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A death in the family

I would like to thank all of you who have notified me of the decision for the three test cases in the Autism Omnibus hearings before the Vaccine Court. Science actually won in the courts, something you just can’t count on with any reliability. It even won resoundingly. I also realize that, as much as it still shocks me, a lot of people look forward to what I have to say on this issue, as I’ve become one of the main “go-to” bloggers on all things vaccine. Normally, I’d be all over this, reading the decision in detail, culling choice quotes, and spreading my special brand of Respectful and not-so-Respectful Insolence far and wide over the issue.

But not this time.

This time, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a while. I’m afraid the blogosphere will have to do without me on this story, even though it’s the biggest blow to the antivaccine movement I can recall in four years. I’m just not that interested in blogging right now about anything. However, I do feel an obligation to my readers to explain why.

Yesterday, February 12, 2009, my mother-in-law passed away after a battle with a particularly nasty and rare form of breast cancer. She had been in hospice for about three months, the last week and a half in residential hospice. (I had alluded to this before.) The last time I saw her was on Sunday, and I feared that that would be the last time I saw her alive.

I will not be blogging for a few days. I don’t know if it’ll be a couple of days or a couple of weeks before I come back. Because I’ve had three months to foresee this sad day, however, I did line up some “Classic Insolence” to post automatically at least once a day until until I feel up to producing new material again. I may post an occasional brief update as well.

In the meantime, perhaps you, my readers, could share your stories of loss. More importantly, how did you deal with it? I will see your responses.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

155 replies on “A death in the family”

Orac,

You of course have my deepest condolences. My dad died of brain cancer when I was 18. I was a shit head during the 6 months he suffered with significant impairment before he finally died, something I have never forgiven myself for. Luckily you are an adult, and probably have been able to deal with this better than a hormonal adolescent as I was.

For me, the thing that gets me through hard times, is faith. Funny huh? Here is my faith: In time the pain will pass.

Knowing that this pain will eventually subside for me was what got me through my divorce and other deaths in the family. Knowing now that in one year (or week or month or decade) that I will feel better, helped make me feel better now. It helped me focus on the things I need to focus on and enjoy the thing I should be enjoying despite the pain and deep sense of loss that occurs simultaneously.

I have no idea if I am being clear or helpful, but this is what helps me.

My best wishes for you and your family. Be well.

Orac,
I will come out of my usual lurking to give you my deepest regret and condolences on your loss. I can only imagine your pain as I have yet to lose my parents, but I have recently lost a close friend to breast cancer and can only tell you what you already know….remember the good times and remember that whilst the pain will never fully go away, it will become less with time. I know it doesn’t feel that way at the moment, but it will. Be there with your partner and you will get each other through this.

My father died of complications following surgery fro bowel cancer. I was 15 at the time – he was 45. He was at home, and for about a month leading up to it he was bed-ridden and being given morphine by my mother. I remember my mother waking me at about 2am to tell me he had finally died. In some respects, it was a relief – he had been suffering (despite the morphine). His breathing was long and laboured – every breath seemed to be his last.

We were/are not religious, and I guess had a fairly pragmatic attitude to death. I remember still going to school that day. My father in particular had read the works of Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross following the death of his father some years earlier. The funeral was a celebration of his life, attended by a wide circle of his friends and work colleagues.

Condolences to you and your partner.

My father died of complications following surgery for bowel cancer. I was 15 at the time – he was 45. He was at home, and for about a month leading up to it he was bed-ridden and being given morphine by my mother. I remember my mother waking me at about 2am to tell me he had finally died. In some respects, it was a relief – he had been suffering (despite the morphine). His breathing was long and laboured – every breath seemed to be his last.

We were/are not religious, and I guess had a fairly pragmatic attitude to death. I remember still going to school that day. My father in particular had read the works of Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross following the death of his father some years earlier. The funeral was a celebration of his life, attended by a wide circle of his friends and work colleagues.

Condolences to you and your partner.

