Antivaccine nonsense Autism Medicine Personal

A death in the family

I would like to thank all of you who have notified me of the decision for the three test cases in the Autism Omnibus hearings before the Vaccine Court. Science actually won in the courts, something you just can’t count on with any reliability. It even won resoundingly. I also realize that, as much as it still shocks me, a lot of people look forward to what I have to say on this issue, as I’ve become one of the main “go-to” bloggers on all things vaccine. Normally, I’d be all over this, reading the decision in detail, culling choice quotes, and spreading my special brand of Respectful and not-so-Respectful Insolence far and wide over the issue.

But not this time.

This time, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a while. I’m afraid the blogosphere will have to do without me on this story, even though it’s the biggest blow to the antivaccine movement I can recall in four years. I’m just not that interested in blogging right now about anything. However, I do feel an obligation to my readers to explain why.

Yesterday, February 12, 2009, my mother-in-law passed away after a battle with a particularly nasty and rare form of breast cancer. She had been in hospice for about three months, the last week and a half in residential hospice. (I had alluded to this before.) The last time I saw her was on Sunday, and I feared that that would be the last time I saw her alive.

I will not be blogging for a few days. I don’t know if it’ll be a couple of days or a couple of weeks before I come back. Because I’ve had three months to foresee this sad day, however, I did line up some “Classic Insolence” to post automatically at least once a day until until I feel up to producing new material again. I may post an occasional brief update as well.

In the meantime, perhaps you, my readers, could share your stories of loss. More importantly, how did you deal with it? I will see your responses.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

155 replies on “A death in the family”


You of course have my deepest condolences. My dad died of brain cancer when I was 18. I was a shit head during the 6 months he suffered with significant impairment before he finally died, something I have never forgiven myself for. Luckily you are an adult, and probably have been able to deal with this better than a hormonal adolescent as I was.

For me, the thing that gets me through hard times, is faith. Funny huh? Here is my faith: In time the pain will pass.

Knowing that this pain will eventually subside for me was what got me through my divorce and other deaths in the family. Knowing now that in one year (or week or month or decade) that I will feel better, helped make me feel better now. It helped me focus on the things I need to focus on and enjoy the thing I should be enjoying despite the pain and deep sense of loss that occurs simultaneously.

I have no idea if I am being clear or helpful, but this is what helps me.

My best wishes for you and your family. Be well.

I will come out of my usual lurking to give you my deepest regret and condolences on your loss. I can only imagine your pain as I have yet to lose my parents, but I have recently lost a close friend to breast cancer and can only tell you what you already know….remember the good times and remember that whilst the pain will never fully go away, it will become less with time. I know it doesn’t feel that way at the moment, but it will. Be there with your partner and you will get each other through this.

My father died of complications following surgery fro bowel cancer. I was 15 at the time – he was 45. He was at home, and for about a month leading up to it he was bed-ridden and being given morphine by my mother. I remember my mother waking me at about 2am to tell me he had finally died. In some respects, it was a relief – he had been suffering (despite the morphine). His breathing was long and laboured – every breath seemed to be his last.

We were/are not religious, and I guess had a fairly pragmatic attitude to death. I remember still going to school that day. My father in particular had read the works of Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross following the death of his father some years earlier. The funeral was a celebration of his life, attended by a wide circle of his friends and work colleagues.

Condolences to you and your partner.

My father died of complications following surgery for bowel cancer. I was 15 at the time – he was 45. He was at home, and for about a month leading up to it he was bed-ridden and being given morphine by my mother. I remember my mother waking me at about 2am to tell me he had finally died. In some respects, it was a relief – he had been suffering (despite the morphine). His breathing was long and laboured – every breath seemed to be his last.

We were/are not religious, and I guess had a fairly pragmatic attitude to death. I remember still going to school that day. My father in particular had read the works of Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross following the death of his father some years earlier. The funeral was a celebration of his life, attended by a wide circle of his friends and work colleagues.

Condolences to you and your partner.

Orac, my sincere condolences. A month ago today I found out that my brother and brother-in-law had died in a boating accident. The had been missing for two days, so it wasn’t a surprise, but it was a horrible shock. I’ve been through quite a few deaths in the last few years, but this one was – is – much more difficult.

I can only speak of the first few weeks. The first few days are a fog. The funerals were important – I never understood the word “closure”, I still don’t, but until the funerals nothing could happen. It was just a holding pattern.

They say it gets better, but for me a lot of changes are conscious decisions. After two weeks I decided that I was going to make it through the day without crying. And I did. Just barely. I talked about it to everyone that asked. They may have been asking out of politeness more than anything else, but I decided to get over my desire to not impose. Accept the hugs. Accept the messages. treasure the memories.

In one sense, it’s harder when it’s your mother-in-law. When my wife’s mother died she got the condolences and the hugs. I got the “look after her” pats on the shoulder. You need to claim your own right to grieve, I think. But, of course, someone has to make arrangement – be it for the funeral, or for the trip. I think it’s good to have something to do, but I don’t think that being too strong, for the sake of other people, is helpful.

They say you never really get over a serious loss, but you do get used to it. And see a therapist. People may get tired of your stories long before you’re done telling them. That doesn’t apply to someone you’re paying to listen. Oh, and you’ll get used to people apologising for how little small a thing expressions of condolence are. In my experience, even the smallest word from someone I barely knew was worth so much. Offer them an easy way out of their apology. Most people will take it. But those who keep talking may know something. Give them a chance.

You’re in my thoughts, you and your family.

My deepest condolences.

My husband’s step-father passed away suddenly during the first week of December. We were all quite shaken by the fact that he had emailed a joke to his brother, and just a couple of hours later was found on the bathroom floor by my mother-in-law.

My husband’s father died when he was ten, and his mother remarried when he was thirteen. At the service the priest read the words my husband wrote about his step-father: “I cried when he came into my life, and I cried when he left my life”.

What has helped a great deal is that I married into a wonderful extended family. The brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews of my in-laws came, and there was mutual crying, and great stories about my father-in-law — plus lots and lots of food. My mother-in-law has a great community in her neighborhood and friends, so she has continued support.

And we are all comfortable talking about my father-in-law, and remember him as the sweet kind man who loved his garden (especially with his pruning shears, the azaleas may actually get to blossom instead of being pruned to table top flatness).

We get through, and while we cry, we also smile when we remember him.

Condolences from a daily faithful reader. I’ve never commented before, just know that there are so many people who read and appreciate your hard work in this. Take care of you and yours.

I’m sorry to hear of your loss, Orac.
It’s never good to lose a relative, and worse to lose one to cancer. Come back when you feel like it. But do come back!

My condolences to you and more so for Mrs. Orac. Having lost a best friend two months ago, I can easily sympathize. Go comfort your wife, there is nothing harder then losing ones mother (perhaps ones child, but have not had to have experience that). Tears still come to my eyes bringing up the memory of losing my mother, even today, though it happened over 26 years ago at age 21. She died of skin cancer and I am now older then my mother was when she died. I wish my son (10) would have known her. Losing ones mother is a loss one never forgets.

Orac, I’m very sorry for your loss and your wife’s loss. I hope your experience with hospice has been as wonderful as it was for me when my grandfather died. It was a tremendous relief that he could finally have some peace before he died. I know that these things are never “ok” but I hope it was as good as it could be under the circumstances.

Please accept my most sincere condolences.

You ever notice that after a long period of suffering because of disease or injury, most deaths tend to happen when there’s nobody else around? A couple of days back a local man died at 2am some six months after being injured when construction scaffolding fell on him. I think it happens then because people aren’t around pestering you.

Share stories with the wife, and remember that increased sexual activity is a normal reaction to grief. (Something to do with emotional reassurance and the need to bond.)

