The Right Way to Grieve and Support the Grieving By Out of the Darkness


The Right Way to Grieve and Support the Grieving

By Out of the Darkness

Grieving is a topic most of us wish we could ignore, but is an absolutely universal process. We will all grieve a loss and we will all support someone who is grieving. It’s not just about death either, but about any kind of loss that one experiences. This can mean losing a job through termination or retirement, your worldview shifting, the end of a relationship, or simply growing out of an old identity. Anything that causes a break with something or someone on which you previously based a part of your identity can trigger grief. This post will be broken into two parts. The first is for the grieving. The second is for people supporting a grieving person. This is not meant to be a substitute for real medical advice or an all-inclusive guide. It’s an overview, meant to shine a light into a process that feels murky at best. Take what is helpful and leave the rest.

For the Grieving

Despite the name of this post, one thing needs to be made very clear. There is no WRONG way to grieve. We’ve all heard of the five stages of grief, and damn near everyone who has been through it will say it’s bullshit. It is. That model has been replaced with a seven stage model.


If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably intelligent enough to look at the pretty picture and get the idea. The main thing to remember is that these stages are not a straight line for most people, and that it is possible to move back and forth between stages at any given time or to feel like you’re experiencing two stages at once. That is normal and it’s okay. You are allowed to be both angry and depressed. You are allowed to be both testing and bargaining. You are allowed to be none of the above and in between stages, or too emotionally exhausted to deal with any of it right now.

The second thing to remember, especially as it pertains to death, is that you start grieving as soon as you actually get the news. If you found out two years ago that you or someone you love has a terminal disease process, you started grieving two years ago when the reality of the situation came to your attention. Sometimes people in this situation find that when the loss is final (in the case of death, the death actually occurs), that they don’t really feel anything or that they’re at peace. And then they feel guilty, because they feel at peace or because other people keep making them feel like everything shouldn’t be okay when it is. “What’s wrong with me that I don’t feel the least bit bad right now?” There’s an excellent chance that nothing is wrong with you. You’ve just already had a chance to grieve the loss before it occurred. That’s okay, and it’s healthy. When the people around you keep expecting you to feel bad, just try to remember that they haven’t had a chance to grieve yet, or don’t know how to support you right now. You can’t let their expectations define your experience.

There is a point, however, at which grief becomes overwhelming and destructive. Some people get stuck at one specific stage of the grieving process and just can’t move on. (The most common stages to get stuck on are shock, denial, anger, and depression.) They forget how to do anything else and just can’t deal with life any more, and this goes on for longer than a month or two. This is when you need help. It’s time to see a professional grief counselor, a therapist, or perhaps a member of your preferred clergy. If you happen to be in the military, your chaplain is trained to help with grief issues. Don’t let yourself linger too long in any one stage of grief, and don’t be afraid to get help. It doesn’t matter if you’re grieving the loss of your job or the loss of your wife. Your grief is real, and it is important. If you fail to deal with it, it will destroy your life.

For Those Supporting the Grieving

The absolute first thing for you to remember here is to shut the hell up. This isn’t about you. This isn’t about your normal or even your previous experiences with grief. When the grieving widow throws herself over her husband’s casket, you stand the fuck back and let her sob and scream out her pain and loss. She needs to do this, and you’re an asshole if you stop her. You’re literally stunting her ability to grieve. If your best friend starts screaming about how much of an asshole his dad is for dying and leaving him, you shut the fuck up. If your cousin starts trying to make deals with the gods to get his girlfriend back, shut the fuck up. If your coworker just got diagnosed with terminal cancer and seems to be pretending that nothing has changed, shut the fuck up. Rule number one is always to shut the fuck up and let people experience their grief.

Never, under any circumstances, tell someone that this experience is part of God’s plan when they are grieving. Even if you believe it, and perhaps especially if you believe it. It doesn’t help, and in that moment, you’re telling the person that God wants them to suffer. You’re telling them that God wants to take away things that make up their identity. You’re telling them that God is cruel. Later, when they’ve worked through the grief, they may be in a position to understand that they are better and stronger for having lost something. While they’re still grieving, there is no reason good enough. There doesn’t need to be a reason either. Part of living is learning to accept that bad things happen and we must adapt and overcome. Don’t build a wall between a person who needs a deity and the deity by telling them that whoever they worship is cruel.

If you have to shut up and can’t give them a reason for their suffering, what can you do? You can listen. When they’re ready to cry it out, you can hold them and let them cry. You can take up a fundraiser to give them financial resources if they’re needed. You can bring over meals, or invite them over for meals. You can help clean house or run errands. You can babysit. Basically anything you can do to lighten the burden of life so that the person you’re supporting can devote emotional resources to actually doing the work of grieving is a good idea.

Now, if this has been going on for quite some time (longer than a month with no forward movement) and the person you’re supporting has just completely lost the ability to function, or is burning every bridge around them as fast as they can light matches? You need to be willing to step in and gently but firmly tell the grieving person that they need help. You can get them the name of a grief counselor or take them to their bishop/priest/religious authority figure. You can be there for them and help them find the resources to get the help they need.

Grief is a universal experience, but it’s so incredibly unique. Every person will grieve several times in their life, and they will support people they love through grief several more times than that. There’s no wrong way to grieve, but there is a destructive way. There is a wrong way to provide support, however, and lots of people get that wrong. They mean well, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Don’t be afraid of grief. Be prepared for it.


193 thoughts on “The Right Way to Grieve and Support the Grieving By Out of the Darkness

  1.  There is no WRONG way to grieve.

    Violence against your fellow humans is not recommended.  But I have found that shattering some glass bottles in a large metal drum while tossing a hissy fit at G-d produces a certain catharsis.

    1. Recoil therapy, especially Full-Auto (on a safe, established range against paper or other non-living targets, of course) is also remarkably effective.

    2. Seconded. Also, suicide is firmly discommended. Nope. This is to include neglecting self-care to the point it would kill you, i.e. not taking medication needed to sustain life, and so on.

    3. I once actually got paid for breaking bottles to turn them into frit. Recycling can be fun!

  2. And for the love of all you hold holy and sacred, DON’T tell them that the situation wouldn’t have happened if only they’d prayed harder and their faith in God had been stronger.

    Coming up on a decade later and I’m still not speaking to the now-ex friend in question. Mostly because he still doesn’t get why his “help” pissed me off so much.

    1. To this day, I’m surprised that when a jackleg “preacher” said to a grieving father “Are you a Christian?” that the father didn’t answer with “You’re still breathing, aren’t you?”

      1. Probably the only reason I didn’t leap across the table and start pounding the guy’s face through the back of his skull was because I realized that were she still in possession of her mental faculties, my grandmother would’ve been absolutely pissed at me for getting expelled from college (we were in the on-campus dining hall) and arrested for pounding the guy’s face through the back of his skull.

        1. To be fair, there are a lot of people who can say an iffy thing in a sympathetic, empathetic way and have it taken well; while there are also people who will inevitably say even the most normal thing in a way that makes an upset person want to kill him.

          There’s also the skill of reading the atmosphere. I had to stop saying “I hope he gets well soon” for a while, to people who were visiting the nearby hospital, when I got chewed out by a lady whose relative wasn’t going to get well. I didn’t hold it against her (part of working customer-facing jobs is being used as an emotion vent), and I hope she didn’t hold it against me. But if I had read her face correctly, I would have just tiptoed around the lady and stayed out of range.

          1. There’s also the skill of reading the atmosphere
            Spot on.

            From the OP: Never, under any circumstances, tell someone that this experience is part of God’s plan when they are grieving. Even if you believe it, and perhaps especially if you believe it.

