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DD's best friend dying, DD in denial?

(12 Posts)
HoneyyBea Sat 29-Mar-14 18:48:06

Hello everyone

Apologies for the very upsetting thread. My DD and her best friend have been like sisters since they were 4 years old. J was DD's first friend in primary school and despite going to different secondary schools they would see each other 4/5 times a week (J lives just a few roads away). DD and J are both 14 now, and both will be 15 in April.

In June last year, they found an inoperable tumour on J's brain stem. She has been through radiotherapy and is currently on steroids. They've tried numerous different things, but now it's just a waiting game. J has been like a second daughter to DH and I (and J's parents say the same of our DD) so it's devastating for all of us. The problem is, DD seems to either know what is inevitable, but is refusing to come to terms with it, or she genuinely does believe she will get better.

It's heartbreaking how the tumour is so very slowly and painfully taking away J's life. She can barely hear anymore, has trouble seeing, is paralysed down her right side and has very little movement in her left. She has gained a huge amount of weight due to the steroids and it's so incredibly sad because mentally she is no different at all. It's horrible to know that inside she is completely "with it" and is clearly so desperate to just be able to express herself but she is so very restricted. DS is currently planning his gap year and I overheard him and DD chatting earlier today. DD was talking about all the places that she and J have planned to go, and how they were planning on going to the same university etc. It breaks my heart that she just doesn't seem to be aware that J really doesn't have long left.

The worst part is, DD hardly sees J anymore. Before she was ill, and even in the early months of her illness, she would see her perhaps 3 times a week minimum. Now she will see her once a week, if that. I know she is terrified deep down. I know seeing her best friend slowly and painfully die is tearing her apart. DD has always been very stoical and is not overly emotional. She rarely cries or shows her emotions in front of other people, but I hear her almost daily crying in her room. She and DS are very close and apparently she told DS that she just can't pretend around J...she said when her grandfather was ill in hospital, she would visit him and smile and pretend like everything was ok. But she can't with J...she can't sit there all happy happy pretending she's ok and that everything will be fine because she is so frightened and heartbroken over what this illness is doing to her best friend. I know she wants to be there for her more, but I know I find it hard not to burst into tears every time I see J, so I can only imagine how hard it is for DD.

My worry is that J will pass on, and DD will be angry at herself for not being there more. I want to try and raise this issue without so blatantly saying "well you know J doesn't have long left." They are so incredibly close. Neither of them stayed in touch with others from their primary school, and they went to separate secondary schools, so have different groups of friends. So really it's just the two of them..they really are like sisters. It's especially hard for DD because she has no one else to talk to about it apart from me and the family and I try and be there for her but the rest of J's friends, from her school etc, can all lean on each other but since it is just the two of them, and they are not in a big group, she seems to think she has to go through this alone. J bought her a DD "best friend" necklace's for Christmas and I always catch DD holding onto it. I just don't know what to do. How do I persuade her to visit J more? I know she wants to so desperately but she is so scared of just bursting into tears and trying to act like it's all ok when she knows it isn't. And how on EARTH do I deal with it when J does pass on? I just don't know what to do anymore. Any insight or suggestions would be so appreciated. I spoke to J's aunt just a few days ago who said J may just see her 15th birthday (April 26th) but even that is a stretch...

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Sat 29-Mar-14 19:11:29

I'm afraid I have no advice but I couldn't read that and not say something. That is incredibly sad and I hope you can convince your poor dd that she needs to make the most of this time because she will really, really regret it if she doesn't.

So sorry for you all. sad

lizzywig Sat 29-Mar-14 19:11:59

I'm so terribly sorry to hear this It's all utterly heartbreaking. I have a sister like best friend so can only imagine what your DD and J are going through. I don't know what to suggest but I think I would possibly suggest to your DD that she should try to do some nice things for J, because she knows her better than anyone. Perhaps watch a favourite film together or maybe make a memory book (or maybe that's something you could do and give her further down the line - your DD I mean). I think you need to use the words 'create happy memories' rather than 'make the most of the time'. I would suggest that your DD already feels like her friend has gone because the 'old' her has gone so she's already grieving. Perhaps it might be good for her to see a counsellor at some point. Losing anyone is hard, but especially difficult when you're so young.

Theyaremysunshine Sat 29-Mar-14 19:14:32

I have no experience of losing someone as a teenager, but as a doctor I have seen a lot of grief and many different ways of handling this dreadful pain.

Perhaps she would consider talking to someone outside the family, say with Winston's Wish or Child Bereavement UK.

Maybe she could write a short letter each day, or couple of days for J's mum to read to her, just about what she's done and how her friend might have laughed at whatever. Perhaps she could find the courage to tell her friend in a letter how she misses her but is afraid of upsetting her by crying.

Perhaps if j is still eating, she could make a cake or something else she might like just a taste of, or get a little gift, some nice perfume for example, smell is so important.

