How to deal with Dd's friend's sudden death?

(25 Posts)
coffeecake Sat 21-Aug-10 10:25:35

Hi my Dd's very good friend at school died suddenly a few days ago, he was in her class and was supposed to be in her class again in September.
I assume the school will do something but DH and I are a bit confused as to what to say to her. The details of the death are awful as his dad died as well, so we are really dreading her questions. What to say when she asks "why?".
We think it's a good thing to tell her about it before school starts again the week after next, because she is highly sensitive and will find it traumatising if she hears it from another child first.
Has anyone been through this before, and how did you deal with it? Thank you very much in advance.
By the way dd is 6 (Y2 from september).

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SecretNutellaFix Sat 21-Aug-10 10:28:37

I'm sure someone will be along shortly who can help.
I didn't want you to be unanswered.

footballsgalore Sat 21-Aug-10 10:36:13

Have not had experience of this as a parent but have worked in schools where this type of tragedy has happened. I would be as truthful as possible, but keep any really traumatic details to yourself. The school will probably agree what they are going to tell the children so maybe you could contact them or a parent governor? I'm sure very similar messages are being passed between them right now.
As to the question of why...sometimes there is no answer, you may just have to say 'sometimes awful things happen, and we don't know why. But we will all be very sad and must comfort each other and the child's other friends who will also be sad',

Spinaroo Sat 21-Aug-10 10:38:05

If its the father-son death in the media, I would sit her down sooner rather than later.

I would also be fairly honest with her as there will be other children who will tell her if she doesn't know.

SoupDragon Sat 21-Aug-10 10:41:41

how dreadful. i would imagine you need to tell her the bare fact of his death whilst not telling any of the detail. i would leave that to the school.

Spinaroo Sat 21-Aug-10 10:44:55

Sorry- pressed post there too early.

Agree the school will adopt an approach where they will tell the children, they may well provide counsellors for anyone who needs it, but schools and children will then move away form it quickly.

Also agree, you need to be honest that sometimes bad things happen. If it is the media death you need to let her know this does not happen as a norm.

Are you religious- I found this helped in our situation but appreciate this may not be how you choose to deal with it.

coffeecake Sat 21-Aug-10 11:21:28

Yes, I am really hoping they will provide counsellors but I will have told her before definately.
Difficult to know how much to tell though.
I have spoken to another mum whose child knew the little boy but not as closely as my dd.
She said it may be a good idea to say that the little boy had an accident in his house (to do with medication) but obviously not mention the rest.
Is that ok?

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Flighttattendant Sat 21-Aug-10 11:31:17

Min thing is to make sure it comes across like it can't easily happen again, either to a different friend or worse, to herself or to you/DH.

So try and think of an explanation that sounds like it was very unusual and unlikely, and reassure her it couldn't happen to you/her because...whatever.

Flighttattendant Sat 21-Aug-10 11:31:30

main, sorry

sarah293 Sat 21-Aug-10 11:34:39

Message withdrawn

Spinaroo Sat 21-Aug-10 11:37:07

I think it depends what others know. Remember you will not be able to control what older siblings, for example, will say to the kids in your dds class.

If you change the story, it won't be long before someone puts her right.

It's hard I know. i think you just need to be there to answer any questions she has. My dd was older when it happened to someone she knew,(fire) but she did have a lot of questions, some asking about facts,some fairly grisly and ghoulish, and also needed lots of reassurances that this wasn't common.
I think honesty, without excessive detail, worked best for us. And whilst she was keen to see where it happened, it wasn't for ages after that I took her.

Flighttattendant Sat 21-Aug-10 11:40:42

I agree honesty to an extent is best, just without going too far - answering questions that come up, as Spinaroo says is probably the sensible way to go.

I have just been reading about it, what a tragedy sad

It sounds as though there is no answer at the moment. That's hard to work with.

Riven - I think going by my ds, they take in a lot. With ds it tends to come out not as direct questions (unless I corner him!) but as playing up, playing games, testing things or testing me.

TotorosOcarina Sat 21-Aug-10 11:43:01

I'm so sorry, I have no idea, can I ask what happened?

LibertyGibbet Sat 21-Aug-10 11:47:11

Oh gosh. It's so very difficult. I assume that it's the case reported in the news?

As others have said with older siblings and older children in the school, plus newspaper headlines in the local press, I would imagine the truth will be difficult to avoid.

