“On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.”
As you all know, this year has been the most horrendous we have had so far.
We went through a devastating leukeamia diagnosis with Georgie, months in the children’s hospital and then the most surreal and painful goodbyes from the boy we had come to treasure and love with all our hearts.
We have since attempted to find some balance. Not only us as grown-ups but also Emma, as a sibling, who has witnessed all these events and has been marked by them much deeper than we probably will ever comprehend.
She is not your typical five-year old anymore. She never was but now, even less so.
Emma has developed an eery insight on life and death and her own deep life philosophy, coping mechanisms and rationale, all unique and coming from the heart-wrenching and life-changing events she had to witness at such an early age.
What has helped enormously has been an open attitude, not only from us but from the hospital and the hospice staff. Emma is an inquisitive child and she has had loads of questions and a constant need for reassurance. I truly felt we were beautifully blessed with caring staff who were able to approach the subject of death, heaven and the afterlife sensitively yet openly and knowledgeably, adapting their responses to her age level yet always keeping the truth prevalent in their answers.
Another thing I observed Emma using in her need to process the facts and her own emotions has been play. Child-led therapy through play can work wonders if the right tools and supporting material are at hand.
We were very lucky to have been offered several books to review through the blog which found us at the right time and helped Emma enormously in processing the trauma of Georgie’s hospitalisation and afterwards, his passing.
When Georgie was still in the hospital, and we were still hoping in a cure and healing, we were sent one of the Monkey Wellbeing activity packs, the one in which Monkey visits the Emergency Department. It came spot on, just a week or so before the doctors approaches us with the scary (at that time) avenue of a possible bone marrow transplant for Georgie and the need of a blood test which was to establish if any of us, including Emma, would have been a possible donor.
Emma took to the Monkey puppet immediately and we were able to discuss in length through the safe intermediary of the story about needles, hospital visits and so on. It helped enormously, not only with the preparation for the blood test but also with her comprehension of the events and internalisation of the process. Monkey went to nursery with Emma those days and explained the facts to her friends and then helped through play after the hospital visit.
I would warmly recommend the activity packs and the use of the monkey puppet in explaining life-changing events (like going to the hospital, starting school or dealing with a debilitating illness, such as asthma) to a preschooler or a primary school child. The stories are there to explain the procedures and processes in detail and to make children comprehend them in context.
Once Georgie passed away, Emma became obsessed with playing doctors and nurses, to the exasperation of her playmates and school friends, whose life experiences had been so different to Emma’s.
At that point we were offered another precious helping hand, in the form of yet another couple of books to review, Fiona the Doctor and Richard the Vet. The latest in the What do the grown-ups do? series by Mairi McLellan, published on the 28th of October this year, these two books come highly appraised and recommended for children with analytical spirits and dispositions.
Although the books come recommended for the target reader age group 5 to 10, I believe they would benefit the older childen who have the patience to listen about the detailed daily routine of a general practitioner or veterinary doctor.
Emma, at almost 5, adapted the information for her level and used daddy and willing (and at times, even reluctant) play dates to practice her doctoring skills and make sense of her shattered world. She discussed in detail the doctor’s routine she had been read about and assessed correctly the pressures that come with such a demanding job. In the end, and basing her judgement on both the information provided in the book and our experience in the hospice, Emma decided that she would rather train as a nurse in the hospice, to work “with little children like Georgie, mummy. Because sometimes doctors can’t make them better but nurses can look after them so well.” Bless her sweet soul…
With Christmas approaching and if struggling with inspiration for gift ideas for children with inquisitive spirits and aiming at working as actors, doctors, vets, fishermen or even filmmakers( Gordon the Wildlife Filmmaker will actually come out of the press in February 2015 so keep an eye for it), do visit Kids’ Educational Books website for more information about the series and where to purchase the books.
Give a child the chance to learn and play and dream about the future, allow their imagination to run wild and build the foundation on which the future will be build. Because every reality begins with a game, a question and a childhood dream.