Monday, September 24, 2018

What do you do when someone dies?

She came down the stairs on Saturday morning with tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Her mother died!" she mumbled through the snivels.

One of Nelly Bo's best friend's Mum had just died after many years of fighting cancer. Too soon. She was told she had until after the October break or even up until Christmas left. But she just died. On Friday night. The friend, let's call her Alicia, had planned to make a tattoo to honor her Mum, and her mother insisted she would do it as soon as possible as she wanted to be there to see it before she had to go. But she ran out of time... It is so so tragic. I wrapped my arms around Nelly Bo and while trying to hold back my own tears, I let her cry it out for a moment.

"What do I do Mama?" she asked.
Yeah... what do you do when someone dies? I reflected for a moment how to answer this question, what would I have done, what would I have wanted someone else to do for me if it happened to me at age 17?

We are protected from death so far in our family, with a Great Grandma who now is turning 102 in December, I just think we are one of those family trees that are long lived people. We don't talk about death and needless to say, we don't know anything about it. It is hard to comprehend when faced with death so suddenly and relatively close... I'm not sure how to handle it.

After a little while I said to Nelly Bo:
"I don't know... I think you should just tell Alicia you are there for her. Ask her if she wants to talk about it or if she just want to be alone. If she wants you to come over to hang out. Tell her you are very very sad for her loss and that you don't really know how to help. Be honest. Tell her you have no idea of what she is going through right now but that you want to help if possible. Ask her if she wants your comfort or maybe for you to just be normal and chatty... Tell her she can come over at any time and that our family is here to help if help is needed. Just reach out. Listen. Be there for her. " Well, at least that is kind of what came out of my mouth if I remember it right. Because to be truly honest, I didn't really know what to say. It breaks my heart to know that a man in his mid 40's now is on his own with his three children. How is he coping? How are the children? Do they have extended family who can help? Cook? Clean? Do practical things? I mean, they all must be in tremendous shock. It happened so sudden. They really thought they had at least a month more to prepare themselves for her passing...

A couple of days has passed since the sad news arrived and Nelly Bo is in close contact with Alicia through messages and Snap Chats daily, which is good I think. We have dropped off chocolate chip cookies and pickled cucumbers (apparently Alicia loves pickles!!!) together with comfort hugs at her door. On Saturday night Nelly Bo suggested to her friend to watch a movie with Jim Carrey to get her mind off things. "Jim Carrey movie? Why that?" I asked. Because Jim Carrey always makes Nelly Bo feel good when she is having hard times. He makes her laugh. And she thought that if he makes her laugh maybe he would have the same effect on her friend... Sounded like a weird thing to suggest in my ears but that evening Alicia's whole family - the father and his three kids - cuddled up in the sofa together to watch a Jim Carrey movie. It made me so happy to hear. I guess the Nelly Bo's idea wasn't too bad after all.

I'm keeping a close eye on this family and especially Alicia. I wonder how she will cope when it all sinks in. Becomes reality, after the numb shock phase is over... I hope we can continue to be there for her so she won't fall off Earth in her sadness. It's a tough age to loose a mother when being just 17, her younger brother is only 12. Her older brother is 19. I guess it is never easy no matter what age, but still...

If you have any experience or stories to share, I would love to hear them. It could help me and Nelly Bo to know how we can continue to give support and help to Alicia and her family. Life is fragile. When things like this happens I remind myself how precious life is and how it is not to be taken for granted. Why can't we see that without tragedy being thrown in our faces??? Why is it so hard to appreciate that we live here and now instead of living in the past or in the future. Life is a gift. We should really, really make the most of it.


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  1. Låter som att Nelly gör allt rätt och hon är en otroligt ung och klok kvinna som förstår att hon hjälper att bara vara där. xxx

  2. Such a sad story, I know how hard it is to go through that. Nelly Bo sounds like such a wonderful friend to have, no doubt she will be a comfort, she is kind, sweet and thoughtful. CJ xx

  3. I think what you said was just right, and just beautiful, to Nelly Bo. I am tearing up just reading this.

    I also appreciate your thoughts in your last paragraph. Also beautifully said.