            But what if THEY believe it? Been helping my mom through the valley of the shadow of death recently, and “part of God’s Plan” has been her mantra. The Prince of this world is filled with resentment and spite, and he purely hates us. God has a plan to help us all pass safely through to the other side: This is part of it, He IS with you, and you WILL make it. Telling her otherwise would be bloody cruel.

            Which only reinforces both the banshee of middle-class utopia and the chappie heading rightward: Pay attention, and listen. One man’s “never say” is another’s “I need that”

            I know, easier said than done. But aiming high is the place to start.

                1. So… if Jesus had prayed hard enough in Gethsemane, He wouldn’t have died?

                  What did he want from Jesus — dripping sweat with blood?

                  (On a similar topic, though, you have to admit that St. Martha wasn’t passive-aggressive. She just came right out and said it.)

                  1. *grin* I always rather liked Saint Martha– even if she did seem to have a temper. Well, honestly, because she does have a temper, but wasn’t dumb about it…..

                  2. And she may have paid for it…..

                    The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
                    But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
                    And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
                    Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

                    And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed — they know the Angels are on their side.
                    They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
                    They sit at the Feet — they hear the World — they see how truly the Promise runs.
                    They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and — the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons!

                    1. I enjoy Kipling, but for dang sure wouldn’t go to him for theology… what a very English sort of poem, contrasting those who Do with those who go more the vaguely Christian sort of inshallah.

                      The whole point of Christ’s rebuke to Martha was that He would only physically be there a little while.


                      Poem also does her rather wrong; remember who went to meet Him when her brother lay dead, while her sister stayed home.


                      And it’s such a lovely poem, it’s a shame he couldn’t see the defense of a proto-nun in the story….

                    2. His theology is somewhat variable. “The Disciple”, “Tomlinson”, and “Our Lady of the Sackcloth” are all wonderful poems, but not completely consistent.

                    3. I do not think his concern was correct nor consistent theology. I think his concern was expressing the various ways men and women have of thinking about their God and their purpose.

                      Same way as Heinlein’s purpose was not about feeding you answers so much as pushing you toward the important questions and the ways of finding your answers.

                      That’s the difference between great novelists and great polemicists.

                    4. … remember who went to meet Him when her brother lay dead, while her sister stayed home.

                      I’ve made that point several times: Martha gets a bit of a bad rap. We remember the one case where she didn’t get her priorities quite right, but we forget that she was the one who told Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” And then, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

                      Martha understood. I’d rather remember her for that than for one bad day.

                    5. Sort of?
                      Chesterton called Kipling a “heretic,” IIRC, because he believed in discipline over all else, or so Chesterton claimed. I think Chesterton, being something of a “Little Englander,” misread Kipling, but that’s another story.

                    1. The one where Martha is scrambling like crazy to play hostess to at the very least 14 men, probably more than that, and her sister is just sitting there, listening to Jesus.

                      So she went right to the top and flat out asked the Lord to tell her sister to get off her rump and help already.

                      (Notably, it doesn’t say He rebuked her, just that He said Mary had chosen the better part and it wouldn’t be taken from her. I’d guess if Martha hadn’t been being responsible, one of the disciples– prolly Peter– would’ve complained about there not being food and drink and other hospitality, and been told off; that’s pure speculation, though.)

                    2. Oh… got it. Wierd threading on this one. I was responding to suburban banshee, who wrote:

                      So… if Jesus had prayed hard enough in Gethsemane, He wouldn’t have died?

                      Which appeared in the wordpress comments feed as a response to

                      “Hear, hear.” viz “If they believe it [whatever “it” may be] shut up and let them say it while their grieving. This is not the time to proselityze no matter what you happen to believe, or how right you may be.

                      WordPress delenda est.

                2. I had to shut a well-meaning associate down hard in grad-school because he/she wanted to explain to someone who had just lost a relative that “the Mormons’ god really isn’t G-d, and she needs to pray to the real G-d for comfort.” I replied rather firmly (but politely) that this was not the time to be arguing theology. Our job was to be there with casseroles and hugs, and to shut up.

                  1. This. There is a time and place for everything. I am very much in favor of evangelism, but when a person is hurting, that is the time for what comfort you can give.

                    1. One of the best pathways for evangelism is by loving your neighbor. And not because of evangelism, but because that’s what you’re supposed to do. He said as much several times.

              1. The guy was making clear (and still believes, as far as I can tell) that my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s was my fault because my faith in God wasn’t strong enough. His exact words were, in an extremely condescending tone, “If only you’d prayed harder, then God would have healed your Grandma.”

                Yeah, real comforting and supportive.

                1. “If only you’d prayed harder”? I remain unconvinced that prayer is something you can do harder. More devoutly, definitely, more passionately, probably. More lovingly, likely. More faithfully, for sure. But harder? Hardly.

                  Beyond that, prayer and faith are about a personal relationship with Him. Even if we accept the (vile) premise that he was punishing your grandmother with Alzheimer’s (maybe there were things she needed to forget in order to come to Him) that seems more likely to be a manifestation of her relationship, not yours.

                  One thing apparently beyond G-d’s power is saving himself from what fools claim in His name.

                  1. “One thing apparently beyond G-d’s power is saving himself from what fools claim in His name.”

                    “If you can bear to hear the words you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.”
                    He made us in his image. He is not going to fail any of the tests of manhood other than the last.

                    1. The Disciple
                      “The Church that Was at Antioch”
                      From “Limits and Renewals” (1932)
                      He that hath a Gospel
                      To loose upon Mankind,
                      Though he serve it utterly —
                      Body, soul and mind —
                      Though he go to Calvary
                      Daily for its gain —
                      It is His Disciple
                      Shall make his labour vain.

                      He that hath a Gospel
                      For all earth to own —
                      Though he etch it on the steel,
                      Or carve it on the stone —
                      Not to be misdoubted
                      Through the after-days —
                      It is His Disciple
                      Shall read it many ways.

                      It is His Disciple
                      (Ere Those Bones are dust )
                      Who shall change the Charter,
                      Who shall split the Trust —
                      Amplify distinctions,
                      Rationalize the Claim;
                      Preaching that the Master
                      Would have done the same.

                      It is His Disciple
                      Who shall tell us how
                      Much the Master would have scrapped
                      Had he lived till now —
                      What he would have modified
                      Of what he said before.
                      It is His Disciple
                      Shall do this and more….

                      He that hath a Gospel
                      Whereby Heaven is won
                      (Carpenter, or cameleer,
                      Or Maya’s dreaming son),
                      Many swords shall pierce Him,
                      Mingling blood with gall;
                      But His Own Disciple
                      Shall wound Him worst of all!


                  2. To believe that if you pray hard enough you will get the result you want is to believe in magic, not prayer. We cannot force God to obey our will, no matter how hard we pray. We ask – and sometimes, tough as it is, the answer is “no.”

                2. “If only you’d prayed harder, then God would have healed your Grandma.”

                  😡 Heretical nonsense, just like the Prosperity Gospel folk. Beat them over the head with the Book of Job until the light can enter in.

            1. I’m reminded, though, of what Charles Stanley said on the day of his mother’s funeral. He had preached her funeral, and, as he rode with his sister, she said “Did you really believe everything you said?”

              Charles Stanley took a deep breath and said “No.” Because, right at that moment, in his grief and his pain, the words sounded hollow to him, too.