Orac, my sincere condolences. A month ago today I found out that my brother and brother-in-law had died in a boating accident. The had been missing for two days, so it wasn’t a surprise, but it was a horrible shock. I’ve been through quite a few deaths in the last few years, but this one was – is – much more difficult.

I can only speak of the first few weeks. The first few days are a fog. The funerals were important – I never understood the word “closure”, I still don’t, but until the funerals nothing could happen. It was just a holding pattern.

They say it gets better, but for me a lot of changes are conscious decisions. After two weeks I decided that I was going to make it through the day without crying. And I did. Just barely. I talked about it to everyone that asked. They may have been asking out of politeness more than anything else, but I decided to get over my desire to not impose. Accept the hugs. Accept the messages. treasure the memories.

In one sense, it’s harder when it’s your mother-in-law. When my wife’s mother died she got the condolences and the hugs. I got the “look after her” pats on the shoulder. You need to claim your own right to grieve, I think. But, of course, someone has to make arrangement – be it for the funeral, or for the trip. I think it’s good to have something to do, but I don’t think that being too strong, for the sake of other people, is helpful.

They say you never really get over a serious loss, but you do get used to it. And see a therapist. People may get tired of your stories long before you’re done telling them. That doesn’t apply to someone you’re paying to listen. Oh, and you’ll get used to people apologising for how little small a thing expressions of condolence are. In my experience, even the smallest word from someone I barely knew was worth so much. Offer them an easy way out of their apology. Most people will take it. But those who keep talking may know something. Give them a chance.

You’re in my thoughts, you and your family.

My deepest condolences.

My husband’s step-father passed away suddenly during the first week of December. We were all quite shaken by the fact that he had emailed a joke to his brother, and just a couple of hours later was found on the bathroom floor by my mother-in-law.

My husband’s father died when he was ten, and his mother remarried when he was thirteen. At the service the priest read the words my husband wrote about his step-father: “I cried when he came into my life, and I cried when he left my life”.

What has helped a great deal is that I married into a wonderful extended family. The brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews of my in-laws came, and there was mutual crying, and great stories about my father-in-law — plus lots and lots of food. My mother-in-law has a great community in her neighborhood and friends, so she has continued support.

And we are all comfortable talking about my father-in-law, and remember him as the sweet kind man who loved his garden (especially with his pruning shears, the azaleas may actually get to blossom instead of being pruned to table top flatness).

We get through, and while we cry, we also smile when we remember him.

Orac,
Condolences from a daily faithful reader. I’ve never commented before, just know that there are so many people who read and appreciate your hard work in this. Take care of you and yours.

I’m sorry to hear of your loss, Orac.
It’s never good to lose a relative, and worse to lose one to cancer. Come back when you feel like it. But do come back!

My condolences to you and more so for Mrs. Orac. Having lost a best friend two months ago, I can easily sympathize. Go comfort your wife, there is nothing harder then losing ones mother (perhaps ones child, but have not had to have experience that). Tears still come to my eyes bringing up the memory of losing my mother, even today, though it happened over 26 years ago at age 21. She died of skin cancer and I am now older then my mother was when she died. I wish my son (10) would have known her. Losing ones mother is a loss one never forgets.

Orac, I’m very sorry for your loss and your wife’s loss. I hope your experience with hospice has been as wonderful as it was for me when my grandfather died. It was a tremendous relief that he could finally have some peace before he died. I know that these things are never “ok” but I hope it was as good as it could be under the circumstances.

Please accept my most sincere condolences.

You ever notice that after a long period of suffering because of disease or injury, most deaths tend to happen when there’s nobody else around? A couple of days back a local man died at 2am some six months after being injured when construction scaffolding fell on him. I think it happens then because people aren’t around pestering you.

Share stories with the wife, and remember that increased sexual activity is a normal reaction to grief. (Something to do with emotional reassurance and the need to bond.)

