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Topic: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)  (Read 1199 times)

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On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« on: March 15, 2019, 12:34:33 PM »
Ok I'll start by saying that I really wanted to title this subject "On Death: Brits VERSUS Americans" but I didn't want to make it seem like a competition or who handles death better because death just sucks.

That said...

I've not been on the forum much because I lost my grandma aka my second mom aka my best buddy aka my heart. She died at my mom's home in Miami, Florida on 10 February at the age of 89 after battling dementia for several years. She died almost exactly 10 years to the day and time that my grandfather passed away in a house fire. He died on 9 February, 2009 at approximately 8 PM. My grandmother died on 10 February in the wee morning hours. Oddly enough, as her health was rapidly declining, I KNEW she was going to die on the day he died. I even told my husband and my mom a week beforehand. And well, I was as close to being right as I could possibly be. I just knew.

Her funeral was on 28 February in Detroit, Michigan where she was buried next to her husband/my grandfather. Her interment ceremony was held in the Rosa Parks chapel at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit. Rosa Parks' final resting place is right there in the mausoleum of the chapel. It was a beautiful ceremony and I think my grandma would have appreciated it.

On Sunday, 24 February, I took a train from Penrith to London and spent the night there. The next day, I took an early morning direct flight to Detroit. It was freezing cold and snowy in Detroit. I couldn't believe that it was warmer in Northern England than it was in Detroit. Global warming? Anyway, I had to be there and there was much to be done before I had to fly back to the UK again on the following Friday, 1 March. When someone close to you dies, it is all so overwhelming as you have to plan a funeral and handle business affairs, etc. It's the worst thing ever when all you want to do is lie in the bed and cry your eyes out. But you just get it done.

Detroit has made quite the comeback over the last few years. I grew up there. It was a pretty hard city for most of my time living there but I could always see the diamond in the rough that was just ready to be cut and polished. It's getting there. I love it. My grandma would have loved it.  In fact, if ever we end up choosing to move to America (though I can't see that happening), I would definitely consider a return to Detroit. It's a city for artists and musicians and foodies and entrepreneurs. I've always been a proud Detroiter but now I'm even more proud.

I digress. As much as I just wish I had been there on holiday, I was there for my grandma's funeral. Honestly, my grandma was as beautiful in death as she was in life. She was a fighter through and through. She stayed as long as she could... As long as SHE wanted to stay. She left on her own terms. She did everything that way. She was well-loved. The few of her friends who are still alive and in the Detroit area came to celebrate her. My mother's friends came to celebrate her. My friends came to celebrate her. Each generation spoke on how she individually touched and affected their lives. It was such a gift for me to hear just how much of a friend, mother, and grandmother she was to everyone. Those old familiar faces and voices made the day a little easier.

My friends in America have been so amazing to me. They've called, written, texted, messaged, and Facebooked (not sure that's really a verb). I definitely feel the love. And I know if I was there in America, they'd be surrounding me, holding me up, and carrying me until I could carry myself again. They would show up at my door, take me out to lunch, sit and have a coffee - or something stronger - with me. They'd bug me to the point of pure annoyance because they'd want me to know they care and that they love me. I NEED them and I can't have them because of the distance. I'm here in England with no one.

You'd think I don't know anyone here in the UK... but I do. But I almost feel like I don't because they are NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. I have maybe one actual friends, a few acquaintances, and of course, my husband's family. And not a single one has reached out since I've been back from the US to ask me how I am or if I need anything or if I just want to meet for a cuppa. Not even my one sister-in-law with whom I believed I was pretty close. I am utterly shocked to not really have heard from her especially considering she lost her mom a couple of years ago. She knows the pain it brings. I wasn't living here then and didn't really know her at that time but you best believe I would have reached out to her. And then there's my one sort of actual friend... She lost her dad back in October and I would at least just drop her a text and offer an ear or a shoulder or a cuppa. I didn't push but I reached out to let her know I was here for her. Well, I haven't really heard from her either.

So what gives? Is this just a huge cultural difference in how Brits and Americans handle death, grief, and mourning? I've tried to justify why I've been left alone. Maybe the Brits think I need space? Maybe they think they'll be invasive of my privacy? I've just been trying to understand but I can't. And now I think I have discovered the hardest part of being an American expat in the UK. It's the isolation during life's toughest challenges. No one is here for me. I miss my friends and right now I wish I was back in America. Right now I hate being here. And I miss my grandma. She would be the one person who I could have talked to about how I'm feeling. And she would have had the most perfect thing to say to make it all better. Yeah...
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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2019, 01:04:35 PM »
So sorry Mrs Magpie...

I think you're right though, it's most likely a cultural thing combined with the fact that your UK people probably don't feel that they have known you long enough to involve themselves in such a deeply personal part of your life.
I'm sure that it's not that they don't want to support you, rather that they are being polite and don't want to intrude.