              1. Reminds me of A Grief Observed.

                Or that time when I went insane, and had to believe the doctors, my husband; that when they were telling me to do would, in fact, make any difference. I was sure it was all rubbish, at the time.

                I expect this is why “Faith” is considered a virtue.

                1. Not sure I’d believe the doctors, myself– but part of why I accepted my husband is that I can trust him if he tells me Trust Me on something.

                  Glad you believed, and it worked.

            2. If they believe it, and you can, agree with them when they do that half-ask, half-tell you thing.

              “It’s for a reason, isn’t it?”
              “Yes. We might never know what it is in this life, but it does all make sense.”

            3. Oh, I believed it was a part of His plan. Still do. But when my wife died that didn’t keep me from wanting to grab Him by His ineffable lapels, shake Him, and demand “GIVE HER BACK, D*MN YOU!”

              Eventually I had to settle for knowing that I only see through a glass darkly and that one day I will understand. A while after that I got over wishing that the time when I would understand would hurry up and get here.

              1. Pretty sure that the guy who, while He was literally dying for everyone, ever, took the time to make sure Someone Watched Out For Mom would understand that perfectly. (in the sense of not being annoyed with you)

    2. Christ himself had very….strong words for those who tried to imply or explain tragic happenings as being solely because of wickedness and God’s punishments. Almost as strong as his words regarding those who would harm little children or turn repentance into a financial transaction.

    3. Good heaven and earth– who did he think he is, the Lord Almighty himself? Because that’s the only way he’d know that Himself would have done ___ if only _____.

      1. I find I most often argue with agnostics whose reason for disbelieving in G-d is that He isn’t as wise and compassionate as they would be in His place. As if they had the talents and skills necessary to hold that job!

        I’ve become gentler about it in recent decades only because I ow doubt they seriously mean their criticism; they”re mostly simply trying to be clever and failing for lack of comprehending what they actually are saying.

  3. Good post. There’s another aspect to grief: Numbness. It’s not the same as emotional exhaustion, because you are still able to function. Sometimes you cram the pain down to numbness in order to do what needs to be done.

    Have seen a distraught widow who would not leave her husband’s casket. Yes, we urged her to do so, for her own physical well being. We did so by saying “Why don’t you get something to eat? We’ll stay with him.” It took a number of tries but finally she got something to eat.

    One of the hardest was a father who did not want to leave his child at the cemetery. A close friend finally was able to persuade him to leave, in much the same way we persuaded the widow to get something to eat.

    Something very important to keep in mind: No one thinks clearly while initially grieving. Have seen many a poor decision made during the early stages of grief. This is my, in my survivor letters, I ask that they wait several months before making any big decision.

    1. “No one thinks clearly while initially grieving.”

      VERY good point. One of the best things you can do as a friend to someone who is grieving is to protect them from the predatory scum that will descend on them during their vulnerable period.

      1. This. Since my mother’s passing, my father’s received numerous offers to buy their house. Some are probably legit offers from companies that help families with estates that need to be liquidated quickly because the real estate is not useful to the heirs (wrong location, high property taxes, etc). But a fair number look like people who prey on grieving family members who find it painful to live amidst all the memories.

        1. My mother also got offers for the house, almost immediately upon my father’s death. I thought it was pretty scummy, buyers tolling the obits…

          1. Immediately? We had some vulture show up AT THE VISITATION for my grandfather to make my grandmother an offer for their farm.

            He left lots faster than he arrived. I didn’t carry a gun at the time, which is probably fortunate.

            1. Reminds me of the salesman who made the mistake of talking to my wife the morning after her father died. He had no idea what had just happened, and he was only being persistent. I still, verbally, let him have it.

            2. Appropriate response is to grab the bore by the collar and belt and throw him physically through the door or window. Preferably with a boot to his butt in passing.

                1. Defenestration: The act of throwing someone or something out of a window.
                  Transfenestration: The exact same thing, only you don’t bother to open the window first.

        2. I had a realtor (probably the one that helped me buy my first house) tell me they would counsel anyone calling to have them sell a house immediately after a death not to do so. They would discuss it with them and would take the job if the person insisted, but would discourage it – because they were grieving and might later regret it.

        3. This is so common that there is a provision in law against it in the Philippines but it’s been so long since I looked at inheritance laws (well over a decade) that I don’t remember the phrasing for it. Something about doing so within an unreasonable time of the funeral.

        4. The best way I can think of to fight back is to publish their names widely. Say, “Within X days of my mother’s death, (name) offered to buy the house for (amount).” All true statements, and unless there’s any non-disclosure agreement attached to a house offer, perfectly legal to publish. But if anyone else has received similar too-soon offers, well, you might be able to establish a pattern of behavior.

          Of course, that wouldn’t stop a truly scummy person from hitting you with a defamation lawsuit despite the truth of your statements, so it might be best to only do such a thing if you really have the stomach for a fight. But if you have a lawyer who’d be willing to back you up pro bono publico because he’s sick of these scumbags too… it might be quite satisfying to do something like that.

          Of course, second thought: the grieving person might not want to engage in those tactics, and would probably not thank you for it if you did it without asking them. Their wishes should come first. And so maybe what I just wrote is a bad idea… it’s just that there’s something in me that when I see scumbags abusing the rules to their own benefit no matter how it hurts people, I look for the way to fight back within the rules that will hurt them the most.

          1. Have a witness, or tape it. Note: Taping private conversations without the knowledge of the other person may not be legal in some states. Just say, “Sorry, I’m having a hard time remembering things right now, I’m going to turn on my dictation machine to help me remember.” Anyone who would object to that is showing they are there for malicious purposes and you know what to do with people like that.

      2. The urge to sell a house, whether it belonged to the deceased, or, in a couple of instances, a home near that of the deceased, seems common. Some have gone through with it, to their regret. It seems based on “I can’t bear to go into that house/by that house” feeling during grief. It doesn’t even have to be some shyster making an offer.

      3. The not thinking clearly once manifested itself in choosing pall bearers. That particular neck of the woods used eight instead of six. Of the eight, only five of us were physically able to carry the casket, and one was so much shorter than the rest of us that he couldn’t really help. It ended up with only four of us really carrying the casket, the short guy holding it at chest height, and the remaining three just holding onto the handle. That church had steps, too.

      4. I was told that the Southern Cheyenne mourning rituals insist that the family make no major decisions or do anything with the possessions of the deceased for one week after the death. Makes excellent sense.

    2. Concur on the numbness. I lost both parents the same day, which left me handling their estate. Honestly, the numbness helps…you’re still functional and can make good decisions.

    3. I guess this is why the doctors were so shocked that Rhys and I both immediately agreed to an autopsy after finding out Damien had died in utero. I explained “There’s a part of my brain that’s currently functioning like a computer. The rest of me is screaming.”

      That same piece of my brain was the same one that catalogued various signs of death when I peeked into his cot : 1) He’s not breathing 2) he’s cold 3) pallor mortis of significant degree indicating at least having been deceased 45 minutes to an hour 4) blood has settled in the lower part of his body, confirming cessation of heartbeat. Brandon is dead, with no hope of resuscitation possible.

      Oh God Oh God no no no no-

      Cue screaming.

      1. *hug*

        Thank God for the robot brain– I swear, it’s the only reason anyone in my family manages to survive.
        “There are people. They must be fed. I will go make food. There is food, it must be served. We have been served food. It must be eaten. Food has been eaten; clean table, do dishes. … there are people. I will cook food.”