My condolences to you and your wife Orac. I lost my father fairly abruptly to cancer several years ago when I was 14 (a cough in February, diagnosed with cancer in late April, passed away by the end of May). I saw him suffer badly, but not for long and I didn’t spend any time with him the last few days before he died. He was on a morphine and he was not in most of the ways I think important, how a would like to remember him. I still don’t regret the fact that the evening and morning before he died I didn’t see him even though he was at home. Whilst I think I did keep quite well at the time, thanks to a neighbour telling me I didn’t have to be strong for my mum at all times, for the next several years it did hit me at some rather strange times. I also had exams on the anniversary of my dad’s death for the next six years! 12 years on I’m comfortable talking about my dad, and have been for while. My sister still finds it difficult.

One final thought. The pastor from our local Church (Church of Scotland) held the service, and spent time with me and my mother. He knows we are not religious (religion had no place in our house, it just wasn’t mentioned either pro or anti), and despite frequently asking us to attend services etc. knew that we didn’t need to hear about god at that time and restrained from mentioning god at all apart from in one reading from the bible. He was however a solid and caring presence, as opposed to obviously caring but awkward as most friends and relatives who probably had less experience in comforting those who have lost someone.

So sorry to hear that, condolences to you and your family. I lost my gran to pancreatic cancer a few years ago and it was a truly horrible thing to see her go through it. She was very peaceful in the end though and I take a lot of comfort from that.

Take your time, take care of your wife and we’ll see you when you’re ready to surface again.

Orac, I am so sorry.

I’ve had some horrible “phases” of death in my life, a lot of friends and classmates killed by drunk driver, then people being murdered, and scattered throughout the friends and family members dying after long, painful illnesses. At one point, after going to my 14th funeral in less than 2 years, for a childhood friend I loved like a brother who was killed by a drunk driver, I couldn’t handle funerals anymore. I was 20, and sick to death of death.

After a while, though, these terrible deaths stopped hurting so much. I had to accept that we all die, some of us more painfully and horribly than others, and that I was lucky enough to know each and every one of those people while they were here.

I don’t know if this helps, but it’s my experience. Whatever path you choose to deal with your loss, take all the time you need.

I’m so very sorry to hear your news, Orac – deepest sympathy to you & Mrs Orac.

We buried one of my oldest & closest friends a week ago- she’d been living with metastasised breast cancer (it got into the liver) for 4 years & 10 months. The funeral was bittersweet – full of sadness but also a celebration of her life. I will never be able to hear Smetana’s ‘Moldau’ again without thinking of her.

Condolences to you and your family.

I lost my mother 12 years ago when I was 17. She suffered a brain haemorrhage one morning and never woke up. On the whole it is the way I would want to go, but it left my father and I in a great deal of shock. In fact a month later we had a double whammy when my godmother (one of my father’s oldest friends) passed away from a stroke.

The six months after that were a blur more than anything, I remember breaking down at school and having a constant pain in my heart that never seemed to end. Some things stay with me though when I look back: stay close to your family as these things either bring you closer or tear you apart; and the knowledge that the pain will get better in time gave me a motivation to keep going. I never spoke to a therapist, just knowing there were friends and family to talk to was all I really needed.

The hardest time oddly was about three or four months after the funeral when people stop checking up on you. They get caught back up in their own lives, as they should, but its then that you have to stand on your own feet again.


Deepest condolences.

Our sympathies are with you and your family in such a trying time.

John H, Mrs John H and a loyal band of Brits.


Sorry to hear about your mum-in-law. My dad died of a metastatised kidney cancer nearly two years ago, and it’s still not quite sunk in. I don’t think we get over things – we get used to them; and this is why it takes a while. All I can say is this: the departed live on in us in two or three ways – in out memories, in our up-bringings and in our genes. So they never truly go… and Bakhtin says that they also live on in the voices we use to say what we think. I’m not religious, so I try to derive comfort from the things I’ve learned as a psychologist – how the theories apply in such moments as this, when we really need something more solid to help us adjust to something new.

I hope your learning helps you as mine did me, so that you can be a good comfort to your family at this time.

Best wishes,

I am terribly sorry for your loss, and my thoughts are with you and Mrs. Orac. Like another commenter, I was young, and a shithead, when I lost a loved one to a long, hard death from cancer; I have never forgiven myself for my selfishness, and never will. I wish I had a better or more relevant loss story for you, because you give us so much of your time and your humanity that we owe you a little something to help you through a time of pain and loss. But I don’t. It’s all terribly hard, and there’s no two ways about it. You’ll do right by you and yours, and we’ll see you on the other side. Thanks and best wishes.

From an almost daily reader, my sympathies. I have not commented here before, but I appreciate your blog immensely.
The most recent difficult loss in my life involved my aunt who succumbed to ALS at the age of 45. For her, I almost felt relief because I knew that she suffered for a while, but always kept up a cheery demeanor. I mostly felt sad for my young cousin who at 25 was made parentless because her father, my uncle, had died from complications of diabetes 12 years prior. Time and family help and now we are all celebrating because my cousin and her husband are expecting their first child. Life going on brings joys that dull the pain.

I hope it’s not hijacking the thread too much to express my appreciation here for the people who work in hospice care. I never did thank them for their support when my father was dying, and I imagine that’s often the case. Thank you, hospice professionals, for the difficult work you do.

My condolences to you and your family, Orac.

My deepest condolences to you, Orac, and your family. I hope you don’t feel the need to come back until you’re completely ready, no matter how long that is.

Very sorry to hear this, Orac. I don’t really have any advice regarding grieving. I don’t even know what it’s like to have a mother-in-law because she died of colon cancer when my wife was just a teenager. Death just sucks and it mostly requires time to accept it and move on. There is no magical fix.

When my grandmother passed away shortly after 9/11, it took several years for the extended family to come back into close association with one another. It’s often like that when the matriarchs of the family die. That’s one thing you might want to pay close attention to: try to stay in touch with that side of the family to the extent possible.

All The Best,

Joseph C.

Deepest condolences to you and your wife. I lost my mother under similar circumstances seven years ago.


My deepest condolences to you and yours. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I lost my son two years ago and still the tears come when I think of him. Time has taken some of the edge off my grief, but I know that I will carry this with me for the rest of my life. The only consolation I can offer you is that, with time will come acceptance and accommodation. Best of luck.

Orac, I am so sorry to hear this. My mother died on June 10, 2007, the day before the Cedillo trial began. It took the multiple myeloma about a year and a half to overwhelm her. I was with her for her last ten days — in the hospital after her heart failed, and back home after her kidneys gave out. It was a very difficult time, but it was wonderful to be with her, and wonderful that all six of my sibs and my father (rustled out of his long-term care facility two days in a row) were able to be with her, too. We all got to say goodbye. I had to leave for home before the end, and it was the most desolate journey I’ve ever made in my life. Mom died about a half hour after I arrived in New Hampshire. I spent my next few months feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. I’m constantly wishing I could call and talk to her about this, that and the other thing. And every now and then I get that hollow-chested, achey feeling again, triggered by random references to Michigan (her home state; it’s where I was born, too), or the sight of Northwest Coast Indian art (which she loved).

Grief is physically exhausting. Accept every offer of food, snow shoveling, housecleaning. Take care, take time.

My condolences to you and yours, Orac. I lost my mom to cancer about eight years ago, and I still break down once in a while. She never got to meet 3/4 of her grandchildren, including both of mine, so I tell them about her often.

Share the love, and reduce the pain.

Orac, please accept my sincere condolences to you, your wife, and your mother-in-law’s family and friends.

Strange how through the magic of the Net I likely am more aware of some of your feelings and opinions than those of co-workers I see every day and consider friends. The folks you’ve gotten to “know” via your blog are no less sincere in their affection for you than people you see every day. Some small part of that affection is being demonstrated here today.

