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I lost my father to cancer. My daughter was extremely close to him

Hi Betty,
6 and half weeks ago, I lost my father to cancer. My daughter Stephanie, who was 3 on Nov. 24, was extremely close to him. His death has caused her to become overwhelmed when either my husband or I leave her for even a short time. I understand that perhaps if we leave, she thinks we might not come back. We have been consistent in reassuring her that we are coming back. The disturbing aspect of all of this, is that my kind, nuturing little girl has become aggressive (with us and other children), she is having crying/screaming tantrums that last up to one and half hours, she answers back (not normal behaviour for her). I am starting to find it more difficult to cope. I too am grieving, I am preparing to have my mother move into our backyard into a granny flat and I also have a 10 month old. A GP told me that if she is still behaving the same way in 6 months, take her to see someone. I don`t think, I can take this for 6 months. What do you think??
Regards,
Tanina Oats

Betty...
Answer: Dear Tanina, I am really sorry about the very recent loss of your father. This is a deeply traumatic time for your whole family. You are right to want to address this earlier than to wait longer. I have a couple of suggestions regarding the grieving of your father for yourself and your daughter. Can you spend time together just the two of you (when bub is sleeping) and share some of your feelings with her eg, "I am feeling so so sad that Grandpa has died" (use your own words here, the emphasis is to share your feelings eg, `so so sad`). If you share first then she may take the lead and share next. If not, you can prompt her by asking if she misses him; if she is sad. If she is resistant you could say you want to write a letter to Grandpa and read it to him, and you may also like to draw a picture for him. If you take the lead she will be more comfortable to follow if she feels like it but don`t ask her to go first. You can put the letters and pictures in a special box for Grandpa that has other memories of him such as photos. You can also talk to her about what he was like as you were growing up. Let her know you are feeling sad and that she may be feeling this way and that it is OK to have these feelings. That they will change over time and not feel so strong all the time. Let me know if you would like some more ideas. Regarding her upset behaviour, see if you can calmly take her away from the situation and give her some quiet time, with or without you, to calm down (not at all as a punishment, but as a nurturing recognition that she has got too much going on and needs some space and time). Betty
Answered: 08 Dec 2007