        1. The robot brain is also what let us deal with a week-long funeral for an incumbent Ambassador, complete with interviews for TV, radio, and official press statements, having to prepare speeches, seeing the official representatives of other Embassies, dealing with an official State Visit from the President (she was quite nice) with all that it entailed (Security is a pain) scores of journalists (because Dad had been one and they wanted to give him the kind of sendoff in the same hospitality that he had always shown them) and the unexpected thousands of people who wanted to say goodbye – some of them from the furthest reaches of the Philippines, wanting to thank ‘Amba Tony’ one last time for ‘his invaluable help when I/we needed it so much/what he did for us’. Visitors would start showing up before 6 am, and sometimes the last ones would arrive before 4. Wanting to strangle the junior reporter who asked the asinine “How do you feel?” before replying with that mask-like smile “It doesn’t feel real yet. It feels like he’s just gone back overseas.”

          And every single bit of etiquette, diplomatic protocol and proper behavior in front of an audience or crowd thankfully being so deeply ingrained it’s like a suit of armor, a mask you put on before you even realize you have done so.

          The military escort from all branches of the Philippine military. I remember being rather vaguely surprised but then realizing ‘Oh, yeah. Incumbent Ambassador. This is a state funeral.’

          I’m so grateful for my friends. When they asked me how they could help, I said “I need a job, I’m the padre de familya now; but I can’t scour for one just now.” “We’ll do that, but for God’s sake, recover from the birth first.”

          Oh yeah. I’d just given birth to Vincent. Rhys stayed as long as he could (Dad was still alive then) then went back to prepare for enlistment.

          Is it weird that in retrospect, we were rather grateful that Dad’s funeral was so busy because it kept us busy?

            1. How each of us handled losing Dad varied too. My middle brother was the most affected in the sense that it hit him HARD- the youngest was still in college and had to keep studying as Dad died right before final exams for the year; I had to take care of my Mom, a newborn, and the whole household more or less by myself. (Also, thieving household help.) The stress nearly killed me. The youngest brother was helped by someone mentioning that the Diplomats Wives Association had a scholarship for students with very good grades; his were well within the requirements and I think he channeled his grief into strict stringent study and hard work. (The students who went to the same course as he did came one day for the wake, and would often help by either making sure he was up to date on homework and schoolwork, or studied with him.) A friend of the middle brother’s helped by paying for a grief counselor because my brother needed one.

              Sometimes, the best help isn’t emotional, it’s little practical things. For my eldest son, it was presenting himself for hugs and similar ways ‘to take care of Mummy, Daddy and Uncle Aff.’ Eldest daughter dealt with it by doing household work on a strict regular basis.

      2. *big hugs*

        The brain can go into hyperdrive when horrible things happen. And a lot of people are well-trained enough to know that there are certain things that need to be done.

    4. I couldn’t leave my mom’s open casket at the funeral home. I knew it was the last time I’d ever be able to kiss her head and hold her arm. I couldn’t bear to leave. Just could not bear to do it. Finally I prayed for strength and a clear sense that I must depart.

      I received both, almost immediately after I finished my prayer. And then I did depart.

  4. Yeah, been through many different stages and definitely not linear either. Been a few times where I had to put all emotions on hold while I dealt with stuff and let everyone else around me do their stuff. The meltdown after I could put down the burden though was something else.
    I definitely like the advice for those supporting those that are grieving. Going to keep it in mind that’s for sure.

  5. Having lost my Otto three years ago– I still grieve. Now I have things to occupy my mind– writing, my dog, cleaning– etc. health. I keep in mind that I promised to live.

    “No one thinks clearly when grieving”… absolutely right… which makes me wonder why all of the bills come due in the first two to three weeks… all of the decisions that affect the life of the grief-stricken happen in the first year. WTF… A lot of people take advantage during that time.

    Also– if family and friends could remember that grieving doesn’t have a stop date… that would also be helpful.

    Widow since September 2014.

      1. Lois McMaster Bujold said it the most clearly for me: “Grief is like a stone in the river. The jagged edges mostly wear off, but the weight will never go.” Sometimes I am okay with this.

        1. In a way, I take comfort from it– if you one day poked at it, and there was nothing there, not even a “I wish I could do ______ with them again,” it’s like they’re totally gone.

          Not just that you don’t hurt anymore, but that you don’t even miss them– I miss HOUSES, how can I not miss my loved ones, even if it’s not always on my mind?

        2. I am reminded of a story of Rodin, who continued sculpting when his body was crippled with arthritis. “How can you work with this pain?” He replied “When the pain has faded, the beauty remains.” Eventually, the pain of memory fades (never completely) – but the beauty of our loved ones lives remains.

  6. I am somewhat shocked at the idea of a process for grief, inclined to reject the premise and even angered at lack of any ability to negotiate emotional states, which leaves me depressed, a condition I have found surprisingly comfortable.

    1. Grief is always a process. It’s just not always the same process. However one gets through it is their business. Not everyone experiences all stages, and that’s completely okay.

            1. There wath a youthful acthident involving thurgical glue and that’th ath far ath I with to go.

  7. And be aware that people process things at different speeds, too. My mom’s a slow griever; I think she’s still hurt by the death of her mom more than a quarter-century ago. I’m not. Different personalities and early experiences.

    1. A lot depends on your emotional maturity at the time of the event. I lost my mother after several years of illness when I was a young teenager, an fluctuated between anger and testing for years afterwards. The big thing is now I can choose when, whether and how to tap into that rage or not. Although the testing part did lead to some rather dysfunctional relational behaviors on my part that still linger. ;-/

  8. It wasn’t about a loss, but I still have hard feelings for a counselor who told me that in my position she would be angry, and she couldn’t help me unless I admitted my anger.

    I also was most annoyed at her for telling me to journal about something, and I just froze, saying, “She told me what to write in my journal. She told me what to write in my journal.” It was over a year before I could write in my journal after that.

    1. Sounds like you didn’t get the right grief counselor for you. Mine really helped me a lot– but instead of telling me things to do… she listened to me.

        1. I didn’t have words for it at the time, but I eventually figured it out.

          There was no death or loss or anything. But I’d been hit by something that knocked me sideways, so I had no idea which way was up. I was rereading Louisa May Alcott and L.M. Montgomery just so I’d remember what normal was like. Sure, an idealized normal, in a different century, but what I needed at the time.

          And she wanted me to be angry, like someone had cut me off in traffic, or put mustard on my ham sandwich..

          Anger was entirely too small an emotion. It took me years to far enough away to even think of anger. And it’s still not the primary emotion.

          1. What? Mustard* on your ham sandwich was reason for anger? Utter nonsense! Mayo on a ham sandwich is cause for murderous rage but mustard is simply the natural order of things.

            *I am still dealing with the trauma, forty-some years ago when I, having recently moved South, was first served a hamburger with mayo. Spit. Retch. Gargle with Coca-Cola!

              1. I am willing to concede that not all mayo is detestable if you’re willing to grant that scratch-made Garlic Aioli is mayo.

      1. Sadly, you don’t come to grief with the counselor you wish, you come to grief with the counselor you have.

    2. “What if the only anger I feel is at the insensitive jackass of a counselor sitting in front of me?”

    3.  … who told me that in my position she would be angry, and she couldn’t help me unless I admitted my anger.

      This is one of those times when one dreams of delivering a grand put down, done in the snappy style of a Ben Hecht script, explaining that, while I was formally not feeling anger, I was now experiencing it in spades, but would not wish that therapist to help as this anger is directed at said therapist … good bye.  

      1. “That’s your opinion. If I want any others from you, I’ll read them in your entrails.”

