To think people dont know how to deal with grief?

(43 Posts)
ProfessorSkullyMental Sun 09-Mar-14 22:13:52

my dads very ill... unless someone grants us a miracle, he's only got a couple of days left. he's been ill for some time, so a lot of people ask how he's doing.

tbh, other than one of my closest friends, since i told people he's at the end, i haven't seen them for dust.

one keeps texting dh to ask how i am, but won't text me, no-one else has so much as dropped me a text or an fb message.

other than my online friends (who've been fantastic) its like no-one wants to talk to me...

Cleartheclutter Sun 09-Mar-14 22:21:09

thanks sorry that your dad is so poorly

This is quite common unfortunnately. Lots of people just don't know what to say so they think the answer is to ignore it sad

StrawberryCheese Sun 09-Mar-14 22:25:15

I'm sorry to hear about your dad flowers

IME people feel a bit awkward and are unsure of how to behave. Most people think you might want to be left alone and so keep their distance but by getting in touch with your DH, they are still showing that they are there for you if you need them.

My dad passed away two years ago and I experienced the same thing.

FreudiansSlipper Sun 09-Mar-14 22:25:16

sorry to hear you are going through such a difficult time

it is common, people just do not know what to say and fear saying the wrong thing I doubt it is they do not want to talk to you

you could send a text saying hey could really do with a little chat

Annunziata Sun 09-Mar-14 22:28:12

They are scared of upsetting you, maybe it is better looking at it that way?

I am so sorry about your dad. I hope he is as comfortable as possible.

nameuschangeus Sun 09-Mar-14 22:31:12

It's definitely true that people are frightened of upsetting you. I'm in a situation at the moment where I'm one if those people who doesn't know what to say. It's not that I don't care - far from it. It's because I don't want to upset the person and break their fragile pretence of being alright.

itsbetterthanabox Sun 09-Mar-14 22:35:15

So surprised by this. When people close to me have been bereaved it makes want to be closer to them. I offer to chat, see how they are and do nice things or helpful things with them if they feel up to it. I don't want intrude so always give them the option to say no but I would feel so guilty abandoning someone at their time of need.
Now that I think of when my friend died 2 years ago. My friends who were not friends with him too were useless. It hurt at the time that I felt so alone but I've kind of tried to block it out sad

itsbetterthanabox Sun 09-Mar-14 22:35:44

I hope you are ok op thanks

PatFenis Sun 09-Mar-14 22:36:11

People tend to shy away from situations that make them feel uncomfortable, perhaps because they don't know what to say or just feel awkward.

Like Freudian said, maybe send a text letting them know that you could do with some company and a chat about how you are feeling. It will certainly help break the barrier and make the subject more broachable.

I'm sorry to hear about your dad, I hope he is comfortable and his passing is peaceful. x

tunnocksteacake Sun 09-Mar-14 22:41:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

justmyview Sun 09-Mar-14 22:43:48

In that scenario, I'd be more than willing to talk about death & loss, but I would worry in case it was presumptuous to call towards the end of his life, as if I was thinking I was part of the "inner circle" when I might not be. I understand why you feel your friends should reach out to you, not the other way round, but if you contact them, I hope they might rise to the occasion

rockybalboa Sun 09-Mar-14 22:46:17

Normal. After my sister died in the 80's my mum used to see people she knew deliberately crossing the road to avoid talking to her. People don't know what to say and are afraid of saying 'the wrong thing' so they say nothing at all. I had recurrent miscarriages and whilst it's not the same thing at all, I lost at least one close friend as she just couldn't/wouldn't see what I was dealing with. Poor you, I hope your dad has a dignified and peaceful end thanks

mymiraclebubba Sun 09-Mar-14 22:53:16

Ime people just don't know what to say unless they have been through it. Although saying that my best friend's hubby lost his mum in Thursday and I have been texting her to see how he is etc as he is crap with his phone but also I have no idea how he is feeling and wouldn't want to upset him if he is dealing ok or make it worse if he doesn't

thesecowsaresmallthosearefaraw Sun 09-Mar-14 22:56:02

Tunnocks has it spot on, unfortunately.

flowers for you and for your dad.

"I didn't know what to say so I said nothing" is very typical.

I made it a personal promise after my mum died that I would always say something.

