Monday, November 5, 2007

to Cathy (when a parent dies)

My friend Cathy's mother passed away this week, after struggling to fight cancer.  She and I talked often before, during, and, well, after.  Mostly, I've not included her responses unless they were generic enough and could apply to others.  This isn't by any means an exhaustive list of tips, but perhaps what I felt would be useful for Cathy, will be useful to someone. 

The service for her mother is this Saturday, 5 pm my time, 2 pm her time.  Yeah, it does suck.  She is in pain, loved and supported, knew this would happen, but naturally still in pain.

"BTW, let's get to some important questions here -- how are you holding up?  I know you have [husband] and family, some more helpful than others.  Not sure how your siblings are?

Are you sleeping?  You need to sleep.  Even if you just lay (lie?) down for a while and not sleep, you're at least resting.  Please at least try to.

"Sleeping? What's that? lol It's getting better though. Those beds they give you in the hospital (cots) are the WORST!!! I am thinking of donating some of Moms money to get a few better beds of some kind for them."
Are you eating?  Seriously, you have to eat enough of something.  Try to have it be healthy, even if only a few bites at a time.
partial: I am shocked at  how the body reacts in this situation. I have lost people before, but a parent is a whole different thing.
Give yourself permission to just do or not do whatever.
Sometimes, getting to where you get up, shower, dress in clean clothes, and start the day, is a big deal.
When I stayed the 2 weeks with my Mom, in the hospital...I made sure I came home every night and showered, got clean clothes, saw my kids for an hour, then would head back. My first night back here was mixed. It felt good to be with my family, but I knew it also meant Mom was no longer with us, so that was hard.
Adding here:  Yeah, that was weird.  Someone mentioned to me that things may help when I'm back on a routine.  A new routine meaning NOT seeing Dad all the time, and talking with him, AT ALL, but it does mean less stretching of my time to be there for my daughter, M, AND my father.  I still did pretty well by M, but it is a lot easier again, time-wise, to be there with and for her now.  I could take her to the "away" feis and not worry about care for Dad (and Daisy, "only" Daisy). Yet, gosh, that means NO Dad.....
"I regret that I didn't get in touch with Dad's former colleagues and friends.  Somehow I figured putting the notice in the paper would suffice, but most didn't see / notice that.  If you think you'd want them knowing of the funeral / services, see if someone can contact these people for you.  (It was beyond me to do it myself at the time, but I also didn't have anyone else to do it.)

If people are bringing you food over, you do NOT have to bring them inside and entertain them!  (Adding:  I'm not thrilled to have visitors, anyway, nor feel I must visit others.  I guess I got that from both of my parents, ha, Dad always asked when he could be done with having people coming by.  But, this was about my worst time, all of his things from his small "apartment," my laundry not done, etc., when we most can use a helping hand with things, and I recognized that my friends from church who are also friends needed a way to feel that they helpedand it was great to not cook, is whenwe are most in need of NOT entertaining visitors, IMHO.)
It all doesn't have to be perfect.  It's a bit like a wedding ceremony in some senses, in that it'll still happen as it happens, and then it's over.  Less happy, obviously, but done with as it does.  I did get a book so that people could sign it if they wished to, and then I added the names of those who didn't sign.  I keep the cards with it.  I don't know how you wish to handle it, and it's not as if it truly matters, just mentioning it.  (Adding:  The one for Dad mostly sucked.  It was really touching to see how many people came out in support of M and me, however, and for my brother as well albeit neither NotWife (his not wife) nor his business partner/friend even came; these people were primarily my friends and colleagues.  Also adding:  I didn't wish to host people at my home, and I know my brother didn't.  It doesn't have to be at your own place!  A friend or relative may be fine with that.  OR, I simply asked my church what is done, and it was as if I snapped my fingers and it happened, THERE.  They did call to ask me how many people I anticipated, but I didn't get it until something like the night beforehand.)

It's okay to get a haircut or new outfit for it if you wish, and it's okay to just look through your closet and throw something on. 