  9. Forgive me if this question is inappropriate, out-of-place, offensive, or otherwise objectionable.

    Has some event directly triggered the posting on this subject?

    If not, please excuse me; I’ve been dealing with grief (mine and others) for some time, and I’ve been sensitized to seeing it elsewhere, especially after I didn’t see the signs of grief leading to the suicide of an old friend.

    If so, please accept whatever well wishes a mostly anonymous poster can offer. Or forgive the intrusion, if you can.

    1. It was sent to me by a friend who has reason to know about it.
      I am dealing with a sort of grief, but it’s one of those odd ones, not the loss of a loved one.

  10. I’ve gone through grief both ways, with the sudden shock of my sister’s death, and then the long slow process of my parents decline, where I think I’d reached acceptance before they died.

    Either way, you find yourself with a hole in your “self” that may never go away, but you start routing around it.

  11. If you found out two years ago that you or someone you love has a terminal disease process, you started grieving two years ago when the reality of the situation came to your attention.
    This. Some people found my cousins’ emotional plumb disturbing when their mother died. But my aunt had dealt with cancer for a long time (even did the go-to-Mexico-for-unapproved-treatment thing). And they had dealt with my uncle’s very untimely death just a few years earlier. They had already grieved (mostly). They weren’t *happy* to see her go, but they had dealt with it.

  12. And for the love of all that’s holy, DON’T SCOLD THEM FOR NOT BEING HYSTERICAL. I know, you probably view it as “encouraging” them to “express how they really feel”– you’re scolding. Stop it.

    When I grieve, I need to hold to my things, and that of those I love– I don’t need to be juggling your issues and stupid assumptions about how if I “really” was upset, I would be ____.

    When my grandmother died, none of my ship-mates knew. Because I knew I couldn’t deal with the attempted expressions of sympathy from folks who didn’t understand me in normal times all that well. I need to work, I will talk to people I trust to be safe on a topic.

    There wasn’t anything they could do, so I just wanted them to leave me alone about it…and I could get that, easily, by not telling them. There was literally nothing that could be improved by telling anyone.

    1. I’ve mentioned this before, but there was the time on the show JAG when they had an ep about the MC attending a funeral in his girlfriend’s family. The ep showed the MC having a black sense of humor about it and having some quiet fun, which conflicted with his girlfriend’s family culture. The actor ended up accentuating this, because he was also from a “fun at funerals” culture.

      Then when the ep aired, a lot of the viewers and the exec producer were very shocked by it, because it also conflicted with their family culture!

      I sided with the writer and the actor. 🙂

      1. One of the few orders I ever refused in the military was when the flight chief told me to attend the funeral of the grand father of one of the civilian nationals who worked for us. I’ve always had enough problems acting properly at funerals in the U.S.; and was unable to get anyone on the base to provide me with a description of proper behaviors for funerals in our host nation. You would have thought the base chaplain had a clue, but he was as green as I was. /sigh

      2. My mom and I both have the black humor thing at funerals and it runs through her side of the family. My dad decidedly does not and we have to work really hard not to let him hear us giggling when things get too weird.

        1. Oh we were on the black humor side too. I remember standing beside my father’s casket, and fighting hard to restrain myself from laughter, because I could practically hear his voice, his horrified voice saying “I don’t comb my hair like that! I look 70! Get a comb and fix it! And get better cosmetics, because that’s terrible make up!” Dad, having to be in front of cameras fairly often, learned little journalists’ tricks of wearing makeup so one doesn’t look washed out and ashen when there are bright lights shining on you…

          I told my mother about it, because she didn’t want to see him there, lying in state. She giggled. My Dad was rather vain.

          1. My parents died about fourteen months apart, but their ashes were interred together.

            Before the service properly started, I took the opportunity to complain to them that my elder brother was sitting on my side of the bench.

            1. *chuckle* Of course! Had to do it, one last time, on their last trip, after all!

              I told my Dad he would have lectured the poor young journalists. To one of his friends, I joked that he would have risen from the coffin and told someone “THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT!”

              During my maternal grandmother’s funeral my mother’s youngest brother cracked a joke. He suggested we get some food nearby, and since I was hungry, I said sure. He indicated his head at the Chinese funeral next door, with it’s very big buffet of food. “I’m sure nobody would notice.” Since he was such a straight man I was actually shocked until I saw the mischievous glint in his eye, and I started laughing.

              Thing is there were so many people, we might have gotten away with it if we’d actually done so.

          2. When my dad passed Mom picked out a double urn. The salesman at the funeral parlor was showing how the partition could be removed if desired when she joined him. I leaned over and whispered in my brother’s ear “Do you think that partition is soundproof?”
            He didn’t rat me out, so Mom never knew why he cracked up.

          3. At Otto’s funeral, his daughters had me sit between them. We laughed, joked, and cried together. The laughing and the jokes of their dad and my husband was what got me through it. I told everyone to wear their favorite colors… because he would have liked a party… Some friends who couldn’t come posted pictures of the parties they had in his honor.

            1. We knew what Dad wanted for a funeral, because it had been a topic of dinner conversation (rather, it started out about different cultural rituals for death) and Dad mentioned he rather liked the approach to a New Orleans funeral, with lively, energetic music. I was 16 at the time, and also chatted about how we’d like our remains to be taken care of (we prefer cremation instead of burial; takes up less space, struck as more hygienic). Dad said he wanted a party, not a funeral, celebrating his life and accomplishments.

              His journalist friends certainly did that, as well as telling jokes, very politically incorrect stories, and the time when Dad fell into the swimming pool while they were sneaking out the secret passage of the newspapers (I forget if it was Times Journal or Malaya or Manila Times) that they used to smuggle the politically risky / had their lives threatened people to interview. They also put up a photo of him apparently looking into then President Ramos’ plate of food, and joked that it was because of his curiosity about what other people were eating (because then maybe he’d try it out himself!) They joked that nobody up in heaven was safe from Dad and his best friend Larry Sipin, another journalist, because now they had all the interesting people to pester for interviews and questions…

              The other best friend in that trio of troublemakers couldn’t make himself step into the funeral parlor, because he couldn’t stand ‘To see Tony still, it’s unnatural.’

              1. Love this story– I bet Otto has already met those two… because he was a troublemaker as well. 🙂 It makes me feel better knowing that he would have good people up there with the same attitudes.

        2. My dad’s memorial service had a few funny movements, including a speech given by a good friend of the family. “And he will argue—because you know he will argue—”

          But I think the widow of another family friend had the best funeral silly moment, when she indicated his empty urn (because the cremation couldn’t be finished before the memorial) and said that her husband was late to his own funeral.

      3. Uh… last funeral I went to involved half of the folks there breaking out in laughter at a horrifying but innocent comment from one of the little kids. (who were merrily playing amid the grave-stones)

        Solidly on the “better laughing than crying” side, here.

        1. My dads side of the family has a private historical pioneer cemetery. Standard process is memorial then interment in cemetery (not unusual). What was unusual was family members dug the grave site. Not anymore, not allowed, professionals must do it. At Daddy’s internment, my Uncles commented that the last time the grave was prepared by family was a great uncle some 40 years before, how daddy had provided the liquid everyone needed to keep going (they got soused) they were lucky to finish. One of the things I got out of their comments were beating up on the earth digging, along with the alcohol, was part of the grieving.

          1. Sometime in the 1970s, I helped with a grave. The deceased was a member of our church, and one of his last requests was to be buried the “old fashioned way.” That meant, in his mind, that the family or members of the community dug his grave, poured the vault, and buried him.