2 stories about loss:

Fred, my best friend at work, died last April of bowel cancer. My wife (who hadn’t met him previously) and I went to Europe with him a few years ago for general tourism and to see a Formula 1 race. We laughed from beginning to end and had a great time. I was trying to avoid starting cholesterol medication, and adhering to a low-fat diet in Italy wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you. When I was wondering what to have for lunch, Fred suggested “Have a pizza!” I said “Fred, I’m on a low-cholesterol diet.” He said, “Then have a calzone!”

When Fred died, our employer brought in a professional grief counselor, and it was truly horrible. She pronounced his last name wrong, and had picked up only a few inconsequential facts about his life. Co-workers he’d disliked when he was alive made a great show of their feeling of loss. I got choked up as much from anger as from grief. The funeral was far better in comparison, especially the lunch at a bar afterward, where we all got a little drunk and laughed at a few hundred of the million wonderful stories about Fred.

About 10 years ago, my wife’s mother (Lisa and I weren’t married then, but we’d been together a long time) became ill with a combination of degenerative diseases – Parkinsonism or something like it, and dementia. She had been in hospice in Florida for several weeks. Lisa had gone there from our home in rural Pennsylvania to say goodbye, and returned. It was November, and there was a meteor shower. Lisa and I went outside in the cold, clear 4 a.m. darkness and were rewarded with a beautiful show. By 5 we were chilled and ready to go back inside, and the shower looked like it was subsiding anyway. Just as we turned for the door, there was a final spectacular display of several shooting stars in one area of the sky off to the east. Lisa said, “Those are the angels welcoming my mother into Heaven.”

We received a call later that morning that Lisa’s mother had passed away at 5 a.m.

You will be in the my thoughts. My father-in-law died one week ago. It is a tough time, but also a time that often brings out the best in others. Let others help you and your family as you struggle to adjust to your new world with out your mother-in-law

My condolences to you and your family.

Watching someone you love die after a long illness is so difficult. I cared for my Mom through hospice and she died from kidney cancer on New Years Day at ten am, 2001. We’d both been dx’d with different cancers during the same month, and had gone through treatment together. She relapsed a few months later. It was very difficult, but, there was some relief when her suffering was over. Although the grieving process started during the illness it took some time to heal.

My Father, on the other hand died unexpectedly of a heart attack while on vacation at a rather young age. This was hard in different ways, and, healing took much longer.

Orac – so sorry to read this. My sincerest condolences to you and your wife. (((hugs)))

Sincere condolences on your family’s loss. I remember my loved ones who have had cancer by participating in Relay for Life. Having a goal of contributing to the greater good brings a mixture of feelings with a positive net gain, at least for me. At the time of passing, nothing was much help in dampening the grief but time with loved ones, getting from day to day, and time passing brings some solace. One’s perspective changes from the current sadness to fond remembrance.

Condolences for you and yours. Make time – go to a favorite place. Make a ritual (plant a tree, cook a favorite meal, call someone). Think of how she would have liked to be commemorated, and do that. Don’t feel bad for feeling crappy, and forgive each other when your family shows their grief, even in strange ways. When your friends and colleagues are silent, try and realize that they’re tongue-tied and inexperienced, and if you can, let them know what they can do to help. Remember, thanks to the efforts of your profession, we don’t have as many personal opportunities to deal with death.

My condolences to you and yours, Orac. She will always be with you as long as you remember her. Do so and laugh and cry together with your family. We still do that today after losing loved ones years ago and it brings all of us together and allows us to share our love for those we miss.

I’m very sorry for your loss, Orac. My father died of prostate cancer in 1996. He’d also started to have symptoms of Alzheimer’s around the time of his cancer diagnosis two years earlier, and was seriously confused and frightened during the last few months of his life. He did have excellent home hospice care, something for which my mother and I remain very grateful.

Dad and I had not been close. It’s not that we squabbled with each other; we just didn’t communicate much. I’m just beginning to appreciate how amazing his seemingly ordinary life was — he was a smart but shy kid who had to drop out of school at 14 and go to work, who had a rough childhood in many ways and always remained devoted to his younger brothers and sisters, who spoke fluent Polish and could switch between his two languages on a second’s notice, who was drafted into the Army Air Corps in WWII and was one of the few guys without a high school diploma to be selected for aircraft mechanic training, and who, in a blue-collar carpet-mill town, took a chance by leaving the factory to become a letter carrier at 48. (The last move was perfectly timed. The factory shut down a few years later, leaving my father one of the few men in the neighborhood who still had a steady job.)

I’m still not quite certain how I dealt with it. For months if not years, I had dreams that he was still around, and I’m one of those people who remembers her own dreams only once every few months. Usually, we were in some annoying situation where we had to cooperate with each other and the rest of the family, and we were still trying to communicate with each other when, invariably, I woke up. Also, Dad had been buried on my 40th birthday, which left me wondering exactly how fragile I’d feel on my next birthday. But on my 41st, I got the news that I’d passed the comprehensive exams for my Ph.D. Not only did that lift some of the load, but it made me grateful for the fact that neither of my parents was a superstitious person.

My grandmother passed away recently after suffering from Alzheimer’s for nearly a decade. We all took comfort in the fact that she died quickly in her home (heart failure) and that grandma and the rest of the family were spared the severe decline that sometimes happens.

I’ve recently noticed that my dad now tells at least one story about his mother at every gathering. This Christmas I heard the story of how, every year, her four children would all get the same present for Christmas. They were things Grandma thought everyone needed – a cookbook, a hair dryer, jumper cables, and so on. She had two boys and two girls, but she expected that the boys would need to cook and the girls would need to jumpstart batteries at some point. For a woman of her generation, I find this pretty impressive.

My grandmother was an amazing woman, and it helps me to think of how she still lives through her children and their children. She lives in the stories I hear from my dad. She lives in my love of baking, something she originally taught me to do. She even lives in our casual swearing.

My sympathies to you and your wife.

I’m so sorry. My deepest condolences go out to you and your family. The only thing I think of whenever this happens is F**KING CANCER! I hate it. I have also lost several loved ones to that horrible disease.
When my grandmother died of breast cancer it was a blow. I cried. I hugged the people I loved. I managed to get through the funeral. It took me a while to really deal with it though. I think it’s good that you’re taking a break, I needed one too (though for me it was from school). Ultimately I realized that it was wrong to spend so much time mourning her death when I really should be celebrating her life. She is not simply another woman who died from breast cancer. Her life’s sum total is not that experience. She is the woman who made me pierogies and played dress up and read mysteries and had one of the best laughs I had ever heard. The best way to honour her memory is to remember her life, not her death.

My sympathies, Orac. Losing a loved one is never easy.

When I was 17 (10 years ago already!) my grandfather killed himself after a long, painful battle with emphysema. At first it was really difficult – how do you deal with your grandfather, whom you love and respect and adore, killing himself? After a while, and after discussions with my dad (the two of them were very close), it was easier to come to terms with it. He was in so much pain, and he was just a ghost of the man he’d once been.

He lived near the Colorado River, in a fancy motor home, year round. For years before his death, he was unable to walk long distances due to his lungs, so he rode a scooter or a golf cart, everywhere (oh what fun we kids had on that stupid golf cart!). He rode his scooter every day to the docks to fish. He lived years longer than the doctors predicted because he kept as active as he could – not being able to walk be damned! But when the disease finally caught up to him, he was unable to do that. He lost so much weight so quickly, and was bed ridden.

This wasn’t the grandfather I knew and loved. It was easy to see he was very unhappy. And so, when he killed himself, no one was at all surprised, and no one blamed him. It was a relief, to be honest.

