Trying to support family friends after sudden death of the mother

(7 Posts)
BerkshireMum Wed 23-Jan-13 22:58:32

Really didn't know what to put as the subject here.

A friend of mine - not a close friend to be honest, but someone I knew through my DD and liked very much - died very suddenly on Sunday. She has a husband and three children age 17, 14 and 12. The 12 year old is my DD's friend. They were close at primary school but started different secondary schools last September. We live in the same village which is quite a close-knit community.

They have no other family and, as I'm not currently working, I've been around and able to offer support.

I'm switching between spending time with the youngest child - talking about her mum, how she feels about going back to school, making contact with a local bereavement support charity etc - and trying to give some emotional and practical help to the dad.

Tomorrow I've offered to sit down with him and draw up a list of everything that needs to be done, along with some sort of timeframe, so that he can think about who he wants to involve in various decisions, what tasks he does and doesn't want to do himself and that sort of thing. This evening, he felt rather as if he was drowning in decisions and visitors for his kids so I hope this will help a little.

I guess I'm just looking for any tips as to how I can help him. Any big dos or don'ts? And any advice about how to support the children, especially the youngest who I know best? As I said there are no grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins.

Thank you

It sounds as though you are doing a sterling job - how lucky they are to have you around and bothered enough to post on Mumsnet grin) I think the best support is just being there, offering your time and allowing them to talk, taking the twelve year old on shopping trips etc. I'm sorry I don't have any better advice, it's not something I have much experience of, except that my mum was orphaned at twelve and just needed kindness and an outlet to talk about things (which she didn't really get - was sent to live with a very Victorian aunt). Remember to take time out for yourself so that you don't wear yourself out. Perhaps the dad would find it helpful to join Mumsnet himself? x

townbuiltonahill Wed 23-Jan-13 23:42:34

Recent thread on similar topic

Yes maybe he should join mumsnet . There are at least one or two grandpas and dads out here. There is also a 'dadsnet' section.

Clareyst Wed 23-Jan-13 23:55:13

Hi BerkshireMum. You sound like a wonderful friend. The main tip I have is to contact Winston's Wish who will offer support to the children as well as giving you and their father lots of useful information:

www.winstonswish.org.uk/page.asp?section=0001000100020008&pagetitle=Death+of+a+parent%2C+brother+or+sister

domesticslattern Thu 24-Jan-13 00:02:51

I hope this leaflet about death and children (including adolescents) might be helpful.
You sound absolutely lovely. My experience is that there may feel like a mountain of things to sort all at once, but to take it gently and slowly in the beginning, concentrating on the most pressing issues first- the funeral, I suppose. I hope that doesn't sound banal; it's based on my own experiences of energetically helpful people wanting me to make decisions about a million things when I was just trying to get through the funeral and then once that was out of the way, I had headspace to move on to other things related to the death.

BerkshireMum Wed 06-Nov-13 15:44:49

Re-starting this thread as I really appreciated the support earlier this year and could use some more advice now. Sorry it's long.

I think my friends are doing brilliantly. They've found a routine that's working for them, had a great family holiday with lots of laughs as well as tears. But there have been some developments.

Firstly, the eldest girl (17) has been seriously ill. I can't say too much in case it outs me and them - if you recognise the story please don't say anything - but she was in hospital for nearly a month. Hospital was an hour's drive away and so dad was torn being with other children and her. I spent the weekends and most evenings after work at the hospital. On the plus side, she and I have now become really close. She's home now and, superficially back to normal, but with many more tests to come in the next few months.

I'm finding it hard to balance how much I can support them, and her. Not because of time or the commitment but simply because our paths only cross when I am there to support / plan etc. There is no natural cross-over of our lives at social activities etc. How can I make sure I have regular contact to make it easy for me to realise when they need extra help or for them to ask without it being false? Teenagers don't choose to hang out with a forty-something mum in normal circumstances after all!

By way of background, both girls in particular have said they'd like to see me more regularly when there is no drama. Dad is very good at saying no when appropriate but very bad at proactively asking for help - his assessment as much as mine and his daughters!

I didn't explain my first post, but there is no other family - no grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc.

And of course they're about to face the first Christmas. They're trying hard to find a balance with the different things they'd all like to do and the different ways they'd like to remember and mark the occasion. The dad is finding this especially hard as his personal preference would be to hide and ignore but he knows the DC want to do various things and so is trying to support them and also deliver as much as possible of the normal Christmas that they want. I can help with practical stuff - food planning, present wrapping etc - but any other advice that I can use or pass on would be fantastic.

Not sure what I'm looking for really, but I hope that others who've lived through similar may have some wise words and practical suggestions.

ephemeralfairy Fri 06-Dec-13 14:31:31

Hi OP

Sounds like the family are doing so well in the circumstances, and with your amazing support. But these situations are so sensitive and complex, new issues and needs can develop...and sometimes people do find it hard to ask for help.

My father died very suddenly when I was nine (I'm an only child). I remember the first Christmas being very strange, as I was grieving but was also aware that it was meant to be 'a happy time', and that I needed to 'behave in a happy way'. (I think I actually said that to a family friend at the time...!) I also remember feeling like I needed to try to make sure my mum had a nice time, which was a huge pressure.

I think one of the things that really helped was my mum asking me to choose something special that I really wanted to do on the day. As well as giving me something to look forward to, it put me in control in a small way. This was invaluable, as we'd spent the last few months in a completely surreal whirlwind and the enormity and sadness of the situation was almost impossible for me to take in.

Maybe each child (and the Dad!) could choose something special to contribute to the day: watching a particular DVD, having a favourite food as part of Christmas dinner, playing a favourite game together, going for a walk or drive in the country? (Dad's choice could be kids doing washing up, if he feels overwhelmed!!) And if time/money/practicalities allow they could be in charge of organising it too, to give them more of a sense of ownership and take some of the pressure off their dad.

Good luck OP, I know from bitter experience how horrible it is. Please ask if you want any more advice from someone who has been through it!

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