Gransnet forums

Ask a gran

How not to offend?

(15 Posts)
fuschia Fri 10-Aug-18 12:28:22

Hi everyone
I'm new here and am looking for advice on how to handle someone who is recently bereaved? My uncle (71) passed away last month. I've offered help to my aunt, asked her if there is anything I can do but was met with a very blunt answer. I understand she is grieving, what can I do to help her? She tends to bottle things up and can appear quite spiky but is really very vulnerable and funny once you get her to relax. How do I make this easier? She's completely on her own now aside from friends. No children and her relationship with my mum is not great. I'm prone to putting my foot in my mouth. What do people who have recently lost someone want to hear? How do I not offend her? I feel like I'm on eggshells and don't want to say the wrong thing. Do I talk about how wonderful he was? In reality I think they had a quite one-sided relationship and he didn't treat her so well. In the coming months should I pop round regularly or would that be a nuisance? Shall I rather wait for her to reach out to me? We usually have lunch every few months and I live quite nearby. Any thoughts? Would joining a forum like this help do you think? Talking anonymously to people who might have also had a loss? I do need to bite my tongue sometimes with her too and I don't think I'm going to be able to offer the regular support she needs.

Jane10 Fri 10-Aug-18 12:46:32

Just keep popping round. You don't need to say anything in particular about your uncle. Offer to help with whatevers going on or just join her for a cup of tea. She may well appreciate you being there more than you know. Actions speak louder than words.

BlueBelle Fri 10-Aug-18 12:50:16

Personally I d pop round with some flowers for her and ask if there’s anything you can help with but be prepared for a no and leavevit at that don’t be insistent then just take the lead off her, some people will talk and talk about their loved ones some don’t want to at all
As it’s a month away, so the funeral is over she ll be in that very empty stage, what about asking her out for lunch as you do sometimes It’s probably too soon to be talking about her joining things If you know her friends, (you say she has some) would they be worth speaking to and asking their opinion
You could always tell her about forums but if she’s a very private person or not very technically minded she might not take you up on it
Just don’t push anything

cornergran Fri 10-Aug-18 12:56:41

Everyone’s different, fuchsia, I can only say what I think would help me and has also helped people close to me. Drop in and be ‘normal’. Try taking a home cooked meal she can reheat and if she seems to enjoy it ask if she’d like you to bring enough for you both to eat together next time. If you’re close by see if she’d like to come to you for a cuppa. You could try ‘while I’m here shall I just .......’ if she says there’s something she has struggled with or offer to do it with her. Let the conversation go where she wants it to go, don’t stay too long if she seems to want privacy. There’s often a temptation to say something like ‘let me know if you need anything’ which I think can be unhelpful as most people won’t ask. Try to relax and just be with her, as jane says your Aunt may well appreciate that more than you know.

rubytut Fri 10-Aug-18 13:14:45

Just behave as you did before her loss, I always get upset when people start to be over nice . Every one deals with grief differently but I would take your lead from her re talking about him.

fuschia Fri 10-Aug-18 13:53:47

Ok, thank you. I don't know her friends very well but I'll pop by over the weekend and try keep it casual and see if she gives me any useful clues.

Franbern Fri 10-Aug-18 14:27:31

Do not know about others, but when my youngest child died, suddenly at the age of 25 years, all I actually wanted when I was with anyone else was to talk about him. I can so remember that a Committee meeting had been delayed by a week, so that I could attend after his funeral, and the night before one of the members phoned me to ask if I was coming, and I said I did not think so, as I could not concentrate on anything and all I wanted was to talk about him......I said I was probably becoming a great bore. Her reply to me was 'Come along and bore us'. One of the nicest things anyone said to me at that time!!!

Bathsheba Fri 10-Aug-18 14:31:45

Franbern that brought a tear to my eye. What a truly lovely friend.

M0nica Fri 10-Aug-18 15:15:29

Call in a bit more regularly, take her out for a meal or for a drive or visit somewhere and do not be afraid of talking about her husband casually as you would have before, There is nothing worse than people who avoid talking about the deceased, or will not talk of happy events in case it upsets.

Just accept it when she is touchy or spiky and let it roll over you.

pollyperkins Fri 10-Aug-18 15:28:34

But it is so difficult. When a work colleague's husband died in a car crash we were all told not to mention it as it would upset her too much. (This had come from her.) She didn't think she could hold it together if anyone said anything. Yet others say the opposite.

M0nica Fri 10-Aug-18 15:49:43

If someone says something specific that is different. But generally the recently bereaved find coping with people who act as if the deceased never existed, very difficult.

annodomini Fri 10-Aug-18 16:31:18

It's not what you say as much as what you do that matters. Try to be your normal self. As you had lunch with her regularly before her bereavement, ask her to come out to lunch in a couple of weeks. If she isn't ready for that, wait a while.

Melanieeastanglia Fri 10-Aug-18 18:20:12

I think annodomini has given you a good suggestion.

I always try to be my usual self with people. I send a card or letter when I first hear of the death and they thank me and we either talk about the deceased person or other things.

If you ring her in a couple of weeks time and ask her out to lunch, I think it would be a nice gesture. If you feel really uncomfortable about approaching her, why not write to her with the same suggestion?

Greengal Sat 11-Aug-18 02:03:36

Sorry about the loss of your uncle. Also sorry about your aunt's unpleasant responses. Please remember she's grieving, and if her marriage wasn't such a good one, she may be struggling with some mixed feelings, too.

I think you've gotten some very good advice here. Just want to add that what your aunt needs now is probably shows of sympathy more than offers "to do" things. Bring the flowers, send the sympathy card, etc. and then, beyond that, just be your usual warm, friendly self.

Also, I'd say take a cue from her if she wants to talk about uncle. Don't push it and don't heap accolades on him yourself. If she brings him up, just let her talk. She probably needs people to listen more than she needs to hear anyone else' thoughts about him.

I know it's not easy, and you might make some mistakes. IMO, it's wonderful that you're such a caring niece.

PECS Sat 11-Aug-18 09:00:03

There is no blueprint for dealing with bereavement. One thing I found helpful was when people said things like " I was thinking about X and the time he....., it made me smile" I could either take the conversation further if I felt up to it or just smile too. But I think carrying on as before is the best plan as you can build on it if your aunt wants to or maintain it as before the death of your uncle.