He was a real inspiration and I till miss him to this day.

He also solidified my beliefs on allowing those with terminal diseases to choose their own death, and to die with dignity. Had it been legal, he would not have left his son and daughter to find him dead from a gunshot wound to the head. It’s something I now very strongly believe in.

My heartfelt condolences on your loss of a loved one. I watched my mother in law die of cancer and the effect it had on my wife which was as hard as watching the death itself. The feeling of powerlessness to prevent the death and of being unable to fix the pain my wife was feeling was a hard thing to bear.

After as many good cries as you need, try and start remembering and sharing with others stories about all the good times, funny times, wonderful times and exciting times that you had with your mother in law or that you know of. Remember the good and tell each other about it. That and time are the only healers.


Take care of yourself and your wife, Orac — we can wait.

That includes whatever works for you; some of us (/self for instance) simply don’t grieve well and end up coping by taking care of others. It’s not the best way to deal, but sometimes it’s the best we can do. I hope you can do better; as others wrote, take all the help people offer because that’s what they need as well as what you do.

My father died 23 years ago, when I had a newborn and twin toddlers. I never really said goodbye, and still miss him. For years I’d dream of him and always seemed to have him as a guide to being a father; I can see how people could believe in ghosts.

My dad died in 2006. It was sad, but his quality of life had not been good for quite some time because of disabilities due to a stroke. I still miss him.

My condolences go to you and your wife.

My father died after a short and sudden illness aged 50 three weeks before my 22nd birthday. He died in the States as he was taken ill at Newark on his way to conference and we live in Britian. My mum went out to New York to be with him but my brother and I didn’t have a proper chance to say good bye partly because we were expecting him to get better. That was almost 18 years ago now. His death has profoundly affected my life and continues to do so today. I went to Cruise who are bereavement councillors here in the UK and found that they were fairly useless as the councillor’s answer to dealing with grief was to have a religious faith, as I don’t it wasn’t much help. Looking back now I think I became depressed due to his death but unfortunately no one, not least myself noticed it and I never sought medical help for my depression. I don’t think I came out of the depression for about 5 years it was only after I started to feel better that I realised how low I had been. I’m not sure if I have dealt with the grief of his death but I have learnt to live with it and can celebrate his life I recently found out that the child I am expecting, my first, is going to be a boy so he’ll be named after his grandfathers.

However when my grandmother died 4 years ago aged almost 91, although the same pain was there it has been far easier to deal with, my Grandma was old and tired of life and in her last few years had developed geratric anerexia and became rather death obsessed, not an ending that I would want for anyone but in someways it has made her death easier to cope with because I knew that she did not want to carry on.

And finally last year my Aunt’s husband died due to complications after an operation on his jaw, he was 81 and had cancer. One way of dealing with the grief of his death has been to blog about him and share in the good memories we had.

Death is grim, the platitudes don’t always help but acts of kindness do and let yourselves accept them and be kind to each other during this sad period of your lives.

I’m very sorry about your mother-in-law.

How did I cope with loss? Badly. I’m lucky enough to have both parents still living but when my grandparents died I went through a period of being annoyed at them for dying. Or maybe not so much for dying as for not at least coming back as ghosts and haunting me. I know that’s not rational–I don’t even believe in ghosts or an afterlife or anything, but I just really wanted to see them again and the facts weren’t getting in the way of my limbic system. Maybe something like why people go to quacks when they have incurable illnesses.

The probably least reassuring but most practical advice I have is actually not from me but from my partner, whose father died about 3 years ago: Don’t be annoyed at yourself if you feel sad for longer than you expect. Mourning takes a long time and trying to rush it just makes things worse. You will feel horrible for a while but the pain will pass in time. You’ll still feel sad but the overwhelming feelings will be gone.

Take care of yourself and your wife during this time. I wish you the best.

I’m so sorry about your loss. It must be awful.
My dad died from a brain aneursym a few years ago. What made it especially awful was that it showed up on the MRI, but the MRI report was sent afterhours, and no one saw it. My dad went unconscious before the anyone saw the report, had a massive bleed, and then died. Mom was out of the country, and rushed back just in time to be with him before he died. It was a crazy, hazy time. I can only barely remember it. I remember being barely able to walk, my knees were so weak from my grief. Lost my appetite for the first time ever. He was the glue that held our family together.
Then it was discovered that mom had the biggest cancer tumor in her stomach. She had surgery, chemo and radiation, and has been in remission ever since.
That year sucked. The first year is the hardest. I cried a lot. Time was my friend, though, and it does slowly get better. I see my grief like a mountain now. Right after my dad died, and for a long time afterwards, it filled my life, I was nearly consumed by it. But now, as time has passed, I can look back and see the mountain in the distance. My grief will never go away entirely, but is manageable now. I still miss my dad.
Take care.

I am sorry for your loss. It is hard to lose the ones we love, but the only alternative is to not love. That is an inhuman option, and I choose to be human.

To celebrate those whom I love I will hug my children, pet my cats, kiss my wife, and greet my mother-in-law, all with special affection today.

My thoughts are with you, Orac.

My personal experience with loss has not been great. My grandmother passed last summer, and the funeral was a pretty happy occasion, with everyone getting to see relatives we haven’t seen in many years. Funny how that happens. We don’;t have time for the living, but we have time for the dead.

The mentions of her at Thanksgiving and Christmas were awkward as my cousins were claiming mundane things like an extra set of silverware were caused by grandma. And then my mother trying to convince me that she was there at the party.

I’ve always coped with loss well. Maybe too well. I usually am fine when everyone is recounting stories of the deceased and when everyone is in good spirits. Maybe I have a hard time making an emotional connection with the loss of a friend or family member. When other people are crying, usually the best I can do is a blank stare.

My deepest condolences Orac. Take all the time you need.

I remember losing my (last) grandmother about 3 years ago. I always find funerals hard because I’m not a person who cries easily when I’m sad. It’s like I’m too shocked and numb, and it makes people think I’m cold and unfeeling. It makes the experience especially lonely for me.

Actually, the saddest, or you might call it bittersweet moment where I truly cried (it was an immense relief), was when we found in her things hidden letters that she had written to her children. My gandma had lost her husband to lung cancer many many years ago when my mum was 5, and never remarried.

You wouldn’t believe how my grandma, with her fourth grade education and laborious script (due to severe arthritis), wrote of her love and longing for her departed husband, even after all these years. How she gave advice to her children and grand children, with her wry humour and typical expressions. It’s like her hand was there on our shoulders.

You’re never truly ready for these things.

Orac, I’m so sorry for the sadness you and your wife are going through. No easy answers for how to deal, of course, and my only recourse for dealing with loss is to dwell on the happy memories for as long as possible and wait for time to do its thing.

All the best…

I am so sorry for this tragic loss to you and your family.

I have little to offer in the way of coping stories. Whenever we lose a beloved relative, I seem to just go through with a numb, dull ache of wishing they were still around to meet my son, celebrate holidays, and generally be their awesome selves. I wish most fervently of all that my great-uncle M would have been able to meet my son. They are SO MUCH alike, I am convinced they would have been absolute best friends at first meeting.

Our latest loss was my husband’s closest great-aunt, a positively amazing woman by the name of Mae. She was the sweetest thing with the most zippy wit I have ever met! And, OH how my son adored her!!! Her funeral was really the first he was old enough to be affected by. He kept saying, “Well, I’m just gonna go wake Mae up now.” The visitation was so well-handled– her daughter made a computer slide show of old photos of Mae and her sisters, all the way from babyhood through motherhood, through more recent years. The most moving and in my mind, incredible thing about her was that she suffered Alzheimer’s in her later years, and even though her memories came and went, she never lost herself. She was always ready with a joke and a compliment and happy to socialize, even when she wasn’t sure who she was socializing with. I swear, she changed my entire view of dementia.

