bereaved 14 year old. Angry and sad(13 Posts)
DS's father died (my ex-husband), with no warning (not suicide, freak illness), two and a half months ago. DS was close to his dad and he was my best friend too - he stayed with us every other weekend and we did a lot of family things together plus Christmas, birthdays etc. For first few weeks DS was in total shock and denial - he and I were very close and he was allowing me to comfort him. In the last 10 days his loss has kicked in with a vengeance - he is hurting, cold and angry and is directing all towards me. I understand why he is hurting the person closest - just wish I could take his pain away. He obviously missed a lot of school - his dad died on first day of term - but 2 and a half months on he needs to be at school for normality and to be with his mates more than anything else. He's had couple of days of depressed under the duvet but other days he's up and angry but refuses or tries to refuse to go in. (To put it in context he's always been inclined to throw the odd sickie now and then, though it's never become a confirmed habit and he's always hated any kind of work though enjoys the social aspect of school).
The school have been very helpful but are now starting to expect him to start to do homework. Obviously at the beginning any kind of homework was impossible, but he'd started to do a bit up to a week or so ago. Now he's just refusing point blank to do any at all. He's not in the depressed duvet stage at the moment - at the angry 'make me' stage. He's just started first year of gcses. I've put aside any anxiety over the academics - his mental sanity is more important - but I feel if he doesn't start to pick up the threads of 'normal' life soon he'll start to feel worse again. I get that school and homework feel utterly pointless to him when he is grieving. But I kind of sense he is actually less depressed now and is angry and acting up in a self destructive way - if he continues refusing to do any work he'll feel he can't go into school.. He has lots of friends and always comes home from school lighter of heart.
Sorry so long. Has anyone been in this situation? I am confused about where to draw boundaries. It's 2 and a half months since his dad died. I think he's done bloody brilliantly on the whole - he's been seeing his friends, been to a few parties etc, is mostly going to school. How much should/can I expect with homework. If things were normal and he refused to do any homework I'd stop X-box or stop him seeing mates til he did it - but he is grieving and I want him to see his mates as they are his lifeline.
Is he getting any bereavment counselling?
Refuses point blank to have any. The school counsellor is desperate to get her hands on him but he won't go anywhere near her (I've been chatting to her and getting advice etc tho). I've also suggested seeing someone at home in case there's a stigma at school, but he won't hear of it. He's now irritated if I even mention counselling. We have family friends who lost their dad at similar age and the older teenage boy has taken him under his wing/out to Nandos etc. That's the closest he's got to counselling - don't know how much they discuss grieving but there is an implicit understanding and that's been brilliant for DS
I am so sorry for your loss. I truely think the only thing that can help is time, but you can't give a teenager all the time in the world to greive without them missing out on their studies.
Maybe sit down and have a talk about what you expect, set a time limit rather than a "you have to do your homework" and no x-box until that time is done. You need to remain his rock, which means keeping things as normal as possible. One of his walls has come tumbling down so he now is testing the foundations as he doesn't trust them. Show him the foundations are strong and he will come through.
I am sorry for your loss, too.
I would tell your DS all the things you have put in your post - including your uncertainty. Continue talking about it and make him come up with an opinion about this himself.
If I get confused I sometimes say to DS14 - if you were the dad, what would you do? Usually DS refuses the answer but it starts some thinking in his mind...and then we can work something out.
Generally speaking, the longer you let him linger in this state the worse it will get. If it was me I would do all I can to get him back into normality. I would put my foot down.
Can you make a deal with him, to go to school, and do homework only on days he feels up to it.
Until, say, summer term, when you 'll re-negotiate?
I am sorry, this must be so tough for both of you.
I am so sorry for your loss. When my DH died nearly 3 years ago my DC were 20/17 and 15. DD2(15) reacted in a very similar way to your DS. She even made two suicide attempts and lost so much weight our GP felt she was borderline anorexic although in many ways seemed to be coping. Initially bereavement counselling did not work, you need to be ready for it to be effective. It was only the last few sessions, over two years after her father's death, that have had a positive impact.
I would check the school's counsellor's qualifications before you allow them, however well meaning, near your son. They are often just TA's who have been on a course. Eventually my DD had amazing counselling from Winston's Wish but they are highly trained specialists.
