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Is my friend ok? No signs of grief after sudden death of her husband

(9 Posts)
babybarmy Tue 09-Sep-08 18:12:10

My close friend lost her husband suddenly after he had a heart attack a few months ago.It was devastating news as she has two little children and my friend and her husband had only just turned 30.

She just seems so together and as if nothing has happened, she never shows any upset or asks for any help and it seems amazing that she is coping so well (or the grief is just delayed and she is still in shock).

My friend is a very strong,organised person who doesn't really wear her heart on her sleeve anyway but I want to be there for her but she is always asking to help me out rather than the other way around.I think she is on antidepressants, will this disguise any grief?

Has anyone else experienced this? Can someone really be this resilient or will she just crack at some point and thats when I need to be there?

greenandpleasant Tue 09-Sep-08 18:18:59

Hi there. It is very nice of you to be concerned for your friend and wanting to support her. As a young widow I hope I'm in a position to advise. Basically there is no "right" way to grieve. All my friends will have marvelled at how together and calm I have been since DH died. What they don't see is what happens behind closed doors, in my quiet moments, when I'm alone and have the time and space to cry and grieve privately.

Your friend may crumble suddenly one day, she may not. She may already crumble 100 times a day without you ever seeing it. ADs will not disguise grief they will help her to function a bit more easily, eg get out of bed in the mornings, keep on top of stuff. But the grief will still be there.

So yes, someone can be that resilient. I was and still am. Just keep being a friend. Offer her practical support, let her do stuff for you - she may be wanting to just be "normal" for a good part of her day and separate out her "new" self, ie widowed, single parent, grieving, whole life and whole future changed from every day life of meeting friends, having a laugh, shopping, eating, looking after dcs.

Just my opinion of course. But don't think that because she seems ok that you can leave to it and she's "over it". SHe will keep needing good friends forever.

overthemill Tue 09-Sep-08 18:27:35

there are stages of grief. denial is one and so is shock. she needs lots of love and support and to know that you are there for her whenever she might need you, ie in the night

dizzydixies Tue 09-Sep-08 18:31:49

OJ posted a lovely thing the other day - here, doesn't answer your question but might help

HOW YOU CAN HELP ME

Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more
comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk
about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get
comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know
when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don't abandon me with the excuse that you don't want to upset me. You
can't catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid
to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I
most need to be cared about. If you don't know what to say, just come
over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You
can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you
to know that."

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I
feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I'm just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel
that you don't see me.

I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm
grieving and that's different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after
my loved one's death. Don't think that I will be over it in a year. For
I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was
with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for watching our
children and grandchildren grow, the places we will never get to go together, and the
hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled
and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my
loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and
love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be,
and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear.
Both are okay.

I don't have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has
happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just
not acceptable.

When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and
alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don't
make it worse by telling me I'm not doing this right.

Please don't tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start
dating again. I'm not ready. And maybe I don't want to. And besides,
what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren't. Whoever comes
after will always be someone different.

I don't even understand what you mean when you say, "You've got to get
on with your life." My life is going on, I've been forced to take on
many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think
it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So
please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and
support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget
and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your
hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need
to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in
my own way, and in my own time.

Please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." I'll never call you
because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could
do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you
some ideas:

(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.
(b) Send me a card on special holidays, his birthday, and the
anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can't
make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the
opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach
out on this difficult day.
(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I
may so no at first or even for a while, but please don't give up on me
because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you've given up
then I really will be alone.
(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples,
to walk into events alone, to go home alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don't judge me now - or think that I'm behaving strangely.
Remember I'm grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel
deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I'm
experiencing a pain unlike any I've ever felt before and one that can't
be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don't worry if you think I'm getting better and then suddenly I seem to
slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don't
tell me you know how I feel, or that it's time for me to get on with my
life. What I need now is time to grieve.

Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding. Thank
you for praying for me.

And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss - when you need
me as I have needed you - I will understand. And then I will come and be
with you.

babybarmy Tue 09-Sep-08 18:51:46

Thanks for your advice, it is all really helpful.I have spoken to my mum about it as my dad died aged 41 when I was 6 and I have two sisters who were 4 and 10.She was very strong too and seemed to cope remarkably but as her daughter I saw the sadness,anxiety and sheer exhaustion behind closed doors which went on for years.

