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Grieving Friend: is this weird?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I have known "H." for four years. I met her shortly after her brother was diagnosed with cancer. I see H. and/or her husband regularly - once or twice a day at the school, and we do other things together several times a year. H.'s brother has been the topic of many conversations, and in December, the cancer moved to his bones and his prognosis was not good. H. had been spending lots of time at the hospital, so I would talk with her husband daily; one topic has always been the status of H.'s brother.

Here's the weird part.

Week One:

Friday, Feb. 2: H.'s husband said H. was at the hospital, brother not doing well, and they were going to take off next Wed. and Thurs. for much-needed family time

Week Two:

Monday, Feb. 5: Saw H. and she said that her brother was doing better, and had gained three pounds!

Tuesday, Feb. 6: H. said she left the hospital, and they were going to leave for two days because they needed a family break, and that her brother had a crisis the night before but her cell phone hadn't rung and she's hoping for the best.

Week Three:

Wednesday, Feb. 14 (today): Found out that H.'s son (at the schooll) was absent yesterday because of a funeral. I put a candle wrapped with a heart charm and ribbon, and a synpathy card, on H.'s doorstep. Now, I just found out from a mutual friend that

H.'s. brother died February 1st!

I feel like a fool. Can anybody explain this? I didn't expect H. to tell me that her brother died, because I know that would be very difficult to do, but why the lying and stories? And why didn't H.'s husband tell me what happened? Has anyone ever had an experience like this?

Cheers, from
SwampWitch
post #2 of 13
The grieving process is difficult- 'H' may have been in denial, I'd not stress this and just be there to support her...

I haven't seen my brother in years, whilst I have several siblings it is him that I still feel closest to, and I'd be devastated if anything happened to him and inconsolable

Please just be there for your friend, she is going through a hard time and we all deal with things in different ways..
post #3 of 13
It may have been too painful for her to talk about at the time. I agree just be there for her.
post #4 of 13
It seems strange to me that no one came out and said that the brother had passed away. I think it's unusual behaviour to lie about it.
post #5 of 13
I work for a charity that gives advice about death and bereavement. I should point out that mostly I do the accounts on a day to day basis, but I also have to answer the phones and deal with people who have been bereaved.

This reaction that your friend has displayed to you is classic denial. Basically her brother's death has not sunk in yet. She has not accepted that he is gone. It's not an uncommon reaction at all. She needs support of those who care for her. More importantly, because she is in denial, her grief may not emerge for several months - and whilst those closest to her may think that by that time she will not need the same level of emotional support as she does now, in reality she will need the support network more around her then - even if it is 6 or 12 months down the line - because to her at that time the numbness and shock and denial will have worn off (possibly quite suddenly at a moment of realisation), leaving her with a very immediate feeling of very recent bereavement.

One of the major problems that people face in terms of losing a loved one suddenly or at a young age is that they don't feel grief at the time of the death and the funeral when there is the immediate support of friends and family - it hits them several months later when those who provide that support network are expecting them to be on the road to recovery.

Be prepared to support her when the reality hits her. What she is going through is not at all unusual or abnormal. She will need people around her when the full enormity and grief of her brother's passing hits her, which could be some time from now.

Condolences and blessings to her and everyone affected by this loss.
post #6 of 13
to me it seems strange,but like others said it may denial.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the insight. I'm not trying to make it about me, but I can't shake this vague bad feeling about being lied to for two weeks.

It's a relief to know that this is denial, and normal - I didn't realize denial extended to stories and false updates! It's so odd!

How can I be "there" for her? Any ideas?

I appreciate everyone's help!
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by SwampWitch View Post
Thanks for the insight. I'm not trying to make it about me, but I can't shake this vague bad feeling about being lied to for two weeks.

It's a relief to know that this is denial, and normal - I didn't realize denial extended to stories and false updates! It's so odd!

How can I be "there" for her? Any ideas?

I appreciate everyone's help!

