Grief before death

– understanding anticipatory grief

[C]arers often feel grief even though the person they’re caring for is still alive. This could happen if the person being cared for has a life-limiting condition (a condition that has no reasonable hope of a cure), or their personality has been affected by their illness.

Although not everyone experiences this ‘anticipatory grief’, people who do can feel the same emotions and sense of mourning as if the person had actually died.

You may have a wide range of emotions, such as loss, dread, guilt and anxiety. Everyone reacts differently, and it’s good to accept that your coping method is unique.

The grief you might experience may not initially be for the person you care for, but for the life you currently lead. Becoming a carer can change your life dramatically, and you may feel like you’ve lost some of your freedom or social life.

The extra responsibility, and not being able to do anything without planning, can be stressful. You might feel guilty about feeling this way, but it’s a natural reaction to such a big change in your life.

Grieving before a person dies doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t grieve when they pass away. Everyone reacts differently to these circumstances. While some people feel prepared for the death and have closure, others may start the grieving process all over again.

If you experience pre-death grief, it’s vital for you to talk to someone.

Dealing with conditions that affect a person’s personality and memory can be very traumatic, particularly if you’re caring for a relative or close friend.

Many carers find that they grieve for the loss of the person they once were. You might grieve for the memories that you have together, which the cared-for person will forget. You may grieve for the changes to their personality or for any future plans that they may no longer be able to carry out. You may feel conflicting emotions as the person you look after loses their mental functions or stops recognising you.

Terminal conditions

Finding out that someone you care for has a terminal disease can leave you feeling powerless and devastated.

If you experience pre-death grief, it’s just as vital for you to talk to someone and feel supported as it is when someone has already died. You might find that it helps to talk to friends and family, or the person you care for. A long illness means both of you have time to slowly prepare for the death, to say what you want to say or to share memories. One idea is to write about what the person has meant to you and then read it aloud to them.

You might also consider talking to a counsellor. It can help to discuss your feelings with someone who is objective and doesn’t have emotional ties to the situation. This can help, particularly if the person you care for is in denial about their condition. The counsellor can talk to you about your feelings, suggest ways that you can help the person being cared for, and discuss the difficult post-death decisions that you may need to make, such as organ donation.

Bottling up your emotions can leave you feeling overwhelmed and, in some cases, affect your health. So it’s important to find someone to support you.

Complete Article HERE!

My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me

She encouraged her husband to find new love after she was gone. A year later, he reflects on what her generosity has meant to him.

By Jason B. Rosenthal

I am that guy.

A little over a year ago, my wife, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, published a Modern Love essay called “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” At 51, Amy was dying from ovarian cancer. She wrote her essay in the form of a personal ad. It was more like a love letter to me.

Those words would be the final ones Amy published. She died 10 days later.

Amy couldn’t have known that her essay would afford me an opportunity to fill this same column with words of my own for Father’s Day, telling you what has happened since. I don’t pretend to have Amy’s extraordinary gift with words and wordplay, but here goes.

During our life together, Amy was a prolific writer, publishing children’s books, memoirs and articles. Knowing she had only a short time to live, she wanted to finish one last project. We were engaged then in home hospice, a seemingly beautiful way to deal with the end of life, where you care for your loved one in familiar surroundings, away from the hospital with its beeping machines and frequent disruptions.

I was posted up at the dining room table overlooking our living room, where Amy had established her workstation. From her spot on the couch, she worked away between micro-naps.

These brief moments of peace were induced by the morphine needed to control her symptoms. A tumor had created a complete bowel obstruction, making it impossible for her to eat solid food. She would flutter away on the keyboard, doze for a bit, then awake and repeat.

When Amy finished her essay, she gave it to me to read, as she had done with all of her writing. But this time was different. In her memoirs she had written about the children and me, but not like this. How was she able to combine such feelings of unbearable sadness, ironic humor and total honesty?

When the essay was published, Amy was too sick to appreciate it. As the international reaction became overwhelming, I was torn up thinking how she was missing the profound impact her words were having. The reach of Amy’s article — and of her greater body of work — was so much deeper and richer than I knew.