I hope your dad has a peaceful end and that you have some good memories to call on while you mourn.

MorrisZapp Sun 09-Mar-14 23:00:59

I'm so sorry you're going through this. I'm sure your friends want to be there for you, but would rather take the lead from you.

I know myself that often, when faced with a friend or colleague dealing with loss, I don't know what to say. I've seen many threads on here where people are angry and upset that people have said the wrong things to them. But there's not set script is there, what's wrong to one person may be kind and comforting to another.

If you have the time or energy, send a text or do a FB update or something which lets people know that even in this hardest time, you still want company and to chat. I bet they'd love to be in contact, but just don't know what you want.

LucyBabs Sun 09-Mar-14 23:02:31

I'm not sure I buy the don't know what to say thing.

I lost my parents within four months of each other people who I thought were true friends avoided me ignored my texts phonecalls etc..

All it takes is "I'm here for you, if ever you need a shoulder or an ear" honestly how could this upset a bereaved person?!

I think some people are just selfish and don't want to upset their happy lives and don't want to support someone going through an awful time in their lives.

I'm actually more angry about this than I realised oops!

Op I hope you'll be ok. Its a long tough road, try surround yourself with people who love you and care about you.

A couple of points. Firstly, I'm so sorry you are in this position.

In fairness to your friends, it may be that they are thinking you are at your Dad's bedside, possibly in a hospital setting. In that case, it's possible that they may not wish to phone you. When my dad died, he was in the HDU which was very definitely a no-phone area, and we only texted sporadically when we were getting coffee, going to the loo etc. outside the ward. As a result, I wouldn't dream of phoning someone in a similar position, I would simply text them to let them know I was there/thinking of them, because I'd simply expect their phones to be switched off or on silent.

Secondly, it might sound slightly odd, but your dad is still alive, so for a lot of people, cards/messages etc. would happen once he has died (sorry for putting it in those stark terms). Terminal illness is awkward for many people as they are not sure how/whether to raise it in conversation. I found this when my dear friend was terminally ill and now my cousin is, and they have both discussed this with me. It really is the elephant (with the scythe) in the room.

Please lean on those friends who have come forward, and I really hope you and your dad are able to share some precious moments in the next few days. thanks

thesecowsaresmallthosearefaraw Sun 09-Mar-14 23:15:57

Morris is right, I got flamed under a previous name for suggesting "sorry for your loss." Another MNer hated it as she'd heard it too often from medical professionals and felt it had no value. And some people dislike being prayed for, while others would find it comforting.

"Thinking of you" would surely be OK for a text?

I think maybe the Victorians were onto something with their strict etiquette about mourning and grief - you would know you were saying something socially acceptable.

ProfessorSkullyMental Sun 09-Mar-14 23:17:47


i'm lost.. i'm struggling to get through, i dont know how to manage my own grief and support my family too.

There are lots of good memories, but no more to be made, he's slipped into a coma, and unless he can rally they will begin to withdraw care and let him slip away peacefully.

It isnt terminal, its sepsis related to kidney failure.. we were promised a future with him albeit around dialysis, and now its been taken away and i am not ready to lose him.... i feel robbed.

itsbetterthanabox Sun 09-Mar-14 23:17:51

Lucybabs has hit it on the head. People don't want the burden of supporting a grieving person and they don't want to think about sad things. It is selfishness 100%.

ProfessorSkullyMental Sun 09-Mar-14 23:20:03

sorry, i meant it wasnt a 'terminal illness' as such..

HadABadDay2014 Sun 09-Mar-14 23:22:46

If a friend was going through this I would back off and give them and their family some privacy and time alone with their loves one.

Once the devastating news has happened I will support them until they decide that they don't need it.

justmyview Sun 09-Mar-14 23:23:03

That's extra tough to get your head round that, when it's unexpected. Huge sympathies x

CailinDana Sun 09-Mar-14 23:25:39

What a terrible situation. So sad.

Have you got any support op? It's ok not to be ok.

almondcake Sun 09-Mar-14 23:29:54

One of my family members died of cancer recently. People didn't contact me, and I assume that they thought I was at the bedside, with family and then making funeral arrangements (which I was). But if I ever needed to talk to someone, I could start talking (and it was like a torrent) and people were comforting. So I think people can talk about grief if you initiate and they can then work out what kind of conversation you need.

