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kids and death

A friendly ear
servodude
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kids and death

#404383

Postby servodude » April 15th, 2021, 6:20 am

I discovered yesterday that a friend of my elder daughter was euthanised last week (we're in Vic Aus and it was in accordance with this)

She had been suffering from leukaemia since she was about 10
- it had been in remission periodically but it appeared to have returned with a vengeance
- so much so that this was the path chosen

She was 3 weeks past her 18th birthday and it was arranged to occur during the Easter school holidays

While I totally "understand" that this was the "correct" choice for her I find myself really saddened and angered
- and quite incapable of explaining the situation in a way that I find suitably answers the questions of my younger daughter (13) who also knew the girl through school and as her sister's friend
- her questions are just variations on "why?"

It doesn't help that this comes closely following the anniversary of a friend's son who took his life when the pandemic started (we've recently attended a deferred service for him as his funeral was just after restrictions were imposed last March)

I am worried about normalising "ending it all" as a coping strategy

- sd

Dod101
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Re: kids and death

#404386

Postby Dod101 » April 15th, 2021, 7:25 am

I very much sympathise with you on this. As a matter of fact I am currently reading a new book on the subject called The Inevitable by a Canadian author Katie Engelhart. It might not help you very much and will not help with children, but it does kind of put the whole subject in perspective. It has not helped me in settling my views on the matter.

Presumably the young lady made the decision to end her life. If she did not it it would not be possible in most jurisdictions. If the leukemia had returned 'with a vengeance' why not just let nature take its course? She would have been unlikely to live much longer anyway. I suppose the only answer to a 13 year old is that the patient was going to die shortly and had no quality of life and so she felt that shortening it by a few weeks was best. (I can't believe that but who am I to know) I do not know if dying from Leukemia causes pain and distress or not; my wife died 5 years ago of Myeloma, another blood cancer, and it was stress free as far as I could tell. The poor girl though must have been at the end of her tether with hospital visits and the attention of medics, all ultimately to no avail except for various periods of remission I assume.

The general idea of euthanasia is to remove unnecessary stress and pain from those capable of deciding for themselves when they want to die and to that extent I am afraid that is the only way to try to explain it to a 13 year old. As far as she is concerned though it will look like suicide by another name. Beyond that I cannot help but I sympathise with your position and share your anger to some extent that this ould become the ultimate coping mechanism. It is supposed though to be a humane way out, the analogy with an animal in distress is sometimes used.

Dod

bungeejumper
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Re: kids and death

#404487

Postby bungeejumper » April 15th, 2021, 1:08 pm

I'm so sorry that you and your daughter are having to go through this. That's clumsy and inadequate, of course - I am a thousand times as sorry for the poor girl and her own family, but I hope that goes without saying? For now, the questions are landing in your daughter's court, and what a tough situation - coming during a pandemic which has limited many of the social contacts that kids will normally use to support each other and talk each other through these sorts of situations.

When you're thirteen (a transitional age at the best of times), and suddenly an "adult" phenomenon like death jumps forward to seize somebody from your own cohort, it must feel as though the whole invincibility-of-youth thing that we all knew is under enemy attack from a sniper behind the lines? What is a young person to do with that uncertainty? Talking with your parents is important, but it isn't quite the same.

I don't suppose that was very well expressed either? But these are proper existential questions, and it isn't surprising that they go deep. In Britain there are teen counselling agencies that can help children and teenagers to talk their way through these issues, and I imagine there must be some in Victoria? That doesn't mean psychoanalysis (most healthy people can get past death without needing a shrink), but it does mean taking the questions seriously. (Declaration - my wife is a psychotherapist, so don't expect any lack of bias from me. :D )

The most important thing, though, is to keep talking. My stepdaughters didn't manage to talk enough after their father died unexpectedly (they were nine and eleven), and it caused them a lot of problems later in life. But that's going off topic, I suppose?

One thing I'll say, though, is that I saw a similar tragedy at first hand when I was teaching forty years ago. A bright kid with leukaemia who lost his health and his hair and his mobility, but who was determined to come to school and do his O levels, no matter what. By the time the results came through, he was gone. His choice was different from this girl's, of course - there was no euthanasia option anyway - but his courage can bring tears to my eyes even now. It's remarkable what strength young people can show.

Teenage leukaemia is an utter, utter bastard, but we're gradually winning. Forty years ago, survival rates were one in ten. These days they're closer to nine in ten. How many other fields of medicine can claim such advances? One day, this won't be happening any more. Can't come soon enough.

BJ

Dod101
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Re: kids and death

#404501

Postby Dod101 » April 15th, 2021, 1:38 pm

I am slightly off topic BJ but I am afraid I am very sceptical of so called 'survival rates' for any cancer particularly without any definition of what you mean by the term. It is in any case irrelevant for the topic raised by the OP>

I am not sure whether the 13 year old is upset (traumatised?) by the death of the 18 year old from Leukemia - that would be a 'normal' death and so 'normal' counselling. I assumed that the real cause of the problem here is the death by the active choice of the poor girl. This is not just death at an early age, this is death by deliberate choice of the sufferer which I assumed to be the real problem and I can certainly understand that.

Dod

bungeejumper
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Re: kids and death

#404503

Postby bungeejumper » April 15th, 2021, 1:43 pm

That's a different perspective in all respects, Dod. You might be right that the daughter's issue is that this girl opted for euthanasia rather than toughing it out to the end, but this isn't a moment for quibbling. Peace.