March 28th 2013-Moved to UK, husband on spouse visa.Oct 20th 2015-Applied by mail for FLR(M).Feb 1st 2016 FLR(M).March 7th 2018 ILR. YAY! March 21st NCS&JCAP appointment.


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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2019, 01:21:05 PM »
I think it's just a thing here. When my father died, I had tons of messages and texts while I was in the US from my friends there. When I got back, I only ever heard from anyone here if I saw them in person (gathering/restaurant/on the street walking). I don't think they don't care, I just think like larrabee said, they feel like they're intruding otherwise.

It is very isolating. I've been here almost a year and still haven't gotten out into the world much. It's slowly changing though.

Hugs xx
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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2019, 01:31:07 PM »
It's also possibly because when an adult's grandparent dies,  it's kind of... expected, because they are old.  At 89 years old, people will just think 'well, she's had a good innings', and especially with dementia, alot of people would see that as a sort of blessing... they're not suffering/struggling anymore.

If they're thinking like that, then they probably don't realise how broken-hearted you are, because they'll be assuming you're feeling similar to them.... lived to a ripe old age, had a good innings, at peace, no more struggle, etc.

Hope you feel better soon, Mrs Magpie... I'm sorry to hear of your loss, and that you're feeling so bad.


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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2019, 01:35:19 PM »
I'm so sorry for your loss Mrs. Magpie.  I'm so glad you got to go home and be there for the service.  Cling onto those USA friends.  Make sure they know how valuable they are to you.  If you don't, some will think that you are off living this new glamorous life and think you don't need them anymore.  And you do!

Yeah, it's probably quite a bit to do with culture.  Just like the others have said.  Those here don't feel close enough to "intrude".  "British still upper lip" and "keep calm and carry on."  That being said, once you get those good friendships here, you will find out how loved you are in a time of need.


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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2019, 02:36:41 PM »
Also just wanting to pass across my condolences :( Very sorry for your loss. Very hard, especially from a distance.

Agree with the above sentiments that the people around you might feel they don't know you well enough to broach the topic and might be waiting to say something until you come to them with your feelings as they don't want to intrude.
My, how time flies....

* Married in the US and applied for first spousal visa August 2013
* Moved to the UK on said visa October 2013
* FLR(M) applied for  May 2016. Biometrics requested June 2016. Approval given July 2016.
* ILR applied for January 2019 (using priority processing). Approved February 2019.
* Citizenship applied for May  2019

**CITIZENSHIP APPROVED July 4, 2019! Formal ceremony on August 28, 2019!**

HEY MOM, I'M A BRIT NOW :D


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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2019, 02:54:12 PM »
Thank you, everyone. I am forever thankful for this forum and the great people here. Honestly, I don't know how anyone can make it living here without having other American expats to talk to. You are the only ones who can totally understand what I'm going through and how I may be feeling. I think I've been trying to see it the way you all have described. It's true, they don't know me too well yet. And maybe, as Albatross mentioned, they think it's my elderly grandparent who lived a very full life and not really understanding that she had a huge hand in raising me. I've basically lost my mom. But I get so tired of always having to make my own validations or justifications for people's actions or behaviours in order to make myself feel better. Know what I mean? All I want is a physical hug and some love. It's that simple I think.

But with my sister-in-law, yeah, I'm still surprised because we have spent a lot of time together and I think we have started to know each other pretty well. In fact, I've been so supportive of my father-in-law (her dad) during his illness and time in hospital. I love him to pieces. So I've done whatever I can do to help where and when I'm needed. And come to think of it, my other sister-in-law needed money for her rent and I helped her out. So, yeah, if she feels comfortable enough to ask for money then she should feel comfortable enough to ask me how I'm doing. Now, I'm not a tit-for-tat person and I don't do things looking for something in return. But I guess it still just makes me feel sad when there is nothing... not even a short message to say "I'm thinking of you."

At any rate, I am trying to see the positives. I have a very supportive and loving husband and stepdaughter. I've got my dog and cat here now so they keep me smiling. I get to take my dog on nice walks with gorgeous views. And I live in one of the most beautiful locations on Earth. I just have to remember to remain grateful for what I do have and stop giving so much energy to what I don't have.
Living with my love in Penrith!
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Decision made email: 14 Sep 2018
Documents returned: 17 Sep 2018
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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2019, 02:54:46 PM »
I'm so sorry for your loss. I think over here you have to tell people that you want to see them, vs people reaching out. It's hard to make new friendships and to know how to react when difficult times happen. Your friends back home knew how close you were and that this would be very upsetting, the people here probably don't have that insight. I'm sorry it's just different :(

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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2019, 03:01:38 PM »

But with my sister-in-law, yeah, I'm still surprised because we have spent a lot of time together and I think we have started to know each other pretty well. In fact, I've been so supportive of my father-in-law (her dad) during his illness and time in hospital. I love him to pieces. So I've done whatever I can do to help where and when I'm needed. And come to think of it, my other sister-in-law needed money for her rent and I helped her out. So, yeah, if she feels comfortable enough to ask for money then she should feel comfortable enough to ask me how I'm doing. Now, I'm not a tit-for-tat person and I don't do things looking for something in return. But I guess it still just makes me feel sad when there is nothing... not even a short message to say "I'm thinking of you."


