Archive for Lingering Death

When Death is Bad and Memories are Worse

I saw that picture of my mother and it jarred me . . .

Hospice agency web pages and pamphlets don’t highlight traumatic or difficult deaths.

While these unfortunate deaths do occur, they are infrequent. (But they won’t feel infrequent if you experience it.)

After the death, how do grievers start healing from those memories? The images of the final days (or more) include triggers for all the senses. Often, it’s not only a “mental picture” a griever recalls. There are smells, tastes, feels, and sounds that abruptly surface. And with certain deaths, it is not being there that fuels the disruptive recollections. Absence can be as tormenting as presence.

My mother died in 2013.

Like many others, I was reviewing pictures of Mom to post comments about her birthday on social media. Maybe an old black-and-white snapshot? Maybe one with just Mom and me? Maybe a collage of photos depicting various decades? While searching, I double-clicked on a tiny image in my computer’s photo file. Mom’s final hospital bed filled my screen.

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When the Last Days Keep Lasting

time and sand

I answered the phone.

The caller explained he wanted information for grief support groups. A friend had recommended the hospice where I work and its bereavement program.

I asked him about his loss.

“My father,” he quickly replied.

“I am so sorry,” I said. “Was he one of our patients?”


I reviewed the basics about the group, encouraging him to ask questions as we went along. I shared the start date and time, the number of sessions, and the costs. At our hospice, there is no charge for attending groups (along with other resources) if the patient was served by us. But this man was “from the community,” and would need to pay a modest fee. I also mentioned we had scholarships.

He asked no questions.

“When did your father die?”

A long pause. I could hear the copy machine whirring across the hall from my office. A bird fluttered by my window.

“He’s still alive, but he’s dead.”

His words now staggered out, like residents escaping a burning apartment building. Gasps and a snuffling of tears sometimes interrupted his explanation. In between weeping, in between him saying “Sorry, sorry,” I learned more. Read More →Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Why Hasn’t He Died Yet?

Why hasn’t he died yet?

The doctor said she’d die days ago.

Mom is ready for heaven; why is she still here?

I love my husband, but hate that his suffering continues.

Hundreds of versions of the statements above are muttered and shouted by the hundreds of lovers, friends, family members, and caregivers that—right now—sit vigil with a dying loved one.

And “sit vigil” may seem too polite a phrase for those waiting-waiting-waiting for a long overdue death. Pacing a room, sleeplessness, exhaustion, short tempers, frayed nerves, and constantly postponing work and family obligations were never anticipated when a beloved’s dying became an unwanted, unbidden part of your future.

The person we love, who we once wished would never die, is now lingering. Before, we made every effort not to think about death. Death was too morbid. Death happened to someone else. Death was a game with colleagues wagering that if one “celebrity” has died, then more high-profile deaths would soon happen (“They always come in threes!”). Death was the rabbi or priest or imam or pastor’s sermon about an ancient saint or sinner. Death wasn’t so bad in a movie with a soundtrack that prompted tears while munching popcorn. Death was horrific because of a car accident, a malicious bullet, or a soul-numbing suicide . . . but it was all over quickly and terribly.

But your loved one lingers.

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