I only have a child's perspective on it though which is why I find it much easier to relate to the experience of my widowed friend's son of 6 than I do to her situation as a grieving adult.

My friend says she just wants to get on with things and get used to being a single parent and does lots of activities with her kids to keep herself busy.I think I would be the same.It has been really hard for her doing things like organising birthday parties and going on holiday for the first time without her husband.

Her courage is admirable and I know grief is very different for different people. I will always be there for her and her children.

dizzydixies Tue 09-Sep-08 18:53:25

she's very lucky to have a lovely friend like you and am sure she appreciates it, knowing you're there will help her enormously

greenandpleasant Tue 09-Sep-08 20:07:03

babybarmy, something from your second post strikes a chord with me - the bit about organising birthday parties and going on holiday. things like that are where I struggle big time, not so much the emotional side, though that is undoubtedly tough, but the practical side. Doing all the booking, packing, thinking, driving, organising, checking in, collecting luggage, getting a hire car, shopping for food, dealing with stuff ... it is truly exhausting.

We get home from a weekend away and where (I hope that) two-parent families would share the workload, so one would sort out the car, unpacking, etc and one sort out the dcs, then you can have supper and unwind together I have to sort out ds THEN I unpack the car THEN I can think about eating and relaxing myself. It takes forever and it takes the shine off a weekend or a holiday away. I have good friends who live locally and one of the best things they have ever done for me is to greet me when I get home, let me sort out ds and unpack the car for me, and on occasion leave me something nice to eat and bugger off to give me the space to sit down and chill out alone (or stay if I want them to and they can). It takes about 30 mins from their day and makes the most enormous difference to my state of mind. For me, that is a good example of the sort of thing you can do - but us strong independent types will NEVER ask you to do this and if you ring and ask if you can do so chances are we'll still say no - because we are too damn proud whilst knowing that we should say yes, or just wishing someone would just come and help without it being arranged.

squidgemum Tue 09-Sep-08 20:50:44

Hello, I am not a widow but my dh has terminal cancer and is often very sick, tired or in hospital, so I'm beginning to understand what your friend is going through. I, too, am a proud, super organised, keep smiling, "I'm fine" type. What helps me most is:

1. when other Mummy friends suggest doing something with our dc (but not with other dhs)- I need normality and distraction.

2. When people understand that when I say "I don't want to talk about it", they accept it immediately and change the subject and don't say "you must talk about it, don't bottle it up" - if the lid gets taken off the bottle I would start crying and never, ever stop ... and I don't want to go there in front of ANYONE else.

3. When I get a text from a friend saying "wait in at such and such a time tonight - ocado delivery coming" and I find friend has ordered a week's worth of ready meals (too tired to cook after looking after 2 dc and working)plus all the usual essentials - loo roll, milk, bread etc - and won't dream of accepting payment. this simple act is so kind as it requires no brave-face conversation making but tells me she is looking after ME when no-one else does.

4. believe it or not, it REALLY DOES help when a friend says "I need you to ..." as it gives me back my self confidence, makes me feel normal again and provides a great distraction.

And I agree - saying "call me anytime" is meaningless - when you are in the depths of despair you don't know how to begin picking up the phone, let alone talking about it. Instead, text her often with chit chat news (NEVER about your own dh / stuff you've done as family though) and keep doing it, even if she never replies. Also, don't invite her to do stuff / see you when your dh / other couples are around - it is extremely painful to see other couples - especially other couples doing normal stuff like arguing about the washing up etc.

My macmillan nurse has mentioned the WAY Foundation(widowed and young foundation) and I know a friend who found great support there. you could email her a link?

I think you're being a lovely friend already . Hope these ideas help.

twinnylinnie Wed 10-Sep-08 16:36:05

Hi, all good advice which i recognise, and endorse but I will just add this if I may. Your friend might be in shock, I was for ages as my husband died very suddenly, no goodbye, no hugs nothing. That was four years ago this coming october, I have only just started functioning again, after all those years. I was depressed and very dysfunctional. I seemed ok but I didnt feel anything at all. A very astute hospital doctor I saw for something totally unrelated recognised the signs of post traumatic shock syndrome and without mentioning anything to me phoned my gp who called me in and after about half an hour of gently probing I suddenly felt like I had been hit with a earth quake and starting howling the place down, I just couldnt stop. He was fantastic and helped me through with kindness meds and care. I wish her well, you are worth your weight in gold.

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