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Bereavement & Grief

(126 Posts)
Kia Mon 30-Jul-01 21:37:42

I have a very dear friend who has just been left a widow before their first anniversary. I could go on and tell the whole tale but it's not really the point of this messge. I really want to support her through this even though we are only able to talk on the phone because of the distance involved, and I wondered if anyone had any words of wisdom to add. It is only 10 weeks since he died so it's still very raw.

Joe Tue 31-Jul-01 07:33:22

Kia - How awful, your friend must be devastated. I wouldnt know what to say either and I can not imagine she really wants to hear any words of wisdom right now. I think just being a supportive friend and being on the other end of the phone whenever she needs you is probably all you can do right now. As time goes on it will all become more easy. Good luck, Im not very good in this area.

Mooma Tue 31-Jul-01 07:35:44

Dear Kia, this is such a sad situation and it will be a very long time until your friend can come to terms with it - probably years. You don't say how long they had been together, but I assume longer than the months they were married?
The only wisdom I can offer is that you keep in touch frequently, even if you don't always want to. It will be just the day when your friend is engulfed with grief that your call will mean so much. The thing about friends is that they are not blood relatives, so you can offload emotions and thoughts that are perhaps a little too raw for family members to cope with.
It is sometimes very hard to communicate by phone when someone is very upset because there tend to be a lot of silences, especially if they cry when they try to talk. Try not to let this put you off, just quietly speak, or even let the silence be.
Does your friend have a religious faith? If so, there may be someone connected with that who will provide a shoulder. Let your friend know you are there for her and prove it by the attention you give her.

Mooma Tue 31-Jul-01 07:38:12

Joe, your message posted while I was writing mine, and it made me realise how very differently we react in times of loss. So Kia, try to see which way your friend needs you to play it. Good luck.

Azzie Tue 31-Jul-01 08:22:11

I haven't lost a partner, but I remember after my father died that the thing I appreciated the most was the people who kept in touch. Some even said "I don't know what to say or how to help, but I'm here if you need me". The worse thing was those who avoided me because they didn't know what to say. I know this is a personal thing, and not everyone is the same, but I also found it helped that people would talk about him or mention him - even if it upset me, at least they weren't acting as if he never existed. It takes a long time for the grief to ease, but talking about the person seems to reinforce all the good memories.

Bloss Tue 31-Jul-01 11:12:57

Message withdrawn

Mooma Tue 31-Jul-01 12:54:13

Bloss, I agree that Joe isn't advocating not getting in touch, but it struck me that she was suggesting letting the friend make contact if she needed to, and I wondered if this might leave her friend feeling avoided, as Azzie has suggested can happen to the bereaved.
Only Kia knows which approach is likely to suit her friend better.

Japan Tue 31-Jul-01 12:57:09

Keep in touch on a regular basis even if you feel like it is not achieving anything. Don't take offense if your friend does not contact you, you will have to take responsibility for maintaining your friendship for a while. In the beginning everyone calls but over time contact peters out and it is then that your friend will need you most. Try to remember significant anniversaries and be aware that your friend will need you most then. Finally, try not to pussy foot around issues that you think are painful as the harder you try the worse it will probably be. Just be a friend and you cant really go wrong.

Sporty1 Tue 31-Jul-01 15:02:28

a very difficult one. About a year ago my brother lost his wife, she was only 44 and died very suddenly. They were perfectly matched and had a fantastic 15 years together. He went through many emotions in the early months from frightening calm to anger and finally deep sadness and depression. All we could do as a very close family was be there for him. If he needed to talk we listened, if he needed to be alone we left him, he arrived often at our house at the blue just for company and still does occasionally.
I think he would say that knowing that love and support is all around you and that it will be there whenever you reach out for it is the most important thing. Your friend will need time to grieve in her own way, that may involve you or it may not. Keep ringing, let her know that you are thinking of her, write her a card, most of all make it known that you wont be offended if she wants to be left alone but that you are there if she needs anything at all. I loved my sister in law very much, but it broke my heart to see my brother in such a vulnerable state. Nothing could make him feel better. He needed to heal himself in his own time and i am happy to say after a very long year, he is smiling again! Hope this has been of some help.