    We say a prayer that says, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing. And it asks God to bless those in need of healing with renewal of body and spirit. I found comfort in this prayer when I suddenly lost my mother, and we stepped in as caregivers for my father, whose health was failing. With both of them gone in less than a year it continues to help me find strength and to remember to reach out and help or pray for those who now are in need.

    May Nelly Bo and your family continue be a source of strength and blessing to Alicia and her family. xx

  4. How very, very sad <3. Sounds as if your daughter is being a VERY good friend<3

  5. I think it was just right, and just beautiful, what you said to Nelly Bo. I am tearing up just reading this post.

    We say a prayer that says, help me find the courage to make my life a blessing. It also asks God to bless those in need of healing with renewal of body and renewal of spirit. This prayer was a comfort to me when I suddenly lost my mother, and we had to step in as caregivers for my dad, whose health was failing. Having lost both parents in less than a year, it continues to be a source of strength for me. It reminds me to now go and be a blessing in the lives of those in need. And in this way I honor my parents' memory.

    May Nelly Bo and your family continue to be a source of strength and blessing to Alicia and her family. xx

  6. Hi, I don't know if I have any good advice for someone who has lost a parent so young. Your advice to your daughter on how to be a good supportive friend sound very wise. I had got to quite an age, before I lost anyone, so also rather felt that they would go on forever. When my father died, my children were quite young, and that actually helped a lot, as you just have to keep going - cook the next meal, get them to school. The other thing I found useful was just to let some time pass, without any expectations of how I would feel. Very slowly things do get better.

  7. I think all your suggestions and advise to Nelly Bo is perfect! To have empathy and time to be a friend is the best any of us can do. But be aware grief is a long and complicated path, being a good friend means being there not just now but in the future when feelings can still hurt. So often we expect people to “get over it”.....”be happy” .......but sometimes it takes a lot longer to work through all the feelings....I think you will be that good friend....because you care.

  8. Annette, What beautiful words you have written about your response to a family with unexpected grief. Your deep concern and caring are demonstrated by your verbal as well as physical (doorstep cookies etc.) willingness to help even though you are entering uncharted territory. You certainly are a very special family. At my senior age I have certainly seen and been around death issues. But, I can not think of anything at the moment to add to charming ways of trying to soothe the heart. Blessings to all of you. Mary

  9. I think Nelly Bo is doing just the right things for her friend. Being there for her, doing 'normal' things like watching a movie together.
    Over twenty years ago, my cousins died in a carcrash. One friend came over to my house and told me she just didn't know what to say. And that meant so much to me, because there were also so many people who did nothing, because they didn't know what to do or say.
    So please continue to be there for her, even when you don't know what to do or say (and tell her just that).

  10. All you can do is be there for them when they want to cry shout scream anything just being there for them is one can do .
    I have lost both my parents several years ago and my sister who was 56 at the time she got told she had pancreatic cancer in november last year there is no chemo or any thing else they could do she died in april this year i miss her so much and then on my birthday my cat got ill i took him to the vets and said he is in heart failure and kidney failure i took him home for one more night and the next day took him back to the vets and they put him to sleep i miss him so much .
    You never get over losing anyone no matter how special they are you just have to take it day by day .I hope the family who have lost there mother have a lot of great people who will be there for them like you and your daughter they are so lucky to have them to help get through it .

  11. I think the advice you gave to your daughter was just right. The main thing is that she keeps in contact with her friend. Most people who are bereaved find that the hardest thing to deal with is people staying away from them because they don't know what to say. It is better to say 'I don't know what to say or do' but to still be there with them. Grief is extremely personal and everyone reacts differently. But as we probably all know, crying in someone's arms is very different from crying alone. Lots of love xxx

  12. I think you said just the right thing to Nelly Bo. It’s never easy to know what to say or what to do and I agree with the person that said grief is a long and complicated path. We are all different and we all grieve in different ways. I lost both my parents 3 years ago this week, it helped enormously to read letters and cards from people that knew them and my sisters, it was a great comfort. It also helped me when people wanted to talk about them and not pretend they hadn’t died. I still love talking about them, it keeps them close to my heart.
    I would encourage you and your daughter to continue to do what you are doing, long after the initial shock has died down, it will help them feel less alone x

  13. In the last four years, I have lost my mother, father and two beloved dogs, who were like family and there are no words to ease the pain. You gave very good advice to Nelly Bo, just for her to be there when she's needed, for support. She sounds like a lovely, caring girl.

