How do you cope with sudden death?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Brad Newton, Oct 19, 2004.

  1. Brad Newton

    Brad Newton Second Unit

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    A co-worker & very close friend of my wife lost her 19 year old daughter today in an auto accident? My wife & I were not fortunate enough to have children, but how does/would a parent cope with this kind of loss? I can't imagine. It is horrible for me to think about it. I can hardly think about this, with breaking into tears even though I am at work. My wife left work to be with her friend. I don't know how she is doing it. What do you say? How can you say anything? I fell so sorry for that whole family. Things like this - I just don't understand.
     
  2. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    Sometimes it's best not to say anything but just be there, just as your wife is doing.

    I have one daughter (she is 7) and I worry about her constantly, a parents curse I guess. I have no idea how I would cope with such a tragic loss.

    My prayer's go out to your friends family.
     
  3. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Brad,

    I'm very sorry to hear about their loss.

    No, it's not something we can understand. Bitter and stupid and tragic accidents do happen and people lose loved ones all the time. All one can hope (and some will say: pray) for is that they will receive the strength to eventually live on with the empty place and cherish the memories they have of her (her in this case, him in other).

    I do hope some of that necessary strength will come to your wife and you too.


    Cees
     
  4. ChrisHeflen

    ChrisHeflen Supporting Actor

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    From personal experience, just being there is probably one of the best things one can do, if the friend doesn't mind that is.
    Even helping with menial tasks such as meals and errands can help. I know I didn't feel like doing anything after. These actions can speak louder than words right now.

    I too am very sorry for their loss.

    Chris
     
  5. Michael Cawcutt

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    most agreed ::

    my parents got divorced 3 years ago this fall, anyway it wasn't a death in the family however it felt like one. And close church members and family friends would make my dad food, and run errands and stop by just to say hi.

    You wouldn't think that everyday "busy" work and errands would add up but in a situation like this they mean the world to somebody.
     
  6. Brad Newton

    Brad Newton Second Unit

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    Very hard night last night, couldn't help but think about those parents, brother, sister & her boyfriend. Hoping that none of them had an arguement before this tragedy. Had to call my parents & sister, just to make sure they were ok.
    Hopefully, the funeral home can have her looking her best. Just found out that her birthday was Saturday - she would have been 19 years old.
    As I grow older, I become more emotional, and more devoted to my faith, but there are so many things that I don't understand. Maybe that is due to realizing how quickly things can change. No matter how much you plan for the future, that things just don't go like they should. This was a beautiful young girl, that was dearly loved by her family and friends, very popular in high school, very religious. Very hard to concentrate @ work today.
     
  7. Matt Butler

    Matt Butler Screenwriter

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    Brad,
    Sorry to hear about the loss. My prayers are with you and her family.
     
  8. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    This is an idea, a fear, I struggle with daily. One of HTF's own, Hugh Jackes, lost his teenage son RIGHT AFTER my son was born, and I appreciated his eloquence and ability to share. Frankly, it is every parent's curse, and I can't even comprehend it.

    But what I decided then, and still hold to today, is the way a family makes it through such a loss is by the love that person had given them, the warmth those memories together hold, the belief that the past is as important as the future.

    My thoughts go out to those that loved her,
    Chuck
     
  9. Micheal

    Micheal Screenwriter

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    Brad, If I were you and could afford to take a few days off work then that is exactly what I would do. Be there for your co-worker and for your wife.

    This is a terrible loss that nobody could understand without going through it themselves. I just walked away from a terrible car accident with my daughter a few weeks ago. Things could have been very different and I count myself extremely lucky for having my daughter to hold every day!

    Tragic news...

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Michael Martin

    Michael Martin Screenwriter

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    Something I've heard and read over and over is that one of the best ways to "help" those on mourning is to explicitly acknowledge their loss -"I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter" and ask them if there is anything you can do. Depending on how close you are, periodic emotional health/physical need checks should follow. Apparently it's easier for those in grieving to respond to something direct and brief than a lot of knowing looks or the wrong kinds of "help."

    Your wife may want to encourage her friend to seek out a support organization that will help her through her grief.
     
  11. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    Not to nitpick, but sometimes when you're in so much pain you don't KNOW what someone else can do for you. It's just too general of a question to be asked. It would be better to ask about specific tasks, such as cooking dinner, running to get the mail, feeding pets, getting groceries, etc. Of course it's good to ask to make sure the person needs whatever it is done, but the question needs to be specific.

    But you're certainly right about the first part, about explicitly acknowledging the loss. I've always hated it when people would give a general "I'm sorry"; it always made me want to yell back in anger "do you know what you're sorry about? or do you just feel obligated to say it?". It was especially bothersome that people didn't want to bring anything up for fear of upsetting me. Trust me, whatever it is you're thinking, I've already thought it 1000 times over.

