The special difficulties of losing a loved one when they are abroad

It’s heartbreaking and difficult enough to cope when losing a loved one suddenly, but if the death happens abroad – particularly if you were not with them at the time – there are extra layers of difficulty.

Below there is a reprint of a very sad article about this topic, from the BBC, 3rd August 2018: “Families ‘failed’ when loved ones die abroad”

If you or a friend find yourself in this tragic situation, The Compassionate Friends (TCF) have produced a Factsheet with some basic information about how to proceed. The Factsheet also includes links to further support.

Click here for: TCF Factsheet on Deaths Abroad

Practical issues aside, sudden death can be especially traumatic for those left behind.

If we had known that our last call, last visit or last chat was going to be our last, we might have made a special effort to express our love for them; to let them how much we care about them. We might have assured them that we would take care of their other loved ones, or closing up their home, or finishing something that was important. We might have made peace over some issues of contention, and sought and offered forgiveness for past hurts and disagreements – because after all, what human relationship doesn’t have some of those?

If we had only known…

But we didn’t, and that can be hard to reconcile with.

Some people find it helps to write a letter to a loved one to express the unspoken words, and that can be a good idea – any method to say those words that need to be said. Some may have confidence that their loved one can hear and receive what is said; others do not have that type of faith.

In any event, it is rarely a case of one conversation and then instant reconcilation. It takes time and repeated expressions.

Sometimes words are not enough but we need to take some action.

Whatever your situation, I hope that you will be kind to yourself and take all the time you need to adjust to this tragedy. This might not be possible at the beginning, when there are so many things to take care of – which is how this article began, with the practical side. Eventually though, there will be time to grieve, to reflect, and to work with your grief. It’s a long journey.

Read more: A very helpful guide on coping with sudden death (not necessarily abroad)

A booklet on coping with Sudden death (PDF file to download)

(Both of these are external links from the charity “Sudden”)

(From the BBC)

Families ‘failed’ when loved ones die abroad

Families whose loved ones die while on holiday abroad are being failed by the Foreign Office, the head of a group of MPs has said.

SNP MP Hannah Bardell, chairwoman of a cross-party group on deaths abroad, said some families had been left to crowdfund to pay for their son or daughter’s body to be repatriated.
One woman said it took three months to get full details of her son’s death.
The Foreign Office said its staff “work hard to assist British people”.
It added: “However, we cannot interfere in another country’s legal proceedings, and the British police can only assist in an overseas investigation if the local police invite them to do so.”
Ms Bardell told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that 40 families had so far given evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deaths Abroad and Consular Services.
She said the same experiences had been heard “time and time again”.
“We do respect the fact that foreign service officers have a very difficult job, but it’s very clear that they either don’t have the right training or they don’t have the right resources,” she said.
“A single point of contact, repatriation services – and financial support for that – and translation services are absolutely vital.”
One man, Allen Johnson – whose son Will died on holiday in Ibiza in 2008 aged 20 – said in his case the post-mortem report was left in Spanish.
Ms Bardell said two families she knew of were “still trying to get funding for documents to be translated”.
She added that many others were “having to get crowdfunded just to get the body home”.
Her comments come the week after the parents of teenager Thomas Channon, who fell to his death in Magaluf, told the Victoria Derbyshire programme they were “devastated” by the lack of support offered by UK authorities.
Claire Fifield-Moore’s son James died aged 18 after being hit by a drink driver in Zante in 2014.
She was informed of the death by two community officers, who said James had fallen off a quad bike.
“They left me the number of the Foreign Office on the top of a newspaper, and that’s all they knew,” she said.
“We managed to contact one of [James’s] friends, but none of them were with him at the time [of the death], so it was all speculation.”
It was three months until they received confirmation of the cause of death, she said.
“Not knowing made it so much worse,” she said.
“You have no idea what’s going on. It’s such a surreal situation.”
She is now calling for change, saying she felt unsupported when having to deal with a variety of issues that followed his death.
“We didn’t know about repatriation, about needing to have a solicitor,” she said.

presentational grey line

Ms Bardell said it was also wrong that families were not better supported when travelling to the country where their son or daughter had died.
“My families [in her constituency] have had to go out on airplanes where there are hen parties, stag parties,” she said.
Mr Johnson said when he travelled abroad “it was nightmare to be on plane with holidaymakers”.
“All these young people going on holiday. And you’re in disbelief and despair, and a total numbness at what happened,” he added.
At that time he had no official confirmation from the authorities that his son had died, he said, having been informed of what happened by his son’s friends.
The Foreign Office said: “Our deepest sympathies go to all families who have lost loved ones abroad.
“We are in regular contact with authorities abroad about their investigations into tragic incidents involving British nationals so that we can keep families informed.”

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