7 Year-Old Cousin's Mom Died Unexpectedly

Yesterday, we got news that my (ex) Aunt died unexpectedly. She was undergoing radiation for cancer and started feeling poorly. They took her to the hospital and within a few hours she was dead. They're not 100% certain of what killed her but doctors think it may have been a blood clot. She was in her 30s.

She is survived by a small, close-knit family, her ex-husband (my biological uncle), and my 7 year old cousin. Although divorced, my Uncle was still in love with her, so he is really torn apart. I don't know how my cousin is doing. I'm worried about him because he's so young to lose his mother and to face death. He will probably move in with my Uncle now...but his ex-wife's family will certainly try to gain custody (it's a complicated back-story). My Uncle may eventually need to relocate from the Carolinas to Cincinnati to be closer to our family. He is going to need a lot of emotional support and help with parenting (money and time). My cousin's life is going to be totally different. I feel so bad for this little guy.

I don't know what to say or do. I'm not very close with either of them and my cousin has only met me three times. My mom has been talking with her brother...and we both wish someone could leave town and be there with him (but everyone up here is tied up with work or too unwell to travel). Should I send a card--cards always seem like such paltry gestures...but I end up sending them anyway due to social ettiquette.  I will definitely do that for my Uncle, but would it even matter to send a card for my little cousin? I wish I could give him a big hug. How do you offer comfort to a boy who has lost his mom? It's not my responsibility but if I could help at all, I would. It's complicated by the distance. Do you guys have any ideas? Instead of bringing over a casserol, should I send a gift certificate for a down-home restaraunt? Or maybe order take-out to their house instead, since being in the din of a public restaurant may be too much for their nerves right now?

Should I pretend to believe in heaven around my cousin (I'm fairly certain he will be movin up here in the next few months) or should I just be non-committal when people say, as they inevitably will, that his mother is in a better place, that she is always with him, that she is looking over him, etc., etc. I do not want to make this worse by confusing him. What solace does my worldview offer a christian boy who has just lost a parent? (It does not bother me to hide my views in this case--obviously, this is not about me but what is what is best for my cousin) I think it would be better for me to talk about how much we love(d) his mom and how we will keep her memory alive, if I am to say anything.

What would you do? What would you say? 

 

Views: 248

Tags: advice, after-life, child, death, family, grief, heaven, interfaith, kid, loss, More…mourning, parenting, relationships, support, young

Comment by CJoe on October 4, 2013 at 3:28pm

I think people always appreciate a kind gesture. They probably feel alone, and even a card with a thoughtful letter can at least let them know they're being thought of and not forgotten. I know when my family has gone through hard times, a prepared meal was absolutely appreciated. The last thing someone who's grieving wants to do is think about or prepare food. Delivery is a great idea.

You don't have to contradict anyone if they say his mother is in a better place, and you can express sympathy without mentioning angels or Heaven, etc. "Your mom was a great person; we really miss her" or "I'm here for you if you need anything." I don't think being sensitive to someone's beliefs when a person has passed away is the same as hiding your own beliefs or being dishonest.

I think you have a pretty good idea of what to do. Do something nice, say something nice, let them know you're there for them, then just let them grieve. There's not a lot else you can do. Whatever you do will be appreciated though.

Comment by archaeopteryx on October 4, 2013 at 6:30pm

I don't believe I'd even mention religion unless it was mentioned, then I'd try to divert the conversation to remembering the good times with his mother and keeping the memory of her alive in his heart.

And I would forget about an impersonal card, I would call and talk to him for as long as he seems to need.

Comment by Melvinotis on October 4, 2013 at 7:07pm
There is evidence (I don't have it handy ) that children can withstand serious traumas without bad long term after effects as long as they have an adult to talk with about it. Things like having their parents killed in front of them and other horrors.
So talk to him, like a friend, like an adult. Answer his questions-that might be important if no one else has done it. (Adults are notorious wimps when it comes to speaking with children). If that function has already been satisfied, just offer a second opinion if they need one.
Comment by Gallup's Mirror on October 4, 2013 at 11:17pm

Having witnessed this closely from the other side of it, rest assured even if they don't show it, any gesture of thoughtful support on your part will be well received.

My take on the rest: avoid false pretenses about religion or an afterlife. Death is a difficult concept for a 7-year-old. Instead, be gentle, but keep it real: Mom has died and is never coming back.

Reassurance is key with a child that young. Explain he will be taken good care of, loved and protected. Explain that when someone dies, the others in the family look after her children. That's what a family does. Talk about happy times, Christmas, favorite things they used to do, and so on. Explain that if someone asks what happened he only has to say, My Mom died. Gently reinforce these basics.

My daughter when she was 8 asked me what happens when we die. I said dying is like going to sleep, except we never dream, we never wake up, and we never move again. That satisfied her. I don't know if your cousin will ask, or if you'd feel comfortable giving such an answer knowing your other family members may object, but there it is.

Comment by Unseen on October 5, 2013 at 1:03pm

"At least her suffering is over" is always something a theist will agree with. You don't have to add "because she no longer exists."

Comment by Kairan Nierde on October 5, 2013 at 10:04pm

Thanks everyone for your advice. I feel much more prepared to handle talking about her death. You all are the best.

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