Letters poured in from around the world. They included notes of admiration, medical advice, commiseration and offers from women to meet me. I was too consumed with grief during Amy’s final days to engage with the responses. It was strange having any attention directed at me right then, but the outpouring did make me appreciate the significance of her work.

When people ask me to describe myself, I always start with “dad,” yet I spent a great deal of my adult life being known as “Amy’s husband.” People knew of Amy and her writing, while I had lived in relative anonymity. I had no social media presence and my profession, a lawyer, did not cast me into public view.

After Amy died, I faced countless decisions in my new role as a single father. As in any marriage or union of two people with children, we had a natural division of labor. Not anymore. People often assumed Amy was disorganized because she had list upon list: scattered Post-it notes, scraps of paper and even messages scrawled on her hand. But she was one of the most organized people I have ever met.

There are aspects of everyday life I have taken on that I never gave much consideration to in the past. How did Amy hold everything together so seamlessly? I am capable of doing many things on my own, but two people can accomplish so much more together and also support each other through life’s ups and downs.

Many women took Amy up on her offer, sending me a range of messages — overly forward, funny, wise, moving, sincere. In a six-page handwritten letter, one woman marketed her automotive knowledge, apparently in an effort to woo me: “I do know how to check the radiator in the vehicle to see if it may need a tad of water before the engine blows up.”

While I do not know much about reality TV, there was also this touching letter submitted by the child of a single mother, who wrote: “I’d like to submit an application for my mom, like friends and family can do for participants on ‘The Bachelor.’”

And I appreciated the sentiment and style of the woman who wrote this: “I have this image of queues of hopeful women at the Green Mill Jazz Club on Thursday nights. Single mothers, elegant divorcées, spinster aunts, bored housewives, daughters, wilting violets … all in anxious anticipation as to whether the shoe will fit, fit them alone, that the prince from the fairy tale is meant for them. That they are the right person.”

I couldn’t digest any of these messages at the time, but I have since found solace and even laughter in many of them. One thing I have come to understand, though, is what a gift Amy gave me by emphasizing that I had a long life to fill with joy, happiness and love. Her edict to fill my own empty space with a new story has given me permission to make the most out of my remaining time on this planet.

If I can convey a message I have learned from this bestowal, it would be this: Talk with your mate, your children and other loved ones about what you want for them when you are gone. By doing this, you give them liberty to live a full life and eventually find meaning again. There will be so much pain, and they will think of you daily. But they will carry on and make a new future, knowing you gave them permission and even encouragement to do so.

I want more time with Amy. I want more time picnicking and listening to music at Millennium Park. I want more Shabbat dinners with the five of us Rosies (as we Rosenthals are referred to by our family).

I would even gladly put up with Amy taking as much time as she wants to say goodbye to everyone at our family gatherings, as she always used to do, even after we had been there for hours, had a long drive home ahead of us and likely would see them again in a few days.

I wish I had more of all of those things, just as Amy had wished for more. But more wasn’t going to happen for her or us. Instead, as she described, we followed Plan “Be,” which was about being present in our lives because time was running short. So we did our best to live in the moment until we had no more moments left.

The cruelest irony of my life is that it took me losing my best friend, my wife of 26 years and the mother of my three children, to truly appreciate each and every day. I know that sounds like a cliché, and it is, but it’s true.

Amy continues to open doors for me, to affect my choices, to send me off into the world to make the most of it. Recently I gave a TED Talk on the end of life and my grieving process that I hope will help others — not something I ever pictured myself doing, but I’m grateful for the chance to connect with people in a similar position. And of course I am writing to you now only because of her.

I am now aware, in a way I wish I never had to learn, that loss is loss is loss, whether it’s a divorce, losing a job, having a beloved pet die or enduring the death of a family member. In that respect, I am no different. But my wife gave me a gift at the end of her column when she left me that empty space, one I would like to offer you. A blank space to fill. The freedom and permission to write your own story.

Here is your empty space. What will you do with your own fresh start?

Humbly, Jason

Complete Article HERE!

5 Steps for Dealing with Anticipatory Grief

[I]t might be the hardest part of caregiving: Watching your loved one slip away step by terrible step, knowing you can’t stop the decline and grieving the loss of the person you once knew, long before they’re actually gone. Psychologists call this process anticipatory grief, and it’s very common among caregivers and family members of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and other terminal illnesses.

