I Can’t Bear to Tell My Teenage Sons Their Dad May Only Have Months Left to Live. What Should I Do?

I Can’t Bear to Tell My Teenage Sons Their Dad May Only Have Months Left to Live. What Should I Do?


Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I have two teenagers, aged 14 and 15, who are well-adjusted and doing well in high school, both socially and academically. About three years ago their father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, which has since metastasized in various ways. From the beginning we have been honest with them about his diagnosis and its development, but even though we knew the prognosis was three to five years, we never told them that because we didn’t want to scare them. Instead we conveyed optimism about the possibilities of treatment, and, indeed, we have been genuinely hopeful about how well the treatments would work. Now we have reached a point where treatment options are limited. There is a chance he could get sick very fast and be gone in three months. Even if he doesn’t deteriorate that quickly, it is very likely that this will be his last Christmas with us. Do we tell them that? Will that enable them to savor their time with him, or will it spoil the holiday for them? My husband feels like he is being dishonest with them by not telling them everything, and I can see that. I do worry that they will be blindsided if we don’t warn them. But I am also concerned that they will not be able to enjoy their last Christmas with their father because of their anxiety and sadness. And what if, against the odds, the next treatment does work and he gains another year or more? Then we would have worried them needlessly. Should we tell them the whole truth or not?
Afraid to Tell

Dear AtT,

I am so sorry your family is going through this. Nothing will make it better, or easier. But I believe you can be both completely honest and kind. The children deserve to know, and your husband, who is uneasy about being less than fully honest with his children, needs your help to have the grace he deserves as he comes to the end of his life.

Tell your children what you have told me: that you have not entirely given up hope—that you feel it’s possible, if unlikely, that the next treatment will work and their father will live longer than is currently predicted. But share his current prognosis with them. Christmas may be hard indeed if they (and you) believe it is likely to be his last. But everything is going to be hard now. Talk to them about this. Better yet: Talk a little, and listen a lot. My love to all of you.


from Human Interest - Slate Magazine 

I Can’t Bear to Tell My Teenage Sons Their Dad May Only Have Months Left to Live. What Should I Do? I Can’t Bear to Tell My Teenage Sons Their Dad May Only Have Months Left to Live. What Should I Do? Reviewed by streakoggi on December 15, 2019 Rating: 5

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