When do you get help?

(22 Posts)
admylin Tue 22-Jun-10 09:14:03

Sorry if this gets too long, I'm worried about a family I know quite well.

Ds's friend aged 12 has lost his mum - she died on Friday and it was so traumatic as he was there when it happened. He was so upset as you can imagine. A bereavment helper (not sure what her job title is) from the hospital was with him for 4 hours during and after the death and the dad was there of course.

I don't think the dad is coping, he isn't totally 'there' which I'm sure is normal but yesterday evening he still hadn't done anything about funeral details, his wife is still in the hospital morgue. Instead he spent the afternoon cleaning out a store room she used for her business and stacking the leftover boxes and appliances in the garage.

I'm not sure how to help or maybe get him some help? No idea what the norm would be in this situation.I could ask the bereavement woman to go and see them but his place is in such a mess that I could get him into trouble. He needs to clean up first but he needs help (more than I can give I think).

I've been trying to help, ds went there at the weekend and he and his friend played table tennis and nintendo together, even managed to have a laugh, I've cooked for them and had the friend round yesterday to give the dad a break after he'd exhausted himself half emptying the business out (with my and 3 dc's help)and half in the hope he would use the time alone to get in touch with the funeral people.

Then the ds said he'd like to go back to school on Wednesday and the dad said no I'm not getting up at 7am just to take you to school (it's the last day, we break up for summer that day) - I didn't say anything because I did not think he will be expected to go to school so soon after losing his mum but he says he wants to see his friends before they break up.

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admylin Tue 22-Jun-10 10:08:43


I have no other experience of this so wondering if it's maybe all nothing to worry about?

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Jux Tue 22-Jun-10 10:51:35

My mum died in September last year, swiftly followed by my younger brother so I'm slightly au fait with what this family are going through.

The first thing I did was get the funeral details sorted, but actually there's no real hurry. In both cases, the funerals happened about 4 weeks after they each died; plenty of time. On the other hand, you could ask if he would like you to phone them? He is feeling utterly overwhelmed at the moment. Probably just doing the things which he finds easiest and most important.

It sounds like he is immersing himself in practicalities while he is still feeling numb and shocked enough to do it without falling apart. (I am having a ghastly time atm, as it is only now that I am going through clothes and things; burst into tears yesterday when I was folding my little brother's boxers. Wish I'd been able to do it much sooner when I still wasn't really feeling anything.)

He obviously feels he needs to sort out particular things right now. Perhaps her office is too much of a reminder for him and he just needs to get rid of it. Perhaps they had plans for it which now won't be going ahead, so he needs to remove the reminder. You can't tell what people will do after a bereavement; what their priorities are etc. He may feel that she would have wanted the house in order and so he is tackling it first, so he can say to her (figuratively) look I've done it; pleasing her iyswim. Who knows?

I think if the son wants to go to school then he should. Can you help there? Maybe arrange for him to sleep over the night before so he can go in with your kids?

Cooking for them a bit, helping out where you can, calling or dropping a note through the door. All these things help though you might not get much response at the time. He will know you are there for him and his son, and he needs to know that. He will remember.

Jux Tue 22-Jun-10 11:09:35

Also, one can experience a very very strong desire to be with 'normal' people. When my dad died (25 years ago) I desperately wanted to be with someone who didn't know so I could have a normal time as if nothing had happened.

The poor child. I imagine he is totally lost and confused and desperately clinging to anything that looks like normality. He wants reality to go away as his reality is too awful to cope with. He might only be able to stay at school for a very short time, anyway, before he needs to go home.

There is another thread where I have typed out some postcards we received from a child bereavement charity (they sent them for dd). They are postcards with suggestions of how different people might help the child deal with the death of someone close, addressed to teacher, parent, and friend, but also one addressed to themselves. Examples are along the lines of "invite me to join in, but understand I might not feel like it right now. This doesn't mean I want you to stop asking". The charity is called Balloons; here but they only operate around Exeter. I'd type them again, but it took ages and I have to go out now.

There are many bereavement services offering counselling, but the dad is going to have to want it himself, and he probably won't for some time.

admylin Tue 22-Jun-10 11:12:48

Jux, thank you so much. I can understand things alot better now - I'll keep on helping as much as I can especially the boy. Have to rush out now but will be back later. And I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, it must be so hard to cope with.

