Overwhelmed with grief over my mother

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    I agree, Darla–I think it’s partly because one begins to see a bigger picture. Nothing quite compares to the loss of a life. And as such, we learn to be more patient w/ minor daily issues and even petty people we encounter on the street.


    Yes, that is so true. One other positive thing is that we now are more kind, compassionate and understanding of others in these situations as we now get it.


    Wow, Darla–it must have been exceptionally tough for you this year this year, having lost your mother without Jim being around and having to deal with your dad’s dementia. I’m sure you’re giving him lots of TLC. I’m wishing you the best right now.

    You’re right about keeping busy. Sometimes I feel like I only have a choice between feeling too frazzled to be depressed or depressed! I try to tell myself be crazy busy like mom as I sort through papers. I know she’d want me to get on with my life; she was constantly telling me that last year.

    If there is anything positive about death, it’s that you discover who your true friends are. You know who cares about you and who doesn’t. (Granted, the latter is tough.)



    All I can tell you is that it did take a long time and then happened gradually. I think in the beginning we are in shock and have so much to deal with that when things start to settle down we then really begin to realize what happened and a lot of thoughts and feelings begin to come back. For me the best thing was to just keep busy. Just doing what needed to be done and taking things day by day. Slowly I felt I was beginning to accept what happened and could actually function and get through the days without falling apart. That’s not to say I don’t have some set backs from time to time, but it truly does get easier with time. It has been over 6 years and I still miss him, but I also realize that I am still here and have managed to get by, one day at a time.

    This past year has been a challenge as my Mom also passed away. She had Parkinsons and the end was not good. They were in assisted living when she really started to decline and my dad is still there and has dementia and is very depressed, missing her so much. I also lost a few very close, very supportive friends this year, but amazingly, I am dealing with things fairly well. I guess I really am stronger than I thought I was. If someone had told me after Jim died that I would be OK and be where I am today I would not have believed it, but I am proof that it can be done. You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.

    I hope my rambling on here is of some help to you. I’m not going to tell you it will be easy, but you too will be OK. It just takes time and everyone grieves differently and in their own time. There is no right or wrong to it.

    Take care Frances.

    Love & Hugs,


    I know they’re human, Lainy–I guess it’s that those little mistakes compounded with what I regarded with what appeared to be less than competence and care just anger me. The only thing I can do is just tell everyone around me to tell other people about my experiences and tell them to go to another hospital if they have a major illness. Oh yes, and write reviews. In fact, I even had my dad find a new GP not affiliated with the hospital.


    Frances all these things you described do happen. I got a sympathy card from my GP but none from Teddy’s. My Mom got one from my Dad’s Dr. and it upset her. Also had offices calling about future appointments. They are all just human and see so many people……let it go. You are going to feel so much better by letting things go. I have an idea. Write all the complaints you have and all the feelings you are carrying each on it’s own sticky note. Cover everything you have thought and are thinking. Go to a fire pit in a park and one by one read each one out loud burn it and toss it in a big can. When you are done say to your Mom, I am not angry, I know we did the best we could and I am going to get better for you because I love you so very much. Just a thought.


    Hi Kris,

    For some reason, I missed your post–only saw Darla’s: my apologies!

    The Kubler-Ross book has been recommended to me several times; it may even have been given to me as a present. I think the first time I had heard of it was in 1991 when my first cat died. I’ll probably have to look for it.

    I was going to try a hospice (anything not directly affiliated w/ my mom’s hospital) over the holidays but I ended up not using it as I got to relax a bit after grades were submitted.

    I think I am feeling kind of unnerved right now because I am now having to address my mom’s finances and probate court: there is now no excuse of class-is-in-session-and-I-have-to-teach. I have to finish a substantial part of my book by the end of the month on top of everything so I’m feeling tense: and that’s when I tend to get depressed too. (Btw, it was like this when my mom was still alive.) I have to find a lawyer for probate/estate and am not sure how to find an affordable one. I have questions about my mom’s car insurance. All of this terrifies me. Not to mention that the last few months have been so heavy on our finances even though we tried to keep expenses minimal and some of our relatives even helped us out a little. My dad is pretty oblivious to everything else except his own work so I’m feeling stressed out having to deal with this more or less by myself.