  14. Such a sad story. When I was 17 my younger sister who was 14 died from teenage cancer after we had looked after her at home. My friends and teachers at school did not know how to cope and just didn't speak about it in case they would upset me.I wanted to speak but it was as if my sister had just vanished,so I think your daughter was such a good caring friend and did the right thing even though it is hard to know what the right thing is.Much love to all.

  15. Annette, I think you said the right things to your daughter. Admitting you don't always know what is best is very honest. Nelly Bo can be confident that just being there for her friend is helping. What very sad times for that family. They won't ever be the same but having friends around to turn to will I am sure help. Keep an eye on Nell Bo too. Events like this can become all consuming. Sending love x Rebecca x

    1. Thank you Rebecca. You are right it can become consuming to be a close friend too... Didn't really think about that before you mentioned it. I'll keep an eye on Nelly Bo.

  16. You said the right things to your daughter. Just being there for her friend and being a good listener can be so helpful. Something you might want to consider later on is to make your daughter's friend a quilt out of some of her mom's clothes. I did this for my siblings after my parents died 2 months apart. They were so surprised, they had no idea. The quilts are something they will always treasure.

  17. When I was 14 my 12 year old sister died tragically. When I was 25 my 22 year old brother died tragically. Both times many of my closest friends abandoned me because they were so uncomfortable with the death I was suffering they didn't know what to do and stayed away. Fortunately, a few friends (ones I wouldn't expect) continued to just hang out with me. They treated me like I was still a normal person. They didn't ask me to talk tho. they listened if I did, they didn't expect to solve anything tho. I felt their support. I'd say 85% of my friends deserted me when I was 14 years old and my parents were a total mess and couldn't help me. It was very lonely. If it wasn't for that 15%, I'm not sure if I would have coped. That 15% just treated me like I was normal - it probably saved me. Dealing with someone else's sadness due to death is nothing anyone teaches us how to do. Fortunately as a kid, I understood that's why my friends stayed away, not out of meanness but of not knowing what to do. Fortunately I understood that. I hope this helps in at least a little way.

  18. So sorry for your daughter's loss. I lost my Dad a couple of years ago, I know I am 48 and that it is much easier than if I'd been 17, but I know the one thing I wanted was to talk about my Dad. Talking about him wasn't a reminder that he'd died, I didn't need a reminder, I thought about him all the time for a very long time. SO I'd say don't be afraid of letting the friend talk about her Mum, and reminiscing about her. It won't increase the pain, the pain is bad enough already. My heart goes out to her.

  19. Det känns som att du gett henne dom bästa tipsen. Och Nelly Bo gjorde helt rätt, man får inte glömma att leva vidare och skratta också. Även om det händer hemska saker.
    Jag vet av egen erfarenhet att man får rätt dåligt samvete om man skrattar mitt i sorgen, om man fnissar åt ett filmklipp osv. Men man måste tillåta sig!
    Kanske vill hennes vän ha stöd ibland, kanske vill hon att allt ska vara som vanligt ibland. Det pendlar.
    Jag är 44år och förlorade min pappa för 10 år sedan. Det jag uppskattade mest var att bara veta att mina vänner fanns där. En kompis sa att "jag är hemskt ledsen för det du går igenom, men jag vet inte hur du känner för jag har inte upplevt det själv. Men jag finns här".
    Det känns bra att höra det. Det gör det!
    Någon annan visste precis och det var också skönt.

    Sen tror jag det kan vara bra att känna av hur din dotter mår också. Det blir ju en stor sak för henne med.

    Jag brukar jämföra en sorg/förlust som när du häller vatten på varm sand. Du vet, när det rinner iväg i krumeluriga snirklar och hittar nya vägar i sanden.
    Så är livet. Ibland tar det nya vägar! Någon försvinner, någon kommer till världen och det snirklar sig vidare...

    Ni är en härlig familj och med dig som vägledare kommer din dotter att veta precis! <3

  20. I have never been a very 'huggy' person. But when my younger sister died very unexpectedly last year, I really appreciated all the hugs and affection people gave me. And we talk about Caron in conversation all the time, which has helped my nephews and nieces a lot...


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