Gransnet forums


sudden death of a teenage grandson

(54 Posts)
enelbee Tue 15-Nov-11 18:58:15

Our son and his family live in UK and we live in USA. My son's eldest boy died suddenly this past summer and I am concerned about how to help the family cope (there is a younger son) as they pass through this first year - especially with holidays.

Does anyone have some helpful advice?

jingle Tue 15-Nov-11 19:24:21

Oh enelbee, that is so very sad.

I'm not sure anyone could help them at all to be honest. Be ready to talk about the boy with them? If you are a believer, pray for them?


bagitha Tue 15-Nov-11 19:38:33

I'm sorry I don't have helpful advice, enelbee, but I would like to offer my sympathy to you in this awful situation. Have the familt joined counselling groups for this kind of bereavement? It might help them to talk to other people who have had the same experience.

bagitha Tue 15-Nov-11 19:40:20

Correction: family.

You too may need to talk to other grandparents who have lost grandchildren. xx

nanachrissy Tue 15-Nov-11 19:54:01

I am so sorry Enelbee. I have no personal experience so cannot help, but I hope you find some comfort. sad

crimson Tue 15-Nov-11 20:06:48

Again I have no experience or knowledge that could help but find your words heartbreaking. I once heard someone talk of life after bereavement as being like 'living around a void' and that makes some sort of sense to me. We did lose a child in our village when he was in his teens and it would hurt me sometimes seeing his classmates growing up and thinking that he would be their age now [still does]. Maybe you should openly ask your son and his wife what you can do to help; perhaps some people feel they need to move on in some way but others continue to want to feel the presence of the lost child, especially with those who loved him. I hope I'm hope I'm not saying anything insensitive. I felt very awkward with a friend who had a severe back problem for a while, and A Dr friend told me to say to him 'what do YOU want me to do' which I hadn't thought of doing. And, of course it must be very difficult for the surviving child. I'm so sorry for you and your family.

glassortwo Tue 15-Nov-11 20:17:28

enelbee I can not offer any advice, but there will be someone on GN who can thanks

Carol Tue 15-Nov-11 20:29:09

My deepest sympathy Enolbee. I can only relate to how I and my friends felt when we lost our teenage friend to kidney failure many years ago. None of us were allowed to go to his funeral, so his older brother was there with no peer support. We were bereft and wandered the streets for days, not knowing how to deal with it, but wanting to help the brother through his loss. No parents seemed to understand how we felt. I hope this young man's brother has the support he needs and he is able to talk about what has happened to his brother with the family.

Perhaps the family could plan to commemmorate him in the holiday period, remembering happy times, and maybe doing some activity that he would have enjoyed. The new tradition of sending lighted chinese lanterns with messages up into the sky on a special day is both touching and enjoyable, and when a group of people do it together can be another fond memory that brings comfort. Take care x

Butternut Tue 15-Nov-11 21:05:37

enelbee - I offer my sympathy to your family. I know the 'Cruise' association in the UK can offer support in dealing with grief. This may be a useful avenue to suggest to your son and family.

jogginggirl Tue 15-Nov-11 23:35:03

I am so sorry enelbee.........I can offer nothing more than heartfelt sympathy xxxxxxxxxxx ...........
I am with Butternut on the Cruise suggestion............I know from a friend's experience that they can be really helpful....
I wish you all the best..........xxxxxx

enelbee Fri 25-Nov-11 14:13:18

I want to thank all for expressed sympathy - friends of remaining son were part of the memorial service and involvement in sports is helping. We do not avoid bringing up the dead boy's name and recollections of him.

But, there is that hole. Living in USA, I'm not familiar with Cruise. What/who is it? The family did get wonderful support from the mortuary staff, including a magazine covering all the immediate concerns and advice. We all benefitted from that.

What a beautiful suggestion, Carol, about sending lighted Chinese lanterns aloft bearing messages in commemoration of the lost boy. I am going to suggest our entire family do just that on the boy's birthday.

Carol Fri 25-Nov-11 14:17:38

CRUSE is a beareavement care organisation in the UK. Here's a link

Jacey Fri 25-Nov-11 14:25:49

I can only give my sympathy must be hard for you not being able to give daily comfort in a face to face situation.

You are talking about using chinese lanterns on his birthday...over the winter that would be fine ...but fires in dry, warmer seasons have been caused by this may need to be thought through.

yes ...I agree with an earlier poster ...involving his friends and his younger brother's friends would be a good way forward is not just the immediate family who suffer at such a time.

Best wishes and a hug

gracesmum Fri 25-Nov-11 14:32:16

Hug from me- I have to admit I "steeled" myself to start reading this thread as the prospect is so unimaginable - but all too real for you. Bereavement counselling can be really helpful and for you GS's friends to stay close to the rest of the family at this "family" time would also be appreciated, I imagine. Deepest sympathies.

Carol Fri 25-Nov-11 14:52:50

You can buy lanterns that are 100% biodegradable and initial problems mentioned above have been addressed. They consist of only rice paper, bamboo and string. They come with safety instructions about where, when and how to use them, obviously not near thatched rooves, on very windy days, by the coast in case mistaken for flares etc.

GadaboutGran Fri 25-Nov-11 16:04:49

Enelbee - How tragic for the family and for you being so far away.

Can I offer my experience as a mother whose teenaged daughter died unexpectedly after a short illness and from my work with bereaved parents and grandparents affected by disaster. Of course there are so many variables that no two sitautions are alike - the people and their relationships are different; the circumstances of the death; the meaning of the child and the death for the family; resources for help etc etc. As a start try and work out what the significance of the loss is for you - what is the real loss. e.g the significance of the death of a grandma for one little boy was that he missed her apple pie and cuddles.