    I am wondering how others here have tackled these problems, especially if they were not the ones handling finances and other logistics.


    Darla, thank you for your kind words–and I am so sorry about Jim. Many say they’d rather be the ones dying than those left behind. If you don’t mind my asking how long did it take for the grief to subside? And what helped?

    All of this happened so quickly that I find it difficult to wrap my head around it. There are still a lot of questions in my mind even though I know it’s mostly useless on my part by now.

    Sometimes I wonder if the diagnosis itself sent her downhill–if only because she seemed like she was doing so well the week before. Part of me wonders about the decision to do chemo; I remember reading about a woman here slightly older than my mom who got the same prognosis but chose to do nothing and ended up living a few more years! One of my friends also told me that a few of her friends wound up doing worse after chemo, albeit for other cancers. But at the same time, I wonder if I should have been more aggressive about having the oncologist do Gem/Cis. Maybe it should have been one or the other and not the plain Gem as it seems to have just weakened her without providing any benefits.

    Anyway, I hope others will read this and think about their treatments if they have any doubts. I want to echo much of what has been said in other pages: don’t take no for an answer and always question. Get a second opinion even if the first looks perfect. No one knows, of course, if things would have turned out any different, but maybe, just maybe, it might have helped.

    I think what hurt more than I expected was the lack of response from those who “cared” for my mom: it’s why I refuse to ever use that hospital again. None of her doctors sent us a sympathy card: maybe that’s just not done–although I will say that when my cat died a few years ago, I got a very nice card from the vet and the hospital as well as from 2 other vets who had helped him.

    Instead, do you know what happened? Someone from my mom’s personal physician called up and asked why my mom did not show up for an appointment last month. Another doc from the VERY hospital where she died also asked why she missed her neurology appt. It’s as if they totally forgot that she died under THEIR “care.” (If there are any doctors reading this here, please be considerate and USE YOUR BRAIN! M.D. should not stand for Mentally Deficient!)


    Frances –
    I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. I can relate some from when my father died suddenly a few years ago from a heart attack. It was so stunning and shocking that it just knocked me for a loop. Being the medical professional it seemed like so much stuff got pushed to me to do that I didn’t feel I was capable of doing.

    What I will say is that you should join a grief counseling group. I know that seems to always be the big push for everything but it will help. Your local hospice or hospital should offer some groups and they are usually open to anyone who has a lost someone – family or friend.

    I have always looked toward Elisabeth (Helen) Kubler-Ross for her 5 stages of grief. It just seems to make sense to me. The stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is not like you go through those in any set order. You can stay in one for a long time or bounce back and forth between several of them very rapidly. You may even get to acceptance for a bit then bounce into another one. Her book “On Death and Dying” is a helpful read.

    And you are always welcome to vent here. We are hear to help.




    All the things you are experiencing are normal. The feelings will come and go and we just have to deal with things as they come and keep trying to go on with our day to day lives. It really does get easier, but some of these feelings will always be there, we just learn how to live with them. Yes, like you I have always taken comfort in the fact that Jim is no longer suffering. He too went quickly. Less than 2 months from start to finish. He died the morning I was making arrangements to take him home with hospice care. For him it was a blessing, for me not so much. I think I was in shock for a long time. We have discussed on here that in a lot of ways we are dealing with symptoms not unlike post traumatic stress syndrome.

    You are also right about people going on with their lives. At first they are all there for you, but gradually they go back to their own lives and distance themselves for one reason or another. Some I am sure just think that we are doing fine after a certain length of time. Unless they have experienced a great loss, they truly don’t understand how it really feels.

