What can I do? Loss of a child - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 03-22-2008, 09:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My neighbors' 12 yr old daughter passed away this morning. I'm not completely sure of the details, I know she had surgery for her kidney on thursday and that she's been on the heart transplant list for a long time. She's also very small, about the size of a 5 yr old, so I know she's had lots of health issues but this was still very sudden for them. They have 3 other children, ages 10, 9, and 7. The 9 yr old is in a church class that I teach, so I am close with her, though I've only talked to the parents a few times. I'm going to send a card (should I put it in the mail box? knock on the door? give it to the dd I see?) and donate to the fund some members of our church started for them, but is there anything else I can or should do? Anything I should make sure NOT to say? Thanks, my heart is breaking for them.

Mama to my little social butterfly 6/13/09

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#2 of 11 Old 03-23-2008, 11:14 PM
 
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Listen as much as you can. Talk as little as you can. Be present in the face of death, as it touches all of us, no exceptions. Be there for the family. Bring food, clean up, do a couple of loads of laundry. Don't ask if you can help, just do it. We Americans are pathologically afraid of asking for help, and the family will be in a state of shock, even if her death was recognized as a possibility. This is from Sacred Passage by Margaret Coberly: "Remember that words spoken in kindness and compassion are seldom inappropriate. With positive intention, anyone can be with a (grieving) person." Also remember that loving stories about the deceased, told with warmth and compassion can bring light into an otherwise dark place, and a focus on the love the deceased has left can remind all concerned that death is natural and a part of life. There is no right or wrong age at which to die. People are often comforted by funny and poignant stories about their LO. Loving, kind laughter about the deceased and remembering the wonderful lessons they taught are not only appropriate but are a gift. Of course, those I counsel are usually Buddhist but not always. I remind them of the wheel of birth and death, and its cyclical nature. It is usually concern for the deceased's possible suffering that is most troubling to the family. Ask them how they are feeling, and then just listen. Bless you mama
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#3 of 11 Old 03-25-2008, 12:43 AM
 
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You could leave the card in their mailbox or just do whatever feels natural to you. You could make them some food dishes (muffins, homemade bread, fruit basket, something that maybe could be left out on the counter or something). You could bring food now and then again in the next week or two. Personally, if they are a neighbor, you might call or leave a note and offer to do any yardwork or dog walking or things of that nature that might need to be done while they are busy with the funeral or having family over. Just really anything that might ease the burden of household stuff. You could also offer to pick up family members from the airport if needed, and stuff like that.

What not to say? everyone seems to have a different opinion of this but personally I wouldn't say "she's in a better place now" or something like that. I don't think that's what most parents want to hear when their child has passed even if it might be true. I would just extend your sympathy and offer your friendship however they feel might benefit them right now.

You're a good friend and neighbor for being concerned. I can't imagine how hard this must be for the parents and the family.

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#4 of 11 Old 03-29-2008, 01:17 AM
 
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Meals AFTER the first two weeks were helpful. The first week food flooded in, but nobody was interested in eating it. Meals the following weeks would have been nice, because by then we were hungry but nobody wanted to cook or go shopping.

A card, hand delivered, would be nice. You can just ring the doorbell and give it, or if that feels off put it in the mailbox. I got the feeling everyone was avoiding us, and I was kind of indifferent to it...at the same time, it was nice when people tried to make contact. Even then, I felt like I repeated the same phrase "I think we're doing okay," about a million times. It became kind of zombie-like.

Are they having a service or gathering? Some friends offered to cook/prepare food for the gathering, and that was so helpful. Funerals are horribly expensive, even if the funeral home doesn't charge because it's a child. I couldn't believe how much money we had to pay to feed people at our son's funeral. That felt so wrong....so friends made up dessert trays and homemade muffins and fruit/veggie trays. That was nice, not to have to pay for food.

Do you have kids that play with their kids? Is there usually comfortable, friendly mingling between your families? If so, try to keep it up after the initial shock has worn down. I'm so thankful our neighbors kept in touch with us, and kept talking/visiting with us. I know I was in shock for a long while, and sleep deprived, and I often said strange things...but grief does strange things to you, and my neighbors never made me feel bad.

I'd disagree with the "don't ask, just help" line of thinking when it comes to personal things like laundry, dishes, etc. Sometimes it felt strange having people buzz around my house taking care of personal things. It would have been different if they did the dishes while we were out, but it was just odd when people wanted to do those things when we were home and sitting around.