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MissM Tue 22-Jun-10 12:06:28

Admylin I posted earlier but for some reason the 'post' button disappeared and I lost what I'd written.

Anyway, it was along the lines of asking whether you could help some more. This poor man is in shock - his wife has been dead four days - and of course he's not coping. Can you or someone else take his son to school? It's really important if that's what the son wants. Is there any family you can contact who can help organise the funeral? Can you carry on cooking meals and helping to tidy up, or draft others in to take it in turns?

I realise this shouldn't be your responsibility, but what this family needs right now is someone to cope for them until they can resurface. You sound like a very caring and thoughtful person and you are doing all the right things - can you carry on until the support is in place?

SassySusan Tue 22-Jun-10 12:13:03

Message deleted

frostyfingers Tue 22-Jun-10 12:42:15

I know things have changed hugely, but when my dad died (I was 15), I went back to school as normal and none, yes none of the pupils were told......

It was a boarding school (I was an army child), and they were useless. Not surprisingly I was fairly unhinged and found it hard, and was bullied, until one dear friend managed to get through to the idiots why I was in such a mess and it stopped. I've never forgiven the school for that - my mother had obviously told them, but they were crap. Yes, almost 30 years on I'm still bitter.

So, make sure his school knows, they may be able to help practically as well. Ask the dad if there's anyone you can contact for him, does he have other friends/colleagues you could share it with....

Above all, be there for your ds's friend - a touch of normality will help enormously. I'm sorry your having to deal with this, and so so sorry for the family - it stinks.

Jux Tue 22-Jun-10 17:04:43

There's a very good leaflet here. It's aimed at what you can do for bereaved parents, but a lot of it is relevant.

admylin Wed 23-Jun-10 08:00:25

Thanks again everyone, helps me to understand what they are going through.

Yes, I informed the school for them and asked the teacher to say a few words to the class which she did and the ds is going in for half a morning today.

Next big problem is - when the mum was rushed from her ward to the intensive care ward her passport/identity card which everyone carries here (abroad), bank cards and bunch of keys are missing. She was in intensive care for a week before she died and everyone at the hospital is saying they don't know where these things are.

Not as if the dad needs another problem to sort out, he hasn't even got the death certificates and he has to run around cancelling bank accounts and going to report missing identity card.

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admylin Wed 23-Jun-10 08:04:30

Also, dh and I are going into his place at the weekend to tidy up his kitchen and start cleaning up abit. He'll listen to dh as he helped him alot at the hospital (he works there), with me he sort of always finds an excuse and I don't want to boss him about.

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Jux Wed 23-Jun-10 09:38:41

Sounds like your best bet is to help 'silently' as it were. Were you a close friend of the mum? He might find it difficult to talk to you because you remind him too much of his wife, or something. Just guessing.

You're doing all the right things. I wish you had been my friend when my lot died.

MissM Wed 23-Jun-10 10:20:09

I think you and your husband are being amazing and doing all the right things as Jux says. Is there anyone else who can help out too? I don't know what to say about the missing things - is it a country where documents might be stolen, or are you likely to be able to recover them? That is a real worry and you're right - the dad doesn't need that on top of anything else.

DadInsteadofMum Wed 23-Jun-10 13:20:17

With regards to going back to school my kids missed just the day their mum died and the day of the funeral. Kids respond well to routine and what they know feels safe to them so going back to school soon can be a good thing.

I can relate to the walking around in a daze thing as well. We were fed because meals turned up on the dorrstep (even now 2 years on I have a Lasagne dish I have no idea who to return to). The kids were clothed because the house sprang ironing fairies (laundered clothes would disappear and return freshly ironed.

You are doing all the right things; you are going around and just doing stuff, saying just call if you need anything is never enough, if you are not even sure which way is up then you have no idea what it actually is you need doing. So just more of the same and wait for him to find his feet again.

And even after he appears to have found his feet he will still need support, people are very good at putting a brave face on things when they still need help.