            His family dug the grave, but there was a problem with the vault: There were only two local men left who knew how to do it. One was my father, but the other man was really too old to help.

            My father hit on the idea that we would dry mix the concrete. Pouring the vault was pretty straightforward, and all they would have to do was to add water to the dry mix and shovel it in (using a mortar box, not a cement mixer – didn’t have a cement mixer). Since the other man couldn’t help, I got drafted.

            We ended up sifting the sand (cemetery was in a sandy spot, so no sand needed to be hauled in), adding local pebbles, and then mixing so many shovels of sand to one of cement (have the recipe jotted down somewhere). My father and I dry mixed it, and left it for them to do the rest.

            1. When I die, cremate me, mix my ashes with concrete, pour it into a bust of me.

              Then you can truthfully call me a blockhead.

        2. My son, who was…10? 11? at the time made jokes at his great-grandmother’s memorial service. She died very suddenly and had been one of his best friends (if the bane of my existence). Everybody laughed and it made me more comfortable than the hysterics my husband’s aunt was having next to me. I’m pretty sure that’s why he did it, too.

        3. Brandon’s funeral and cremation elicited a laugh from his father – when we saw a full tanker drive up to the crematorium. As if the thing had arrived solely to provide the fuel to cremate a single tiny, but very stubborn baby.

          “Ha! Good on ya, little guy!”

          Aff caught on and also started laughing, and when I realized it too, I joined in.

    2. I retreat. I do NOT want to show strong emotions (grief, sorrow) in public and I do NOT want people demanding that I do so. That’s for family and in safe places, not out for all to see.

      I sympathized with Queen Elizabeth II when the British press whipped up people to complain about her lack of public hysterics and weepy grief at Princess Diana’s death.

      1. *growl* As the man said, given what the British press will do for free….

        Good grief, she’s English, and she’s royal. Of COURSE she isn’t going to wailing. What milk-sop twits.

        1. Without getting into details or tittle-tattle, Diana Spencer could have traveled a loooooong way toward the Queen without treading on Rachel’s shadow.

          Of course, as has been noted, conspicuous displays of grief often are less about feelings of loss and more about signalling how much one (wants to be imagined as) caring.

    3. For me, screaming happens when you’re alone. When you know that there are people living nearby that will hear you, you … don’t scream.

      And you can’t help it when you’re suddenly back there, in the center of all that loss. Sometimes absolutely nothing triggers it and I’m back to that moment, needing to scream and being utterly unable to.

      So you fight to get back to the present, and you take the fastest route you can. Sometimes it’s a few tears, weeping for twenty minutes… and sometimes it doesn’t take long at all.

        1. *hug*

          I’m okay. I see the depth of my pain as … an indicator of how much they were loved. Maybe time will eventually blunt the sharpest edges, but it’s not something I will ever reject.

          You know that episode of DS9, I think it was the pilot, where Sisko is trying to explain time to the wormhole aliens, who are functionally immortal? “But you exist here.” In the moment where his wife was killed in the Borg attack at Wolf 359.

          Both Aff and I find that it’s probably the most accurate representation and depiction of grief and loss we’ve ever seen in any medium.

  13. Thank you for the article. I think that a big part of the grieving is the fact that “the shoulds” aren’t happening, at least it is for me and for others I have talked to about it. We SHOULD be holding a baby right now. We SHOULD be enjoying our anniversary dinner right now. We SHOULD be paying off our debts and enjoying our job. We SHOULD be visiting Grandma’s house this summer. And we can’t. We never will. Not with that child, that spouse, that grandmother, that job, that house. We can’t get it back again. We have to adjust to a new normal that is always a bit off-kilter from expectations.

    Not understanding grief or allowing people to process that, makes life a lot harder. Some of my friends who lost babies expected that their mother would be helpful and understanding because Mom had also lost a baby. They were shocked when their mothers refused to discuss or acknowledge that it happened. That generation wasn’t allowed to process it, so they shut it away, hard and are afraid of what will happen if they let it out.

    However, when we buried our baby, our mortician (a cousin in the industry who had also lost a child) told us that plenty of elderly, especially women, were starting to come to terms with the babies they had lost and hadn’t been allowed to mourn. They were approaching the mortuaries asking for a plaque or something they could place on a grave of another loved one so they could have a place to go to grieve the little one they lost. (Back then, after hospital births were the norm, stillborn babies were whisked away and the mothers told “Don’t worry about it dear. You’ll feel better if you don’t even think about it.”)

    1. Family friends lost a child shortly after birth– they now basically offer “hey, you’re not alone” type conciliating, advice on state law, etc.

      Very liberal in the reflexive and thoughtless sort of way, but HOLY COW you did not bring up the Santorums around them in any sort of way that even suggested you thought poorly of them without it being very carefully phrased.

      The lady said that a lot of the folks they get calls from are, as you say, older ladies.

    2. Yes. The ‘shoulds’ are a big part of the daily grieving that don’t fit in the ‘image people have of grief.’ “There should have been two little boys, one four, the other two, probably the older one being a gadfly to the younger, who’s the perpetually grumpy sort, here with us.”

      The other is answering ‘How many children do you have?” Because for us, the answer is “We are the parents of X number of children.” We’re usually told “Oh, you have a boy and a girl, that’s enough!” when told the surviving children are of each sex, but in our heads it’s “no, no it’s not!”

      I’ve noticed that there’s a trend now of saying “I am the parents of x living children and y angel babies,” and it applies to both parents who have miscarriages, stillbirths or have had lost children. It might seem trite to some, but I recognize it’s a comfort for those who don’t want to whitewash the deceased out of their lives entirely.

      Another aspect of grieving I learned from Rhys. When word got out that he’d lost not just one, but later on, two children (as it’d been known that he’d become a dad with Brandon, what with parental leave and all, but not so much with Damien, who was a stillbirth) he said that a number of the other blokes in his place of work quietly approached him, one by one, to quietly commiserate, and let him know he’s not alone and if he needed someone to talk to, they were available. He described it later as ‘being part of the secret club that nobody wants to be in, but you only find out you’re a member after you’re already in it.’

      Rhys was also the one who got a lot of the ‘Dude, I don’t know how you’re able to still function. I wouldn’t be able to.’ He described it as ‘dropping his bundle.’ – where, on really, really long pack marches, if you drop your bundle to ease the pain for a little bit, you won’t be able to pick it up again. Better to keep ‘wearing the pack’ than removing it and not being able to pick it up again.

      Some folks don’t understand why we keep our sons’ urns with us instead of having had them interred. We keep them because at present we move very frequently, and ‘we don’t want to leave the boys behind.’

      We also have a small cake and a present for them, each birthday. Age appropriate. And on All Souls’, there are offerings of food set aside on an empty space in our table (I think this is more a family ritual than Filipino, so…) For my maternal grandmother, her beloved junk food (She believed that yes, it was important to eat healthy, but junk food was for emotional health.) Dad? Coffee, the way he had it in life. The kids get cupcakes or cookies, candy.

      My children also periodically leave a small treat of some sort in front of their siblings’ urns (usually a piece of candy or chocolate). Some folks say you shouldn’t eat offering food, but it hasn’t done the kids any harm if it’s the still edible wrapped candies.

      1. Lady usher last week– old enough to be my grandma, never mind the kids– phrased it as “three here, two lost.”

        It’s a useful phrase for those who really don’t want to get into the details of miscarriage vs still-born vs a later loss.

        I usually answer the question that I’m pretty sure they mean, which is usually “oh please give me a safe topic of conversation, stranger who actually made eye contact and seems friendly enough.”