All I can suggest is that you allow him to be angry! Tell him that it is OK to feel like that. He will probably feel furious with his dad for dying and be tormented with guilt for feeling like that Both I and my DC felt that way and it is hideous.
Ultimately you might have to make the choice academic success or mental health. If your son does not go to university until he is 20 because of retakes so be it, he needs to be emotionally stronger before he goes. Plus check the school have applied special consideration for exams.
It is only 10 short weeks for your son. He needs more time and the school must be more sympathetic. My DD got her exams but her GCSE results were a lot lower than expected, her A2 were not and she is now in her first term at a top university.
He sounds like a lovely young man who is trying to deal with what is probably the worst thing that will ever happen in his life. Good luck and you will be in my thoughts.
PM me if you want to talk.
Thanks for all your different answers. I agree with Palika that the longer he stays in an abnormal state, the more separated from life and friends he will get. I want him at school for purely social reasons at present - work can wait but he needs friendship, silliness and fun to take his mind off things. He always comes home more cheerful after school.
When he is duvet-depressed I offer nothing but sympathy. He's not duvet depressed at present - has parties and events planned for weekend. He's up and angry, and as someone else said is testing the boundaries and I sense he needs me to apply them but have been hesitating and egg-shelly because of his grief. Actually I now realise I have become too over-protective, doing all his thinking and feeling for him. It is only him and me now, so it gets quite intense and claustrophobic without siblings etc.
His head of year has suggested he do his homework at school for the time being and I wonder if this might be a secret relief for him, though he'd die rather than admit it. I think the work, after being left, has become overwhelming and is a separate problem in its own right.
Anyway, thanks for your help.
And thanks for telling me about your DD georgeclooney, gives me hope to see she's got through it. Yes, there is anger though it is unacknowledged and coming out sideways. His dad was an alcoholic, which was why we split up. He finally got into recovery 3 years ago and was the best he'd ever been, so it's devastating he died from past alcohol damage just when he was doing so well and so close to our son again.
DS was uber-connected with me after the death and we were talking a lot. Then he started pushing me away about 10 days ago and that's when the coldness and anger began. Realise I need to acknowledge that it's OK/normal for him to feel angry - only problem is he's barely talking to me at all now (except when he needs food) so I will have to do my talking at him thing as need to get it out there. Have often had to 'talk at him' when he's upset - he'll grunt and tell me to go away and that everything I am saying is wrong and shit - but it often lances the boil and he's softer and calmer afterwards.
ps - every time DS has time off the school are marking it as unauthorised absence. I have questioned this - his head of year is great and v sympathetic - but apparently the next person up has decreed that DS was only allowed the first 2 weeks off - everything since then has been marked unauthorised. (it's only 10 weeks since his dad died - pouf - with no warning. Into hospital at midday, dead at 10.15pm same day)
Does this matter? Should I be worried? I mean do school attendance records just end up in landfill or are they looked at for university entrance etc (am very much assuming not?)
What is the deal with the authorised/unauthorised thing?
They are not on any entrance details, DD2 is at Oxford, my DD ended up with 60% attendance in Year 11, my DH died in the January. Most schools are terrible at dealing with this, far more sympathetic about divorce. We even had a 'cause for concern' letter about DD missing a French oral test - the day of her father's funeral!
This is combining one of the worst things you ever have to experience with one of the most difficult times of your life. My DD was also the one on the phone as I desperately tried to resuscitate DH. It was unbelievably hideous and I feel furious that she had to endure it. I am never quite sure whether her difficulties with dealing with her DF's death were more severe because of that experience/ her age or just the way it goes.
I decided early on in the grieving process that I would ignore school issues to a degree and focus on helping my DC to heal. After all life is a marathon not a sprint and long term recovery from such a blow is the most important issue (and I am a teacher). I would stop stressing about homework and such issues. It is far too early we are talking about the death of a parent. That is a life changing event.
Eventually I made an appointment to speak with the HT and negotiated a part time timetable for my DD. When the pressure and expectations were lifted she chose to work for herself.
I remember how my daughter became very angry with me at about the same stage - who else do they dare become angry with?
Good luck, thinking of you and your DS.