The best thing you can do to support her at the moment is accept that in her eyes she hasn't lied to you - if she hasn't yet accepted the truth herself, then she is telling you the truth as she sees it, and as she wishes it were, by telling you that he is still alive. If you want to support her, don't accuse her of lying - because I am sure some people will do that, or have done it already, but deception is not her motive here - she simply cannot handle the truth at the moment, and if she is deceiving anyone it is herself - and the reason she is doing that subconsciously is to protect herself from the full shock and tragedy of her loss. She is probably not consciously aiming to deceive, but she can't bring herself to say the words 'he is gone' because she can't accept it herself. I am not saying that you should not tell her that you know he has passed on, but don't approach her about it in a confrontational or accusatory manner. Speak to her about it gently and with compassion.

The other thing you can do to support her is to give her a shoulder to cry on once her loss finally becomes real to her. People expect someone to grieve immediately in response to a loss, and one of the most difficult things for people to deal with is having everyone think that they should be getting over it already, when they are only just starting the grieving process. When it hits her, treat her as if it just happened the day before, tea and sympathy and a shoulder to cry on and making sure she eats and looks after herself.

I would really recommend bereavement counselling to anyone going through anything like this, as and when she's ready to talk about it and needs to do so.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Epona, if you don't mind, could I ask you two more questions?

It seems like H.'s reaction would be to a sudden death, not a death you knew might be coming for years, and for several months knowing he was rapidly going down... I know everyone's grief is different, but hasn't she already done some grieving? I guess my question is do people have that kind of shock reaction even after a loved one's lengthy illness?

Also, have you ever actually heard of someone making up stories that the person is better, and then there was a crisis, etc. and it's all fiction? Does that really happen?

You are very correct about the real grieving happening later, when nobody's around any more, I have seen that happen. I will try to be there for her.

Thanks for your advice; I will take it.

SwampWitch

p.s. She is already seeing a therapist. She is strange in many ways (not always completely honest is one). I wonder if she had told other friends the truth, or if they got stories, too.
post #10 of 13
Swampwitch - my condolences to H's family, and all those affected by her brother's passing.

Also, I would like to say thank you, to you and Epona; this is a situation I hope never to deal with, but I'm glad that you shared your experiences, so that I will know what to do, and understand what's going on, if it ever does happen.
post #11 of 13
I've never been one to understand the denial step in the grieving process - I've always been firmly rooted in reality, and have never had denial about the death of a loved one. Death happens to all of us, it's part of reality.

But I can understand, perhaps, someone that is not me, who may have some issues of their own that allow them the blessing of escaping reality. Those who can and do live in denial of any number of aspects about their lives. It does happen, there are a lot of people that are like that.

It is very sad, extremely sad to me to hear of someone that pretends that things are actually getting better several days after their loved one has died.

That is just heartwrenching.

I agree with the others, and suggest that you just let it go, and be there as best as you can to support your friend as H goes through the grief process: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

However, stay aware, and if you see other examples of fibbing that are not related to this death, then you may perhaps want to rethink this acquaintance.
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GingersMom View Post
I've never been one to understand the denial step in the grieving process - I've always been firmly rooted in reality...
Me, too! This behavior is alien to me, and so bizarre!

Quote:
Originally Posted by GingersMom View Post
...However, stay aware, and if you see other examples of fibbing that are not related to this death, then you may perhaps want to rethink this acquaintance.
If she's told other mutual friends the truth, then I guess... I'll be wiser. But our mutual friend didn't really know much, it was kind of sketchy, and she could have heard something from her son who is good friends with H.'s son. I'll have to wait and see, I guess.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Satai View Post
Swampwitch - my condolences to H's family, and all those affected by her brother's passing.

Also, I would like to say thank you, to you and Epona; this is a situation I hope never to deal with, but I'm glad that you shared your experiences, so that I will know what to do, and understand what's going on, if it ever does happen.
Hopefully, you won't be taken off your guard, like me. Seems I'm always surprised by irrational behavior, I never see it coming.
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