        1. That’s a useful phrasing for folk who might object to the “angel baby” phrasing, but who want something short. I’ll pass it along to the friend of mine who does the lost child counseling on the volunteer you-are-not-alone basis.

      2. People deal with grief in different ways. We tend to be stoic publicly, but reactions vary. Have seen only one reaction that seemed significantly off psychologically. The preacher who did that funeral noticed it, too, and had a talk with the person afterward, in the role of a psychological councilor more than a minister. From his reaction, he came away thinking the person hadn’t gone around the bend, and that was a huge relief.

    3. “And we can’t. We never will. Not with that child, that spouse, that grandmother, that job, that house. We can’t get it back again.”

  14. “We can’t get it back again.”


    Don’t wait to reconcile with those you love. Don’t wait to tell them, “Thank you.” Don’t wait to tell them you love them. Don’t forget to hug them (or other appropriate to each of you gesture) and tell them you love them before you part each time.

    And if they’re still around and you’re thinking about them and how long it’s been, stop thinking about it and call them now. You’ll sleep better tonight if you do.

  15. I’m stoic at funerals. I don’t mind showing emotion, but I really don’t like people seeing me cry.

    One thing my family does, both sides actually, is take a lot of photos at funerals. Some of friends find it odd to see photos of the dead.

    1. My mom made an entire photo album of her dad’s funeral preparations. Including things like makeup and dressing the body.

      I found it kinda endearing and not morbid, but there was a sharp divide between those who found the album interesting and helpful, and those who did not.

      1. I am pretty certain that my dad would have been rather grumpy had we retained a photo of what he would have called ‘bad hairdressing and makeup.’ “Spare me that final indignity!” I imagine him huffing.

        The makeup and hair was fine, but it wasn’t in the style he preferred. And I can still just almost hear him grumbling.

        1. One thing that helped my wife some with the recent (within the last 90 days) passing of her father, was a reminder of a song that I listen to regularly. It’s a country song by Diamond Rio called God only cries for the living. It’s a reminder that the funeral’s for us because our loved ones are already gone.

          The funeral wasn’t sad, per se. It was a celebration of the life of a man who loved like he breathed, with great joy. Yes, there were tears (the screen is getting a little fuzzy … darn dust), but far more laughter and joy at fond remembrances of his jokes and easy smiles. My wife and her mom are fond of saying, even on the day he died, that he just went ahead early, to make sure that he’s waiting for us when we get there. You know that a man has been an influence when young men that were in his youth group 50 years ago make the trip across the country to attend the funeral.

    2. I don’t mind if people see me cry at a funeral, but I have the feeling I have to hold it together. We all seem to. Part of my reaction is shaped over what I took as a disgusting “for show” behavior leading up to a funeral. Fortunately, have only seen such once.

      Both sides of my family tend to be practical in such things, and the same holds for both sides of my wife’s family. Yet, when my father and I discussed making and storing our own caskets, my mother and wife had a strong negative reaction.

  16. For the emotionally stunted among us, how do you tell whether you’ve moved on to the acceptance stage, or you’ve merely stuffed your feelings in a box where they lurk and wait for a chance to come roaring back to the forefront?

      1. Yep. And it shows up at the strangest times. I occasionally dream that my mom (gone eight years) has been hiding all this time and comes back into my life without warning, and the dreams are completely unconnected to what’s happening in real life.

      2. Got that right. The grieving process is dealing with it until it’s manageable. Once a wound is scarred over, you’re done dealing with it; but you’re still left with a scar to look at, feel, and pick at every so often. Just don’t dig your dirty fingernails into it and make it bleed again or get it infected.

    1. Sometimes you see something, or smell something, or hear something, and you start crying like your heart will crack. Then, after a while, you get on with your day.

      Not everyone is the same as everyone else.

  17. “If you found out two years ago that you or someone you love has a terminal disease process, you started grieving two years ago when the reality of the situation came to your attention. Sometimes people in this situation find that when the loss is final (in the case of death, the death actually occurs), that they don’t really feel anything or that they’re at peace. And then they feel guilty, because they feel at peace or because other people keep making them feel like everything shouldn’t be okay when it is.”

    This was me. In March of 2015 I learned that my brother had stage IV metastatic bladder cancer. Being the research whore that I am, I looked it up and read anything I could get my paws on, even stuff I barely understood. I knew within days that he his chances of surviving were none existent, that he had 5 years at best. From that day on my prayers were not that he be healed, but that he and his wife be giving strength and peace. I had to fight nearly ever day for the next 27 months not let him know that I knew it was a loosing battle. I never told him that I didn’t pray for his healing. I put on a “face” when we spoke on the phone. I never told his wife on fb. I put on that same face. Only in private did I let my guard down and cry. When he did pass it was almost a relief – he was at peace now. {And I envy him, he is with our family and God. Some days I wish I could join them}

    Once, I wondered which was worse: to lose someone quickly, with no time to say good bye or to watch someone die over a period of time. I have my answer. My mother died suddenly, I never got to tell her goodbye. I never got to tell her that I did love her. She was just gone. Russ died slowly over two years. I still didn’t get to tell him, not in those words. To do so would have been telling him that I had giving up. Both are gone. But mom was gone in a flash, and the pain was quick and sharp for me. Russ was 27 months of grieving a death that had not yet happened – hiding that grief. For me, I now believe that the sudden passing is best. But I guess the moral here is hug them, love them, let them know while you can.

    1. My dad died of lung cancer over a period of ten months, and in spite of that, it was a good year. I think the best thing was seeing my mom post photos of Yosemite and thinking, I don’t remember that they were going to do that—and they hadn’t. He’d just remarked that the waterfalls were probably beautiful that year (good rain year) and she just took him and went. Things like that.

      It wasn’t a great way to die, but they did have some time that was good.

  18. The key thing for me, Odd Guy, is that when people just lost someone, they do not need to know what I think. About anything. At all. If they need to know something, they’ll ask. My job is to make sure there’s food, the front door is shut, the heat works, the water gets delivered, etc.

    When I’ve just lost someone? Totally don’t want to know what you think. Go check the furnace.

  19. People leveraging the government against their fellow citizens? is that Social Justice?

    Social Justice Carpetbaggers Exploit Government-Enforced Injustice
    By Sarah Hoyt
    There was a time I didn’t know about carpetbaggers. Being born abroad and rather innocent, the term seemed cool to me. I pictured a hobo carrying his little bag on a stick, over the ridge.

    Of course, I was completely wrong, at least in a USA context.

    Carpetbaggers — as I’m sure most of you know — were northerners who went south to make a fortune off the beaten populace and the despoiled land after the Civil War. With the former fighters of the region subdued and controlled by punitive laws, and with the wealth of the region destroyed, it was easy for any northerner johnny-come-lately to make money.

    I’m not judging, nor do I attempt to judge the right and wrong of the American Civil War. As in most civil wars, there was no right, a whole lot of wrongs, and even if the emancipation was a good result of it, it caused suffering and injustice all the way up to the present day.

    Yeah, what I’m saying is “the thing could have been better handled” but certainly not by me or anyone human, because it was one of those messes humans get into and where there’s no clean solution.

    No. I just wanted to note that when the government takes sides, when the government raises some people and lowers others as a matter of being members of a group, there are going to be carpetbaggers. There’s going to be exploitation. …

    1. FWIW:

      Carpetbaggers were seen as Northern trash who came to the ruins of the postwar South for a bit of profiteering, both the financial and political sort. Think cronyism run rampant. The slur is that they brought all they owned in a carpetbag, because just owning a carpetbag full of belongings made it easy to skip from town to town.