Honesty, simplicity and allowing them to ask as many questions as they need to I suppose. I have absolutely no idea where you start though. I do think talking to the school is a very good idea so that there is consistency in how it is dealt with.

pagwatch Sat 21-Aug-10 11:54:23

I think it is wise not to over plan and to ensure that the conversation is open ended.

DD lost a friend when she was nearly five, so a bit younger, but what I found with her was that she had questions that I did not anticipate and that she returned to the subject when I least expected it.

My approach was to be honest and tell her thatthese things so happen but that they are very rare. That being shocked and sad is natural but so are all sorts of other feelings.
Children can have loads of empathy and still react to death from a selfish perspective.
I remember my mum telling me when her mother died and mum was only ten, she felt a certain pleasure at being the centre of attention at the funeral andthen felt hideous guilt about it afterwards.
But children do not have life experience to really 'get' death so any reaction is possible.

But the main thing she needs to know is that you will listen to her and that it is OK for her to be sad/frightened/strangely excited/upset etc etc.

lizardpoisonsspock Sat 21-Aug-10 12:34:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

coffeecake Sat 21-Aug-10 15:05:08

That website is fantastic thank you I think I will give them a call and also speak to the headteacher of the school to see how they are planning to deal with the situation and what will be said to the kids.
Thank you all very much for your valuable advice.

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suitejudyblue Sat 21-Aug-10 15:14:03

What a terrible situation for you and how difficult to know what to do for the best.

I'd hope that the school would contact parents before the start of term to explain how they will be dealing with it so that all the parents can try and talk about it with their DCs in a similar way.

I can imagine that there will be all kinds of stories circulating and it will probably be impossible to shield your DD from them.

I hope you can find a way to deal with it sensitively.

Giddyup Sat 21-Aug-10 15:25:26

Its awful isn't it coffeecake? we must live near to you I think although I don't know if the little boy went to DS's school or not. I don't see how this can be explained to a child, its truly horrific. I think your medication accident sounds the best explanation, I have no idea what to say about the father. I hope the school are advised how to deal with it appropriately

coffeecake Sun 22-Aug-10 11:34:46

Giddyup I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention the name of the school on this website but if you check out the news it tells you the name.
I am feeling a bit more confident now as to how to tell her. I am sure that in a week and a half time (I am planning to tell her on monday or tuesday not next week but the week after, I am in no rush as I don't want her to think about it for the rest of the holiday, she's already really worried and nervous about starting school.)I will have come to term with it a bit more as it has affected me and DH a great deal, so I won't get emotional when I tell her.
They suggest that you are better off breaking the news at meal times or something, when the family is together (for example, at the end of a meal probably) rather than isolate the child and take a hushed voice as this can unnerve them even more.

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zeno Sun 22-Aug-10 11:39:11

Hi Coffeecake. Another recommend for Winston's Wish. They are very very good at this sort of thing.

Our primary school went to them for advice and guidance when dd died and I have to say they handled it all brilliantly and very openly. It may be worth pointing your school in their direction as well.

PixieOnaLeaf Sun 22-Aug-10 12:07:16

Message withdrawn

coffeecake Sun 22-Aug-10 12:41:46

Definately Pixie (about meal times), that goes without saying. Meal times or other times, whenever it feels like the right time. Even if it's before the day that I had in mind.

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footballsgalore Sun 22-Aug-10 21:22:52

Hi Coffeecake, Hope you are coping ok.
It may be that telling her sooner rather than later is a better idea, it may tarnish the end of the holidays but could give her time to get used to it a bit and grieve in private before going to school and having it all still fresh to her. Also, can you be sure she won't hear it anywhere else before then? It would be awful if she heard it somewhere else first.
Maybe meeting up with another friend who will be affected as much as your DD might be a comfort to her before school term starts, then going back to face everyone might not be quite so daunting. It may also give her access to a new friend for Sept if the boy was someone she played with a lot.
I don't know about the details of the incident but assume maybe drugs related? As others have said, I would stick as close to the truth as possible, whilst excluding scary details, because if she hears a different version and quizzes you it may prove very difficult. Maybe say he took to much medicine by mistake? Or simply say you're not exactly sure what or why happened and that people may never find out in a case like this.
Also agree with posters who said to reassure her that it is very rare and unlikely to happen to you/your DH.
These are traumatic things for a young child to deal with but kids can be more resilient than we expect sometimes. Good luck.

coffeecake Mon 23-Aug-10 10:13:13

Yes thank you, I have arranged a play date with two kids who will also have been affected by it, so that she can see people before starting school.

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