Friends DS has died. I am stupidly unable to say the right thing, please, how do I help her?

(18 Posts)
chipmonkey Mon 13-May-13 22:38:00

OrWellyAnn, you sound like the sort of person who really wouldn't say anything wrong to a bereaved Mum.
I really think the mistake that people make when dealing with us bereaved parents is that they try to say something to make us feel better. And you really can not say anything that will make it better.
So "He's With God", "God needed another angel" "It was for the best" "It wasn't meant to be" "You still have your other children" "you can have another baby", etc are things which people say to look on the bright side, and when your child has died, there isn't a silver lining.
The only think that did help me was a letter from my aunt who had lost two of her children. She said "You never get over it but it does get easier to bear"
And right after I lost my daughter, I needed to hear that because I felt so very low, like my heart had been ripped out and I needed to know that it wouldn't always be that bad.
So, if you like, you can pass that on to her from me and others here, that the grief won't always be as sharp and that is is possible to live a life even when the most precious thing you have has been taken from you.

rhetorician Fri 10-May-13 09:18:50

Am interested in the replies here as I was about to post something similar. My friend and her husband lost their daughter on Saturday. She was 10, almost 11, sudden cardiac arrest when warming up for a hurling match. Their only child, conceived after many miscarriages. I know them fairly well but they don't live nearby, but I can't get them out of my head. So I was thinking of writing to them (I was at the funeral on Weds), and then calling in to see them in a few weeks as we pass by the door fairly regularly en route to somewhere else. So these suggestions are very timely.

Joy5 Thu 09-May-13 12:50:29

As a mum whose son died nearly five years ago suddenly in his sleep, i'd echo the comments above and say be honest you don't know what to say to the grieving parent. What upset me the most was pointless comments about my son was in a better place, hes not suffering anymore (he didn't have any symptoms of his illness!) or other such things.

Its not just at first or for a few months, its for years and years, special days like birthdays and Christmas and normal weeks too, just mention the dead child,

So glad i found this thread, never thought to look for one before, really thought i was probably on my own with the sudden death of an 18 year old. xx

Your friend will probably have lots of people around at the moment, but then over time, most of them will fade away, while she may well still be bewildered and lost. It's then when your texts and calls will be most appreciated. Offers of activities help too, even if she doesn't take them all up.

Also, after a few months, most people may think she is 'ok' if she is doing all the everyday things - but she won't be. Her life has changed forever, and she will never be the same person. We often refer to it as the 'new normal'. If you can let her know that it's ok not to be 'ok' (because that is what everyone will want for her, and it is quite a pressure), that will be really helpful.

There is a bereaved mothers' thread here which she might find useful. It's a safe haven to celebrate, to cry and to support each other.

OrWellyAnn Sat 27-Apr-13 09:19:26

Thank for all the replies. Mia'smummy I'm glad to hear you say the don't expect replies bit' I had planned on sending her a message every few days just saying 'thinking of you, here if you need' but don't want to be a stalker either.

No-one knows what to say. Just admit it to her, it's ok. Far better than offering platitudes.

And being there - now, in the next few weeks and months, and in remembering birthdays and significant anniversaries - will mean so much to your friend. Don't expect replies, but cards, text and calls to say you are remembering her and her DC.

Finally - say his name. People are scared of saying the names of the children we have lost. Allow her to talk about her child, to laugh and to cry. Feeling like your child has been forgotten, and no longer matters, tears a bereaved parent's heart in two.

BikeRunSki Fri 26-Apr-13 21:41:05

YYY to the six weeks later situation - I remember that as the worse time when my dad died (it was also my mother's birthday).

Musicaltheatremum Fri 26-Apr-13 21:12:55

Cooking is wonderful. When my DH died last year a friend brought a load of meals which went in the freezer. If she has good support just now don't worry too much but in 6 weeks time contact her and suggest a coffee and a listening ear. She will appreciate it as that's when the cards and flowers stop and life goes back to normal for everyone but the person who is grieving.

WallyBantersYoniBox Fri 26-Apr-13 09:16:06

Ipswich I wonder if people make the automatic assumption that you need time by yourself to grieve, or that it is a time for family members only?

I've heard people say this on a few occasions, and for some people they do have large close families who rally round and close out the world to help you cope. But a lot of people these days don't have that assumed support network.

When my grandfather died and I was a teenager, I remember my grandmother in the kitchen, surrounded by her female network - friends, neighbours, daughters, in-laws. All the men in the living room. These women just rallied round with no question, they weren't invited in as much as they just turned up. Tea making, sandwich making, bringing cakes, washing up, holding her hand, letting her talk about the lovely anecdotes of her marriage, letting her cry, crying with her, laughing even, at the nice memories.

