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Classmate's loss: what would you say?

(6 Posts)
binkie Thu 19-May-05 20:37:36

The father of a little classmate of dd's (4 year olds) has died suddenly. The family are from overseas and leaving immediately - we will probably not see them again.

What, if anything, would you suggest I say to dd? She will notice that her classmate has left, but probably nothing more than that for now. The school does have quite a social bond, however, so she will find out about it in time from other children/parents. I also don't think something so tragic should go unmentioned - but that may be more for me than her. Advice?

foolysh Thu 19-May-05 20:49:31

I would be honest and simple.

FWIW, I went to the funeral of a 5yo child yesterday - -one of my son's classmates. The school has been honest but simple about it. "Daniel went to heaven", etc. The thing is, a little girl in the year, her mother died in January after 6 month illness (ovarian cancer). That little girl is finding the boy's death harder to bear than others, but I don't think she's actually the worst one. A few of the children have had bad dreams, you may have to judge your own child. Most of the children, including the 4yo sister of the boy who died, are taking it ok. The school was very honest with the children when the girl's mother died. Little children need simple truths. "So-n-so's father died which is very sad". I don't know why the family is leaving, but if the death is part of why they are going, explain how the 2 are connected in simple terms, too.

Sorry, am probably babbling. The funeral yesterday was rough.

roisin Thu 19-May-05 21:06:22

Hmm... I'm really not sure. I agree with what you're saying about not letting it go unmentioned, and also what foolysh says about "simple truths", but atm I wouldn't tell ds1 about something like that if I thought it were avoidable.

We've always been "up front" about death, very matter-of-fact etc., and ds1 (nearly 8) still really struggles with it. He is going through another of his phases atm of getting very upset at bedtime worrying about what will happen after his death, and how painful it will be. He has never afaik contemplated the possibility of what would happen if dh or I died, and I wouldn't want him too - certainly not atm.

In your position I don't think you have to say anything: I would check with the school to find out how they are handling it, and whether they are going to say anything in assembly; and take your lead from them. If the family were staying around it would be different, of course.

Posey Thu 19-May-05 21:18:14

Be honest. Word it however you feel appropriate (He's gone to heaven, if thats what you believe...)

We have been through this more times than I care to remember. Between nursery and y1, dd faced near death of her daddy, sudden death of 2 classmates parents (one mum, one dad), more expected death (after a battle with cancer) of another mum, and the death of a 26 year old teacher in front of the class.
An awful lot to cope with, and particularly because they were all young and all but one out of the blue. We talked and talked, school was brilliant (they had to be with so much death all around). The hardest bit was that we normally say most people die old, and of course they do. Dd was preoccupied with it for a long time. Sometimes she appeared to act inappropriately by making jokes, but I think that was her way of coping. She's now not experienced any deaths for 2 years and she seems to have a "normal" relationship with the subject IYSWIM.

binkie Fri 20-May-05 09:51:31

Thank you. So helpful. I decided, for her, it would be best if she heard it from me first, as she is one of those little pitchers with big ears, so latching onto stray playground remarks would be an issue.

Foolysh, yes, that is why the family are leaving. Your idea about connecting the two was so helpful - I was able to say "they're going home because they all just want to be with [x]'s granny and grandpa just now", which somehow helped her understand - putting it into a context of family closeness.

The school haven't decided what to do yet. Ds's reaction was to ask whether we could give the family presents - which I completely understand, it's a version of the "what can I do to help?" urge everyone immediately feels. We've decided ourselves that dd may think of writing her classmate a letter once the family are back home.

Posey, I'm so sorry - what an astonishing amount your dd (and you) have gone through! Just picking up on one thing, though - how is your dh now?

Posey Fri 20-May-05 20:43:31

Oh, I wasn't courting sympathy, but thanks for asking after dh. After a year of ups and downs, we've had pretty much a trouble free 3 years now. He just goes back to see the doc once or twice a year. He's probably fitter than ever too now and is regularly taking part in 60mile cycle races.

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