My condolences to you and your wife Orac. I lost my father fairly abruptly to cancer several years ago when I was 14 (a cough in February, diagnosed with cancer in late April, passed away by the end of May). I saw him suffer badly, but not for long and I didn’t spend any time with him the last few days before he died. He was on a morphine and he was not in most of the ways I think important, how a would like to remember him. I still don’t regret the fact that the evening and morning before he died I didn’t see him even though he was at home. Whilst I think I did keep quite well at the time, thanks to a neighbour telling me I didn’t have to be strong for my mum at all times, for the next several years it did hit me at some rather strange times. I also had exams on the anniversary of my dad’s death for the next six years! 12 years on I’m comfortable talking about my dad, and have been for while. My sister still finds it difficult.

One final thought. The pastor from our local Church (Church of Scotland) held the service, and spent time with me and my mother. He knows we are not religious (religion had no place in our house, it just wasn’t mentioned either pro or anti), and despite frequently asking us to attend services etc. knew that we didn’t need to hear about god at that time and restrained from mentioning god at all apart from in one reading from the bible. He was however a solid and caring presence, as opposed to obviously caring but awkward as most friends and relatives who probably had less experience in comforting those who have lost someone.

So sorry to hear that, condolences to you and your family. I lost my gran to pancreatic cancer a few years ago and it was a truly horrible thing to see her go through it. She was very peaceful in the end though and I take a lot of comfort from that.

Take your time, take care of your wife and we’ll see you when you’re ready to surface again.

Orac, I am so sorry.

I’ve had some horrible “phases” of death in my life, a lot of friends and classmates killed by drunk driver, then people being murdered, and scattered throughout the friends and family members dying after long, painful illnesses. At one point, after going to my 14th funeral in less than 2 years, for a childhood friend I loved like a brother who was killed by a drunk driver, I couldn’t handle funerals anymore. I was 20, and sick to death of death.

After a while, though, these terrible deaths stopped hurting so much. I had to accept that we all die, some of us more painfully and horribly than others, and that I was lucky enough to know each and every one of those people while they were here.

I don’t know if this helps, but it’s my experience. Whatever path you choose to deal with your loss, take all the time you need.

I’m so very sorry to hear your news, Orac – deepest sympathy to you & Mrs Orac.

We buried one of my oldest & closest friends a week ago- she’d been living with metastasised breast cancer (it got into the liver) for 4 years & 10 months. The funeral was bittersweet – full of sadness but also a celebration of her life. I will never be able to hear Smetana’s ‘Moldau’ again without thinking of her.

Condolences to you and your family.

I lost my mother 12 years ago when I was 17. She suffered a brain haemorrhage one morning and never woke up. On the whole it is the way I would want to go, but it left my father and I in a great deal of shock. In fact a month later we had a double whammy when my godmother (one of my father’s oldest friends) passed away from a stroke.

The six months after that were a blur more than anything, I remember breaking down at school and having a constant pain in my heart that never seemed to end. Some things stay with me though when I look back: stay close to your family as these things either bring you closer or tear you apart; and the knowledge that the pain will get better in time gave me a motivation to keep going. I never spoke to a therapist, just knowing there were friends and family to talk to was all I really needed.

The hardest time oddly was about three or four months after the funeral when people stop checking up on you. They get caught back up in their own lives, as they should, but its then that you have to stand on your own feet again.

Orac

Deepest condolences.

Our sympathies are with you and your family in such a trying time.

John H, Mrs John H and a loyal band of Brits.

Orac,

Sorry to hear about your mum-in-law. My dad died of a metastatised kidney cancer nearly two years ago, and it’s still not quite sunk in. I don’t think we get over things – we get used to them; and this is why it takes a while. All I can say is this: the departed live on in us in two or three ways – in out memories, in our up-bringings and in our genes. So they never truly go… and Bakhtin says that they also live on in the voices we use to say what we think. I’m not religious, so I try to derive comfort from the things I’ve learned as a psychologist – how the theories apply in such moments as this, when we really need something more solid to help us adjust to something new.

