A Death in Her Family: How can you help?

by cv harquail on January 12, 2009

Parents- here’s a request for some immediate advice:

From Maya

People, I could use some sugestions here.

I just found out today, Sunday, that my au pair’s grandmother passed away on Tuesday. She never told me. Just told me today when I asked if she has talked to her family recently.

I asked if she needs/wants to go back home and she said no. What else can I do? I feel so lost right now with this.

Any suggestions?

From Calif mom

This happened with a former ap of ours, too. I gave her a big hug, and we sat at the kitchen table and we talked about her grandmother a bit. I tried to listen and share some understanding (my grandmother died while I was in Europe and my family encouraged me not to return for the funeral, so I could relate a little bit to being away). Just show her that you care and do what you would do for someone else. And respect that relationships with grandmothers are not all the same, so it may not be as big of a deal for her as it would be for you (or vice versa). Maybe, if she is doing a lot of phoning to older relatives, you could offer her to use the phone more than usual during this time, but I would try to take her lead. If she seems distraught, offer her a few hours extra time off to get herself together or write something for a relative to read at the service. Basic human kindness goes a long way, but I think taking her lead is important. If she wants to stay quiet about it, that is okay, too.

And from Anna

I would encourage her to go to church (she is Catholic, right?) to pray for her grandmother. You can give her a list of churches in your area. This could be comforting to her.

Please add your suggestions …


Angie January 13, 2009 at 1:47 am

I agree with Anna, I would encourage her to go to church so she can pray about it and find some peace. Being so far away from home, maybe this will help her to feel a bit closer and comfort her.
By you just being there for her if she needs a shoulder to cry on or just to chat, you are doing so much!

Amy January 17, 2009 at 4:39 am

When this happened in my group, a young woman from Germany with a family that has been in the program for nearly 10 years now. The HM called me very very concerned about her AP. Not just because of the raw fact that her grandmother had passed away, but because she was finding out about a few days after and was very concerned that she had carried this grief with her and not shared it with the host family. She asked me to follow up, but I have to admit that was not the best way to go on this situation.

The AP had told the family she was doing ok and that she did not need to go home for the furneral and that she would be ok. She was sad, but she would be ok. When I called, the AP was a bit upset that the host family had not ‘heard’ her when she said she was ok. I did ease her upset by assuring her that they really cared about her and wanted to be sure she was indeed ok. They did want me to be sure that she was saying she was not going home based on the personal decision not to go, and not to be putting them ahead of the situation. (They felt she might feel she was bailing on them when they needed childcare and therefore did want to verify that the decision to not go home was not based on being concerned for them and childcare.)

Anyway, past that, and the point I really wanted to point out was that during the conversation with the AP she said to me something profound that eased everyone in this time of grief. She said, “My mother and I had a very serious talk about the fact that this might happen while I was away. We agreed that I was saying ‘good-bye’ (to her grandmother) and that if the time came, I would not be going home for this.”

So since it was not necessarily discussed in your post if it was sudden or somewhat exptected, it may be another aspect of the situation and concern for her attending the funeral or not…

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