It never harms to show people that you care about them, or that you cared about the person who is no longer with them.

ipswichwitch Fri 26-Apr-13 08:50:14

You sound so lovely and caring. We should all have a friend like you. Sounds like you are doing the right things to me. I think just being there is enough. When one of our twin boys was still born, certain people avoided us or wouldn't talk about our son, which hurt me more than I could ever say. When we finally brought our other boy home I felt so abandoned. Not one person cooked us a meal or offered help with anything. People just expected us to get on with it .

The other thing that really got me was the endless platitudes (maybe it was for the best, etc). I would have rather people said nothing than that. You seem like such an understanding person to realise it will take your friend a long time to "get back to normal", in fact, she may never feel normal again. I still don't. Keep doing what you're doing. Your friend will appreciate it, even if she can't tell you right now flowers for you both

BikeRunSki Fri 26-Apr-13 08:37:45

When my friend's DS died, I cooked. I have always expressed love through cooking anyway ( i'm not a fancy cook, but I am great at hearty nursery food). I left my friend an apple crumble and custard and a card. She and her DH knew we were there if they needed us. I gave herbs big hug, later I took her a pie. She did say if people hadn't made her food she wouldn't've. eaten. The important thing is not to avoid her. There will be plenty of situations where she'll have to explain where her DS to people who won't know - window cleaner, hair dresser, dentist etc, the type of people she may only see every couple of months. My friend wanted to see her close friends, because, she said, she didn't have to explain.

BikeRunSki Fri 26-Apr-13 08:37:45

When my friend's DS died, I cooked. I have always expressed love through cooking anyway ( i'm not a fancy cook, but I am great at hearty nursery food). I left my friend an apple crumble and custard and a card. She and her DH knew we were there if they needed us. I gave herbs big hug, later I took her a pie. She did say if people hadn't made her food she wouldn't've. eaten. The important thing is not to avoid her. There will be plenty of situations where she'll have to explain where her DS to people who won't know - window cleaner, hair dresser, dentist etc, the type of people she may only see every couple of months. My friend wanted to see her close friends, because, she said, she didn't have to explain.

SwishSwoshSwoosh Fri 26-Apr-13 07:45:16

You sound very kind. Sadly you can't make it right you can only show you care x

OrWellyAnn Fri 26-Apr-13 07:38:14

Thank you for the replies, have sent a card and also dropped round and left some home cookies meals on the doorstep. Will just be there without being intrusive so she knows i am thinking of her but doesn't feel smothered. I appreciate the advice, thanks.

Acknowledge it, even by sending a card. Not doing so can feel like you're ignoring it happened. Don't tell her that you know how she feels, but do say how upset you are. Say you're available if she needs any practical help (eg we needed a babysitter for DD during DS 2&3s funeral). HTH.

everlong Thu 25-Apr-13 07:19:55

Agree with wally. You sound like you understand deeply. A blessing for any bereaved parent.

WallyBantersYoniBox Wed 24-Apr-13 22:59:51

Wow, an awful situation, but you seemed to have summed it up for me in the last paragraph. And if you can't say that to her in person, can you write it on a card to let her know you are there for her.

Actions sometimes speak volumes, so perhaps random gestures of support. Does she have other DC's that might need looking after to give her a break? Some shopping doing because she can't face it herself etc?

You sound like a lovely person and v supportive op. i'm sure she'll be grateful to have your ongoing support.

OrWellyAnn Wed 24-Apr-13 22:13:00

I don't want to post in too much detail because I know someone on here irl and don't want to out myself.
My friend lost her DC today. It was totally out of the blue, and she is obviously completely shattered by it.
My problem is that since the death of my DSD, when my Mum was hurt or upset by some of the things a few (probably well meaning but awkward) people said to her in the aftermath I have been utterly shit in my responses to news like this because I'm paralysed by fear of getting it wrong.
I've known her for quite a while to say hi too, and more recently spent some more time with her socially and we get on really well, and I just want to say the right thing and support her in whichever way I can. I did try and say that today but it came out awkward and wrong and I don't want to add to her grief by being a prat. I kind of say what I think, wanting to be open and caring but it comes out all wrong in emotional situations.
I know that there is nothing i can say or do to make it ok. She has lost her son. Her world will never be the same...and I totally get that. I will be there for her all the way, ESP in weeks and months and years to come when most (foolish) people will be expecting her to 'get back to normal'. I will always listen and talk to her about him. Will be there if she wants to cry, and all the rest....but what should I be saying or doing now, when it's so raw. Do I steer clear to let her grieve with family? I see her every day, how do I handle seeing her next time?
I realise this sounds very me, me, me, but it's honestly just a request to help her and try and be there if she needs.

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