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My mom died 2-7-10 after a 2 yr. battle with Pulmonary Hypertension. We had to take her off life supports. Knowing that she has a terminal illness and that she was in the end stages of this disease, I thought I had this all figured out, her dying. I thought I was prepared for that day. Boy what a shock to myself. This has been the worst thing that I have been through. I miss my mom so much that I feel physicaly ill. No one prepares you for the loss, pain & saddness. I went to a 4 week grief counseling. Everyone says this takes time. I don't think you ever really get over it, just got to figure out how to live with it.

I am very worried about my dad. He has shut down. He drinks, I don't know how much. He sits on the couch watching tv. He says he has no ambition to do anything. He misses her bad and is very lonely. My adult children do not visit him because they don't know how to handle him. So I call everyday and visit, have him over 2-3 times a wk. for supper. I don't know how to help him start living again.

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I am sorry for the loss of your mom. It is very tough, I know. My dad died a couple of weeks ago after a long battle with Alzheimers and,like you, I wasn't prepared although I thought I was. I thought I'd done so much grieving in advance but I guess there is still more to deal with as I still am.

As to your dad, I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that to get caught in drinking and grieving just makes things worse. The only thing I can think of to do would be to talk to him and express your concern over his drinking (did he drink before?) and explain that drinking just delays the grief process and it's not a good way to deal with things. There are resources out there that can help him with his problem.

Best wishes,


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Dear afain1,

I can relate to your feeling like you would be prepared for her dying, but turned out weren't. My mom died on 02-16-10 after a 2.5 yr battle w/ stage 4 cancer and I was her primary caretaker. I too thought that I would be completely prepared for her death and since I had grieved so much before she died, I thought I would feel "relieved" after she died (like some people told me I would) to not see her in pain and not have the caretaking responsibility anymore. I'm still grieving and crying frequently and I never felt relieved at all. I took it much harder than I thought I would and am still in the process of recovering. I had to go on antidepressants (which actually helped alot) and I'm off them now but when I saw that you had thought you would be prepared for your mom's death but weren't, I thought I'd tell you that I went through the same thing too.

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Dear One,

I'm so sorry to learn of the death of your precious mother after a long, debilitating illness, and I certainly understand your concern for your father in the aftermath. How good of you to be searching for ways you can help him, even as you're struggling with the weight of your own loss now. I'd like to offer some suggestions.

First, when evaluating someone else's grief as normal or abnormal, I think it's extremely important to keep in mind that, although certain patterns and reactions are universal and fairly predictable, everyone's grief is as unique to that individual as his or her fingerprint. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there is no specific time frame. A person in mourning can look awfully "crazy" to the rest of us, especially when that first wave of shock and disbelief wears off -- and sometimes this doesn't happen until six months or more down the road. As you will discover (if you've read any of the threads in our Loss of a Spouse forum) many widowed persons report that the second year of grief is even more difficult than the first, precisely because the initial shock is now completely gone and they are faced with the full reality that their spouse is never coming back ~ all at the time when our society expects them to be "over it by now."

The sorrow that normally accompanies grief can look a lot like "depression" to people unfamiliar with grief. But more often than not, what you're seeing is a very normal reaction: a natural response to losing a cherished loved one ~ especially when two people have been married for a very long time, as I assume your parents have been. Your dad may feel that his very identity has died along with your mom, and now he is faced with very difficult questions such as, Who am I now? Who needs me now? Where do I go from here? and What's the point of going on without her?

You say your mom died after a two-year debilitating illness. Since you had to "take her off life supports," I assume that means she died in an Intensive Care Unit. Was a hospice agency involved in her care at all? Even if it was not, most hospices offer bereavement support groups to members of the community. Your dad may not have the interest or even the energy right now to reach out for such help, but as an alternative, you might consider contacting the hospice yourself on his behalf. Ask to speak to the bereavement coordinator, and see if a volunteer or even a bereavement counselor would be willing to contact your father, to let him know what bereavement services are available to him there. Bear in mind, however, that you cannot "make" your dad do whatever you think is best for him. This is his loss and his grief, and he must find his own way through it. All you can do is find the best resources available to him and then gently encourage him to use them.

Maybe your dad would be willing to attend an in-person grief support group if you told him you needed it for yourself and asked him to go along with you. Even if he refuses, you might consider finding such a group for yourself, so that you can get the information, comfort and support that you need right now. As you will discover, now that you've joined our online community, people in similar circumstances can offer incredible help and insights to one another. Whether online or in a face-to-face support group, it is comforting and reassuring to connect with others who are not only mourning the loss of a parent but also struggling to help the widowed parent who survives.

Just knowing what normal grief looks like, knowing what to expect and knowing how your dad might manage his reactions can be very, very helpful. Such information is helpful to you as well, especially if you've had little or no experience with helping another who has lost a loved one to death. See especially my articles, Understanding the Grief Process at and Helping Another in Grief. See also Helping Your Grieving Parent, along with other resources listed on my Helping Someone Who's Grieving page. Please feel free to print out any of the articles I've written (on my site's Articles by Marty Tousley page) and give them to your dad to read, if you think they would help him. I've also written an on-line "e-course" which you might consider offering to your dad; even if he isn't comfortable using the Internet himself, you could have the course sent to you (either as individual lessons or as an e-book) and then print the material out and give it to your dad to read, if you wanted to do that. You can get a sense of the course content at The First Year of Grief: Help for the Journey. If you go to my Articles and Books page you'll find many other reading suggestions there as well.

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Kellies, Sorry for your loss also. I have so many friends that have lost a parent but no one is going through this right now and no one has told me of memories of such sorrow and pain. We are going through this today and just reading that you have felt these things also is kind of a relief.

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Dear Marty T, thanks for such an in-depth response! You have hit on a lot of valid points.

[quote name='MartyT' date='15 September 2010 - 01:07

Who am I now? Who needs me now? Where do I go from here? and What's the point of going on without her?

My parents were married one week short of 51 years. I can not even remember how many times we thought we would lose her. She was in and out of the hospital so many times. Often taken by ambulance which that in itself is nerve wracking. Yes she was in ICU for 2 mts. and no hospice was involved. I think maybe now they could of been helpful. I think we expected her to come home again from yet another crisis, I know when we realized that would not happen it came as a surprise.

My dad did go to grief counseling with me for the 4 wk. sessions. He said it helped him a lot. Thanks for telling me about the articles, that I will check into. I can print them out for dad.


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