Joe Tue 31-Jul-01 15:53:30

Mooma/Bloss - Perhaps I didnt put it right, sometimes I dont have a way with words. I think you have to be there but not over the top which I know can be difficult. Sometimes you feel that someone close who has gone through this wants people around and never left alone when it can really be quite the opposite. I think you have to be lead by the person involved and when they are close you tend to have talked about this sort of thing happening, as you have probably been through a death together at some time, so you know how to tread. I dont think hearing all the 'perhaps it was meant to be' stuff is what you need, but an ear, a shoulder and a good old fashioned cuddle when you cant hold it together anymore is what I would want.

Kia Tue 31-Jul-01 18:43:08

Thanks everyone! I must admit that I worried that because of several losses in my own family in the very recent past, I thought I'd become hardened to the pain of loosing someone. I mean hardened in the sense that having been 'there' I know how I'd react to severe situations, and that a matter of fact way in these situations is not always helpful and in some cases downright obnoxious! However, all your messages show I'm still human after all! I spoke to her on the phone and made her laugh, put my foot in it on several occasions and then sent her a copy of quite a dire website I found on bereavement, with my comments written in the sidelines. Some of it was really bad - sickly stuff, and some of it was actually quite common sense and I hope it gives her something to look at when she's in need. The other thing I was very pleased to see was that it dealt with anger and guilt and had a list of wierd things people do when they're grieving - just so she knows she's not wierd and that other people do the same things!! Seeing the dead person accross the room or just going out as you come in etc.. Thanks everyone, its really quite awful, they were both second time round and had almost 2 years together. I've also written into my next year calendar all the significant dates I can think of. Thanks for that tip, Japan!

Miti Wed 01-Aug-01 14:25:11

Dear Kia,
I have only just read your initial message and the subsequent answers. There seems to be quite a wealth of wisdom out there!
The only thing I feel I can add to what has already been said is to remember when you are talking with your friend that you are her friend and no matter what information you read or discover will cause you to understand the entirity of what she must be going through. One of the worst mistakes people seem to make is to think they understand what they are going through.
Greif is an entirely individual journey that is managed by whatever coping mechanisms she has already established in her lifetime. It does cause people to sometimes modify their behavour to the extent that those outside her immediate sphere of confidantes feel unwanted or even unneeded. Your sustained contact with her although at times may seem fruitless will help her to realize that she has a friend in you.
Being a friend in the good times has its own responsibilities but they take on a whole new dimension in these situations. You should realize and be willing to accept those responsibilities but know that at the end your friendship will have a much deeper foundation than ever before if you are willing to make your investments now. Although your friend is going through an undeniably horrendous ordeal right now - you will go through your own grief along with her but without a friend like you to help! Don't be too hard on yourself if you trip up and say "the wrong thing" or forget to call once. And if when you talk to her you feel like crying - cry along side her. She doesn't need you to be constantly trying to be counselling superwoman. She just needs you to be a supportive friend.

Tigermoth Wed 01-Aug-01 16:52:30

Kia, the only thing I can add to all this good advice is to say could you possibly think about visiting your friend after the first wave of her grief has diminished? You say she lives some distance away, so it is not an easy thing for you to do. The reason I'm suggesting this is based on my own experience of the months after my mother died. Spending time just being with old friends, especially those who knew my mother, was something I valued deeply. But as you say, this isn't always possible and the friends who couldn't visit, but phoned me regularly, gave me great support, too.

Kia Wed 01-Aug-01 19:19:23

I have visited and will continue to do so as often as I can, we also have a special time each week that I ring her or she rings me and we talk for a long time. I'm hoping she'll come and visit me at Christmas, but it may be very difficult mentally for her, because they visited me together too. I understand what you mean about individuality, and I always say to her, that although we're both Librans, we're different Librans! We both aren't touchy feely people, and she and I know the effort that goes into it for either of us to exchange hugs! I've been doing alot of that lately and its not so bad! I have been thinking about mediums - not for me, but what to say if she suggests she wants to see one. I have no feelings either way, and I'm not expecting a theological argument, just what you would think would be best for someone feeling such deep pain that might think of this.