      There were other investors, some not above some shady practices and using political pull who not only came to the South but were welcomed because they brought money and jobs. Some could have been called carpetbaggers, but weren’t, because they weren’t considered trash.

      Scallywags were Southerners who took up with carpetbaggers for fun and profit. Scallywags were generally seen as trash, too.

      Right now I’m trying to remember if Longstreet was called a scallywag for becoming a Republican. Don’t think that he was, but being a Republican was enough to get him ostracized. That, and besmirching Robert E. Lee.

      1. Not only did he become a Republican, but he opposed efforts to try and disenfranchise the black population.
        As to besmirching Robert E. Lee–yeah. Lee ended up being elevated as the symbol of the Lost Cause, which meant that you couldn’t say that he made mistakes. So, somebody had to take the blame for Gettysburg. Longstreet, given his post-ACW activities, made a good target.
        So, after being blamed for what went wrong on July 2 and 3, 1863, he wrote his memoirs, and pointed out that Pickett’s Charge was Lee’s idea, and that he never wanted to attack in the first place.

      2. ‘were seen as’. In practice, looking back, carpetbagger and scalawag seem like slurs used to justify the murder of white Republicans. Democrats had just started a civil war because they lost a presidential election. Lots of southerners were still emotionally invested in that, and in justifications for it. The Republicans had a legitimate interest in not having the fighting start up right away again, and the Democrats of the South had a legitimate interest in not being treated like a subject people. Democrats had a lot of influence over perceptions in the South then, and in the oral and written history of the era produced in the South.

        1. (Raises eyebrows).

          Democrats didn’t dictate my family’s oral history of the ACW, nor did they have a hand in oral accounts of Reconstruction, or in the shear disgust over Erskine Caldwell and Tobacco Road. There are much fewer accounts of Reconstruction because:

          1. They were just trying to survive.
          2. They were putting their lives back together.

          So, when some SOB with a Yankee accent who wasn’t fit to move an outhouse showed up and started dictating this and that, it was not appreciated. When some lowlife took up with them, they weren’t appreciated, either.

          You can make the argument that Democrat version of events influenced histories, but that doesn’t hold up because what was done was to simply ignore inconvenient information. You can make a stronger argument that oral histories are a limited POV and may be garbled. But to assume the Democrats altered oral histories is a bit much. I don’t like them either (and like them a good bit less after the SOTU), but everything in the South doesn’t have a white sheet with a Democrat under it.

          FWIW, my opinions on Reconstruction are shaped by what I’ve studied. My family’s oral histories are, for whatever reason, politically neutral. Give a letter I found once in some family things, I suspect it was a cynicism of politicians in general. For one thing, the stories never tied carpetbagger and scallywag to Republicans. They were always low-life opportunists.

          So, when you get to the saga of the Georgia Land and Lumber Company, a company formed by William E.A.P. Dodge and other investors, and how they were welcomed for the jobs, to the point that Dodge gets a county named after him and towns named after members of the company, then learn of some downright nasty stuff that makes the Lincoln County War look like a fuss over the color of the church carpet, with deeds, squatters, tax sales, and Federal courts thrown in, you wonder why none of the outfit was called carpetbaggers and scallywags. But they weren’t, and I think that’s because none involved on the GL&L side of things were low-life fly-by-night characters. They were Republicans (at least Dodge and his northern investors were), but they weren’t called carpetbaggers and scallywags.

  20. Several people mentioned the difficulty of making decisions following the death of a loved one, which reminded me of an article I read many years ago. It talked about the physiological and psychological effects of the trauma of losing someone, and then compared our modern social customs (well, somewhere in the sixties to nineties) with those of our ancestors.
    “Today” we try to avoid the question of death, ignore the effects, and literally force people to “get on with their lives” just weeks or days afterwards.
    In the past, there were prescribed rituals of mourning, and a time period in which the bereaved were not only allowed, but expected, to retreat from “normal life” and not be forced to make decisions they weren’t ready to make.
    Eventually that reasonable viewpoint, of course, got carried to extremes and became a strait-jacket instead of a comfort blanket, but at least they were more aware of the realities of grief than our modern selves.
    It may be that the pendulum is swinging back that direction, so I hope we stay on the moderate portion of the arc for a while longer before moving on to the extreme position again.

  21. Thank you all including Sarah for this article and the comments. My husband of 56 years died 9 days ago. I don’t know where I am in the grief spectrum, but I do know I want to “turn the world around the other way” even as I know we can’t. I just keep reminding myself that we had more time together than many people (knew each other since 6th grade). Hugs to all who have lost loved ones, no matter how long ago.

  22. Reminder: donate to Sarah

    I’m not certain the scheduled donation widget is still down, but I haven’t heard otherwise. I have ‘post a reminder’ event in my calender, and have been out of contact.

    (Why? I’ve realized that I /can’t/ afford investment in this cycle of the puppy wars. The necessary and sufficient remedy is dropping off this portion of the net for a time. Hopefully it will be worth it from increased productivity in other efforts.)

    1. Thanks for the reminder. I look forward to the new support system as I dislike Paypal almost as much as I like Sarah.

  23. Dad died in May 2009 and it was a shock. He had major heart surgery but we thought he was recovering. I really can’t remember what I was feeling then but since Mom was already going down-hill mentally I had to “be strong” as she needed my help.

    When Mom died in Sept 2014, it was somewhat different for me. Mom had to be put into a Nursing Home because “mentally” she wasn’t really there and I couldn’t give her the care she needed. During this time, Mom “knew” me (she may not have been completely sure of who I was but she knew that I was family) but in many ways she “wasn’t Mom anymore”. Talking to my Pastor about this topic today, he suggested that I had already mourned Mom before her actual death.

    Mind you, I’ve always had problems with depression so my grief in both cases may have been buried under my normal depression.

    One thing that may have helped my sister Ruth about Mom’s death is that Ruth had visited Mom earlier in Sept on Mom’s birthday. Now in many ways Ruth had “lost Mom” earlier as Mom was friendly when Ruth visited but Ruth never felt that Mom knew her when she visited. Ruth’s last visit was different as Mom’s response when Ruth was saying Good-Bye made Ruth feel like Mom knew who Ruth was.

  24. I haven’t just lost someone but I’m afraid I might. TTBOMK there is medically justifiable room for optimism but sometimes I wonder if it’s actually denial. I cried through a lot of this so far.

  25. For those curious of what Chesterton had to say about Kipling– I think it’s rather well said, although you do need to read through a couple of paragraphs to get the exact sense he’s trying to convey, if you agree or not:

    In modern terms, I’d phrase it as a love of elegance, in the “what a clever, efficient way to do things, and do it right!” A dislike of waste, especially wasted people and opportunity.

  26. Lost my friend Richard last April after several years of him battling cancer. Lost my father to cancer last Fathers Day. He was 2 months short of 89. That got me thinking about my grandson Joey who died 16 years ago at 2 1/2 months after being poisoned by the baby sitter. The only reason I am not a complete basket case is that I have to keep going for my wife and daughters and grandchildren. I am also my father’s executor. Some days after work I sit alone in a dark room and cry. Other days I am so depressed I that I sit in my chair stare at the wall for hours. I don’t see it getting better any time soon.

    1. *worries* It sounds like you do need some sort of help/support– unless, and I’m saying this wrong, the being depressed helps?

      You’re obviously really dang strong to keep going.

      1. Being depressed can help as long as I don’t let it take over my life. It gives me temporary relief.

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