    I’m hoping you will be able to find somewhere you can go to get some help and support, but for now, just keep coming back here. Everyone on this board is willing to listen and to help in any way that they can and because we have been there we truly do understand.

    Take care Frances.



    Thank you all for your quick responses–and your good wishes. I feel for all of you who’ve lost–Lainy and Darla. Melinda, you have my best wishes and almost know what it must feel like on your end with 6 children–if only because my mom worried so much too, even though I’m probably much older!

    Some days are better than others….and this was not one of them.

    I have to say I’m one of those who are always haunted by memories, or rather–always recalling moments in the past. I suppose this is partly what makes my grief so overwhelming on bad days. Sometimes the skies will remind me of sometime last year when I was visiting my mom in the hospital and feeling hopeful. Or when I’m vacuuming my room on a partly cloudy day, I’m reminded of the time I was vacuuming the day she returned from rehab. Even looking at clothes and makeup I bought last year can trigger memories. Similarly, when I’m browsing online and see something I know she’d like, there’s a split second when I want to show it to her–and realize I can’t. Ditto when there’s good or interesting news.

    In some ways, the problem is that I have so many good recollections that I can’t help but contrast those happier times with the loneliness I’m feeling now. I felt especially miserable the day classes ended because in the past I would have gone out with my mom to relax: it was a favorite ritual where we have lunch and shop before returning in the early evening so I could begin grading papers.

    I guess I’m fortunate that I’ve not thought about her really bad days as much: actually, whenever I think of her last day–when she was unconscious and yet had difficulty breathing–I am almost relieved that she passed. Or when it’s bitterly cold outside, I think thank God she cannot be affected. (She became very cold sensitive in her last month.)

    Nonetheless, I still wonder if maybe, just maybe I hadn’t called the nurse in Sept., maybe she wouldn’t have died in the hospital and maybe not so soon. Although of course, I know too that if she wound up having a stroke at home, I would be kicking myself for not having sent her to the hospital. Btw, Lainy, I did not know that CC patients were sent to the hematologist; I thought they assigned one to my mom because of her stroke.

    Anyway, the last few days have been terrible: just when I thought I was getting better. It started about 3 days ago when I was vacuuming the dining room and found a receipt for lunch from the day mom died. Then when I was getting something from her room, I found a bag with the clothes that I brought to her when I thought she was coming home. Yesterday and today when I was sorting out the draft for my book and going through all the notes, I was besieged by one memory after another as I remembered all of the stuff I was reading when I was visiting her in the hospital. I tell myself that she would want me to finish this book, but right now those memories are making it so hard for me to concentrate.

    Thankfully, my cousins and friends have been pretty supportive–but I am also careful and afraid of outstaying my welcome. After all, every one is busy too…i am already feeling a certain distance from some of my parents’ friends in our local community. Since I’m not religious and also refuse to go to the hospital–I know it will bring back so many memories, I just wish there were some kind of anonymous grief hotline. Unfortunately, there are only grief hotlines for those who’ve lost children or suicide hotlines and I would feel guilty using it since I don’t feel suicidal at all.


    Dear Frances,

    You have my deepest sympathy on the loss of you dear mother. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings and also the circumstances and progression of her illness. Do not worry about posts being too long. No post is too long. Feel free to come back at any time as we are here to listen and help and support you in any way that we can. Everything you said and all that you are feeling has been said or felt before by most all of us who have lost a loved one to this disease.

    I know your feelings of having to handle all this on your own, as I lost my husband and although I do have some support from family & friends, I too am basically alone and left to deal with everything on my own.

    All I can tell you is that in time things will start to get better and you will be able to take some comfort in the memories of all the good times you had with your mom and the rest will eventually slowly fade into the background. Know that your mother will always be with you in your heart and fond memories.

    Please keep coming back and sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. We care and will help and support you in any way that we can.

