Talking to Children When a Parent Is Dying

I closed the door quietly behind me and heard the voice of a young child.

A few minutes earlier, doctor I had been paged to a family meeting in one of the conference rooms on the oncology floors. The room was overflowing with people: family members, the social worker, the palliative care team and me. My eyes immediately fixated on the youngest people in the room, who looked to be about 14 and 10.

They were my patient’s children. I had seen their mother earlier this morning; her eyes and skin looked more yellow every day. Her mind was cloudy and her vision was blurry, as the cancer continued to spread throughout her brain.

Now here I stood, trying to communicate the news of death and dying to multiple generations of family members. I felt like an unwelcome guest at a somber family picnic.

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