I hope your learning helps you as mine did me, so that you can be a good comfort to your family at this time.

Best wishes,
David

I am terribly sorry for your loss, and my thoughts are with you and Mrs. Orac. Like another commenter, I was young, and a shithead, when I lost a loved one to a long, hard death from cancer; I have never forgiven myself for my selfishness, and never will. I wish I had a better or more relevant loss story for you, because you give us so much of your time and your humanity that we owe you a little something to help you through a time of pain and loss. But I don’t. It’s all terribly hard, and there’s no two ways about it. You’ll do right by you and yours, and we’ll see you on the other side. Thanks and best wishes.

From an almost daily reader, my sympathies. I have not commented here before, but I appreciate your blog immensely.
The most recent difficult loss in my life involved my aunt who succumbed to ALS at the age of 45. For her, I almost felt relief because I knew that she suffered for a while, but always kept up a cheery demeanor. I mostly felt sad for my young cousin who at 25 was made parentless because her father, my uncle, had died from complications of diabetes 12 years prior. Time and family help and now we are all celebrating because my cousin and her husband are expecting their first child. Life going on brings joys that dull the pain.

I hope it’s not hijacking the thread too much to express my appreciation here for the people who work in hospice care. I never did thank them for their support when my father was dying, and I imagine that’s often the case. Thank you, hospice professionals, for the difficult work you do.

My condolences to you and your family, Orac.

My deepest condolences to you, Orac, and your family. I hope you don’t feel the need to come back until you’re completely ready, no matter how long that is.

Very sorry to hear this, Orac. I don’t really have any advice regarding grieving. I don’t even know what it’s like to have a mother-in-law because she died of colon cancer when my wife was just a teenager. Death just sucks and it mostly requires time to accept it and move on. There is no magical fix.

When my grandmother passed away shortly after 9/11, it took several years for the extended family to come back into close association with one another. It’s often like that when the matriarchs of the family die. That’s one thing you might want to pay close attention to: try to stay in touch with that side of the family to the extent possible.

All The Best,

Joseph C.

Deepest condolences to you and your wife. I lost my mother under similar circumstances seven years ago.

Orac,

My deepest condolences to you and yours. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I lost my son two years ago and still the tears come when I think of him. Time has taken some of the edge off my grief, but I know that I will carry this with me for the rest of my life. The only consolation I can offer you is that, with time will come acceptance and accommodation. Best of luck.

Orac, I am so sorry to hear this. My mother died on June 10, 2007, the day before the Cedillo trial began. It took the multiple myeloma about a year and a half to overwhelm her. I was with her for her last ten days — in the hospital after her heart failed, and back home after her kidneys gave out. It was a very difficult time, but it was wonderful to be with her, and wonderful that all six of my sibs and my father (rustled out of his long-term care facility two days in a row) were able to be with her, too. We all got to say goodbye. I had to leave for home before the end, and it was the most desolate journey I’ve ever made in my life. Mom died about a half hour after I arrived in New Hampshire. I spent my next few months feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. I’m constantly wishing I could call and talk to her about this, that and the other thing. And every now and then I get that hollow-chested, achey feeling again, triggered by random references to Michigan (her home state; it’s where I was born, too), or the sight of Northwest Coast Indian art (which she loved).

Grief is physically exhausting. Accept every offer of food, snow shoveling, housecleaning. Take care, take time.

My condolences to you and yours, Orac. I lost my mom to cancer about eight years ago, and I still break down once in a while. She never got to meet 3/4 of her grandchildren, including both of mine, so I tell them about her often.

Share the love, and reduce the pain.

Orac, please accept my sincere condolences to you, your wife, and your mother-in-law’s family and friends.

Strange how through the magic of the Net I likely am more aware of some of your feelings and opinions than those of co-workers I see every day and consider friends. The folks you’ve gotten to “know” via your blog are no less sincere in their affection for you than people you see every day. Some small part of that affection is being demonstrated here today.