You will already know that being in the position of grandparent is particularly hard because you are desperate to help but are removed and have to watch you rloved ones suffer, probably in different ways. Being so far away adds to that. So, there are no easy answers and it's easy to get things wrong. If you accept that, that can take the pressure and tipping around on eggshells away.
The one quickest thing I can suggest is to contact Compassionate Friends (easy to find on th enet). It began in the UK (HQ in Bristol) but has spread world-wide. It is run by bereaved parents for bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents and you can link into them in many different ways - loosely via their literature or by attending groups or natinal gatherings.

My mother created more problems than she solved in the early days and years and I often had to cope with her grief when I desperately needed support. I would have loved to have gone to her house in the country for some peace but I knew I wouldn't get it. When she turned up unexpectedly at our house a few hours after the death when we were still busy at the hospital, my 14 year old son was brilliant and gave her the ironing to do. So if nothing else the best kind of support is practical even very simple things - though difficult from the US. It helps if you can get help with your own grief somewhere so you can be 'clearer' to support your family.

People often carry on worrying about what to do instead of asking the parents how best they can be supported by them so maybe this needs to be the first step - but always be clear about what you are prepared to or can do. Offering a sympathetic ear to the other grandchildren to relieve pressure on the parents is one useful thing. Make sure as well you keep your grandson's name in the conversations and mention him on Christmas cards and send something on his birthday - e.g. a treat for the family or flowers in his memory. One lovely thing my mother does do now is to make a cross-stitch card every Christmas for our daughter & I always display them all (18 now). For all her faults she is the only person who remembers the anniversary of her death.

Above all don't ever imply any kind of 'grieve by date'. It's a roller-coaster process of many ups and downs that few ever get over - they just find a place for the grief and try and maybe transform it into something useful for others.

I'm afraid I've only just begun and this is far too long but I hope it's a start. I once started a mini-research project on bereaved grandparents and would love to continue it now I am a grandmother. My poor mother, having gone through the death of a grandchild, a year ago had to go through the worry of her 6 month old great grand-daughter having cancer of the retina. She lost her eye but fortunately survived.

Lots of love - just be you, be real, be matter-of-fact, if you get it wrong say you're sorry - bereaved parents can be difficult to help as they have many emotions and needs all at once and are usually coping with the reactions of others too. Sometimes you may be a useful punchbag.

kittylester Fri 25-Nov-11 18:15:52

Hello enelbee you have my deepest sympathy.

Our son had a really devastating illness 5 years ago, thankfully he survived, but the thing my husband and I would have liked was the space to cry. We were so determined to stay strong for our son, the family and each other that we didn't let our emotions out and, in retrospect, we would have really valued the 'permission' to just let go.

You are obviously thinking about your family and being there for them and I'm sure that is a great help.

Take care x

Libradi Fri 25-Nov-11 18:40:59

enelbee I can't add anything more than what has already been said but just want to send my sympathies to you and your family. thanks

grannyactivist Fri 25-Nov-11 20:09:02

I've been a supporter of a small charity called Care for the Family for many years;they publish very helpful leaflets which I've been asked to share with the wider GN community by people I've PM'd , so here they are.

Anne58 Fri 25-Nov-11 20:29:13

Not a grandson, but my youngest son killed himself on December 12th 2008, aged 19, we are coming up to 3 years soon.

It is hard, it it so bloody hard, I think of him every day, and go through periods of having very vivid dreams, some totally disturbing, some that are actually comforting, but it is hard to explain.

I'm sure it was hard on my mother (his grandma) too, but as she hadn't spoken to me for sometime before his death,and saw no reason to change things after, even though I tried (I thought if anything would heal the rift,it would be that, but no.), I am not in a position to say how the loss of a grandson feels.

I would say however, that I found some comfort at the time from reading the things that his friends had posted on a special facebook "wall" that they set up. (I don't acually do facebook, but made an exception). They had all posted the crazy things that he had done that made them laugh, and I must say they gave me an insight into other aspects of him, and saw how much he was loved and valued by his peers.

When I see ds1, now 33 (there was a 10 year gap between them) we do talk about J, and how funny he was etc. when the natural flow of conversation leads that way.

With regard to advice, all I can say is DON'T avoid mentioning your grandson, talk about him where appropriate, acknowledge the loss, but focus on the good/happy/funny things.

With regard to counselling oranisations etc, there is Families In Grief, but my wonderful GP (who was brilliant and has continued to be) warned that sometimes people in these organisations can almost "feed" their own emotions through the work they do with others. (Maybe I haven't put that very well)

There was a poem that we included in J's order of service that I think sort of hits the spot.

I am a bit of a techno numpty, but I will try to find it and if I do I will C&P it.

Much love to you all.

Anne58 Fri 25-Nov-11 20:33:15

I found it.

You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind be empty and turn your
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes,
love and go on.

Carol Fri 25-Nov-11 20:39:17

Much love to you Phoenix thanks

jogginggirl Fri 25-Nov-11 20:42:32

phoenix that's so lovely, love and hugs xx

gracesmum Fri 25-Nov-11 20:48:19

Phoenix, in tears for you, those are beautiful words and brave sentiments thanks thanks thanks

Anne58 Fri 25-Nov-11 20:52:12

Thank you both, it is a lovely poem, isn't it? I believe it was used (with a change of gender ) at the Queen Mothers funeral, but it struck such a chord with the youngsters at J's service, and I feel it is very appropriate and positive for a younger persons service.