We are so lucky to have had her in our lives and how I miss her so much!

Deepest condolences, Orac. I read your blog daily, but please take all the time away you need.

As for myself, my brother died of a metastasized lung cancer several years back. He suffered for about a year and a half after the initial diagnosis (which was only made because he had a household accident and went in for a checkup). I don’t know that I “dealt” with it. I just tried to be there when my family needed me and otherwise went on with my life.

Now my 74 year old dad has a lung cancer metastasized to his brain. The only reason it was discovered is he came down with appendicitis and the doctors saw something odd during diagnosis. It was discovered about a month ago and his oncologist estimated he had a year with chemotherapy/radiation. Not sure how I’ll end up dealing with it; I’ve never been able to relate with any of my family members, dad excluded. It’s helpful to read other people’s stories.

So sorry to hear of your loss, Orac. I lost an aunt and an uncle to cancer while they were in their thirties.

I was in college at the time; I’m only beginning to understand the horror of it now that I’m older than they were when they died. My uncle had kids the age my kids are now. My cousins are grown up now and seem to be doing all right, but they went through several very difficult years dealing with the loss of their father.

Best wishes to you and your wife, and to the rest of your family.

Wow, first your beloved dog, and now your mother in law. I’d say you’ve had more than enough loss for one year.

I wish I could offer some great advice that will make the pain go away, but I can’t. The only thing I know, and as others have pointed out, is that time is your greatest ally. I hope the time it takes for the acute pain to subside is as abbreviated as possible.

Dear Orac:

It sounds like your mother-in-law was warm and loving, and that you’ve been privileged to be part of an amazing extended family. As someone who’s never experienced that, I’m jealous! 🙂

Honor, love, thank. And restful time off from blogging.


Please take all the time you need. I am a huge fan of your blog, and will miss your posts, but being with your family is most important right now. Your readers will not forget you while you’re gone, we’ll be right where you left us when you get back. I’ve had a few losses, and the only advice I have to give is surround yourself with the core group of people that genuinely “get” you and know how to make you laugh.

My condolences to you, such a loss is very difficult.

My grandfather passed away from prostate cancer on my 19th birthday, just over a year ago. In some ways it was a relief, as he suffered a great deal of pain from the metastases to his spine. My grandmother is an inspiration on how to deal with loss. Since he passed away, she has decided to live life to the fullest despite losing a husband of over 50 years. Over the past year she has been wintering with my family and making all of us proud with her strength.

Words are difficult to come by at the time, so I’ll steal the ones above by adding my condolences. While I don’t believe in a soul, I believe in memory. The person she was will be carried on the the thoughts of your family.

My condolences. Such losses do not get easier as we get older and expect them; I used to think they do.

I’m so sorry to hear about your family’s loss. Like many above have said — you don’t get over death, so much as get used to it. Be gentle with yourself.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

Dear Orac:

My older brother died of brain cancer at 19. He had cancer through most of his (and my) childhood.

I felt somehow disconnected from his death, and worried that there was something wrong with for not crying and grieving much.

I will add to what someone else wrote (about not worrying if you grieve for ‘too long a time’); also do not worry if you grieve for ‘too short a time’.

You can only be who you are.

Orac, I am so sorry for your family’s loss.

Coping with it ? I don’t know, still working on that part. My mother passed away from liver cancer a year ago; my father lived another six months then passed away in his armchair on Sunday night, reading the Book of Common Prayer. Since then I’ve been trying to make sense of what is left.

My faith is the same as techskeptic’s: as RS Thomas writes, “there is no wound time gives that is not bandaged by time”. Endurance will see us through.

In the meantime, something the Orthodox Church says, “may her memory be eternal”. Even without a religious faith, this helps.

I am so sorry to hear the sad news about your mother-in-law. I’m sure, with you on her team, she got the best care possible and that you helped make her last days comfortable. You will be in my thoughts. Please don’t rush back to us; do what you need to do. I wish you strength and the support and love of those around you as you cope with this loss.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Orac.

There’s one thing that I like to share with everyone who has experienced a loss, because it helps me get through them. Oddly, it’s from a fanfic, but a very good fanfic:

“Grieving has its own time to keep. The calendar was made for other things.”

It will take whatever time it will take. And there is nothing wrong with that. If you grieve a short time, it does not mean you loved her less. If you grieve a long time, it does not mean you are weak. Grieving takes its own time, but the good news is that it does run its course.


I lost my grandfather a month ago. We knew it was coming, but somehow, that doesn’t make it any easier. Just less surprising. You get through it one day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Don’t worry about the destination. Just keep on going.

my condolences to you and your wife.

The toughest moment in my life was returning from my honeymoon to find out my mother-in-law was dying of relapse from long-remission breast cancer. I had literally carried my wife across the threshold of our apartment moments before, to find a note left by a friend that we had to repack our bags and go sit on a deathwatch. She died a few weeks later.

Naturally, my wife and I were both a little confused and angry. Joy over marriage? Sadness over death?

Here are my thoughts:

1. You may find yourself very angry at your wife. It’s not logical, but it’s hard to apply logic to really strong emotions.

2. Competent grief counselors serve essentially the same role as Catholics priests in confession. They can receive all the illogical anger, bile, sadness and frustration that you want to dump on someone, but can’t find a target for.

3. Another form of venting is a private journal. Write down all the mean-spirited, jealous, unhappy thoughts someplace secret, then turn the page or even burn it.

4. It’s perfectly OK to be sad, for a while. But if you remain incapacitated by grief for more than a month or so, go get help. If just talking doesn’t help, there are drugs that can assist. (SSRIs are my friend.)

Once again, I’m very sorry for your loss. Hold hands with your wife, spend time with family, and know that you’re in our thoughts.

My empathy and condolences to you and your family.
I am a recovering magical-thinker (ex-worried well?) and it was the loss of my wonderful sister in 06 that scraped the last woo-barnacle off my hull. Karen was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 1989. She bravely chose to follow her doctors and took an experimental chemo/radiation treatment that few survived, but survive she did—for 17 years. I used to think that there was some metaphysical reason for her survival, that it was a miracle of some kind. Long story short, I shed most of my fear-based new-age nonsense and she lived her new life with gusto, travelling and caring for her four grandchildren until one day in the summer of 06, she drove her car through the garage wall. That was the first sign of the brain lesions that had spread from her newly resurgent lung tumors. She called me in tears and just said “it’s back”. I knew what she meant instantly. Ultimately it was her incredible acceptance and natural grace that made her last five weeks so transforming for everyone in her life. What really changed mine occurred in one of our many weekend visits. She looked at me and said she’d really come to understand that the universe only had one rule, “shit happens”. It would take too long to explain the shift that occurred in me, but (after we both stopped laughing) my denialism and fear of death vanished. My sister also vanished just two weeks after that conversation, but I’ll carry the gifts she gave me for the rest of my days.

I hope you and your family can find your own peace with your loved one’s passing. Thanks for all you do to make the world a more rational and compassionate place.

Please accept my deepest condolences, Orac.

Your blog posts will be sorely missed.

We’ll survive, given your “classic Insolence” posts.

Take care for now.

My condolences to you and your family.
As to how I deal with loss, in sum–badly. Recognizing that, however, has been terribly useful. There’s no alternative but to walk the path, remember that something outside the ordinary is with you now, and try not to get stuck somewhere too uncomfortable.

I’m very sorry to hear the news, Orac. My condolences to you and your wife.

When I lost my mother, it took a very long time to deal with the loss. What I had to learn was that other people’s advice can be valuable, but not to judge my “progress” in dealing with sorrow against anyone else’s timetable. It was a very important lesson, learning to forgive myself for needing as long time as I did to grieve.