    But of course everyone's different and I'm only speaking from my personal experience.
     
  12. Robert_Gaither

    Robert_Gaither Screenwriter

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    Personally I don't thing there is anything that can be said or done that's going to make it better or easier right now (they're too emotionally overwhelmed). I hate to say it but what we all do in times like this is too assuage our own feelings for their loss but by doing this the people who are most impacted the parents of the daughter, friends, and other family members will appreciate it later on. Like most people on this board I wish I had a simply answer that works for everyone about situation like this but for the moment the parents of this child most likely are still trying to come to terms and hopefully something positive or good can come of this tragedy (I hope they believe in organ donations as they may be able to keep another set of parents going thru this event that no one expects too). Instinctively we believe we will outlive our parents and our children will bury us, but only thing we can do is wish them our condolence and wish them the best of luck because I can't think of anything worse a person can go thru than what they are going thru at this time and worse so close to major family holidays and birthday.
     
  13. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Lots of good advice so far. Acknowledging the tragedy, offering specific help, etc.

    The help thing, as Lelia said, is something they might not even realize. By making suggestions you are helping them carry on as it is because they probably won't even be thinking about those things.

    Helping them with such chores and just doing stuff with them helps by keeping them moving forward, and that is the ONLY thing (time) that is going to get them past this.

    One thing I don't care for is the "it's gonna be okay" and "you just have to keep living" type of advice. They aren't going to want to hear that, especially early on IMO. To me giving advice like that is sort of like pushing them forward before they are ready. Right now it doesn't feel okay, and in practical terms they know it will some day be okay so telling them isn't giving them new information. Instead it feels a bit more like denial, when early on they still need to grieve.

    Sometimes people feel uncomfortable around other people grieving, but that's what they need most of all, people that won't freak out or try to smooth it over or soothe them. Just someone to help them live day to day as they grieve.
     
  14. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

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    Down the road, it is good to remember that the immediate family wants to talk about the deceased. Don't avoid mentioning their name as if they never existed.
     
  15. Brad Newton

    Brad Newton Second Unit

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    Seeing her laying in the casket.....reality set in. Before that it all seemed like a bad dream, and we just couldn't wake up.
    Tomorrow will be the worst day, funeral, burial, knowing that we will never be able to see her face again. The parents have asked me to be a pall bearer, which is an honor. I just have so much trouble keeping my emotions inside. My dad always says that I wear my heart on my shirt sleeve. Hopefully, I can stay under control for the most part - just for the family's sake.
    Is it wrong to question why this happened? Her family all say that she is in a better place, which she is, but it is just hard for those that are left behind.
     
  16. Steve Y

    Steve Y Supporting Actor

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    Earlier this year my friend lost his college-aged son very suddenly. It is always difficult knowing what to say/do in such situations; my friend went back to work very soon after it happened (to have something to do) and I found it pretty much impossible to breach the topic. It was too hard. Such things are horrible to contemplate, much less to discuss when the wound is fresh. It's easy to "worry about tinkering with fragile emotions".

    But it is much better to show that you are sorry for the loss. For most people this will be a great comfort.

    Sometimes people decide that the best approach is to give advice on how to "cope". I don't think this is really the right idea, though this advice is always given with the best of intentions (especially when given at the memorial - it happens frequently). Sometimes other couples who have lost someone decide to provide (well-meant) advice on how they eventually "moved on".

    "Think simple" instead. Ask them if they need any chores and favors handled -- ask them if they need laundry done, or groceries bought, or maybe even cook them dinner and drop it by the house. Let them know you are there for them. Be available. It is a very difficult balance to strike (between available and ingratiating). Just ask (that will be enough in some cases).

    Those who have suffered such a terrible loss will appreciate this attention even in the midst of their overwhelming grief.

    ~s
     
  17. brentl

    brentl Cinematographer

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    Don't ignore the person, I'm finding a little diffcult dealing with my Moms death, and the last thing they want is to be alone all the time. Be with your girlfriend, tell her you'll listen if she needs to talk.

    Brent
     
  18. Travis Hedger

    Travis Hedger Supporting Actor

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    It sucks. That is all I can say. Somehow you manage.

    My father was murdered on August 9 and while dealing with his estate and probate issues, it still just doesn't seem real.
     
