Sunday, July 4, 2010


Please welcome back guest blogger...Matt Croke. Thank you Matt!

What do I tell the kids when they get older? Specifically, what do I tell Molly, the child Lisa carried in her womb while fighting cancer?

Do I tell her that her mom cancer spread when she was pregnant? Even though the doctors said the cancer was estrogen negative and that didn’t affect the cancer. Do I still tell her?

Do I tell her a Doctor wanted Lisa to terminate the pregnancy because she had fluid around her heart and they had to go in and remove it so it wouldn’t collapse? Do I tell Molly how Lisa looked at him without missing a beat and said,

“No, find another way. I am not giving this baby up due to unknowns.”

Will Molly think it’s heroic that Lisa told them to stick a needle in her chest to remove the fluid while she was awake because she couldn’t be put under? Or will that make Molly sad to know all the pain and sacrifice Lisa went through to save this child while trying to save her own life.

There is so much I don’t know about raising three girls alone. There is so much to guide them through and it scares me that it’s never going to end. Even when they are become young adults the questions will soon arise about Mom. When they get married, when they have kids, when they lose someone close…the more they understand life, the more they will realize that this was a big deal. This loss will always be there as a reminder.

Question is what should that reminder be? Do I tell the kids when they get older? Do I tell them everything?


  1. Matt, thank you so much for posting this.

    My wife died of breast cancer this past January. For the most part we were very open with our kids (Ella, 7, and Sam 13) about what was going on, but we held off on any "doom and gloom" stuff (aka, "Mommy *is* going to die of cancer; we just don't know when.") because the cancer was confined to her bones so her prognosis was pretty good, considering. But things went south pretty fast and I've always felt bad we couldn't prepare the kids more. But they did get to be with her the 5 days she was in hospice, and while she never regained consciousness, I think it made it more real for them to be with her and see her. So since then, there haven't been a whole lot of questions, but there always could be.

    All I know to suggest is to follow your heart and your gut--we are so much smarter and wiser about this stuff then we usually give ourselves credit for, especially guys, I think. It's also OK, I think, to tell your kids you aren't sure how to guide them sometimes, and maybe talk about ways you can figure out a way to get help with that, that feels right for them and you. Because you *don't* have to figure any of this out on your own. Well, OK, you do, but there is a lot of help and many wonderful, knowledgeable and generous people out there.

    Take care,


  2. Personally, I wouldn't lie, but I wouldn't share everything. It's too heavy for young hearts to carry - especially Molly.

    I think you should tell them that their Mom loved them very much. You tell them that she was very sick and that she did everything she knew to do and made all the best decisions she could with the goal of getting better and giving birth to a healthy baby. You tell them that you are so thankful that she tried so hard and did such a good job and you are thankful that you have three healthy girls to raise. You tell them that Lisa wanted more than anything to be able to stay and watch her three beautiful daughters grow up, but her body was too sick. You reassure your daughters that they are so special to you and they were that special to their mom also.

    However, in my opinion, stay away from the details or trying to make them understand the sacrifices that your wife made. Trying to impress that on them when they are young may lead to a lot of guilt, blame and "what if" contemplations.

    When they become adults, they will each come to a day when the realization of the situation will become clearer to them. It is then that they will understand the bigger picture. By then, their foundations will be rooted in love, not doubt, guilt or blame and they will be able to better handle the details, should they need them.

    The loss? It should be a reminder of the love and care Lisa had for them and that you had for her.

    Always let them know that although their mom is gone now, you will continue the plans that the two of you started - to love, protect and raise three wonderful daughters.


  3. I appreciate the comments both Jay and Kit left about how much to tell the children and why. I will add to their comments by telling Matt that as your children grow, you will tell them stuff about life in general based on their age and level of comprehension.

    Just as you do not tell the same "facts of life" to a 5 year old that you tell to a teenager, you will know as a caring parent knows, how to phrase things for different age levels and maturity.

    Trust yourself and let it be OK to say, "I don't know" at times because those words are often true when we are asked the hard questions. You can add, "What do you think?" after you honestly confide that you don't know.

    Children have their own thoughts (which we adults sometimes forget we once had ourselves) and sometimes their responses will help you to understand what they are really asking. Often they are asking for comfort or reassurance, but we don't hear the question that way.