    Hugs & Love,


    Dear Silverkitties,

    I am so sorry for the loss of your mother…..and for all the pain and hurt you are going through. As a mother of six children and fighting this cancer….that has always been one of my worst fears…leaving my children feeling sad and hurt. I know things happened fast for you, and that you really didn’t have the time to process all the traumatic medical changes, where as my children have been dealing with my fight for the past five years.

    I know that I would not want my children being so hurt, angry and sad. I would want them to know that I loved them with all my heart and soul…..and that I will always be with them and a part of them. I would want them to be happy and have joy in their lives. I would imagine that your mother would want the same for you…..please find a way to heal, forgive, and move past the “what ifs”. My heart hurts for you and I will be thinking of you and sending prayers to you for peace, strength, comfort and joy. …..hugs to you.


    Dear Frances, I am very sorry for the loss of your Mom but it sounds like everything possible was done for her by you. FYI: Many CC patients are seen by a Hematology Oncologist as was my husband. His ONC took care of him for 5 years and was always rated #1 in Phoenix until he retired.
    Perhaps it would serve you well to go for some grief counseling or having a few talks with your clergy. You might even ask your own Doctor for something to take the edge off. It will really help.
    When you say you keep having memories of the past do you mean when Mom got sick or before? If the Memories are from the time she got sick I swear to you those will eventually give way to GOOD memories. I doubt very much that she would want you to be going through this kind of outlook on life. I have been alone now for 4 years and know what? When I feel down I look in a mirror and I say, “shame on me because I had for 16 years what most people never have in a lifetime”. You now have your Dad and perhaps since your Mother did so much he really doesn’t know what to do. Perhaps a little talk with him might help as he may not even realize all he has not done or is not doing now. I know you will get some more answers here but try to get some help so your Mom can be happier about your life. She would want you to feel much better.

    I’m at your side each night and day,
    In your heart is where I’ll stay.
    You can feel, see or hear, I am not gone, I’m always near.
    I’m the colorful leaves when fall comes round,
    The pure white snow that blankets ground.
    I’m the first bright blossom you’ll see in Spring.
    The first warm raindrop that April will bring.
    I’m the first ray of light when the sun starts to shine,
    And you’ll see that the face in the moon is mine.
    I’ll whisper your name through the leaves on the trees,
    And you’ll feel my presence in the soft summer breeze.
    I’m the salty tears that flow when you weep,
    And the beautiful dreams that come while you sleep.
    I’m the smile you see on a baby’s face.
    Just look for me, I’m every place!


    It’s been over three months since the passing of my 82 1/2 year old mother from bile duct cancer on October 4. Yet, I seem to feel even more depressed than I did when it first happened. It’s strange because I thought her memorial service on the weekend before Thanksgiving would ease the pain; but there have been so many days on which I felt worse, not better. Sometimes I feel so haunted by memories.

    I want to provide a backdrop of her decline. My mother seemed perfectly fine until her first stroke on April 24th. She seemed to recover so quickly and miraculously as if nothing happened: we were all very happy when she was released from rehab on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. A few weeks later, we noticed that her ankle was swollen but her personal physician didn’t think anything of it. The same thing happened when she saw him again the following week to have her INR measured since she was on Coumadin. Then came visits to her cardiologist and neurologist. No one suspected anything out of the ordinary; indeed, the cardiologist even told her she did not have to be seen until next spring. June seemed to be passing fairly well; she seemed so content when her sister’s family came to see her.

    However, things changed on Tuesday, June 18th. What we thought was going to be an uneventful visit to her doctor turned into a nightmare as he finally decided to get an ultrasound on her right leg. It turned out that she had deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. The following day, bloodwork indicated that she probably had something in her liver area. A biopsy confirmed that she had bile duct cancer and that she only had 3-6 months. It was shocking and upsetting–but my father and I still hadn’t given up hope entirely: I recall having read here on this very site accounts of people who had outlived their prognosis.