Jux Wed 23-Jun-10 18:48:01

DD didn't want to leave the house even, let alone go to school. If she couldn't see us she thought she would find us dead. Mind you, altogether in two years we'd had 7 family deaths, 1 cat, 2 guinea-pigs, 3 big fish from our pond, 1 van and 1 computer. (I felt that the Trend of Death was going in the right direction - people, pets, fish, vehicles, technology grin).

In the end she missed practically a whole term.

If the boy wants school it's a good thing as long as they're up to speed and respond well.

admylin Thu 24-Jun-10 07:37:30

Dadinsteadofmum, did you have to learn things like how to cook, iron, use washing machine etc? This dad can't do anything - even when his wife was in hospital over the past 6 months he has fed himself and son on take away, macdonalds and cheese sandwiches. He can't iron and dh and I are going to help him tiday his place up but he needs to learn the ropes from the bottom up.

I had the boy over yesterday afternoon , he came at 3pm and he and ds went out to play table tennis but came back half an hour later saying the boy felt dizzy so I asked him what he had eaten that day and he said nothing sad I gave him a bottle of water and some fruit and an ice pop then he felt better and they played on the computer - I made the evening meal early knowing he must be hungry and he ate his portion and then asked if I wouldn't mind making him a cheese toasty aswell.

I hope things get better soon, the funeral still isn't sorted out but the dad siad he was going to start the ball rolling today.

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thumbwitch Thu 24-Jun-10 07:57:40

admylin - it might be a good idea if you can give the DS some hints on how to care for himself - at 12 he could be starting to know how things work if his mum were still around. Maybe, without being too overt about it, you can show the DS how to work the washing machine, how to cook simple food, how to iron his own clothes. It's not ideal and the Dad should be the one learning - but if he's not managed it in 6m, he might be either resisting or doesn't think it matters. Even my Grandad, who was 86 when my Nanna died, learnt how to use a washing machine and to do basic cooking - he'd never done it in his life before.

If the DAd doesn't know how to do these things, the DS won't learn either without instruction - so you'd be doing him a life favour if you can do it gently.

It sounds like you are a very caring friend and doing good things for this man and his son - I hope that you can continue to be such a support, maybe have the DS over 2 or 3 times a week to ensure he's having proper meals and give his Dad space, give him meals to take back to his Dad as well, that kind of thing.


admylin Thu 24-Jun-10 09:24:35

Thanks thumbwitch, good idea. I could invite the ds over and show him and my own ds how to cook a few dishes as that was on my list of things it's about time he should be able todo and I see your point about his dad not teaching him.

I've been sending food over too. It's so sad. We only met this family last August when we moved here and I only met the mum a few times before she went into hospital in December. Ds and their ds became best friends in school so I got to know the dad and my dh helped them alot with the hospital side as he works there so he translated and spoke to colleagues for them. He's going to help with the search for the identity card and missing bunch of keys too. We think they must be somewhere in the hospital (it'S a massive place).

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DadInsteadofMum Thu 24-Jun-10 10:08:03

I knew the basic already and as DW declined over 2.5 years took more and more of it on.

That said immediately after the death that all went out the window and I relied heavily on others for the basics.

Jux Fri 25-Jun-10 11:15:53

DD has just had a 'food tech' lesson over at the local secondary school. They made a great cheese toastie which she then made for us for supper last night. It had diced green pepper, tomato and leek, so wasn't a case of just grating some cheese on bread and shoving under the grill. Good one to start with - has most of the major food groups in it, and if he had a banana for pudding then he'd be getting most of what he needed even if that was all he was eating for a while. Better than takeaways I think.

admylin Sun 27-Jun-10 10:02:52

Great idea with the improved cheese toasty, thanks.
Had the ds over yesterday and he cleaned the bowl out. I made fried rice with loads of veg and grilled some marinated chicken breast but was worried abit as the boy was shaking, his left hand was shaking as he was trying to eat and when he was helping himself to seconds and thirds.

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cyteen Thu 01-Jul-10 20:45:47

You sound like such a kind person admylin. What you're doing for this boy will stay with him always.

I really hope he and his father are getting good support from other sources too. I feel for them, it is an awful thing to go through.

Are there any 'official' sources of support where you are, e.g. social services-type stuff or bereavement charities? It might be worth gently trying to put them in touch with some official channels too, for everyone's sake.

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