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Helping Dad after Mother's passing

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My mother passed away from ovarian cancer a few weeks ago. The grief has been unbearable. We are/were a very close knit family, and my Mom held us together and did so much for all of us. But what adds to that is the worry and sadness I feel for my Dad in losing his spouse of 40 years. He is only 63, and the thought of him being alone for the next 30 years makes me so sad. I am one of five kids, and we all live within 5 miles of him and try to spend time with him as much as possible, so it could be worse. And he is very invested in his company and what he does for a living. But it's just so sad that he has to go home to an empty house, no longer with my Mom. My therapist says I also need to focus on my own grief and it's hard to do that when worrying about others. 

Anyone have any suggestions or advice? Thanks so much. 

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While this is not specific as to who has the loss, friend or family member, there are many good considerations in it that I hope you'll find helpful:


I am so sorry for you and your dad's loss.  You are grieving the same person but a different relationship.  My heart goes out to you both.

I lost my husband 14 1/2 years ago and a few years ago I wrote this article based on what I've found helpful, I hope something in it can be of help for your dad or even you, now or later on down the road:


There's no way to sum up how to go on in a simple easy answer, but I encourage you to read the other threads here, little by little you will learn how to make your way through this.  I do want to give you some pointers though, of some things I've learned on my journey.

  • Take one day at a time.  The Bible says each day has enough trouble of it's own, I've found that to be true, so don't bite off more than you can chew.  It can be challenging enough just to tackle today.  I tell myself, I only have to get through today.  Then I get up tomorrow and do it all over again.  To think about the "rest of my life" invites anxiety.
  • Don't be afraid, grief may not end but it evolves.  The intensity lessens eventually.
  • Visit your doctor.  Tell them about your loss, any troubles sleeping, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks.  They need to know these things in order to help you through it...this is all part of grief.
  • Suicidal thoughts are common in early grief.  If they're reoccurring, call a suicide hotline.  I felt that way early on, but then realized it wasn't that I wanted to die so much as I didn't want to go through what I'd have to face if I lived.  Back to taking a day at a time.  Suicide Hotline - Call 1-800-273-8255
  • Give yourself permission to smile.  It is not our grief that binds us to them, but our love, and that continues still.
  • Try not to isolate too much.  
  • There's a balance to reach between taking time to process our grief, and avoiding it...it's good to find that balance for yourself.  We can't keep so busy as to avoid our grief, it has a way of haunting us, finding us, and demanding we pay attention to it!  Some people set aside time every day to grieve.  I didn't have to, it searched and found me!
  • Self-care is extremely important, more so than ever.  That person that would have cared for you is gone, now you're it...learn to be your own best friend, your own advocate, practice self-care.  You'll need it more than ever.
  • Recognize that your doctor isn't trained in grief, find a professional grief counselor that is.  We need help finding ourselves through this maze of grief, knowing where to start, etc.  They have not only the knowledge, but the resources.
  • In time, consider a grief support group.  If your friends have not been through it themselves, they may not understand what you're going through, it helps to find someone somewhere who DOES "get it". 
  • Be patient, give yourself time.  There's no hurry or timetable about cleaning out belongings, etc.  They can wait, you can take a year, ten years, or never deal with it.  It's okay, it's what YOU are comfortable with that matters.  
  • Know that what we are comfortable with may change from time to time.  That first couple of years I put his pictures up, took them down, up, down, depending on whether it made me feel better or worse.  Finally, they were up to stay.
  • Consider a pet.  Not everyone is a pet fan, but I've found that my dog helps immensely.  It's someone to love, someone to come home to, someone happy to see me, someone that gives me a purpose...I have to come home and feed him.  Besides, they're known to relieve stress.  Well maybe not in the puppy stage when they're chewing up everything, but there's older ones to adopt if you don't relish that stage.
  • Make yourself get out now and then.  You may not feel interest in anything, things that interested you before seem to feel flat now.  That's normal.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a wee bit now and then.  Eating out alone, going to a movie alone or church alone, all of these things are hard to do at first.  You may feel you flunked at it, cried throughout, that's okay, you did it, you tried, and eventually you get a little better at it.  If I waited until I had someone to do things with I'd be stuck at home a lot.
  • Keep coming here.  We've been through it and we're all going through this together.
  • Look for joy in every day.  It will be hard to find at first, but in practicing this, it will change your focus so you can embrace what IS rather than merely focusing on what ISN'T.  It teaches you to live in the present and appreciate fully.  You have lost your big joy in life, and all other small joys may seem insignificant in comparison, but rather than compare what used to be to what is, learn the ability to appreciate each and every small thing that comes your way...a rainbow, a phone call from a friend, unexpected money, a stranger smiling at you, whatever the small joy, embrace it.  It's an art that takes practice and is life changing if you continue it.
  • Eventually consider volunteering.  It helps us when we're outward focused, it's a win/win.

(((hugs))) Praying for you today.


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Kay, all your recommendations are so very wise that I think we could all use them when we feel grief is taking over our lives. I know it does, but everything you say shows us ways to add something back into our lives that we may have lost.  Thank you for those wise words. 