All the various emotions are okay, valid.  Even some relief, she's not in pain for example, or laughing at some memory, or being upset forsomething else, or just that dull ache.  It's all real.  I know, it's all too damn real.  It sucks. 
(Adding:  Cathy's still more raw with this all and I'm a few weeks further along, but she and I both find that the littliest things will set us off.  Saw pipers playing "Amazing Grace" yesterday afternoon, and a dancing friend who just lost her mother was there and we had to hug and try not to cry (her dad's visiting for a bit), and then we both enjoyed other music and some dancing.  Or, initially, the pop song, "I'm coming home" by Chris Daughtery oh that'd set me off, thinking of Dad just wanting to come HOME, and yet now at home in Heaven.  For a while there, I was caught up in going over photos with M, with Dad's "good days" having been more when M was young and can't recall as well, or hadn't yet been born.  Memories, and lack thereof, when talking of dementia.  Doug wanted photos for the service, yet like the younger sibling who has relagated anything emotional and spiritual to ME, he asked a couple days in advance if any of the photos that included him looked too stupid.  So, M helped me a lot going through those and gathering them.  I don't know yet what Cathy's input will be for the service.  Even going, oh right, I'll need to wear something, I considered briefly in advance, but that morning I"m trying to find clean black clothes and lingerie.  lol.  Dad wouldn't care, and he'd have loved the scarf one friend wore there.  I've had a lot of numb moments, I've had moments of trying to just deal with some logistics, or just talking about him as if yeah he's on my mind but I'm okay, or not wanting anyone to bring it up let me forget for a moment.  Or enjoy the fall day and smile to think of Dad enjoying it, also.  I'm digressing from Cathy's loss right now, sorry.....)
 Cathy, I'm so sorry. 
You don't have to answer any of this.  Or, write and ball your eyes out or laugh or vent that your brother is being an asshole (if he is), or whatever.  (Adding:  her brother's been fine.)

We're here for you.  Love ya -- Robin
Love ya back. :)

p.s. to my beloved readers:

Please know, a card or e-mail not sent that day, or the call not made, isn't late.  The person is still dead.  The survivors still wish to know that you care and are concerned, especially if you knew the deceased.  They are as helpful a week later, or whenever you find out.  Also, sometimes at work, I really was not feeling capable of talking about "my loss" and yet, later, I may be.  Don't feel turned off if the initial timing doesn't have me open up, i.e., can just ask another day how the person is holding up, and, at this point in regards to my father, we have logistical bs crap we're going through (read paperwork and such).   And, if offering to help out, be sincere about it and even offer specific things if you can think of something.  Etc. 


  1. Happy you can help here with the situation.  Sad at what had to happen for you to have the expereince.  ~ Mike

  2. My sympathy to your friend, and yes, it sounds like you had,sadly, some good advice to pass on from the experience of losing your Dad.


  3. I am so sorry your friend has lost her dear Mother.May perpetual light shine upon her.RIP.This is  very hard when you have only just been through the same thing with Father.You do have one another to lean on which is good.Know you are in my prayers.I am sure you will be of a great help,you are such a caring person,I can feel that through your journal.Prayers being said for all of you.Take Care God bless Kath

  4. All strength to your friend, Robin. My condolences.

  5. Some very good advice there....thank you for sharing....June:)

  6. I'm sorry for your friend and sorry she is hurting so badly.  I was especially taken by your saying if a card..etc., isn't sent immediately it is ok.  I had a friends parent pass away and never sent the card because I thought it was too late.  I've always felt bad about that.  Thanks for writing this & sharing it with us.

  7. There has been so much loss lately. You are so sweet to think of others today. God bless.

  8. Robin, I am so sorry your friend lost her mom, sending up prayers for her, Hugs Lisa

  9. Robin know this isn't the entry to add it on, but wanted to tell you HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! You can delete this entry on here after you read it okay. Sorry I'm stopping by in a flash.
    Take care, Chrissie

  10. Hi Robin, thank you for sharing your insights about loss. I always feel confused and awkward as to what to say or not say to a friend who is greiveing the loss of a loved one. You have done a world of good with your honest and thoughtful words. I am awed by your selflessness in the midst of dealing with your own loss. With great affection--Sheria

  11. what a poignant reminder for us to take the time to care for the living.  death and dying and funerals and's all a draining business no matter how many times we go through the process.

    my thoughts are with you and your friend during the holiday season.