Coping with Your Grief

“As a disease progresses, there is so much frustration and sadness associated with watching the person you once knew go away,” says Vince Corso, M.Div, LCSW, CT. “It can be overwhelming.”

Corso provided care to his mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. He found one of the painful milestones of the disease as the point at which she no longer recognized him. “My mom didn’t recognize us, and she confused us with other people. As a son and a caregiver, that was really hard. I had to leave the room.” But after a period of time, he says, he became acclimated to his new reality and began to accept it. He found that sharing the sense of loss with family members can be very helpful. “It’s so crucial that family members talk about the loss.”

Here are some other ways caregivers can work through their feelings of anticipatory grief:

Allow feelings of grief to help you prepare

Take time to examine unresolved issues between you and your loved one. Imagine life without him or her. “Say what needs to be said,” Corso advises. And if your family member is still well enough, settle legal and financial matters and discuss end-of-life wishes.
Educate yourself about what to expect

Learn about your family member’s condition—know the symptoms, the side effects from any treatments, and the prognosis. It may help you to feel in control if you understand what is coming down the pike.

Talk to somebody

Find a support group of people who are experiencing the same thing, whether it is online, in person, or over the phone. “Someone in a similar situation can provide a lot of insight,” says Corso. “And it’s okay to be honest about your feelings. You’re not being disrespectful to your family member if you express your frustration.”

Enlist help and continue to live your life

Reach out to family and friends or hire someone to help with the care of your loved one. Don’t put your life on hold. Meet with friends and try to have fun when you can. “In the long run, it will help the patient and yourself,” says Corso. “You’ll have more energy to care for your loved one and to do what you need to do.”

Create moments your family member can enjoy

Even though your family member is no longer the person she once was, she can still enjoy pleasurable activities with you. Take mom outside for some fresh air, play music for her, do simple puzzles if she is able. In the end, these moments might be what you cherish most.

Helping Your Loved One Adjust

When illness or injury robs your loved one of the ability to remember things about themselves, it can be scary and profoundly difficult. How do you help them cope with the changes in memory and identity?

Look for ways to add new activities to your loved one’s life, or think about how you might incorporate elements of a favorite pastime. If your mother was an avid golfer, she may have no interest in taking up knitting if her doctor tells her to stay off the links. Ask her what she misses about golf, though, and you may realize that she misses the camaraderie more than the activity itself. Would she be able to meet her foursome for lunch after they’ve finished their round?

Remember too that this is a type of loss. Feelings associated with the grieving process, including denial, anger, and depression, are normal. Talking to a social worker, therapist, clergyperson, or even a sympathetic friend may help you or your loved one manage the emotions and come to terms with the loss. If there’s a support group in your area, hearing how others have coped with the changes you’re experiencing can provide insight and concrete steps, and learning that you aren’t alone in your feelings can be reassuring.

Complete Article HERE!

​Woman’s Very Honest Obituary Says She Will ‘Not Be Missed’

By Jess Hardiman

[W]e all love to fantasise that when we pass away people will be lining the roads mourning – the world absolutely devastated, unable to go on without you. No? Just me?

In reality, it’s not quite such an extreme display of mourning, but at least you can always rely on your close family to at least shed a few tears, right? Well, not always, it seems.

The children of one Minnesota woman, who died at 80 last week, have said she will ‘not be missed’ and that the world is ‘a better place without her. Savage.

Most of the obituary reads as any other would, explaining that the woman, Kathleen, was born on 19 March 1938, and that she got married to someone called Dennis in 1957. However, things take a bit of a strange – and absolutely fascinating – turn halfway through.

The obituary read: “Kathleen Dehmlow (Schunk) was born on March 19, 1938 to Joseph and Gertrude Schunk of Wabasso.

“She married Dennis Dehmlow at St. Anne’s in Wabasso in 1957 and had two children Gin and Jay.”

So far, so nice, right?

“In 1962 she became pregnant by her husband’s brother Lyle Dehmlow and moved to California.”

Oh, hello… Now it’s getting juicy.