2 stories about loss:

Fred, my best friend at work, died last April of bowel cancer. My wife (who hadn’t met him previously) and I went to Europe with him a few years ago for general tourism and to see a Formula 1 race. We laughed from beginning to end and had a great time. I was trying to avoid starting cholesterol medication, and adhering to a low-fat diet in Italy wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you. When I was wondering what to have for lunch, Fred suggested “Have a pizza!” I said “Fred, I’m on a low-cholesterol diet.” He said, “Then have a calzone!”

When Fred died, our employer brought in a professional grief counselor, and it was truly horrible. She pronounced his last name wrong, and had picked up only a few inconsequential facts about his life. Co-workers he’d disliked when he was alive made a great show of their feeling of loss. I got choked up as much from anger as from grief. The funeral was far better in comparison, especially the lunch at a bar afterward, where we all got a little drunk and laughed at a few hundred of the million wonderful stories about Fred.

About 10 years ago, my wife’s mother (Lisa and I weren’t married then, but we’d been together a long time) became ill with a combination of degenerative diseases – Parkinsonism or something like it, and dementia. She had been in hospice in Florida for several weeks. Lisa had gone there from our home in rural Pennsylvania to say goodbye, and returned. It was November, and there was a meteor shower. Lisa and I went outside in the cold, clear 4 a.m. darkness and were rewarded with a beautiful show. By 5 we were chilled and ready to go back inside, and the shower looked like it was subsiding anyway. Just as we turned for the door, there was a final spectacular display of several shooting stars in one area of the sky off to the east. Lisa said, “Those are the angels welcoming my mother into Heaven.”

We received a call later that morning that Lisa’s mother had passed away at 5 a.m.

You will be in the my thoughts. My father-in-law died one week ago. It is a tough time, but also a time that often brings out the best in others. Let others help you and your family as you struggle to adjust to your new world with out your mother-in-law

My condolences to you and your family.

Watching someone you love die after a long illness is so difficult. I cared for my Mom through hospice and she died from kidney cancer on New Years Day at ten am, 2001. We’d both been dx’d with different cancers during the same month, and had gone through treatment together. She relapsed a few months later. It was very difficult, but, there was some relief when her suffering was over. Although the grieving process started during the illness it took some time to heal.

My Father, on the other hand died unexpectedly of a heart attack while on vacation at a rather young age. This was hard in different ways, and, healing took much longer.

Orac – so sorry to read this. My sincerest condolences to you and your wife. (((hugs)))

Sincere condolences on your family’s loss. I remember my loved ones who have had cancer by participating in Relay for Life. Having a goal of contributing to the greater good brings a mixture of feelings with a positive net gain, at least for me. At the time of passing, nothing was much help in dampening the grief but time with loved ones, getting from day to day, and time passing brings some solace. One’s perspective changes from the current sadness to fond remembrance.

Condolences for you and yours. Make time – go to a favorite place. Make a ritual (plant a tree, cook a favorite meal, call someone). Think of how she would have liked to be commemorated, and do that. Don’t feel bad for feeling crappy, and forgive each other when your family shows their grief, even in strange ways. When your friends and colleagues are silent, try and realize that they’re tongue-tied and inexperienced, and if you can, let them know what they can do to help. Remember, thanks to the efforts of your profession, we don’t have as many personal opportunities to deal with death.

My condolences to you and yours, Orac. She will always be with you as long as you remember her. Do so and laugh and cry together with your family. We still do that today after losing loved ones years ago and it brings all of us together and allows us to share our love for those we miss.

I’m very sorry for your loss, Orac. My father died of prostate cancer in 1996. He’d also started to have symptoms of Alzheimer’s around the time of his cancer diagnosis two years earlier, and was seriously confused and frightened during the last few months of his life. He did have excellent home hospice care, something for which my mother and I remain very grateful.