Shiv Wed 01-Aug-01 21:35:30

I know how hard it can be just to pick up the phone at times. I have a friend who lost her husband of 12 years just two and a half weeks ago.Her children are just 5 and 3. He was sick for six weeks. It seems so unfair and I know i am angry and appalled at how unjust life seems so I can't even begin to comprehend how she feels. I was away on holidays when he died and it was so hard to make initial contact. but I see her at least weekly and our kids play together and let off steam. she cries and talks and I listen. If she needs any difficult phonecalls or tasks done like death certs sorted etc i volunteer for as much as I can. But i think as many people have mentioned it's the chance to talk about her husband is what helps most, and I hope that in a years time and beyond I can still be there as a friend and a support because there are so many difficult times ahead, christmas, birthdays etc.

Joe Thu 02-Aug-01 07:17:14

Kia - My mum goes to spiritulist church, not all the time, just when she feels she needs to be close to people that have gone. I have been a couple of times and you do feel good when you leave. Its not like going to a medium although they have someone like that there and they do contact people. They do sing etc but it is very light. Maybe she has one near her. It makes things easier for my mum (my nana has just recently died, her mum) knowing they have not completly gone.

Kia Thu 02-Aug-01 20:13:52

Yes, we have a Spiritualist Church near us and I find that very serene on the few occasions I've been. I'll think on that, thanks. When my brother died at 17 I felt all the anger and bitterness, guilt etc but now after so much and so many I don't feel the same sharpness(?)of emotions when someone had died. I seem to go onto autopilot and just do what has to be done and worry about the emotion later. Its my mind protecting me I know. I didn't cry for 3 years after my mother died and boy was that a mistake!! Mum would have shaken me till my teeth rattled for that little performance! But my friend knows I feel for her and that we are kindred spirits, which sometimes mean we have long companionable silences - good for BT, good for us - not complaining!

robinw Thu 21-Feb-02 21:20:00

message withdrawn

Helen1969 Thu 21-Feb-02 21:38:42

message withdrawn

Tinker Thu 21-Feb-02 21:53:43

Helen - what was the point of that comment?

Robinw - sorry, I don't have any specific things to say since I've never been in this situation, but my thoughts are with you.

Pupuce Thu 21-Feb-02 22:34:19

I also can't offer any suggestion - I am sorry and I can image it must be difficult.
Ignore Helen - she likes making STUPID and USELESS comments - she's done it to me as well on another thread.... When it was to me I just didn't mind too much but clearly it's a habit - I have no sympathy to help anyone who says such nasty things.

jessi Thu 21-Feb-02 22:35:56

Helen1969, sorry but what on earth are you talking about? Why don't you start your own thread where you can be as off the wall as you like? You're really helpfull aren't you.

RobinW, so sorry to hear about your MIL, its a horrible situation. I would suggest that your dh go's and see's his mother while he still can and talks to her, about anything and everything. Its important that he tells her he loves her and that he's there for her right now. One thing I firmly believe, is that when your ready to die then you will. An elderly relative of my dh's died recently, but not before she'd seen everyone that mattered and said her goodbye's. Hope that helps in some small way. Sorry it's such a difficult time.

emsiewill Thu 21-Feb-02 22:40:36

I agree about not dying until you're ready, my mum "hung on" for days, until she was told that her brother wasn't going to be ablt to come & see her, as he had hoped. She died within 2 hours. We obviously will never know if this was a conicidence, but it's something I'll never forget. I feel very lucky that I was there for my mum's last few days, and actually said the words "I love you" to her for the first time in my life (always understood before, but never spoken aloud.)

Lill Thu 21-Feb-02 22:51:34

robinw sorry to hear you and your family are going through such adifficult time. I have been sitting back and just redaing through threads since bowing out of the heated MMR debate but wanted to let you know my thoughts are with you.
Btw Helen1969 -there was no need for that, just who are you and how rude can you get?

jodee Thu 21-Feb-02 22:52:01

Good grief Helen1969, just how insensitive a comment was that? You are putting words into Robinw's mouth that she never said.

Robinw, I don't know how to offer much comfort other than just being there for one another and I agree with Jessi about it being important to say last goodbyes, and I hope for you all that it will not be a long drawn-out affair and your MIL will be at peace soon. xx

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