Category Archives: Bereavement

What do you say to a friend who has just lost a child? | Hadley Freeman

I used to think of babies dying as something the Victorians had to endure, not us. If only

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a memorial. It was for my friends’ two-year-old son. I don’t have much experience of memorials, but I think the format is that you’re supposed to talk about what a great life the deceased had, and oh the funny things he used to say, ha ha ha. But really, I thought, as I walked in on that bright cold day, what can you say at a two-year-old’s memorial, except isn’t life so goddamn unfair sometimes?

The story of my friends’ baby is not mine to tell, so all I will say is that, shortly after he was born, he became very sick, and then last month he died, still only a toddler. He was born just a few months before my twins, so his mother and I were pregnant together. I remember thinking at the time how, between us two women, we were cooking up three boys. How about that for some crazy mathematics? If there are words to describe how it feels to watch your lovely friends then go through their worst nightmare, while you lead the life they once imagined for themselves, then I’m afraid they’re beyond my reach; for the past two years, all my mind could manage was cliche.

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Source: gad

Have I just bought a new kitten or a basket of death? | Eva Wiseman

People say that the point of getting a pet for a child is that it’s practice for grief, but I’m not so sure now

Since our family cat died, I’ve been fairly quiet about the fact that, at my three-year-old’s insistence, a large portion of my time has been spent pretending to be a new one. The benefits were that much of that game involved having my hair brushed while I meowed in her lap, the downside was that there were witnesses. I had a name, and that was “Dicketty”.

Oh God I’ll be honest, typing that feels as exposing as allowing the toilet door to slide open on a Virgin train. My skin has been splayed off here, you’re seeing actual muscle. But it’s done now, and delete doesn’t exist in 2018. Plus, it explains why, after sloughing off years of desire for a pet, after the absolute feeling of liberation that came with having a child, and so no longer wanting to own a dog because I felt wrung dry of love and responsibility, we decided to get a kitten. “It’s important for my mental health,” I said earnestly to a lady at the Blue Cross, “because otherwise I might have to keep being a cat forever.”

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Source: gad

I watched my son die from cancer. Here are the lessons I have learned

Sacha Langton-Gilks has written a book to help other grieving parents

At 6.10am on Tuesday 14 August 2012 my eldest child drew his last breath. I have to look up the time and date because my brain refuses to acknowledge this information, it’s automatically sent to the spam file as dangerous. I find my brain’s attempts at self-protection rather touching in the wholesale carnage that is grief.

The death certificate states who, where, when and why – number nine on the list, cause of death: I (a) medulloblastoma. Medulloblastomas are a group of cancerous brain tumours, the commonest in children, and David, known as DD, was diagnosed with his during October half-term in 2007, aged 11. What his death certificate doesn’t tell you is the quality of his life up to the point of death, his quality of death if you will, because that is a subjective judgment. Many people fortunate enough not to be familiar with death assume all deaths must by definition be “bad”, but as a bereaved granddaughter, daughter and, now, mother, I can tell you that is not true.

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Source: gad

‘It was an incredibly enriching day’: the families taking control of death

We plan for births, but fail to take full charge with deaths. Annalisa Barbieri meets the families who are building coffins, cancelling the hearses and creating highly personalised funeral services – before, sadly, putting her new knowledge to use

Six years ago, my cousin died. As we waited on the kerb, my aunt, her mother, reached out, as if to touch her daughter’s coffin through the glass of the hearse window. “I hate to think of her in that box,” she said. And a chink of brutal reality hit me; this was not like any funeral I had seen at a roadside before. This was her child, in a box in a car. The tragedy was only accentuated by how alien it all felt.

I had, not long before, given birth to my second child at home, with my eldest upstairs asleep, and the promise of blueberry pancakes (and a martini) after. I started to think about how much preparation we put into birth: making birth plans, reading books, talking about it, everything to make it as perfect – personal – as possible. Death is more certain than giving birth, but we rarely talk about it or want to plan for it. Yet when death comes, funerals are, as my partner says, “the ultimate distress purchase”.

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Source: gad

‘There will be an afterwards’: how a mother prepared her sons for her death

When Kate Gross was dying, aged 36, she told her sons there would be life after her death. But how would they actually cope with losing her?

When my grandson Isaac was very small, his mother, Kate, would say, “I’ll miss you” when she travelled away for work. Later, when he was three, I remember him running after her in the park when he couldn’t quite keep up with her, crying: “Don’t miss me, Mummy.” To him, “to miss” meant “to leave”. “Don’t miss me, Mummy”, meant don’t leave me.

But, in the end, Kate did have to leave him, and his twin brother, Oscar. When the boys were five and she was 36, she died. It was Christmas Day 2014, minutes before the boys woke up to ask their dad, Billy, if it was time to open their stockings.

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Source: gad