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Dog's avatar

How does one come to terms with losing your family or loved ones?

Asked by Dog (24428 points ) February 6th, 2012

Without going into much detail, I have been hit by more family crisis lately than usual. Suffice to say I am now caring for three close family members with terminal illnesses in addition to my husband and four children.

I know more of you are dealing with this. Please tell me how you are surviving (or have survived) and what you have learned through this. I would love to just know I am not alone.

How does one deal with the loss of family? Mom, dad and siblings?

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14 Answers

Judi's avatar

When mom was diagnosed my sisters and I decided to treat it as a privilege to care for her during her final days. We recorded her stories and tried to treat her with much honor and respect. We had 6 weeks from diagnosis until she left us. We sang to her, celebrated our final Christmas with her (actually draped her in Christmas lights since she couldn’t get out of bed) and took turns massaging her feet with frankincense oil.
It was a really sacred time that I will always cherish.
The best advice I can give is to leave nothing unsaid or un-forgiven.

Dog's avatar

I love that @Judi.
The time I have spent with my mom has been amazing and I would not change a thing. Caring for her has been a blessing.

chyna's avatar

I was unemployeed at the time my mom got really ill. So I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the last 3 months with her. Some things we were able to talk about, others she couldn’t remember. I wish I had found letters my dad wrote her before she died and I could’ve asked a lot more questions and understood her life better. I learned not to rush her, she would disclose things when they came to her, perhaps hours later.
It’s been a year now and I still miss her, perhaps more now than when it first happened. I think of the things I could’ve done better for her. I drive myself crazy with this stuff and it’s useless. I know I did my best and she knew I loved her.

Judi's avatar

@chyna, it sounds like we lost our moms about the same time.

chyna's avatar

@January 30, 2011 was when I lost my mom.

Judi's avatar

@chyna, my mom died December 27th. 2010

ScurvyChamp's avatar

I think that caring for your dying parents is an important part of life, it’s an experience that most of us will gain eventually—and it will change us!

Unfortunately, it seems like it’s just another burden upon our shoulders, and as we become old ourselves we realize that this is the wisdom the tall figures of our childhood really had: That the longer you go on for the more things have happened to you that will never ever be ok.

Having spent the past three days clearing up poo left by a dying relative, it’s easy to think we have more and more legitimate reasons to be sad. However, actually we’ll find we spend more of our time choosing to be happy. This is what our relatives figured out (perhaps unknowingly) and their final gift to us. Helping alleiviate their suffering will let us develop into someone who suffers less, ourselves.

blueiiznh's avatar

Sorry to hear about the challenges and health issues that you and your family are facing.

My Father just passed away (Jan 8) without anytime for preparing.
I have also dealt with a close family member being diagnosed with cancer (brain tumor) and became caregiver.

The biggest thing you can do is to grive when needed of the loss or change. Secondly to stay healthy yourself and to try to maintain some sort of normalcy in the face of things not being normal.

Many caregiver sites will repeat this common technique:
Have you been on a plane and heard the flight attendant tell you to put on your oxygen mask first? The immediate response is, “No way, I need to take care of my kids (husband, mother, best friend, stranger in the seat next to me…). The idea clashes with our instinct. What does it really mean? Simply put: If you don’t put your mask on first, you won’t be there for all those other people when they need you. You will be unconscious. The same applies to caregivers. Our natural tendency is to do for others, because we are caring, loving, nurturing, responsible, supportive and competent people. However, just like the oxygen mask, we need to take care of ourselves so we can effectively take care of the people we love..

Celerate their life and make everyday as best as possible for them. Help create the best quality of life as possible for them.

Know it may take a very long time if at all to “come to terms” with it. Try to work through the 5 phases of grief or at least know where you are in it. Certainly get help.

marinelife's avatar

Grief is a process. I think of it as like the double helix of life itself. It spirals so that you are challenged by the issues again and again at different levels and in different ways until you have worked through your feelings. Don’t set time limits on the process or yourself.

Grief also clouds your thinking process. Know that and be gentle with yourself. It has physical effects too.

Eventually, when you think of your loved one, you will think of something funny or quirky about them and smile.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Dog You’re going to be spread thin doing all this caring plus taking care of the regular family. You’ll be under a lot of stress so let the immediate family know what to expect and you may be short tempered at times. It is a lot to handle with one at a time. Keep lots of momentos of all of them. Don’t clean house. You’ll miss them a lot right off and down the road and having momentos is nice. It’s stressful, take it one day at a time. Don’t buy any extra trouble or worries. Just deal with what you have to. On the other hand, any good stuff you can pull out of this is pure gravy. Treasure any memories you can share, funny stories, etc. Good luck. You never really get over the loss, but you learn to deal with it.

Pandora's avatar

One day at a time. All I can say is that when you really need to cry or a good yell, then go and have yourself a good cry or scream as loud as you want or do them both at the same time. You’ll be surprised at how good it is to let go and be sad or be angry. Then wipe the tears away and remember that life is a gift worth living. So live on and make new happy memories so when its your time, you don’t regret a moment. A love one wouldn’t want anything less for you. Its not being disrespectful to their memory nor will you forget them. In time you will keep the memory of them alive as you continure to share those memories with others who either didn’t know that person or did know and have some memories to share with you that you never knew about.
I don’t know how many times I tell people about my dad and people say they would’ve loved to have met him because he sounds so awesome and that was with me only giving a brief description of him. I have so many memories of him still with me and he passed away over 30 years ago. I still miss him and my heart still aches a little if I think of him a lot but I am happy for the memories till we meet again.

YARNLADY's avatar

Surviving means waking up every day, eating, and going to sleep every night. It is mostly automatic, and it works best when you have other family members around to help you get through the days.

After a time you begin to actively participate in life around you, and the good days begin to outnumber the other kind.

filmfann's avatar

My wifes sister died. A year later her Dad died, and 3 months later her Mom died.
My wife was quite emotional during all that, but came through it well.

On the flip side, when my Mom died, I was just getting over my Fathers death from 25 years earlier.

Paradox25's avatar

I have suffered through several great loses myself in the past few years. I also was responsible for taking care of my sick grandmother right up until her death two years ago. I guess what has helped me through all of this, especially being alone, was trying to keep myself busy with my job/hobbies/projects, meeting new people, the memories of my loved ones and most importantly my faith. We have different ways that we may deal with grief so I wish the best to everybody in this thread who have suffered the loss of loved ones as well.

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