My deepest sympathies to you and your family, Orac. It’s been 92 days since I lost my mother to ovarian cancer and 15 years since I lost my father to an astrocytoma. The only way to get through the grief is one moment at a time, knowing that in time, moments become minutes, and hours, and days. It’s odd now how my mother and father are together again in my thoughts.

When My wife Died of breast cancer in 1990 I nearly lost it. I got through it with family, friends and small indulgences. Black licorice cats, Kleenex and my grand daughter. Time does not heal all wounds but you relearn to live.
Very best thoughts for you and your wife.

My sympathies to you, your wife, and the rest of your family. Nothing can take away the person she was.

Orac, I am so sorry for your loss. You and your wife are in my thoughts, and as you mourn your mother-in-law’s passing I hope you will find comfort in remembering all that she was and all that she accomplished while she lived.
Warmest regards,

I’m so sorry to hear of the loss to you and your wife and family and I wish you the strength to get through the difficult days ahead. Time truly does help as does focusing on happier times and memories whenever the sadness wells up.

I’m so sorry,Orac and Ms.”O”………… I lost my father on 9/14/2001-the National Day of Mourning for 9/11-(it was a very bad week).That evening, I took a ride to the cliffs overlooking lower Manhattan and the smoking ruin of the WTC: hundreds of people who live in the nearby apartment towers were gathered along the winding boulevard holding lit candles.Although my father was a very,very old man and died of heart failure, totally unrelated to the bombing,I’ve always thought it oddly fitting that he died *then*, because he always so loved Wall Street,finance, and the complex universe of trade.


I am very sorry for your family’s loss.

We buried a colleague this morning. He died, a few years shy of 50, after an illness of seven months. He left a widow and five young children. They had made pictures to bid their father farewell, and these were taped to his coffin. It was heartbreaking, and I cannot imagine how much more painful it must be to grieve for a close family member.

I’m so sorry.

I lost my wonderful mother on December 5 when she wandered out into 10-degree weather in her nightgown and wasn’t found until an hour later, after she’d fallen and knocked herself unconscious — why, we’ll never know. She had frontotemporal dementia. I still feel raw from it.

I got through it without losing my mind because my siblings, my Dad, my husband, and I pulled together and held on tight to each other. We talk a lot about the good times, the bad things — and we don’t hesitate to share what we were feeling. We allow each other to rationalize what my mother did without judging.

But mostly it is being able to talk to each other candidly, without worrying about whether we are being politically correct or weird.

I thought that when my Mom died, the grieving would’ve already been over since I started grieving her when I started losing her to FTD. It wasn’t, and it isn’t — it’s a whole other thing. My husband knew this would happen to me and he has been my bulwark against the rage and the depression — I let myself lean on him. Let your wife lean on you; whether she can say it or not, she needs you.

I’m so sorry. I wish I could add to that, but I just lost my grandfather to prostate cancer which had metastasized into his liver and bowel, last Wednesday. I’m kind of still reeling from that. I loved him and he was my friend, too; he had never even tried to get much schooling, but he was smart and sharp and cynical and had a good line on the world, and I miss talking to him so much right now.

I lost my father just a little over three years ago (three years, two weeks); that felt like I had been kicked in the head, and although a lot of that had at least muted a bit, I really remember how it felt, now.

Time, I guess. I hope you and your wife can remember her mother as she was, when she was healthy and having fun. I hope you can comfort each other and that time brings a measure of comfort as well. I’m so sorry.

Sincere condolences on your family’s loss and to everyone here who wrote of their own loses. I am so very sorry for you all and me too. The comments are just as sad as Orac’s own writing. It sucks, time doesn’t heal and what happens to our brain during those terrible days? My first “dealth”: was my two best friends hit by a train at the age of 15. Basically, people left me alone. Except a strict teacher who really had a gigantic heart. No therapy, no group sessions. Thank goodness, because I too had a terrible experience with a grief councilor. I had gotten one for our office after 9/11, because we were just two blocks away and many of the employees had friends who died and for just surviving that day. The grief person was an idiot chalking up 9/11 credit for her resume, it made me sick. Anger helps and its the only thing that has helped me. Just be sure to focus it to be useful.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

I’m so sorry to hear of this. Take what time you need, of course; it was quite thoughtful of you to arrange re-runs in the meantime. I hope your family can console each other—it goes all ways, including toward you.

From your grief it is apparent that Mom-in-law was a lovable person who will be missed by many. Hugs and hair-pats to you and Mrs. Orac. The blogosphere will be here when you’re ready.

Orac: I think I’ll share my stories of loss another time, and I’ve already wished you well in private, but I’d like to say something with respect to your blogging:

This recent vaccine news is ponderous and momentous. Its importance will be the same in two days or three weeks, and your insight will be as relevant and as well appreciated. So just go for a while, we’ll wait and your return will be warmly welcomed.

My sincere condolences to you and your wife on the loss of her mother. I still have my mother, but that time is coming soon. Only she carried me; there is a closeness there like no other.

(One thing I did to cope with my Dad’s loss was to make a memorial DVD, including some old 8mm tapes, photos, commentary, and special music. I showed this at the funeral. I have done this before for people I have known and other loved ones, so I can make a 20 minute one pretty quickly. Seeing my father projected on the screen while Benny Goodman plays or Josh Groban sings, is deeply affecting to those who see these even if they don’t know the individual well. I recommend making one even if it’s just for private viewing. All you need is a scanner, a few mp3s , a microphone, and something like Pinnacle Studio. Seeing old photos enlarged with emotional music really does have a lasting effect and helps with closure.)

From a poem I’ve enjoyed:

…Love does not die, people do.
So, when all that’s left of me is love,
give me away as best you can.

May your days be filled with loving memories.


We are so sorry, Orac. Our condolences to you and to all those commenters who shared memories and grief in this thread. The stories are all unique and also all familiar, which is a very human comfort.

Take care of yourselves; don’t forget to eat and sleep. I typed that in my mom voice.

My sincere condolences, Orac.

My Father died suddenly & unexpectedly in February 2005. Scanning the obits the next day, I discovered blogging . . . noting an invitation to the blogosphere issued by a local newspaper Editor promoting the notion of “citizen journalism” (a whole nuther story).

The rest is history. I think Pops would be proud.

I’ve blogged about Dad several times (I only share because you asked):

I don’t thing you ever get over this kind of loss. I miss Pops every single day. But it hurts less and less as time goes by. And you tend to remember only the good things. And you smile when you remember.

My very best to you and your family. The blogosphere will be here when you get back.

And so will I. You are another friend I’ve never met. That’s whats so cool about the ether.


I’m so sorry for your loss. You and your wife will be in my thoughts, as you have been since you alluded to this.

I don’t know if we ever do truly deal with our losses, mostly because they change us into a person who lives with the loss, not a person who no longer has the loss to deal with. I suppose we’re all better for it and all that, but it sure as hell sucks and hurts way too much.

I’m very sorry for your loss. Please take good care of yourself during this difficult time.

Dear Mrs. Orac and Orac: I’m very sorry to hear of your loss. Be gentle with yourselves. Accept help and take the time you need.

Please stay away from grief counselors. The word here is that they make people feel worse. Just get yourself a good listener, paid or not, not a wallower.

I have to echo everyone else: it never goes away, but it does fade and you get to remember the good moments: what you learned, how you laughed and shared. My mum died in 2000 and my dad in 2007 and I still sometimes think, “I must remember to tell mum about that” or that I should buy something for dad. It used to surprise me with new grief now I think it’s nice that in some corner of my brain, they’re almost just around the corner.

Just keep telling yourself, “The way out is the way through.”