One thing our neighbors did for us was babysit in the evenings. Dh and I needed a lot of time after our kid-busy days to be alone and process things. We went for walks, went out to cafes and out to eat...we just needed to get OUT. Often our neighbor would come over after the kids were in bed so we could go for walks or get some coffee. That was wonderful.

Above all, the best thing friends and neighbors did was write down stories and memories of James. They weren't all that long, but just simple and sweet. My one neighbor, a single lady nextdoor, wrote that she remembered talking to me over the hedge one day, and she heard one of our boys laughing. She asked who it was, and she says I said "Oh, that's James. He's always laughing." That little memory of hers still brings happy tears to my eyes, because it helps me remember James for who he was, not for the loss of him.

I hope that helps. It's wonderful that you're thinking of them in this way...no matter how deep the shock and sadness, the kind support of others feels wonderful.

RedOak ~ Momma to DS (8) , DS (4) , DD (3) , & DD 9/10 ~
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#5 of 11 Old 03-29-2008, 03:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by RedOakMomma View Post
I'd disagree with the "don't ask, just help" line of thinking when it comes to personal things like laundry, dishes, etc. Sometimes it felt strange having people buzz around my house taking care of personal things. It would have been different if they did the dishes while we were out, but it was just odd when people wanted to do those things when we were home and sitting around.
Thanks for correcting this, ROM. I guess I was coming more from the prespective of someone who knew the family very very well. for you and all your angels, on Earth and in Heaven....And congrats on your pending adoption, too
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#6 of 11 Old 03-29-2008, 05:05 PM
 
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Thanks, laoxinat

I was thinking about this as I fell asleep last night, and there was one "just help out, don't ask" type of thing that WAS really nice. Outdoor work. Taking the trash down to the curb, mowing the lawn, helping with snow removal, raking.... our neighbors were so kind. James passed away in the fall, and one night I was out raking the leaves. Our neighbor came over with his rake, and worked right next to me without saying much. Then when we were done (in record time!) he said "that probably saved you an hour...why don't you go relax at a bookstore somewhere?" He said it in such a nice way.

He also mowed our lawn once during those first few months, and raked the lawn all on his own, too. Very kind.

RedOak ~ Momma to DS (8) , DS (4) , DD (3) , & DD 9/10 ~
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#7 of 11 Old 03-29-2008, 05:56 PM
 
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Deliver a meal a few times after the first week. (things that are easy to pop in the oven, like a lagagna, caserole, etc) Write them a letter saying you would like to help her get through this. Let her know your ears and arms are available to her. Walk her dog, baby sit other kids, do her laundry, deliver her some groceries, whatever.
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#8 of 11 Old 03-29-2008, 09:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by RedOakMomma View Post
Thanks, laoxinat

I was thinking about this as I fell asleep last night, and there was one "just help out, don't ask" type of thing that WAS really nice. Outdoor work. Taking the trash down to the curb, mowing the lawn, helping with snow removal, raking.... our neighbors were so kind. James passed away in the fall, and one night I was out raking the leaves. Our neighbor came over with his rake, and worked right next to me without saying much. Then when we were done (in record time!) he said "that probably saved you an hour...why don't you go relax at a bookstore somewhere?" He said it in such a nice way.

He also mowed our lawn once during those first few months, and raked the lawn all on his own, too. Very kind.
Just lovely. What a guy!
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#9 of 11 Old 03-30-2008, 10:39 PM
 
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Bring a hot dish for dinner, offer to listen. Surely send a card.

To my husband I am wife, to my kids I am mother, but for myself I am just me.
we're : with and : and
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#10 of 11 Old 03-30-2008, 11:10 PM
 
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Food, hugs, card and an "I'm so sorry." Be sure that the food that you bring is freezable just in case they get a lot of food.
I'm so sorry for them. It's wonderful that they have such caring friends though.
Lisa

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#11 of 11 Old 04-11-2008, 02:10 AM
 
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Anything I should make sure NOT to say?
There are lists of things never to say to a bereaved parent: "Now you have an angel in Heaven", "You were lucky to have him as long as you did", "You must be relieved that he is not suffering anymore", etc etc etc.

However, in my experience, it matters less what you say and more why you say it. If you are trying to push me away, deny my grief, or encourage me to "buck up" and get over it, anything you say - including and especially the above - will be hurtful.

If you are trying to connect with me and share your own grief and your own understanding, it's different. I have had people look into my eyes with love and say each one of the above, and I agreed with them and felt comforted.

You sound like a wonderful neighbour. It doesn't matter much what you do - just do something. I was grateful for the smallest gesture in those early weeks.

(And be sure to write something personal on the card - don't just sign your name! I still get out the cards and get comfort from reading the messages.)
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