Have you tried vocalising this at all to your husband? Not to "pass blame" as such, but just to say something like "I'm a bit hurt that your family hasn't reached out to check in with this family death.". You don't have to say it in a way that suggests you think they are being malicious and you can cite cultural differences, but vocalising it to your husband might help you feel less alone and he might even be able to offer insight into his family (which might help). That and he may give them a kick into reality so they realise this is a bigger deal to you than they are making it out to be (and rightly so). I would think friends and acquaintances might feel they don't want to step in toes or may not know you well enough, but if you're saying you're developing a relationship with his family and they are comfortable enough to ask you for money, this sounds like a "his family" type of issue and maybe talking to him about it in a non-confrontational way might help? (or at least help you find closure for that hurt).
My, how time flies....

* Married in the US and applied for first spousal visa August 2013
* Moved to the UK on said visa October 2013
* FLR(M) applied for  May 2016. Biometrics requested June 2016. Approval given July 2016.
* ILR applied for January 2019 (using priority processing). Approved February 2019.
* Citizenship applied for May  2019

**CITIZENSHIP APPROVED July 4, 2019! Formal ceremony on August 28, 2019!**

HEY MOM, I'M A BRIT NOW :D


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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2019, 03:10:40 PM »
I'm so sorry for your loss. I think over here you have to tell people that you want to see them, vs people reaching out. It's hard to make new friendships and to know how to react when difficult times happen. Your friends back home knew how close you were and that this would be very upsetting, the people here probably don't have that insight. I'm sorry it's just different :(

Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk

Thanks, Margo. I think you're right that if you want something, you should just ask for it instead of expecting and assuming. I mean, the best way to get what we want in life is to be direct. But yes, it will also come down to me just accepting that most things are very different here... including how we cope with death.

Have you tried vocalising this at all to your husband? Not to "pass blame" as such, but just to say something like "I'm a bit hurt that your family hasn't reached out to check in with this family death.". You don't have to say it in a way that suggests you think they are being malicious and you can cite cultural differences, but vocalising it to your husband might help you feel less alone and he might even be able to offer insight into his family (which might help). That and he may give them a kick into reality so they realise this is a bigger deal to you than they are making it out to be (and rightly so). I would think friends and acquaintances might feel they don't want to step in toes or may not know you well enough, but if you're saying you're developing a relationship with his family and they are comfortable enough to ask you for money, this sounds like a "his family" type of issue and maybe talking to him about it in a non-confrontational way might help? (or at least help you find closure for that hurt).

I did mention to my husband that I was kind of surprised that I hadn't heard from his sister to whom I am closest. He agreed but it pretty much ended there. I guess I didn't want to make too big a deal out of it with him either to where it'll start some sort of drama. That's the last thing I need. Sometimes I just let things ride where maybe I should speak up. I almost think it's easier for me to just carry the burden of sadness and disappointment rather than rattle cages. But maybe I will talk to him about it again and let him know how much I am hurting.
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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2019, 03:15:52 PM »
I did mention to my husband that I was kind of surprised that I hadn't heard from his sister to whom I am closest. He agreed but it pretty much ended there. I guess I didn't want to make too big a deal out of it with him either to where it'll start some sort of drama. That's the last thing I need. Sometimes I just let things ride where maybe I should speak up. I almost think it's easier for me to just carry the burden of sadness and disappointment rather than rattle cages. But maybe I will talk to him about it again and let him know how much I am hurting.

For me, I think the whole reason I married the person I did is because he is truly my partner (even when he gets on my nerves sometimes and I on his) because he makes it so I don't have to carry burdens alone. And I genuinely hope that everybody finds that person who can help them carry their burdens as well. I'm sure your husband loves you and would want you to open up to him about your feelings and how your hurting inside. It's not a dramatic blame game by any means, it's just you expressing your pain during a rough patch in your life and hopefully your partner can understand that and support it. He may just have left it where it was initially because he didn't realise it was hurting you in the way it was.

I hope that your in-laws come to their senses and you can all move forward with minimal damage to the relationship (as I think you would have every right to feel this would impact your relationship with them).

Sending hugs.
My, how time flies....