I highly recommend mini-vacations and micro-vacations: a pleasant meal, a walk, or just closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. Shit happens. But the world and all its wonders are still here. Enjoy them on the way by and be kind to one another.

My dear friend Orac,

Our thoughts and prayers are with your family. I lost my mother as a teenager and the only thing that helps it is time. I think about her every day and every time I see my child.

Take this time to comfort yourself and your family. We’ll all be here when you return.

Warmest regards,

I’m so sorry for your loss. Condolences to your wife and family as well.

When my mother-in-law died of colon cancer in 2000, she had been living with us for about a month and insisted on sleeping on our horribly uncomfortable sofa bed in the middle of our living room. She wanted to be in the center of our lives and home, and she was.

That is where she died, and for days, I felt lost. So much of my life had been wrapped up in her constant care–her meds, baths, trying to get her to eat or drink, keeping her comfortable… It took a while to stop thinking in terms of what I needed to do for her at a particular time.

Then the memory of her illness (which was brief) was replaced by the memory of her as a vibrant healthy active person, as I mostly knew her, and I would find myself wanting to share something with her as if she was just a phone call away. Now, I just miss her and all the wonderful things she brought to our lives.

Time lessens the acuteness, but there is always an ache in the heart and moments of real sadness. She wasn’t my mother, but she was very dear to me. I’m truly grateful she was part of my life.

It sounds like your relationship with your mother-in-law was valued, and you will miss her. My sympathies to your wife who has lost her mother, and please let her know she is also in the thoughts of many of your readers during this sad time.

Orac, my condolences for your loss. My mother died of cancer (it had started in the uterus, and after the hysterectemy had spread to her lungs – she had been in stage 4 for around 4 years – which is pretty good). She was in hospice since last July – and died in mid-November. I’m still having some trouble sleeping, and I miss my mother alot. I am also thankful for the many wonderful memories that I have of her.

Hospice is a wonderful program – I can’t say enough good things about it. This was a great help to my mother in her final days – as was my father, who took care of her.

Orac, belated sympathies. I lost my mother to catastrophic liver failure in 2006. I was half-way across the world at the time, and for this… my favorite, no, THE, lady to go from bouncing around to withering away felt and feels like a stab to the heart.

Which did, and does make me increasingly militant about quackery. To see you persevere in its persecution is an inspiration and directly helps lives (again, from direct experience, with a severely autistic cousin who is doing very well with intensive, continuous therapy as opposed to chelation.)

David, my condolences. You are an inspiration.

All the best.

So sorry to hear the sad news. We share your grief on the loss of your mother-in-law. All families are touched by death – it’s part of being human. I don’t think you ever “get over” the loss of a close friend or relative, you simply go on living and the experience becomes a part of you.

My dad died last year of emphysema & heart disease (yes, a smoker), my mom about 10 years earlier of cancer. I still dream about them both; usually we’re going somewhere or doing together with my wife & kids, as they did in life.

My dad was an interesting guy. Not well-educated, but well-read. He fought on a PT boat in the Pacific in WW2. Late in life, he became quite an avid cook. Now, a year after he died, I read a recipe, and think, “Dad would love this one, I’ll have to send him a copy…oh, damn!”

Dear Orac,

My sincere condolences to you and your family during this sad time.

You asked for personal stories of loss. I saw my 35 year old father die suddenly of a spontaneous ruptured aorta when I was 10 years old. It was totally unexpected because we all thought he was very healthy. The experience was life-changing for me in many ways. I certainly never saw myself as immortal after that as so many kids/teenagers do. I also learned to value the time I have with my family, which I think is a good thing.

As far has how to deal with the loss: I think we don’t necessarily get ‘over’ our loss, but we can get ‘through’ it. Everyone grieves differently, but I think it helps to focus on the good memories we have of our loved-one and to surround ourselves with people who we love & who love us in return.

May Deep Peace be with you and yours.

Dawn D. from Austin

My condolences. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything anyone can say.
My mother died, without warning, about 10 years ago. (Aneurysm, at 49). I don’t that I know how I dealt with it, but (this being the common way for males in my family) I think I simply suppressed the emotions. I’d say that’s probably the worst way to deal with it, so I hope you’re doing something else. Take care, and blog more when you’re ready. The writing is worth the wait.

My deepest condolences to you and your family on the loss of your mother-in-law, Orac. I’m sure you’ll be back to posting your usual insolence when the time is right, jumping all over that autism ruling and such. In the meantime, your faithful regular readers will be waiting patiently for your return.

The most memorable loss I had was the untimely and unnecessary death of my grandmother, back in 1991. She was only in her mid sixties, and although her health wasn’t spectacular, her death was the result of the unfortunate fact that her regular doctor (a cardiologist she’d had for 20 years)was himself out on sick leave. The doc that was standing in for him didn’t know much of anything about properly handling her care, and his failure to send her in for needed heart surgery in a timely fashion led to her death from a septic artificial valve.

It left me with an incredible sadness and an unfortunate skepticism of the medical profession that took me a long time to overcome. And yet, I still wanted to become part of that profession, even if it was just to prevent the same sort of tragedy from happening to some other family. (There were many other reasons, but this just reinforced it.) I don’t think you ever really get “over” it completely, but the passage of time and the fond memories make the grief less acute.

I am so sorry for your loss, Orac. It is so good that you are taking the time you need to grieve and be by your wife’s side during this time.

I lost both my parents many years ago, but I still think of them often. There are certain things that really bring their memory to the forefront of my mind – birds singing on a muggy, overcast afternoon remind me of my dad, then there is my mother’s favorite music, and whenever one of my children says or does something like one of them. I used to feel the sharpest pain in those moments. I can’t say that I don’t feel the pain anymore, though I suppose it has dulled. But, now I know it will come and I am somewhat prepared – I can allow it to wash over me, and I can even feel a little bit of gratitude for the reminder, a reason to pause for a few moments to think of them. I guess I give myself permission bask in their presence in those moments.

And I tell my children stories about their grandparents – often the things I remember in those moments when their absence is so close to the surface. I’m sure there will be some that they know by heart by the time they move out on their own. It’s my little way of keeping them alive in my life.

Deepest condolences for the loss to your whole family. My third child came into the world with a broken heart and was only with us five days, but I’ve thought of her everyday for over 19 years. Remembering keeps her alive. All I can assure you is that you never get over the loss of a dear one, but time does let you learn to live with it. Family is everything because it lets you be as crazy as you need to be in grief and loves you anyway. Take everything that is offered, with thanks, and give what you can. See you when you get back.

My thoughts and best wishes are with you and your wife. I have never discovered any action one can take that will blunt the sharp edge of grief; for me, only time eventually lifted that heavy despairing feeling in the chest and permitted loving memories to supersede the acute pain of loss.

I’m very sorry for your loss. My sister lost her husband at 37 to a brain tumour and my husband his mother when he was 18 to cancer as well. I found the hardest thing with the grief was the sense of relief that my b-i-l’s suffering was over and also that of my sister in the difficult months of his illness. Maybe you have some of that too? I don’t think anyone ever gets over it just learns to live with it. I think it is important to mark the date each year – you and your wife and family will certainly remember it but her friends may not. Perhaps you could remind them to be there for her when the anniversaries come around too? I wish you and Mrs O well.

I’m very sorry for your loss. My sister lost her husband at 37 to a brain tumour and my husband his mother when he was 18 to cancer as well. I found the hardest thing with the grief was the sense of relief that my b-i-l’s suffering was over and also that of my sister in the difficult months of his illness. Maybe you have some of that too? I don’t think anyone ever gets over it just learns to live with it. I think it is important to mark the date each year – you and your wife and family will certainly remember it but her friends may not. Perhaps you could remind them to be there for her when the anniversaries come around too? I wish you and Mrs O well.


