The logistics are a little weird for crying on a shoulder across the Atlantic Ocean .
February 24, 2009 7:10 PM   Subscribe

My friend's grandmother died. This is not your average friend's-relative-is-dead issue. Possible excessive worry filter.

I'm 20; friend is 23. Friend lives halfway around the world, in Bucharest, in an apartment he co-owns, and until two weeks ago, he shared it with his grandmother, who was not a co-owner. The first I learned of this was yesterday, and two weeks ago he told me some of his family had come to his apartment to deal with his grandmother's personal effects, which he was not very pleased about (he is not terribly fond of most of his family). He told me yesterday that he thought he told me she died, when he didn't, and that he wasn't terribly close to her.

The rest of his family lives in other parts of Romania; he's the only one who lives in Bucharest now. He lives alone in his apartment, and I suppose he's probably told other friends of his about this too, but I can't be too sure, knowing him - he divulges things readily, but it ends up that I sort of unwittingly dredge it out of him instead of he telling me himself; he and I are both introverted, but he seems to be a little more taciturn about certain things than I am (I balance him out in other ways of being introverted, though).

I've told him I'm sorry for his loss, I've talked with him about it and what he's going to do - I don't know if there's an indication that he might be hiding a certain amount of grief and feeling fairly bad that he's got virtually no family left (the only close family he has is two brothers and an uncle who live in another part of the country, and let's just say his contempt for them is fairly well justified). Maybe he's hiding significant grief. Maybe he really is okay. I don't know. For what it's worth, both his parents died around the same time when he was about eighteen; he's dealt with significant loss and come through okay.

I just feel compelled to do something, and maybe the best I can do to comfort him if he truly still needs it is to simply be there, be a listening ear, and be a shoulder to cry on, even if distance makes it not-in-the-flesh. It's the least a friend can do. What SHOULD I do? What should I not do?
posted by kldickson to Human Relations (7 answers total)
I think you answered it yourself in that last paragraph.
posted by Frasermoo at 7:18 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do you have shared memories together, like were you college buddies? can you ship him something that will remind him of happier times? Phone calls and emails are great, but a care package is the bestest.
posted by desjardins at 8:11 PM on February 24, 2009

I'm with Frasermoo - just be available, as you always would for a friend. But I'd also say be prepared for your friend to be a little different for a while, as he handles his grief in his own way.
posted by thatguyonmf at 8:20 PM on February 24, 2009

I would take desjardin's approach combined with just being there for him and making sure he knows he doesn't have to talk about all of that but that you're available.
posted by batmonkey at 9:31 PM on February 24, 2009

He told me yesterday that he thought he told me she died, when he didn't, and that he wasn't terribly close to her.... I don't know if there's an indication that he might be hiding a certain amount of grief ...

His forgetting might just mean he's talked to so many people about her death that he can't remember who he's told. And he simply may not have been close to her emotionally. If he's not grieving loudly, that doesn't mean he's hiding his feelings. Listen, don't diagnose.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:46 AM on February 25, 2009

What you do or say is not as big of a deal as making sure you do or say something. Acknowledge his loss, send a nice card or care package (religious if HE is, not if HE is not), and then follow up my emailing or calling him frequently in the next weeks and months.

I personally like getting email or greeting cards rather than calls because sometimes I am just not up to talking on the phone, and that's just me.

Send a small care package if you can - a new album you liked a lot and a book. Or food. Something simple, to take his mind off things and feel close to you. You have the right thoughts - just continue to be a friend. Don't take the world onto your shoulders - the "Listen, don't diagnose" advice was good.
posted by bunnycup at 6:33 AM on February 25, 2009

I asked a similar question a couple of years ago - the answers might be helpful to you.

Good luck. It's a gutwrenching thing, wanting to comfort and being so far away.
posted by AthenaPolias at 9:23 AM on March 1, 2009

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