* Married in the US and applied for first spousal visa August 2013
* Moved to the UK on said visa October 2013
* FLR(M) applied for  May 2016. Biometrics requested June 2016. Approval given July 2016.
* ILR applied for January 2019 (using priority processing). Approved February 2019.
* Citizenship applied for May  2019

**CITIZENSHIP APPROVED July 4, 2019! Formal ceremony on August 28, 2019!**

HEY MOM, I'M A BRIT NOW :D


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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2019, 03:27:24 PM »
For me, I think the whole reason I married the person I did is because he is truly my partner (even when he gets on my nerves sometimes and I on his) because he makes it so I don't have to carry burdens alone. And I genuinely hope that everybody finds that person who can help them carry their burdens as well. I'm sure your husband loves you and would want you to open up to him about your feelings and how your hurting inside. It's not a dramatic blame game by any means, it's just you expressing your pain during a rough patch in your life and hopefully your partner can understand that and support it. He may just have left it where it was initially because he didn't realise it was hurting you in the way it was.

I hope that your in-laws come to their senses and you can all move forward with minimal damage to the relationship (as I think you would have every right to feel this would impact your relationship with them).

Sending hugs.

Thank you. Wise counsel. I will talk to him then because he really is my partner and he truly does care. I think I haven't really been saying much and therefore he thinks I'm just ok. I know he'd go out of his way to help me feel better. <3
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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2019, 03:38:51 PM »
I'm really sorry for your loss, MrsMagpie.  I lost my father about 10 weeks after I moved over here, and about two weeks before my wedding.  I wasn't able to go home for the service, but my dad and I had some good conversations before I left, so I was comfortable with that decision.  Still, it was a really difficult time in my life (I was getting married! Yay!  But I just lost my dad... :\\\'( ).  I really only had my husband for support.  My in-laws sent their condolences, but didn't really reach out to me.  Same with my friends.  By my wedding day, it wasn't even mentioned... of course, we'd just got married, so people were a bit preoccupied with that.

Anyway, I really think the lack of support or reaching out over here is a cultural thing.  As KF said, that "stiff upper lip" thing.  The British do seem to be a bit more reserved/stand-offish compared to Americans, and grief is a very personal thing.  I suspect they're just leaving you to it.  It doesn't mean they don't care, and I bet if you reached out, especially to your SIL, they would be there for you.

In the meantime, we're all here for you.  And KF is right (again)... make sure you keep those US friendships going.  It's so easy to lose those through apathy/neglect.  Trust me, I know this one first-hand.
9/1/2013 - "fiancée" (marriage) visa issued
4/6/2013 - married (certificate issued same-day)
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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2019, 04:08:52 PM »
I'm really sorry for your loss, MrsMagpie.  I lost my father about 10 weeks after I moved over here, and about two weeks before my wedding.  I wasn't able to go home for the service, but my dad and I had some good conversations before I left, so I was comfortable with that decision.  Still, it was a really difficult time in my life (I was getting married! Yay!  But I just lost my dad... :\\\'( ).  I really only had my husband for support.  My in-laws sent their condolences, but didn't really reach out to me.  Same with my friends.  By my wedding day, it wasn't even mentioned... of course, we'd just got married, so people were a bit preoccupied with that.

Anyway, I really think the lack of support or reaching out over here is a cultural thing.  As KF said, that "stiff upper lip" thing.  The British do seem to be a bit more reserved/stand-offish compared to Americans, and grief is a very personal thing.  I suspect they're just leaving you to it.  It doesn't mean they don't care, and I bet if you reached out, especially to your SIL, they would be there for you.

In the meantime, we're all here for you.  And KF is right (again)... make sure you keep those US friendships going.  It's so easy to lose those through apathy/neglect.  Trust me, I know this one first-hand.


Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry you went through all of that. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that must have been.  I know you must have had so many conflicting emotions. My heart goes out to you for that.

I know what you and KF mean about keeping those American friendships strong as well too. It’s so difficult especially having most of my friends on the US West coast. Virtually impossible to talk on the phone with the time difference. Ugh. But we send texts and notes and speak when we can. I don’t know what I’d do without them. It’s always hard to maintain friendship when someone moves away but I also know that my true friends will always be my true friends even if we don’t manage to speak for months at a time. I’m grateful to know some wonderful humans.

And thank you all for being so kind and supportive. And I’m here for you too!!




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Living with my love in Penrith!
-------------------------------------------------
Married: 17 May 2018
App type: Priority spouse/settlement visa
Online app submitted: 6 Aug 2018
Biometrics & Docs sent: 9 Aug 2018
UPS delivery to Sheffield: 13 Aug 2018
Email - app received/being prepped by ECO: 15 Aug 2018
Decision made email: 14 Sep 2018
Documents returned: 17 Sep 2018
APPROVED!!!


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Re: On death: Brits and Americans (this post is long)
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2019, 11:44:29 AM »
Oh MrsMagpie, I'm so sorry to hear of your loss.  Sending you huge hugs.  :( 


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