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Two weeks ago today, a most wonderful, loving, caring, beautiful 19 year old girl died suddenly of an aneurysm. She was/is like a daughter to me. I can't quite say "was" yet, I don't think I ever will. Although I am beyond comprehension and full of pain and sadness, her parents, her sister, and my son - who loved her so much, are in such agony that my pain pales in comparison.

My son refuses to talk about her, he says he's "ok". I know he is not ok at all. Her father is shutting himself away completely; I know that if - I - feel as bad as I do, he must be feeling something I don't even know the words for....

Please tell me WHAT I can do. They are both hermits and introverts. They are both treading water just to make it through the day. I can neither just "show up" at my son's or at her father's house, knowing how much they hate to show their pain. I have called several times since the funeral and they didn't answer the phone. I've stopped at their respective houses, knowing they are home, but they didn't answer the door. Am I worried? You bet.

Am I supposed to "get the message and get lost", or insist and continue to bother them with my calls and my presence? I have not, nor will I ever, offer stupid and meaningless "comfort phrases" because I know myself that they mean nothing at all when you know your loved one is gone forever. All I want to do is be with them, clean or cook for them, take care of what needs to be done, offer a hug, share a box of Kleenex, be there for them.

I know I can't make things better, I need you to tell me whether I should keep calling or whether I need to wait until they call me.

The mother and sister have lots of people going in and out of their house/life, helping, comforting and doing what they can to make these first few months a tiny bit easier (if that's even possible).

These two loners though, are toughing it out on their own - separately, of course. God forbid they'd even talk to each other about their shared pain, even though they have so many questions for each other.

Please help me help them, even if it's just by staying away - if that's what I need to do. Tell me what is right and what is wrong.

I've even started thinking that I'm being selfish by wanting to be with them. Maybe I am. It would be comforting to me to be with them - is that why I think my presence would be comforting to them? I'm feeling helpless and confused.

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Onemoretime,

I am so sorry for the loss you have all suffered. It is doubly shocking when it is unexpected and in someone so young. Wow, this is a tough one. I know some people have to close themselves off and grieve by themselves. But I can certainly understand your worry and your wanting to help. I don't think you are being selfish, so don't worry about that. I really don't know what advice to give you, except that they are making it impossible for you to help them, so you really have no choice but to give them their space. I would still call once in awhile, maybe leave a message that you are just worried about them. Maybe that will prompt them to get in contact with you....I hope so. It is hard enough to deal with something like this without the added worries they are putting you through. Hopefully when they come out of the shock of it all, they will then want to talk. However, men tend to grieve in the "silent" way, so to speak. I'm sure there are some articles or recommended books on this site (go to the home page and look for the suggested reading link) about men grieving differently from women. It might help you get some perspective on it. Good luck.

A bug hug to you,

Shell

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Onemoretime

My name is Haley and I also and going through the same thing my Boyfriend of a years lost his Dad 3 weeks ago and I also am trying to be there for him and his Mom but it is hard I also call to make sure that they are ok I mainly just leave a message and say something to the effect of I am worried and want them to call just so I no that they are ok this weekend was hard cause they got into a major fight and now they shut the world out I love them both and I am worried about them alot and all I can do is let them come to me and that is really hard.

I can only tell you the same advice that I tell my self and that is jsut hang in there and let them no that you will be there for them in any way they need you. I hate this also it is so hard because you also are going through the pain and need to make sure that you take care of your self

Thanks

Haley

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I think you are probably right that you feel better with someone to talk to, and there is nothing wrong with that (I am the same way!). But everyone grieves differently. And the grief is so fresh after only two weeks! Everyone will be in shock for some time.

My suggestion, from what I learned from my grief counselor, is to gently let them know from time to time that you are available to them if they should need anything, but don't put any pressure on them about it. Then let them grieve in the way they need to, even if that means they ignore you. It's important to realize that they might never grieve in the way you think they should. Some people never talk about their grief, but instead they are what is called "instrumental grievers", that is, they may chop wood or do other physical work to work through the grief, and that is just as valid as talking. In general, men tend to be more this way, although of course there are exceptions.

So I would say a middle of the road approach is best -- don't pester them, and don't disappear. Just maybe a card or note every few weeks to say, "Thinking of you" lets them know you are still around and when they are ready, you are available to listen, or just sit with them in silence, or do something with them when they feel ready to go out and be with people -- and it might be many months before they are ready to do that. Be aware that if you send a note or leave a phone message, they may never respond -- and let that be okay. Accept them just as they are, because there is no way you can know what exactly they need, and solitude may well be exactly what they need, at least for awhile. Of course you are worried, but their reactions are normal in grief. And so are yours.