Linda and I went to Missoula again today for further tests.  She is 80 later this year, and has had a lot of health issues these past several years, but is holding her own with Pilates, volunteer work on community/charity boards, visiting her grandchildren, and had a new one-level custom home built just for her in an area with lots of retired widows just like her. Lots of lovely architecture out there in many of the custom homes. I may end up building up there if I stay in Helena, but a smaller, less costly house, not custom and special as hers is, which is beautiful.

On our drive over and back, we talked a lot about our mothers and grandmothers, and things they had taught us. She is Canadian Welsh, married a Montana chap, lived their married lives on the wind-swept plains of Havre, Montana. He has been gone quite some time.  We love to go have tea together, and just natter. I know how abandoned and alone I felt, when going through medical procedures after Doug was gone. She would probably have gone alone if I had not been able to go with her.  I love that I am able to give back a small bit of what she gave Doug and me during his final year with us. She put us on the jet ambulance to go to the good surgeon. It is good to spend time with her.

And as we talked about our mothers, and the things they gave us, we both recognized gifts we had not considered before, as we realized both our mothers gave us many of the same gifts.  And if we threw in our Grandmothers, well, that was stupendous!  So we both cried some that our Mothers' and Grandmothers' spirits have left those worn cloaks, and escaped this time frame, and tears for our pain of missing them. It was a very healing time for each of us. I am glad we had such a good day. I learned a lot about the good things my mother gave me, and I am glad I have more understanding of her now.  

Sterling and I are not going to China any time soon. He called me, laughing, about how every time we plan to go, something happens. True.  We will get there. But I think I need to get him away to somewhere so he can heal more from this trauma. He can sketch, maybe do some watercolors.  He is a good artist (David influence)(and Nana's).  I am nattering.  

Have a lovely weekend, everyone. We have had a bit of snow on the roads today, but mostly rain here at home. Today was something I really needed, and it helped to ease my heart a great deal. Peace to all our hearts. *<twinkles>*

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I am so glad you had some special time with Linda, it sounds like you both needed it!  Reminiscing about your moms and grandmothers...

I hope you and Sterling can still look forward to your trip together, even if it's a ways down the road.  I pray for healing for him, that he can regain function and be freed from the pain that accompanies him now.  So unfair that some go through things like this through no fault of their own.

I'm enjoying the never ending rain right now as I can drive in it and don't have to shovel it.  It gives my hand/wrist a badly needed time to heal.  I hope your snow is minimal!  Love your "nattering."

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For sure, that's a real consideration!  I have a former coworker that is LIVING in China with his GF and their baby.  He's no longer on FB, made me wonder the reasons behind that.  Someday I'll have to call his mom and just find out how he's doing.  I've been worried about him but I doubt he's in on the protests.

You will know when it's time to go, dear Fae.

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I am skipping Meeting this morning, because my friends are having a birthday party for me this afternoon (I'm now officially 73!) and I need to get some things done before then.  Yes, Sterling called laughing and said there was no way we could go to China until we learn more about this virus. He thinks it will compromise the health of elderly and malnourished people more than "regular people."  But we decided to take no chances. I am not sure what we will do or where we will go instead.  I do think I need to get him away, and of course he thinks he needs to take care of his Nana by going on trips to far-off places with me to carry my luggage and protect me.  And we are very close, so he can talk about his fear and vulnerability with me. It all balances out. I think he may go back to MD Anderson and do his research work there. He will lose money, but gain safety and peace of mind. Right now, he must heal and take time to sort things out.   

I just think he needs to get away, rest and heal, and have time to sort out his own feelings about this tragedy, as well as to finish his healing and physical therapy.  But of course we are all most grateful they could save his leg, because that was in question for a while. So, yes, I am glad we are not going to risk China until the virus contagion is over. Not going anywhere in Asia while the virus is spreading.  

We have rain here too, Kay.  It is supposed to be sunny and pretty warm (40s) for the next few days. After that sub-zero cold spell, I am enjoying these warmer days. Yes, it was a healing time to talk about our Mothers and Grandmothers. Linda is very dear, and a long-time friend, so we have lovely visits.  She will be at my not-so-much-a-surprise party today.  The flowers from Darcy and clan are lovely, and the living room is filled with their fragrance. This is a great birthday so far.  I am so glad you are not shoveling!  How nice that you can rest your body and relax for a few days.  I hope the snow stays above 5K feet, so we all get a great snowpack without much shoveling. Here, people are still fly fishing the rivers, delighted by the open water and active trout. I now have more fish in the freezer from Jason. *<twinkles>*

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I'm so glad you had a good birthday and let me join in the wishes!

I agree we need the snow above 5,000 feet, but not so much at my elevation as it always melts so it might as well come in the form of rain to add to our well water and water the trees and fill up the streams.  And that it is doing, it's rained day and night the last week and will this upcoming week as well.  Am thankful for the reprieve from shoveling to hopefully give my hand/wrist a chance to heal some.

You and your grandson will find a safer place to travel to, with all of the protesting and virus contagion going on, China would be the last place I'd head right now.  Surely someday will be better for traveling there.

You are only 5 1/2 years older than me.  Funny how time marches on and we think, how can I be this old?!  :D


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