls were happy to see me, but knew something was wrong. I tried to shrug it off. It was time to eat, then baths and bedtime. I got them settled and just kind of sat in a stunned silence.

The next day, Boo went to school and Bebs to the babysitter – where she got stuck an extra three hours – as the tornado came to consume me.

The results were confirmed. I had to see the doctor, then a specialist. It all happened so fast. Questions. Questions. More questions. I was shell-shocked.

A chest x-ray to be sure nothing got into my lungs (huh?), a blood draw so they could cross-match blood in the event of a hemorrhage (are you kidding me?) and the next thing I knew I was having surgery first thing the next morning.

I could barely get the words out to tell my husband.

How would I explain this to my kids?

I told them I was sick, but the doctor was going to make me better.

When they were asleep, I cried my eyes out. How in the world could this happen?

My aunt came to stay with them. I tried really hard that morning to act like I was just going to a meeting.

She drove me to the hospital and picked me up, with the girls in tow. I think these trips to the hospital scared Boo. Perhaps it reminded her of going to see Uncle at the hospital. I don’t think she knew what to expect.

Surgery went well and I was home by 2:30 pm.

Boo continues to ask if I’m OK, and she’s had theses total breakdowns – like major tantrums. I haven’t seen her like this in a long time.

After a fit the other day over not wanting to sit in her chair to eat, we sent her to her room to calm down. She carried on for at least 20 more minutes.

It was time to talk to her.

To tell or not to tell?

I said a quick prayer and climbed the stairs to her room.

I sat on her bed, and hugged her. She began to calm down.

I asked her what was wrong. She kept saying she didn’t know.

Then I asked if she was scared. She said, “You left me alone.”

“When did I leave you alone?”

“You went to the doctor a lot and left me alone. I don’t want to be alone. Then you left me alone here in my room,” she replied.

“Mommy had a problem, Honey. And you weren’t alone.”

“Did the doctor take the bad stuff out of your belly?” she asked.

I didn’t remember telling her that, but I went with it.

“It’s all gone, Sweetie. Everything’s OK.”

“Will you be sick again?”

I don’t think so. But I have to rest a lot, so I’m OK.”

“OK. Do you still have to go to the doctor?”

“I have to go a few more times, so she can make sure that I stay OK.”

“You should go only while I’m in school.”


I decided against telling her about the baby. It would be too confusing. There would be too many questions.

Someday I’ll tell her about her angel sibling. Not now.

We’ve had more episodes. Another time she told me again that she didn’t want to be left alone. She was scared. I told her she’s not alone, ever. We’re a team and we stick together. And we take care of each other. That seemed to put her mind at ease, at least for the moment.

As I seek out information and support groups online, tears sometimes come to my eyes. I try hard not to let her see me.

I have to work through my grief, but unfortunately, I have to do it after hours, when she’s not around. It’s not worth upsetting her further.

Some may not agree with my approach, but knowing Boo, I think it is better this way.

But somehow, I still question myself…

To tell or not to tell?

How much is too much information?

How do I keep my emotions in check, when this is bigger than all of us?


That’s the only answer I can come up with.

So I will just hold tight to my faith.

We’re all going to be OK.


2 Responses to "To Tell or Not to Tell?"

I am so sorry for your loss. I know your pain as I lost a twin pregnancy- and found out in front of all our kids. I unfortunately was unable to hold it together at the time and they knew we were pregnant anyway- but it is tough.
It’s such a painful process and I feel one that is not given enough attention. Most people expect you to get right over it- and move on- but to a mother- that little person is/was real, and was already loved and already a part of you.
Praying for your recovery both emotionally and physically.

Jenifer – Thanks for your note. I’m sorry too for your loss. I wish no one ever had to go through this. One of the reasons I wanted to write about this was because I think there is still a bit of a stigma. It is a loss and grieving has to happen. I have found great comfort in the words people who’ve gone through a miscarriage and molar pregnancy have shared. So I felt I needed to share my story too. If just one person finds comfort in my story, than it’s all worth it. A molar pregnancy requires medical follow up for an indefinite amount of time. Therefore, I’ll be writing about my journey. It may end up on a separate blog or right here.

I pray for you and your angel babies, and remember them on this official day of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance.

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