Dad and I had not been close. It’s not that we squabbled with each other; we just didn’t communicate much. I’m just beginning to appreciate how amazing his seemingly ordinary life was — he was a smart but shy kid who had to drop out of school at 14 and go to work, who had a rough childhood in many ways and always remained devoted to his younger brothers and sisters, who spoke fluent Polish and could switch between his two languages on a second’s notice, who was drafted into the Army Air Corps in WWII and was one of the few guys without a high school diploma to be selected for aircraft mechanic training, and who, in a blue-collar carpet-mill town, took a chance by leaving the factory to become a letter carrier at 48. (The last move was perfectly timed. The factory shut down a few years later, leaving my father one of the few men in the neighborhood who still had a steady job.)

I’m still not quite certain how I dealt with it. For months if not years, I had dreams that he was still around, and I’m one of those people who remembers her own dreams only once every few months. Usually, we were in some annoying situation where we had to cooperate with each other and the rest of the family, and we were still trying to communicate with each other when, invariably, I woke up. Also, Dad had been buried on my 40th birthday, which left me wondering exactly how fragile I’d feel on my next birthday. But on my 41st, I got the news that I’d passed the comprehensive exams for my Ph.D. Not only did that lift some of the load, but it made me grateful for the fact that neither of my parents was a superstitious person.

My grandmother passed away recently after suffering from Alzheimer’s for nearly a decade. We all took comfort in the fact that she died quickly in her home (heart failure) and that grandma and the rest of the family were spared the severe decline that sometimes happens.

I’ve recently noticed that my dad now tells at least one story about his mother at every gathering. This Christmas I heard the story of how, every year, her four children would all get the same present for Christmas. They were things Grandma thought everyone needed – a cookbook, a hair dryer, jumper cables, and so on. She had two boys and two girls, but she expected that the boys would need to cook and the girls would need to jumpstart batteries at some point. For a woman of her generation, I find this pretty impressive.

My grandmother was an amazing woman, and it helps me to think of how she still lives through her children and their children. She lives in the stories I hear from my dad. She lives in my love of baking, something she originally taught me to do. She even lives in our casual swearing.

My sympathies to you and your wife.

I’m so sorry. My deepest condolences go out to you and your family. The only thing I think of whenever this happens is F**KING CANCER! I hate it. I have also lost several loved ones to that horrible disease.
When my grandmother died of breast cancer it was a blow. I cried. I hugged the people I loved. I managed to get through the funeral. It took me a while to really deal with it though. I think it’s good that you’re taking a break, I needed one too (though for me it was from school). Ultimately I realized that it was wrong to spend so much time mourning her death when I really should be celebrating her life. She is not simply another woman who died from breast cancer. Her life’s sum total is not that experience. She is the woman who made me pierogies and played dress up and read mysteries and had one of the best laughs I had ever heard. The best way to honour her memory is to remember her life, not her death.

My sympathies, Orac. Losing a loved one is never easy.

When I was 17 (10 years ago already!) my grandfather killed himself after a long, painful battle with emphysema. At first it was really difficult – how do you deal with your grandfather, whom you love and respect and adore, killing himself? After a while, and after discussions with my dad (the two of them were very close), it was easier to come to terms with it. He was in so much pain, and he was just a ghost of the man he’d once been.

He lived near the Colorado River, in a fancy motor home, year round. For years before his death, he was unable to walk long distances due to his lungs, so he rode a scooter or a golf cart, everywhere (oh what fun we kids had on that stupid golf cart!). He rode his scooter every day to the docks to fish. He lived years longer than the doctors predicted because he kept as active as he could – not being able to walk be damned! But when the disease finally caught up to him, he was unable to do that. He lost so much weight so quickly, and was bed ridden.

This wasn’t the grandfather I knew and loved. It was easy to see he was very unhappy. And so, when he killed himself, no one was at all surprised, and no one blamed him. It was a relief, to be honest.

He was a real inspiration and I till miss him to this day.