Hope you are okay, op.

LucyBabs Sun 09-Mar-14 23:31:40

Oh professor sad

My dad had sepsis too. He had long term vascular disease which resulted in sepsis. We knew this may be a possibility but the reality when it happened was so hard to deal with.

He was awake one day in a coma the next.

I feel so sad thinking about it and now you are going through the same thing.
If I could help in anyway I would but I will send a hug to you instead.

Please take care of yourself. Don't forget to eat and sleep when its possible.

I'll be thinking of you professor

EBearhug Sun 09-Mar-14 23:35:54

I'm sorry you're going through this, Professor. It's a horrible, difficult time.

I agree with this:
If a friend was going through this I would back off and give them and their family some privacy and time alone with their loves one.

I kept some key people updated during my mother's last days in hospital, but to be honest, I didn't have the energy to deal with anyone else, and if a friend was going through it now, I'd say something like, "I'm here if you need me, let me know if you need anything, but only if you do - just do what you need, and don't think about the rest of us unless you need us."

WaitingForMe Sun 09-Mar-14 23:45:22

I don't bother telling people now. I remember one boss being a bit weird when I admitted I'd buried my stepdad a few months previously but it's so fucking tedious being avoided.

I lose a close relative at least every other year and it sucks. My cousin died recently and I didn't tell anyone as I still needed people to go for coffee with. I didn't need space or privacy or respect or whatever other excuses people make for avoiding you.

I'm so sorry for your father OP, you're never ready for a dad x

paxtecum Mon 10-Mar-14 05:49:56

Prof: I am so sorry about you father.

My friend's father is early 80's and on dialysis for the rest of his life and it is lousy. He is alive but not living.

My own elderly father didn't respond to dialysis and peacefully passed.
We (including my mother) were grateful for that.

I hope these words don't upset you.

You must contact your friend's whenever you want to chat to them.
They are there waiting for you.

WholeNutt Mon 10-Mar-14 06:08:59

Op I was told to just be as you are, whatever the day brings be how you feel, no pretence no trying to absolve others of their feelings.

You're no doubt spending a lot of time with your dad, focus on that for now not on the next step or whatever comes after. All that matters right now is getting through today minute by minute if you need.

I wish you strength and peace for today and the coming days thanks

cupcake78 Mon 10-Mar-14 06:20:19

Op I've been through similar last year and facing it again with the in laws this year. Its very isolating.

I don't believe it's done out of selfishness or malice. I think its because people react so differently to death and grief people are afraid of hurting you further.

Our culture and society is set up badly for this as well after years of whispering 'death, died, terminally ill' etc.

My family openly talk about these things but we have been accused of being weird, insensitive and not caring. My in laws can't talk about illness and death and think it shouldn't be discussed. This is very confusing for my children. They don't know if they should or shouldn't.

I'm sorry to hear you dad your ill and I hope you can contact your friends and talk it through. Can your dh reply to the texts and say you would love to hear from your friends? thanks

TamerB Mon 10-Mar-14 06:40:41

I am really sorry. It isn't that they don't care, you are right that they don't know how to deal with death- it is a taboo subject. People don't know how to handle it, they don't know what to say and therefore they avoid - not wanting to intrude is the other reason. I think that it is only when you have personal tragedy that you wade in because you know how important it is.

UptheChimney Mon 10-Mar-14 07:05:37

I know in this situation with friends, I've not wanted to intrude, at what is a difficult & crowded time. I've not wanted my needs to express how I feel to be another burden for friends. I also don't want to feel I'm being an "emotional vampire."

I know when I've been in that situation myself, I've not had the energy to deal with other people's enquiries & so on. But in my situation, it was had a sudden death (my DH) and not a drawn out illness. But I didn't want to talk to anyone, although knowing that people were sending thoughts & sympathy via my mother was helpful, but I just couldn't deal directly.

I think that by contacting your DH, they're trying to let you know they're thinking of you, but not wanting to intrude.