  19. Hugh Jackes

    Hugh Jackes Supporting Actor

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    Brad,

    As Chuck Mayer alluded earlier in this thread, my 15-year old son was struck by a car three days before Christmas, 2003. As good people do in such dreadful times, our circle of friends came to our rescue. Let me tell you the things that people did for me, my bride, and my surviving son that were especially helpful and stood out:

    •Depending on the closeness of your relationship with this person, spend as much time with the griever as possible. Be prepared to sit with them for hours at a time if you can, enduring the bouts of tears, the awkward silences, and lengthy discussions about how wonderful their child was.
    •Don’t ask what you can do. They do not know. They cannot think of anything beyond their immediate devastation. Rather than asking what they need, just do. If you see dirty dishes in the sink, do them. Walk the dog for them. Show up with food. I made a comment on Christmas Eve that I hadn’t had the opportunity to go out and get a ham for our Christmas dinner (we were trying to make Christmas as normal as the circumstances would allow for our 12-year old). I wasn’t even aware that one of our friends was within earshot, but the next time she showed up (on Christmas Eve, no less) she brought a ham. Another friend drove to LAX on Christmas day to pick up my bride’s sister. While we were out dealing with undertaker business my sister-in-law and brother-in-law cleaned my house from top to bottom.
    •See if you can organize a “meals-on-wheels” program among their friends. I was a Cub Scout leader and my son had moved on to Boy Scouts. Between my Cub Scouting families and Tim’s Boy Scout families, we did not cook a meal for months. That was a major blessing.
    •Give them restaurant gift certificates for when they just need to leave the house.
    •Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. YOU WILL, simply because there is no right thing. As long as you are kind and avoid clichés (“she’s in a better place” [damn it, this is a good place] “he had a good life [damn it, he was 15!]), you probably cannot make them hurt more than they already do.
    •Be a helpful presence not just now, but 6 months from now. Many of our friends who were omnipresent for the first two weeks have moved on with their lives, which is right and normal; Tim was an acquaintance (or they may not even have known him at all), not their son. But, a good friend showed up on our doorstep a few Saturdays ago with bagels and cream cheese for breakfast just because. I considered her a blessing, nine months after Tim’s death.
    •If you are close enough, invite them to your home for important days. We want desperately to be somewhere else come Thanksgiving and Christmas. We will probably go to a restaurant on Thanksgiving. We have friends who would take us in if we asked, but they haven’t considered how painful these family events will be for us.
    •Run interference between them and toxic individuals. My sister carps and bitches non-stop. (We didn’t finish our Christmas shopping and she was omitted – a couple of months ago, she called and asked when we were going to get her her gift [as if we remembered].) They do not need these individuals in their lives and you can help them by warding off the toxics.
    •If they have younger children, and if it wouldn’t be considered creepy, invite their kid(s) to your home for videos, ice cream, trick-or-treating. Take them to the movies. Kids approach these things differently than we do. They want normalcy in their lives despite the marked abnormality and THEY DESERVE IT.
    •Here’s one that is above and beyond the call of duty. Try to create some kind of lasting memorial to their daughter. A few weeks after Tim died, a man I had never met contacted us. his son rode the school bus with Tim. But more, his son has a condition that is akin to Autism that makes him socially very awkward. The father has mainstreamed his son into the public school system rather than a Special Ed school. As we all know, the pecking order of high school can be brutal, and a kid who is "different" is an easy mark. This boy told his father that the only kid who would sit with him on the bus, the only kid who was nice to him, in fact his best friend was my Tim. This so touched this man, who had never met my son, was so moved by Tim’s natural inclination to be a good human, that he created a scholarship in Tim’s name, The Tim Jackes Foundation. He acquired the URL (voiceofanangel.org), made the initial contribution to the fund, contracted the artwork, created the web site, and hit up so many of his business contacts for donations. Then he pretty much gave us co-equal positions in the operation of the foundation. We awarded three scholarships in Tim’s name in June and we are opening up eligibility to every high school in the district for this school year. He has become a superb friend to our family.
     
  20. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    I lost someone very close to me two years ago last Friday. I was lucky enough to spend the first two weeks with her sister and brother in law in their part of the country. First seven days were total shock but what kept us all going was planning the funeral to make it as personal as possible. A friend of her chose all the music, I did the order-of-service booklets, other people did various things. Everyone contributed and I doubt you could ever really wish for a better funeral for someone.

    However I eventually had to go back home and return to work and that when it really started getting difficult. All I wanted to do was talk but hardly anyone was really prepared to listen much. People would ask if I was OK and then have that awkward look on their face. It's times like that when you really learn who your friends are. The ones worth keeping will be happy just to listen and not give any advice (because apart from dealing with practical things, advice on dealing with a bereavement is useless and generally unwanted).

    However, life does go on. After a few weeks following the funeral (perhaps days, depends on the individual), get them to do something 'normal'. Take them out for a meal or to a game, or to just do something you would do anyway. Just be prepared for them to talk about the deceased person a LOT because that really is the only thing that will help them get through it.
     

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