“She abandoned her children, Gina and Jay, who were then raised by her parents in Clements, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Schunk.

“She passed away on May 31, 2018 in Springfield and will now face judgment.”

And for a final sting, it concluded: “She will not be missed by Gina and Jay and they understand that this world is a better place without her.”

Redwood Falls Gazette, where the paid obituary was originally published, has since pulled it from its website.

However, a photo of the published piece had already gone viral – with many people on social media weighing in on the drama.

“So… what’s Dennis’ story?” one person wrote, with someone else saying: “Raised by her parents? I realize this was the 60s but Dennis gets to also abandon his kids because his wife left him?”

Another person asked: “What about Lyle’s kid? Did she have it? Did Lyle’s baby write another obituary?”

Someone else suggested: “I can think of a person who could really shed some light here… @DrPhil care to weigh in?”

Some others criticised Jay and Gina for the harsh obituary, saying that everyone deserves death with dignity.

But either way, it’s certainly a good lesson in how you probably shouldn’t piss off those who will one day end up writing your obituary…

Complete Article HERE!

Out with the Dogs: Yes, dogs grieve

By

Most of the time I am confident I know what is going on in my dog’s head; it’s not hard to figure out. Researchers believe that dogs think on the same level as a human toddler; about two and half years old. Having raised kids and dogs, both, I concur with that belief. But I admit to being surprised by Topper’s reaction to Chili’s death, now 10 days ago.

It has been a conscious plan on my part to always have multiple dogs, usually four, separated in age by about four years. I have done that to insure I am never left dog-less as the older ones pass away. By keeping about four years between the puppies that come to live with me, I have never had to worry that the dogs would become so attached to one another they would end up being companions for each other and not me. It is something that I often give advice and write about; for most families it is not good to take two puppies from the same litter and raise them together. For very active dog owners; those who play dog sports and show their dogs, the inherent problems of raising two puppies together can be circumvented, but for “average family dog owners” it is a huge mistake to raise litter mates together. New puppy owners often think raising two together would be great, so the puppies are not alone. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Two puppies raised together in a backyard develop astonishing behavior problems. Anytime one dog is taken for a walk or a trip to the vet; the one left behind usually goes crazy; vocalizing and often displaying destructive behavior in their frustration, because they’ve never been alone before. I have been told by many owners of a “pair of dogs” how difficult it is for the survivor when one dog dies, but I have never experienced that kind of behavior myself, with my own dogs, probably because of the number and ages of my dogs.

It was (and still is) hard on me losing my beloved Chili, at only 10 years of age. In fact, at this moment, I’m in an angry stage of grief; pissed off at the universe that Chili was taken so young; we should have had five more years together, but I never anticipated how hard losing Chili would be for Topper. A couple of years ago my Schipperke, Bigfoot Bob, died at a young age for a Schip; 13 years old, of cancer.

I started looking for a new puppy last year, but after a “dog deal” going bad with a miserable, dishonest breeder and costing me over $400. I gave up trying to get another pup, leaving me with three dogs. Several months ago, Sweet Little Annie, my Chihuahua, went to live with a good friend in Corning. It was a better home for Annie, with another small dog in the household. That left me with the two Toller boys; Chili and Topper. With Chili’s sudden death, I’m down to one dog and poor Topper has never been an “only dog” before. For the first time in my life, I am now experiencing a grieving dog.

A couple of years ago Chili and Topper were separated for a few days when my friends took Chili off to a flyball tournament. The team needed him, but I couldn’t attend, so Maureen took him. Topper didn’t act any differently, certainly didn’t appear to miss Chili so I guess that’s the other reason I have been so surprised by his behavior now.

Topper was present when Chili died, which raises more questions for me, about how cognizant dogs actually are. Could Topper tell the difference between Chili simply being away from home and dying, knowing he’d never see him again? After my friend picked up Chili for burial that night, Topper was in my room with me.