Pippilangstrompe Mon 10-Mar-14 07:05:48

I lost my dad about a year ago. I'm the first of my close friends to lose a parent. My friends were sympathetic and I spoke to them all within the first few days of his death, but I didn't hear from them after that and they didn't ask me how I was doing after that. I think they were sympathetic, but didn't know how I felt or what to say. The people who really helped me were people I chat to online and colleagues at work who had lost their own parents. I think they could relate in a way my friends could not.

One of my close friends lost her dad a couple of months ago and I have called several times, because I now know what it is like to lose your dad. I was back in the UK recently and I met several of my close friends and had several long chats about how I was doing after my dad died. They did care, they just didn't know how hard a time I was having as they have no frame of reference for it.

Your friends might be the same. The friend who texted your DP cares or else she wouldn't have contacted him. If you'd like to speak to her, why not text her and say you'd like a chat?

Wishing you strength and comfort, Professor.

My Dad died almost exactly a year ago (pancreatic cancer, thought he had quite a bit longer but the end went very fast) and it felt like every one of my friends just left me to get on with it, my inner response was 'well fuck you then' which wasn't particularly helpful, but it made me feel better at the time. As someone above has said, they have nothing to compare it to, they cannot know what it is like unless they have experienced it.

I did wonder if my friends felt I didn't need their help because I wasn't visibly, outwardly falling apart - perhaps they thought I wasn't really struggling with it as much as i did, if you know what I mean.

TheSmallClanger Mon 10-Mar-14 11:46:46

All the things mentioned before, really. My own way of dealing with it is to try to carry on normal social behaviour, but there is always a risk of being seen as insensitive and even intrusive if you do this. Empathy is a hard one to get right - no-one's experience is the same and you can very easily come off as patronising, dismissive or self-obsessed.

When it's a friend, it's true that you worry that you are insinuating yourself into some sort of "inner circle", when family members might be needing and/or giving support.

Also, when there are things going on in your own life that may not be easily "compatible" with sharing grief, such as pregnancy or a new relationship, or conversely, problems of your own, it can make it doubly hard to talk honestly, without causing offence or stoking up your own resentment.

VikingLady Mon 10-Mar-14 12:08:29

I think it is mainly awkwardness and not knowing what to say. Only the arses are avoiding you to make their lives easier! But nice people, even relatives and best friends avoid you if they don't know what to say, for fear of making it worse/being trite and patronising.

The best thing anyone said to me when DF died was " I know there's nothing I can say to make it any better, so I'm calling to say it anyway" from a friend who had lost her own dad and her stepdad a few years earlier. I am still deeply ashamed that when her stepdad died I was one of the avoiders. I have a gift for saying the wrong thing so I really thought she would prefer me to keep out. I also didn't think she would miss me calling when she had so many other friends or want to be fielding what I imagined to be constant phone calls. So wrong.

I am really sorry Op. I kept telling people because I did find some who would let me talk about it, mainly those who had experienced grief themselves. I have new, good friends out of that. Small comfort for losing the old ones though! I hope this happens for you too, and I would hug you if I knew you in RL.

GreenShadow Mon 10-Mar-14 12:20:00

The problem is everyone reacts differently and wants different things in a situation like this. This can make it very hard to know what to say.

Reading threads on here sometimes you feel it is impossible to get it right.

itsbetterthanabox Mon 10-Mar-14 15:29:19

When I was asking people to spend time with me because I didn't want to be on my own and they were saying 'oh I can't I'm tired' etc that is not ok.
I would be there and have been there for people as much as I can and they needed.

expatinscotland Mon 10-Mar-14 15:32:57

Very common. Child loss makes a lot of us very isolated.

Trooperslane Mon 10-Mar-14 15:35:07

Oh Scully thanks

I've got another thread going about my Mum who has longer, but maybe not much.

My Dad died really suddenly a few years ago and I'd agree that if you haven't been through it, you have absolutely no idea.

I have to admit I've been a much better friend to people who have lost family and friends since my Dad died.

Ditto friends who have had miscarriages. I don't think I lack empathy at all, but I just couldn't appreciate in a million years what it felt like.

They're probably just clueless about what to say or do. I agree it can feel very isolating though.

Massive hugs from me x

so so sorry skully.

thesecowsaresmallthosearefaraw Mon 10-Mar-14 20:32:46

flowers for you, skully.

Are you talking to Cruse? They are trained to help people struggling with grief. X

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