He also solidified my beliefs on allowing those with terminal diseases to choose their own death, and to die with dignity. Had it been legal, he would not have left his son and daughter to find him dead from a gunshot wound to the head. It’s something I now very strongly believe in.

My heartfelt condolences on your loss of a loved one. I watched my mother in law die of cancer and the effect it had on my wife which was as hard as watching the death itself. The feeling of powerlessness to prevent the death and of being unable to fix the pain my wife was feeling was a hard thing to bear.

After as many good cries as you need, try and start remembering and sharing with others stories about all the good times, funny times, wonderful times and exciting times that you had with your mother in law or that you know of. Remember the good and tell each other about it. That and time are the only healers.

pjb

Take care of yourself and your wife, Orac — we can wait.

That includes whatever works for you; some of us (/self for instance) simply don’t grieve well and end up coping by taking care of others. It’s not the best way to deal, but sometimes it’s the best we can do. I hope you can do better; as others wrote, take all the help people offer because that’s what they need as well as what you do.

My father died 23 years ago, when I had a newborn and twin toddlers. I never really said goodbye, and still miss him. For years I’d dream of him and always seemed to have him as a guide to being a father; I can see how people could believe in ghosts.

My dad died in 2006. It was sad, but his quality of life had not been good for quite some time because of disabilities due to a stroke. I still miss him.

My condolences go to you and your wife.

My father died after a short and sudden illness aged 50 three weeks before my 22nd birthday. He died in the States as he was taken ill at Newark on his way to conference and we live in Britian. My mum went out to New York to be with him but my brother and I didn’t have a proper chance to say good bye partly because we were expecting him to get better. That was almost 18 years ago now. His death has profoundly affected my life and continues to do so today. I went to Cruise who are bereavement councillors here in the UK and found that they were fairly useless as the councillor’s answer to dealing with grief was to have a religious faith, as I don’t it wasn’t much help. Looking back now I think I became depressed due to his death but unfortunately no one, not least myself noticed it and I never sought medical help for my depression. I don’t think I came out of the depression for about 5 years it was only after I started to feel better that I realised how low I had been. I’m not sure if I have dealt with the grief of his death but I have learnt to live with it and can celebrate his life I recently found out that the child I am expecting, my first, is going to be a boy so he’ll be named after his grandfathers.

However when my grandmother died 4 years ago aged almost 91, although the same pain was there it has been far easier to deal with, my Grandma was old and tired of life and in her last few years had developed geratric anerexia and became rather death obsessed, not an ending that I would want for anyone but in someways it has made her death easier to cope with because I knew that she did not want to carry on.

And finally last year my Aunt’s husband died due to complications after an operation on his jaw, he was 81 and had cancer. One way of dealing with the grief of his death has been to blog about him and share in the good memories we had.

Death is grim, the platitudes don’t always help but acts of kindness do and let yourselves accept them and be kind to each other during this sad period of your lives.

I’m very sorry about your mother-in-law.

How did I cope with loss? Badly. I’m lucky enough to have both parents still living but when my grandparents died I went through a period of being annoyed at them for dying. Or maybe not so much for dying as for not at least coming back as ghosts and haunting me. I know that’s not rational–I don’t even believe in ghosts or an afterlife or anything, but I just really wanted to see them again and the facts weren’t getting in the way of my limbic system. Maybe something like why people go to quacks when they have incurable illnesses.

The probably least reassuring but most practical advice I have is actually not from me but from my partner, whose father died about 3 years ago: Don’t be annoyed at yourself if you feel sad for longer than you expect. Mourning takes a long time and trying to rush it just makes things worse. You will feel horrible for a while but the pain will pass in time. You’ll still feel sad but the overwhelming feelings will be gone.

Take care of yourself and your wife during this time. I wish you the best.