Meanwhile, respect your own need to talk, and find friends/family/grief group that you can talk to and express your own grief in the way that is best for you. Unfortunately, I have also found that the very people whom I hoped to talk and share memories of my husband, like old friends from college, are the ones who totally refuse to even speak his name, as if he had never lived; and the strangers I met in my grief group have been a life-saver, and will listen to me talk for hours about him (and I listen to them talk about their loved ones.) You just can't predict what people need in such a circumstance. And read some good books on grief, so that your fears will be calmed when you realize that there is nothing wrong with them in the way they are handling their grief, so you won't worry unnecessarily.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think you are probably right that you feel better with someone to talk to, and there is nothing wrong with that (I am the same way!). But everyone grieves differently. And the grief is so fresh after only two weeks! Everyone will be in shock for some time.

_______________________________________

It's been a hard few weeks, and still no change in the people around me. I'm starting to think I made it all up, it's all not true. No reaction from anyone around me, it's as if she never was, nobody knew her, nobody mentions her, and I'm the only one who is hurting. (I know that's not true and you are right in saying that everybody deals with grief in their own way).

How can someone with such an incredible energy just....vanish???? I feel her every second, I see her face, her smile.... I know she's just going to drive her car screaching into my driveway, showing off her latest...tattoo, earring , shoes, sharing with me what she did this last week.

I'm sorry. I know I sound crazy, but I am starting to realize that I am keeping all my "dead" alive somewhere in my thoughts. My father is in the woods raking leaves, my mother downstairs baking cookies, my husband out and about running after his latest crazy idea, my friend walking his dogs, my brother playing his guitar.....

I have more people on the other side than here. Maybe my imagination is MY way of coping? I just hope I never wake up and actually allow myself to feel what I can't begin to understand.

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Onemoretime,

You don't sound crazy at all. You are just grieveing. I'm sorry there aren't people around you that you can share this grief with. Keeping your dead alive in your imagination is not a bad thing, in fact I think it is wonderful. I don't think you aren't facing their deaths, I think this is just your way of handling it.

Hugs,

Shell

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My dear friend,

You said, I have more people on the other side than here. Maybe my imagination is MY way of coping?

I hope it comforts you to know that imagination can be very helpful for those of us in mourning, because we need to find a safe place for our deceased loved ones to be. For many of us, the thought of our loved one’s death is just too difficult to bear – unless and until we are able to hold onto, develop and nurture some sort of inner relationship with the person who died. Keeping all my dead loved ones alive somewhere in my thoughts is by no means a crazy thing to do; rather, it is a normal and healthy way to maintain your ongoing relationship with those who have died.

In her wonderful book about child loss and maternal grief, certified Jungian analyst and bereavement specialist Charlotte Mathes writes beautifully of the importance of imagination, which she considers a gift of grace:

Although we are often unaware of it, our knowledge and love of family and friends is based on images: my grandmother knitting by the fire or uncle showing off his new car to the neighbors. Archetypal psychologist James Hillman maintains that by actively creating such images we maintain and renew our sustaining intimate connections: "If the character of a person is a complexity of images, then to know you I must imagine you, absorb your images. To stay connected with you, I must stay imaginatively interested, not in the process of our relationship or in my feelings for you, but in my imaginings of you. The connection through imagination yields an extraordinary closeness."

We learn to know a person intimately when we recall her many images stored in our memory . . . we continue knowing our absent but surviving children by imagining how they are maturing, how they react in certain situations, what personality traits they are acquiring. Similarly, if we continue to imagine our deceased child, we maintain a connection with her throughout life. For some grievers . . . this connection occurs naturally, a gift of grace, enabling them to feel their child’s presence . . . Most mothers report that this lifelong bond is a “natural” part of their inner life, and [one mother reports she] even believes she is closer to her child in death. [p. 218]

Such inner acts can help a mourning mother more fully answer her most urgent question: Where is my child now? While response to the question may involve many psychological levels – including religious beliefs, subjective experience, or spontaneous connection with symbols, she can also actively seek to find a home where she meets her child (i.e., at the cemetery; in all of nature; in another person or even an animal that symbolically holds the child’s spirit; in heaven lovingly surrounded by other deceased family members and watching over her; in an object that’s become a symbol and therefore a locus for the child’s presence; or simply feeling the child living by one’s side). [p. 219]

Imagining our children residing happily in the afterlife and occasionally visiting us brings great comfort. [in her book, Finding Hope When a Child Dies] Psychotherapist Sukie Miller laments that Westerners’ concept of heaven grows foggier and clergy describe it in less detail: "Today I encourage my clients to steep themselves in imaging the afterworld, to ask their minister or rabbi or priest for explicit descriptions of life after death, to picture a life as full and rich as they can for their children now. For this is the way people in other places find solace when their children pass out of their world – not by freezing them in a familiar time and place but by imaging them in a well-defined world after."

[source: And a Sword Shall Pierce Your Heart: Moving from Despair to Meaning after the Death of a Child, by Charlotte Mathes, © 2006, Chiron Publications, Wilmette, IL, ISBN 1888602341]

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