My condolences for your loss, I am thinking of you, your wife, and your family at this time.

My grandmother died after a stroke. Time and the knowledge that she loved us and that she was loved is what got me through. She lives in my memories of her, in the way she shaped my life, and the lives of people she met. I must admit I explained the details of her death and then removed them from this comment, because she is not defined by how she died, she is defined by the person she was.

I hope in time you and your wife can feel the same way.

Deepest sympathies,

Peace be with you and your family here on earth. Peace be with your mother-in-law in heaven.

As I’m sure is the case with most of the people who comment here, I can certainly relate. My father passed away after only a week in hospice care (I suspect it is normal to delay hospice until it is so very near the end).

My mother is in a nursing home and on any given day …..

My wife has cancer (but while she will die with it, probably NOT from it).

My mother and father in-law are wrestling with preparations for how to proceed.

I apologize if any of this makes it seem like I’m trying to sound ‘special’. I’m simply trying to say that all us go through this. That it sucks! That there is no such thing as an Ozzie and Harriet life!

And finally, that it is very, very surreal. My thoughts are with you!


re-reading what I just posted, I think I sound like a know-it-all ass.

I apologize. My condolences.


Orac, you make so many positive contributions to the world (this blog counts as only one, but I was thinking of it last night, using facts I have learned from you in a discussion, so I consider it significant) so you need make no apologies for taking time out to care for yourself and your wife.

Lifespans are long in both my family and my husband’s, so we’ve lost grandparents (and a couple of great-grandparents) during our adult years. Mixed in have been (mercifully few) deaths from causes other than age. My father-in-law died only days after we had moved into a new house, and my husband had traveled several states North along with his sister to help his mother during the last days – leaving me with two small children and a house full of boxes to unpack. It was the culmination of a series of upsets for my FIL – a job transfer away from family and friends, a bout of encephalitis that impaired his language abilities, then treatment for diabetes that turned out to actually be kidney cancer. The certainty of the doctors that his symptoms were related to the encephalitis and/or diabetes delayed his cancer diagnosis until it had metastasized to his bones. He chose to die at home, and hospice was approved only days before he died, so my MIL went through a terrible time caring for him alone. When she called, desperate because she’d been awake for almost two days watching her husband suffer in pain, there was no question that my husband’s presence there was more important than at home – I could handle the kids and the boxes.

In the middle of the night, my FIL’s agonizing pain and convulsions were too much for his children to stand. They called the doctor to ask for the code to unlock the morphine regulator to give him some relief. How insane that we deny pain medication to the dying because they might become addicted to it! Very shortly after the medication was administered, my FIL became quiet and calm, told his children he loved them, and passed away. My husband wonders to this day whether he was somehow responsible for giving his father a lethal dose of morphine, or whether it was just time for him to go – either way, he was out of pain for the first time in weeks, and didn’t die alone.

There was a lot to be done, both in Massachusetts and New Jersey, with services in both states and burial in NJ. I’m the kind of person who remains calm in a crisis, and takes care of pulling together the details and comforting the frightened and grief-stricken, so I made phone calls, herded children, and even got my new house together enough for the family to come and eat/sit/reminisce after the burial. I kept busy doing and helping and comforting, allowing myself to grieve at appropriate times. It didn’t really hit me hard until my MIL asked me to pack up his clothing for her, and I found myself sobbing and shaking over his underwear drawer. (Funnier now than it was then, I assure you!) So it hits when you least expect it, and my advice is to go with it. Don’t try to force the sadness when it doesn’t come, and don’t try to hold it back when it does. It will work its way through you and your wife at its own pace, triggered by its own particular cues. Only by rolling with it and accepting it will it run its course, and that course will last as long as it lasts. Do what you need to do. Don’t feel guilty for any of your feelings. Don’t apologize for needing to step away at any time because those feelings need to be acknowledged and felt.

My condolences to you and your wife, and all the people who loved your mother in law. Take good care of each other, and feel better soon.

Orac, it has taken me a few days to collect myself. I am profoundly sad to hear of your MIL’s death. My condolences to you and your wife and family.

My father died of a massive MI on October 15, 2004, just two weeks after the Vioxx he was taking had been taken off the market. I was seven months pregnant, and was devastated. Perhaps the pregnancy made it harder, my son was his fifth and last grandchild. He had just made plans to come back and be here for my repeat C/S, he was excited, he absolutely adored his grandchildren, we could hardly ever hold a baby when he was around, he always had the baby in his arms. He was excited because this was to be the first time he would be present for a birth of a grandchild.

He was my hero. He was the reason I went into medicine, and specifically OB/GYN. I almost did a fellowship in GYN ONC. He was the first GYN ONC trained at Sloan Kettering Memorial back in the mid-60’s. He did a lot of research, published a lot, helped to find the link between HPV and cervical cancer. While in residency, he was Chair of the Dept., I had a newfound respect when I got to scrub into surgery with him. He was the best surgeon I ever worked with, and this was confirmed by every single surgeon in the hospitals we rotated at. When the shit hit the fan, they called my dad. When a pregnant woman got run over by a steamroller, they called him. He saved her life. He even delivered her next child, because of the bond he had with her and the complications that were anticipated. He was called for the placenta percretas, never lost one. He taught me how to my first Burch retropubic urethropexy. Thankfully, he was patient with me, as our patient was 500 pounds and quite difficult to see any anatomy. He was the best women’s advocate, he helped make changes at the state level for women’s health care.

He called me a few days before he died. He had just gone scuba diving with my cousin in Florida, and they had done a lot of cycling together. He always found a way to fit in some cycling, scuba diving or skiing with his meetings. He flew home on a Thursday night, and felt sick Friday morning. He asked one of his partners to take his cases over in the OR. My mom found him sprawled at the bottom of their bed. The autopsy showed the classic finding of the MI’s associated with Vioxx. He took the Vioxx so he could do all the things he loved to do.

I still miss him every day. I wish he could see my boys. I think he would love his youngest grandson and enjoy playing with him so much. He would be amazed and enjoy my older son. He was devastated by his autism diagnosis. I am so thankful I took him out to CA and spent a month there and in HI with family, it was the last time we got to see him.

The pain doesn’t go away, but it isn’t as prominent. I remember the times we had, I still have people tell me things about him, and I appreciate it. One thing we didn’t realize was how much he mentored, and there were so many people that told us stories of what he did for them over the years at his memorial, it was very comforting. I am finally getting around to the scrapbook I wanted to put together about him, so my boys will know him. I really couldn’t face it before. Everything in time. I’m still learning about grief. It is a lifelong process.

Orac, I forgot the thing that made us smile the first time after my father died. A little more than a week after he died, and the day after the memorial/graveside service, we started to look through his personal things. My brother pulled out a 1970’s cell phone, his first cell phone, it looks like the one from Starsky and Hutch, really clunky, and we remembered how excited he was when he got it. I remember how he used to have to pull over and find a phone somewhere when he was paged, and he justified it because he was the chairman of the OB Dept. We laughed, because we couldn’t believe he had saved something for that long. My brother still has it. We also found that he had saved every single card he ever received. Every card we gave him as kids and adults. It brought back wonderful memories. I had to go through his office at the hospital, and I found a stack of cards and notes to him from patients that was at least 7 inches high. I found the cards from his 50th birthday party at the hospital, all black, and the cane they gave him. I found his medical school books from the 50’s, his notes. I have his badge and his white coat, his medical bag and personal stethescope, some of his old forceps and other instruments he kept in a drawer that date from the 60’s. At home, I found his correspondence and real birth certificate along with his adoption papers and correspondence from his half siblings he found later in life.

This brought back some good memories, and helped me a lot.

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