I'd tell your DD that it's ok to be afraid of her friend dying, to not understand it and be angry. She's probably feeling all of this and dreadfully guilty about not seeing her friend because of it. I would be honest though about the timeframe, she needs to know, and you may have to help her past the denial.

Might be useful to try a book, something like this.

I'm so sorry for the loss your whole family are facing.

GoooRooo Sat 29-Mar-14 19:18:47

How really really sad for everyone sad

My cousin (in her 60s so not a child or anything and I'm nearly 40) died a couple of years ago from breast cancer. I had the opportunity to go and see her a few days before she died and I didn't go - because I didn't want my last memory of her to be of her being really ill. The last time I'd seen her before that I'd taken her shopping for a dress for her 60th birthday and then went to her party and it was lovely.

In some ways, I am glad I didn't see her and my last memories of her are happy ones and I wonder if your daughter feels the same. I do however regret not saying goodbye until her funeral and feel I may have let her down somewhat because I was being selfish.

It may just be that she's terribly scared and doesn't know what to say to her friend. Could J's parents talk her about what J understands about her future and whether it's okay to talk about that, or whether J would prefer to talk as if it's not happening? Perhaps that might help.

survivingthechildren Sun 30-Mar-14 05:55:48

Don't have an answer for you, but couldn't just read and run. I am so sorry to hear of your situation, hopefully someone will be along soon with some good advice thanks

Kakaka Sun 30-Mar-14 06:30:31

I'm so sorry OP. This is a horrid situation.

Have you spoken to J's parents about it?

I lost a close pal in her 20's and many people stepped away from her over the course of her illness which was terribly sad. I've always felt she died not knowing what she mean't to people. Perhaps it's okay for your DD to go and cry, rather than not go? Or send messages, texts etc so her friend knows she is thinking of her.

Quodlibet Sun 30-Mar-14 06:43:21

What a sad situation OP. My heart goes out to both your families.

It sounds like your daughter is quite desperately in need of an outlet for the very very complicated set of feelings she's got at the moment.
The fact that she's crying alone makes it sound like on one level she is very aware of J's terminal diagnosis. But at the same time she may feel like she is betraying J on some level by not keeping their future alive. There's no road map here for how she 'should' handle it. It's such a hard and confusing territory - how do we deal with someone close who has a terminal diagnosis? How do you and the other adults around her talk about J? Is it acknowledged that J is dying? Most adults would struggle with this, it's no wonder your daughter is. And probably until recently J would have been the person who she shared difficult feelings with. I think that trying to find someone experienced and external for her to talk to over the coming weeks and months is a very good idea. I wonder whether you might also benefit from some professional support - don't be afraid to look for it.
It does sound you are all at the stage where it's impossible for your daughter not to confront this head-on now, and you clearly know you are going to need to help her do this. Like PP said, I think it's really important to acknowledge with her openly how difficult and scary and confusing and sad this time is. I wish you all a lot of strength.

JustOneCuppa Tue 01-Apr-14 09:51:52

I can't imagine how hard this is for you, your DD and your friends. Heartbreaking just to read.

I have worked with children/teenagers experiencing disability and death and the overwhelming feedback I get is they just want adults to be honest and tell them the truth. Perhaps you and DD need a quiet few hours, just you, somewhere peaceful like a park or similar, to talk through everything. Acknowledge all the feelings you have seen from her, tell her however she feels is fine and give some advice and support and tell her you love her. Give her the opportunity to talk but if she doesn't want to then you talk. Tell her how you feel, about how hard it is to see someone you love dying, how it makes you sad, angry.....

This organisation are great - perhaps just print out the webpage and slip it under your DD bedroom door:
http://www.griefencounter.org.uk

Thinking of you all

126sticks Tue 01-Apr-14 11:14:33

I think I would be a little brutal and mention how many days there are left. I think that would be kind to tell your daughter that, as she may not have much of an idea.

But ultimately, your daughter can only do what she feels able to do.

And she must not beat herself up about it.

PopiusTartius Tue 01-Apr-14 12:30:44

Good advice upthread already. The only thing I thought of is to approach it the same way I woul if I was going to visit someone who was dying and wanted to try and be strong for them, which would probably be to go prepared with lots of things I could fall back on if I felt overwhelmed - she could read to her from a book, or magazine, take some hand cream for a hand or foot massage, make a list in my head in advance of things I could talk about (and maybe even write them down). Give her tools she can "hide behind" if you know what I mean. Perhaps offer to go with her? I know she hasn't needed that in the past but death is frightening if you haven't been around it and she might appreciate the support now.

Desperately sad for everyone. I am so sorry.

BigPawsBrown Tue 01-Apr-14 12:43:30

My best friend became anorexic when we were about the same age and although we were growing apart before then I remember being relieved that we were distanced in case she died (she didn't). I think for me was feeling like I didn't have faith in myself I would be able to cope with the grief if she did. My mother suffers from anxiety and I really didn't believe that I wouldn't start to suffer too

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