Thanks so much for your post georgeclooney. Gave me a horrible jolt reading about your DD on the phone as your DH died. You most have felt so powerless - truly awful for you both. Your poor daughter - it's amazing she has done so well and very encouraging for me to hear. My DS has been much more cheerful tonight. I have to remember it's a good day, bad day situation and not over-react to the bad days. My DS didn't witness his father's death - it was in a hospital 2 hours away. The nurses assured us he was fine all day - despite my direct questions such as 'we have a son, do I need to bring him' and 'should his sister fly over from usa?'. They kept saying nothing to worry about, then when i arrived he had died ten minutes earlier. i was devastated he had died alone - i'd could and would have been there earlier if we'd been told accurately. Also I know he was asking for me as they said they'd been calling me but obviously they'd mixed up/lost the fucking number too as neither of my phones rang. I was on my way anyway at that time, so too late and couldn't have got there any faster. Hospital fucked up big time, basically, and we are going through the complaints process. He would still be here if he'd been diagnosed and treated correctly. If I'd known he was so ill I'd have taken DS and he'd have had that hideous shock too - I was shaking like a leaf, retching and instant tummy upset, was so unexpected. Think, in retrospect, a good thing I hadn't taken DS. I offered him to come, but as we'd all been told his Dad was fine he wasn't too bothered - i was going to pop in for a visit and bring his Dad's dogs back to mine while he was in hospital - none of us had any idea he was seriously ill. DS has asked almost nothing about the circumstances of his father's death - what happened, why etc. I had to drive back to London and wait to wake him upat 6am at his godmum's house with the terrible news. Just explained that the doctors thought he was doing fine, then he died unexpectedly - which is true (obviously not going to tell him about the nhs fuck-ups and complaint until he's older as knowing his death was needless has been almost as painful as the death itself). I think DS is having to manage the pain and let it out a tiny bit at a time, I will answer his questions when he asks. I make sure we talk about his Dad every day. It used to be him who talked about him most, but now it's mostly me who mentions him first. DS only cried when I told him and one other time 2 weeks ago. I cried a lot at the beginning (me and ex-DH were best friends and had recently discussed the future again now he was 3 years sober. Just always stayed connected and never stopped loving each other, though there was plently of rage during our divorce). I sensed DS did not want to cope with or see my pain and I respected that. However I told him it was OK and helpful to cry and told him I'd been doing lots of crying and even got snot all over the gearstick of my car. DS was definitely in complete denial for at least the first month. Because exDH didn't live with us and just visited at weekends and holidays it felt for both of us like he was still alive in the country and would be popping in again soon - but now DS is facing the grim truth. Sorry - long again - just gone into a typing spiel for me really - don't have to answer you've been really helpful.
I am so sorry for your loss too. Much worse for you as you were still a couple and must feel such an empty presence in the home. Equally awful for our DC though. Am dreading Christmas and super-dreading DS's birthday which come up just before xmas. Have offered him sleepovers/parties/friends over but he says he just wants to stay at home with me but doing nothing (help - worried he'll find out how grim that might be too late). Hope you all get through Christmas period OK and the anniversary in January. Thanks for your posts
The first everything is difficult. We at least had 11 months between the death and first Christmas. We spent it very quietly, just myself DD1, DS and DD2. In the morning we went to a beach that was very special to us as a family and wrote messages in the sand to him. We now do that on every special date. We moved away from the family traditions, I allowed the children to guide me. You cant plan because it is an unknown situation and you can't guess how anyone will feel/react. We didn't have a traditional Christmas dinner just had a meal we all enjoyed. Then the DC moaned about the lack of cold meat so I ended up spending Boxing Day roasting a turkey! The only advice I can give you is to accept that it will be really hard and that your DS will continually change his ideas. Thinking of you at this terrible time.
both my parents died when i was 11 i can only explain my own expieriences i felt alone and alienated was bullied for being different it made me realise i had to look after myself i felt alone although i had my sister only 18 herself. i felt angry with the world and stored it up a lot he will feel angry why did it happen to him angry that his dad left him to cope it will take time and u must let him know u are there for him no matter what mostly u need to talk not to ignore the fact he has died he will prob build up a protective wall round him this will stay till he decides to let it down it will take time mabe years till he feels safe again. hope this helps. xx good luck
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