BJ

AsleepInYorkshire
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Re: kids and death

#404632

Postby AsleepInYorkshire » April 15th, 2021, 11:58 pm

servodude wrote:I discovered yesterday that a friend of my elder daughter was euthanised last week (we're in Vic Aus and it was in accordance with this)

She had been suffering from leukaemia since she was about 10
- it had been in remission periodically but it appeared to have returned with a vengeance
- so much so that this was the path chosen

She was 3 weeks past her 18th birthday and it was arranged to occur during the Easter school holidays

While I totally "understand" that this was the "correct" choice for her I find myself really saddened and angered
- and quite incapable of explaining the situation in a way that I find suitably answers the questions of my younger daughter (13) who also knew the girl through school and as her sister's friend
- her questions are just variations on "why?"

It doesn't help that this comes closely following the anniversary of a friend's son who took his life when the pandemic started (we've recently attended a deferred service for him as his funeral was just after restrictions were imposed last March)

I am worried about normalising "ending it all" as a coping strategy

- sd

Tonight, as I do every Thursday I collected my 13 year old daughter from her Grandma's. She walks there from school which is about 1/2 a mile. As we travelled home in the car she raised a subject. She told me that one of the other girls in her class was very very clever. She said "Daddy, I think she's probably the best pupil in my class". There was no envy. It was the observation of innocence. "But, Dad, she has emotional outbursts and I think she may be autistic".

I was proud of my daughter. She had taken the time to try and understand that life's not binary. She didn't condemn, she was able to think about reasons for someone else's behaviour that weren't stereo-typed.

In October 2014 I spoke to my GP. I had timelines and plans in place to close out my mental health issues. There was no quality in my life. I didn't fit. My behaviours weren't sociable. I was aggressive, paranoid, exhausted and generally unable to cope with anything. I was referred to single point access mental health services. Let's not discuss how useless they were.

I'm still here. I survived. I spend time talking to my daughter about her well being. I talk to her about her emotional strengths. I've talked to her about other people's emotions. I want her to listen with her eyes, her ears and her heart.

I can't tell you anymore than that. I'd like to suggest that you talk with your daughter. I'd suggest that you need to trust her. I'd suggest that trust is reciprocal. Sadness is a fact of life. Give your daughter the tools to deal with it. Give her the chance to pass on what she learns from you to her children.

Ending it all isn't a coping strategy. Defining it as such may be binary. Sometimes life is and can be tough. And it's at those times we need our family, friends and self worth to support us.

Maybe this is an opportunity to stop protecting your daughter and give her the tools to protect herself. She needs emotional strength and independence. We all do.

Talk to your daughter. And if you can, listen. I am not a perfect parent. Far from it. But I will never stop trying

AiY

servodude
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Re: kids and death

#404643

Postby servodude » April 16th, 2021, 7:09 am

Thanks all

my original post was probably more to cope with my own shock than anything else
- and I know the anger I am feeling is a result of frustration more than any real comment on the situation

bungeejumper wrote:A bright kid with leukaemia who lost his health and his hair and his mobility, but who was determined to come to school and do his O levels, no matter what. By the time the results came through, he was gone. His choice was different from this girl's, of course - there was no euthanasia option anyway - but his courage can bring tears to my eyes even now.

yes that sounds very similar

I didn't know the girl personally but I know she was well liked and admired
- having coped with so much as a result of her illness (losing a leg as part of it a couple of years back) she had a status (or was considered/was held up) as a roll model and example to others at the school especially those who might be dealing with lesser issues
- it made her a bit of a school celebrity

from the times I did speak to her she seemed like a great kid who had been dealt a bad hand and was coping with it well
- and this is how it ends! (If I still believed in the idea of a God this is where I walk out!)

Dod101 wrote: As far as she is concerned though it will look like suicide by another name.

This is the crux of my fears, or more accurately that two cases are equated

My younger daughter has her own issues
- she can think too much for her own good and come up with ideas that, while superficially plausible, aren't helpful to her
we've been telling kids for a while now that metal health is as important as physical health; I totally believe this is true
- but (and this is what I'm trying to convey to her) they're not equivalent

I don't really see what happened as being suicide but I can't articulate why other than to explain that she must have been otherwise guaranteed a painful death very soon (the circumstances have to be exceptional for it to be considered from a legal perspective if nothing else)
- but it's choosing to die now (in a controlled and dignified manner of your choosing) to avoid future pain
- and there's no real way around that

AsleepInYorkshire wrote:I was proud of my daughter.

I can tell - and that's one hell of an aquarium you guys have put together ;)

- sd

1nvest
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Re: kids and death

#408080

Postby 1nvest » April 29th, 2021, 3:02 pm

servodude wrote:I am worried about normalising "ending it all" as a coping strategy

Nowadays I don't really recognise many "celebrities", however suicides amongst such seem quite frequent. Some I do recognise, Robin Williams for instance after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Whitney Houston ...etc. Some have suggested for instance that Kurt Cobain took his own life at age 27 just to join the '27 club' - the list of 'famous' that died at 27 years of age ... Jimmy Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morison, Jonathan Brandis, Amy Whitehouse ...etc. For the younger generations who follow celebs much more closely than I, it wouldn't surprise me if there was already a established culture of suicide being considered as 'normal'.


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