Helping my friend cope with the uncopeable (sp) and explaining death to my dd (age 3)

(11 Posts)
nulgirl Fri 27-Nov-09 15:54:55

The 2 yo dd of one of my close friends has been suffering from meningitis for the past 2 months. We had hoped that she was making a slow recovery but we found out this week that her condition is deteriorating and that she has been moved to the childrens hospice.

We are all devastated and I am looking for advice on

1. how to help my friend and her family now and in the medium to long term. I am scared of doing and saying the wrong thing. I have been texting regularly and have been into see my friend in the hospital where her dd was. Was also dropping off food parcels to her house. Now she is in the hospice am not sure what to do. Texting seems so crass but want her to know that they are in our thoughts.

2. explain to my dd (3.2) that her friend and playmate is dying/ has died. She has not seen her since she went into hospital but still talks about her. Most of the books I can find talk about the death of older people and the natural cycle of life . How can I explain to her something that seems even to adults so inexplicable and cruel?

Any advice would be much appreciated

OP’s posts: |
LowLevelWhingeing Fri 27-Nov-09 16:07:16

I'm so sorry to hear about this awful situation. There was a thread recently asking for similar advice (I'll search for it in a minute).
With regards to supporting your friend and her family, this article is useful. It is written by a woman who lost her husband and is about the practical help that is gratefully received following a bereavement.

At the heart of the article is:

Be there for them. Don't avoid them. Not just now but for the long haul because grief takes time.

Offer firm practical help. Not just, "let me know if I can do anything" but "I'm going to come round and do some ironing on Saturday" or "I'm taking you for a coffee" or whatever is appropriate.

Sorry, I have no advice on how to explain this to your DD but your friend is lucky to have someone so thoughtful at this devastating time. Good luck.

LowLevelWhingeing Fri 27-Nov-09 16:12:15

The other thread is here. There's lots of good advice.

nulgirl Sat 28-Nov-09 09:03:54

Thanks for that. I will look at the article today. I was at her house last night keeping her mum and sister company. My friend and her dh are at the hospice with their dd who is in her final days. It was so difficult as the family are clearly in shock but it was good to share happy memories and discuss the events of the last couple of months. For them I suppose it was good to get be able to get things off their chests and to distract from waiting for the phone call from the hospice.

What makes it even more sad is that my friend also has a newborn dd who will never get to know her big sister. I hope that she can provide some comfort for my friend and her dh in the months and years to come

OP’s posts: |
shelleylou Sat 28-Nov-09 09:11:43

I had to tell my ds recently about my brothers death. DS was 2.11 at the time (3yo now). I told him that his uncle was in the sky and we wont be able to see him anymore but he loves us and hes watching over you. I had no time to rpepare what i was going to say to ds as the death was completely unexpected. I was told then ds asked for his uncle it was the first thing that came into my head. DS understood that and tells me my brother is in the sky.

chegirl Sat 28-Nov-09 19:19:52

Texting is ok IMO. It shows you are thinking about them but it means they are not pressured into talking to you.

When my DD was terminal people suddenly started phoning. It was relentless. Every five minutes. I know that people wanted to show support and that they cared but it was too much to deal with. I bought an answering machine. I could listen to the messages without having to talk. I would very much recommend this to anyone in this horrible situation.

They will need you to be around for a long time. Support drops off as people have to go on with their own lives. It is very lonely being a bereaved parent. Its hard to beleive but people really do avoid you. You feel like a freak.

Keep in touch. Dont make demands, if you offer to do something make sure they know its a sincere offer. Make specific offers rather than 'if there is anything I can do'. Let them talk about their child as much as they want. Dont say 'oh dont cry' or 'please dont get upset'.

I am not implying that you would do these things or even that they are nasty things to do. Just talking from experience.

Our DS was 3 when DD died. You cant really explain death to a 3 year old. They dont understand. DS is still confused now he is 6 although we have always been open and honest with him. Just recently realised he thought cancer is a person who stabbed his sister shock

Be honest and give short answers to questions as they arise. We talk about heaven because thats what we believe but I know thats not for everyone. Avoid fuzzy language like 'gone to sleep' that can terrify a child. Talk about how sad it is and how sad the LO's parent are. Be prepared for questions at odd times.

I am so very sorry that your friends are having to cope with this. Its a terrible, horrible tradgedy.

I am sorry.

nulgirl Sun 29-Nov-09 09:50:04

Thank you chegirl for generously sharing your experiences. Very sorry for your loss. I can't imagine the pain that a parent must feel losing a child. I don't know how my friend and dh have coped over the last couple of months spending every day and night in the different hospitals. The emotional turmoil must hae been so difficult and it was such a rollercoaster with more lows than highs

We still haven't heard any news from the hospice. She texted on friday to say that the end was nearing and that they wanted no more visits and that her and dh were going to spend the final few days peacefully with their dd. She is in no pain and is having no more treatment. Her mum said that the hospice is fantastic and that the staff are wonderful. My friend used to work there as the onsite paediatrician and the staff all knew her dd before she got ill.

Keep thinking about them all and bursting into tears. Feel so helpless and just want to make things better. I will try to make sure that I give her the support she needs in the medium to long term. I know that they have some very dark times to come in the next months/ years.

OP’s posts: |
nulgirl Thu 03-Dec-09 08:07:35

Just to let you know my friend's dd died yesterday morning at the hospice. Her parents were with her and she was in no pain

Thanks for your advice and I will do my best to support my friend and the rest of the family.

If you can, say a little prayer for a little girl who was wonderful and much loved.

OP’s posts: |
liath Thu 03-Dec-09 08:21:47

This little girl and her family are already in mine and DH's thoughts (I think I recognise her from your post), I can't begin to imagine what her parents are experiencing but you sound like a great friend and hopefully that will be a real comfort to them.

Casserole Thu 03-Dec-09 09:08:28

I'm so sorry

On another site I go to there are little candle icons you can post to say you're thinking of / saying a prayer for someone. They don't have those here but I'll light a real candle here today and say a prayer for them, and you, and everyone who loved her, when I see it burning.

I would say practical help and just not running away from them would be the way I would go.

Portofino Thu 03-Dec-09 09:16:37

How sad! sad They and you are in my thoughts! Wishing you much strength to help them get through this impossibly difficult time.

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