    At any rate, she had a series of ups and downs. At first, we liked her oncologist; he seemed to have great credentials (Ivy grad and residency, etc.) and my mom was very happy with him. She wound up entering the hospital again on July 8th, after a combination of having fallen down a flight of stairs (a one-day ER visit) and a chemo treatment. Upon her return, it took nearly two weeks for those problems to resolve, but they were soon followed by strange abdominal pains after meals. She had an ultrasound in late August which indicated that some parts had gotten better, some worse, but that it was overall even after 6 treatments of chemo. It was then that I decided that we would really need a second opinion (I had already been aware of it but was waiting for her recovery from the fall and general discomfort to ease a bit). Perhaps she should be getting gemzar and cisplatin, not just the former: I had already asked her oncologist during our very first visit but he ruled it out, saying it would be too strong for her.

    Finally, on Sept 19th, she was sent to the ER by another visiting nurse. Little did we know that this would be her last day at home. Even though she seemed to be improving in the hospital, she wound up with a stroke on the 28th: we knew that this was pretty much the end. Nonetheless, her respiratory failure and death on the late morning of Oct. 4th still surprised us.

    I have a lot more to say, but since this is already a much longer post than I anticipated–or anyone can bear to read at one sitting, all I will say for now is that I am still angry when I’m not sad. I am angry that the hospital assigned her a hematologist rather than a gastro-intestinal oncologist. (I didn’t realize that the hospital even had the latter!) I am angry at myself for not having checked that more thoroughly; maybe it’s because my mom seemed so comfortable with her hema/oncologist? I am angry that some of the docs had the gall to be annoyed when I brought this up: true, maybe a GI oncologist may not have been able to do anything–but let’s acknowledge that maybe, just maybe they could? After all, thats what specialists are for? Angry that her primary doc and hematologist made no attempt to consider an alternative to Lovenox (Enoxparin) even though it was causing incontinence–which distressed my mother to no end. Angry that her oncologist never showed us the scans. In all, I am so angry with these arrogant aholes who think they know everything without realizing that some of their patients and caregivers are at least as well educated–if not better–at cutting through faulty logic. (Yes, some of us have Ph.D.’s from even more prestigious institutions: and even if otherwise, many still have enough common sense to detect BS when they hear it.) Not least, I am angry at my father for having stressed her out these past few years with his general selfishness and lack of cooperation: cancer, as many know, is exacerbated by stress. I never fail to remind him that if it weren’t for Mom, he may not have lasted as long after his heart attack in 2004.

    My mom has always been my source of comfort. It’s not that we didn’t have conflicts; we did, but at the end of the day she was my closest friend and confidant. Yes, my father supported us financially but it was my mother who challenged me intellectually and provided me with all the emotional support I needed–especially as we moved very often. Even though English was a 4th language for her, she was the one who sat and read everything of mine, all the way from my book reports in second grade through my post-doctoral book proposals. I feel so distraught that she won’t be able to see my textbook when it’s published.

    And now I feel so terribly alone–especially since the semester is over. When I was teaching, I was at least able to distract myself from my sorrow: I am so glad I didn’t quit halfway as it ultimately proved a means of keeping my sanity. I am jealous of all those who are happily married (or at least partnered) and have someone to support them in their grief and loss. I’m even more jealous of those happily partnered and still have their parents around. Meanwhile, I am struggling to straighten out family finances (my mom did just about everything), handle investments, the various forms of insurance, and put everything else in order (cooking, cleaning, tidying, laundry) in addition to writing my book and other projects–or rather, picking up where I left off when my mom had her cancer diagnosis. My dad’s friends have the gall to tell me to do more when I’m already doing EVERYTHING–while he does nothing at all. He didn’t even bother to submit her obituary in their native country! (Mind you, I submitted her obit for our local papers and made all the arrangements for her memorial service during the very week that I had to give a talk at another college.) All these tasks would probably not be absolutely terrible if I weren’t feeling constantly besieged by memories all the time–but I’Il save this for later as this post is way too long already.

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