I’m so sorry about your loss. It must be awful.
My dad died from a brain aneursym a few years ago. What made it especially awful was that it showed up on the MRI, but the MRI report was sent afterhours, and no one saw it. My dad went unconscious before the anyone saw the report, had a massive bleed, and then died. Mom was out of the country, and rushed back just in time to be with him before he died. It was a crazy, hazy time. I can only barely remember it. I remember being barely able to walk, my knees were so weak from my grief. Lost my appetite for the first time ever. He was the glue that held our family together.
Then it was discovered that mom had the biggest cancer tumor in her stomach. She had surgery, chemo and radiation, and has been in remission ever since.
That year sucked. The first year is the hardest. I cried a lot. Time was my friend, though, and it does slowly get better. I see my grief like a mountain now. Right after my dad died, and for a long time afterwards, it filled my life, I was nearly consumed by it. But now, as time has passed, I can look back and see the mountain in the distance. My grief will never go away entirely, but is manageable now. I still miss my dad.
Take care.

I am sorry for your loss. It is hard to lose the ones we love, but the only alternative is to not love. That is an inhuman option, and I choose to be human.

To celebrate those whom I love I will hug my children, pet my cats, kiss my wife, and greet my mother-in-law, all with special affection today.

My thoughts are with you, Orac.

My personal experience with loss has not been great. My grandmother passed last summer, and the funeral was a pretty happy occasion, with everyone getting to see relatives we haven’t seen in many years. Funny how that happens. We don’;t have time for the living, but we have time for the dead.

The mentions of her at Thanksgiving and Christmas were awkward as my cousins were claiming mundane things like an extra set of silverware were caused by grandma. And then my mother trying to convince me that she was there at the party.

I’ve always coped with loss well. Maybe too well. I usually am fine when everyone is recounting stories of the deceased and when everyone is in good spirits. Maybe I have a hard time making an emotional connection with the loss of a friend or family member. When other people are crying, usually the best I can do is a blank stare.

My deepest condolences Orac. Take all the time you need.

I remember losing my (last) grandmother about 3 years ago. I always find funerals hard because I’m not a person who cries easily when I’m sad. It’s like I’m too shocked and numb, and it makes people think I’m cold and unfeeling. It makes the experience especially lonely for me.

Actually, the saddest, or you might call it bittersweet moment where I truly cried (it was an immense relief), was when we found in her things hidden letters that she had written to her children. My gandma had lost her husband to lung cancer many many years ago when my mum was 5, and never remarried.

You wouldn’t believe how my grandma, with her fourth grade education and laborious script (due to severe arthritis), wrote of her love and longing for her departed husband, even after all these years. How she gave advice to her children and grand children, with her wry humour and typical expressions. It’s like her hand was there on our shoulders.

You’re never truly ready for these things.

Orac, I’m so sorry for the sadness you and your wife are going through. No easy answers for how to deal, of course, and my only recourse for dealing with loss is to dwell on the happy memories for as long as possible and wait for time to do its thing.

All the best…

I am so sorry for this tragic loss to you and your family.

I have little to offer in the way of coping stories. Whenever we lose a beloved relative, I seem to just go through with a numb, dull ache of wishing they were still around to meet my son, celebrate holidays, and generally be their awesome selves. I wish most fervently of all that my great-uncle M would have been able to meet my son. They are SO MUCH alike, I am convinced they would have been absolute best friends at first meeting.

Our latest loss was my husband’s closest great-aunt, a positively amazing woman by the name of Mae. She was the sweetest thing with the most zippy wit I have ever met! And, OH how my son adored her!!! Her funeral was really the first he was old enough to be affected by. He kept saying, “Well, I’m just gonna go wake Mae up now.” The visitation was so well-handled– her daughter made a computer slide show of old photos of Mae and her sisters, all the way from babyhood through motherhood, through more recent years. The most moving and in my mind, incredible thing about her was that she suffered Alzheimer’s in her later years, and even though her memories came and went, she never lost herself. She was always ready with a joke and a compliment and happy to socialize, even when she wasn’t sure who she was socializing with. I swear, she changed my entire view of dementia.

We are so lucky to have had her in our lives and how I miss her so much!

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