He was unsettled; wouldn’t lie down and relax and kept glancing at my bed, where Chili normally laid. I stripped the blankets and cover off the bed so there would be no remaining scent of Chili. I didn’t sleep that first night and neither did Topper. Instead of just flopping down and snoring, like usual, he propped himself up against the dresser and kept his head up, resisting sleep the way a kid does; head bobbing as sleep overtook him. His overall demeanor was depressed; he didn’t prick his ears or looked interested in anything. He also clung to me, following my every move. I took him outside and threw a bumper. For the first time in his life, he did not want to retrieve or play at all. We went to the farm and Tops still looked depressed. He finally retrieved a couple of times when we were playing on the pool cover, but his heart was not in it. I borrowed one of my friend’s young female dogs to bring home for Topper, thinking a new playful dog might cheer him up. Nope, didn’t help. For a couple of days, Topper went into the yard, did his business quickly, then lay under my bedroom window whining until I brought him back in the house and wouldn’t give the visiting dog the time of day. Last weekend we went to the farm again, to take my visitor home and Tops still acted depressed. He played and retrieved only a little bit while we were there.

Topper had a favorite flappy toy that he played with like crazy, by himself. That toy was completely destroyed a couple of weeks ago by a visiting German Shepherd. I asked my friends to keep an eye out for a replacement. Maureen found one and brought it over. It was brand new, still attached to the cardboard packaging when I called Topper outside and showed him the new toy. He went crazy, doing a happy dance! I’ve never seen such a reaction to a toy. He grabbed it and immediately did several laps around the yard before trying to get me to throw it for him. Playing with his new favorite toy, Topper appears to be feeling much better about being the only dog. He is still very clingy, not wanting to be away from me, but at least he perks right up when we go out to play retrieve with his new toy. I can’t help but wonder if he would have reacted the same way, if I had given him the new toy, the night Chili died. I don’t have nearly enough dogs now! After this incident, I clearly need at least three at a time. I’ve got a new Schipperke puppy coming in just a few more weeks, but after that, I think I still will need another dog before the year is out.

Complete Article HERE!

What Is Normal Grieving, and What Are the Stages of Grief?

[G]rief is a natural response to losing someone or something that’s important to you. You may feel a variety of emotions, like sadness or loneliness. And you might experience it for a number of different reasons. Maybe a loved one died, a relationship ended, or you lost your job. Other life changes, like chronic illness or a move to a new home, can also lead to grief.

Everyone grieves differently. But if you understand your emotions, take care of yourself, and seek support, you can heal.

What Are the Stages of Grief?

Your feelings may happen in phases as you come to terms with your loss. You can’t control the process, but it’s helpful to know the reasons behind your feelings. Doctors have identified five common stages of grief:

  • Denial: When you first learn of a loss, it’s normal to think, “This isn’t happening.” You may feel shocked or numb. This is a temporary way to deal with the rush of overwhelming emotion. It’s a defense mechanism.
  • Anger: As reality sets in, you’re faced with the pain of your loss. You may feel frustrated and helpless. These feelings later turn into anger. You might direct it toward other people, a higher power, or life in general. To be angry with a loved one who died and left you alone is natural, too.
  • Bargaining: During this stage, you dwell on what you could’ve done to prevent the loss. Common thoughts are “If only…” and “What if…” You may also try to strike a deal with a higher power.
  • Depression: Sadness sets in as you begin to understand the loss and its effect on your life. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and a decreased appetite. You may feel overwhelmed, regretful, and lonely.
  • Acceptance: In this final stage of grief, you accept the reality of your loss. It can’t be changed. Although you still feel sad, you’re able to start moving forward with your life.

Every person goes through these phases in his or her own way. You may go back and forth between them, or skip one or more stages altogether. Reminders of your loss, like the anniversary of a death or a familiar song, can trigger the return of grief.

How Long Is Too Long to Mourn?

There’s no “normal” amount of time to grieve. Your grieving process depends on a number of things, like your personality, age, beliefs, and support network. The type of loss is also a factor. For example, chances are you’ll grieve longer and harder over the sudden death of a loved one than, say, the end of a romantic relationship.

With time, the sadness eases. You’ll be able to feel happiness and joy along with grief. You’ll be able to return to your daily life.

Do I Need Professional Help?

In some cases, grief doesn’t get better. You may not be able to accept the loss. Doctors call this “complicated grief.” Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Trouble keeping up your normal routine, like going to work and cleaning the house
  • Feelings of depression
  • Thoughts that life isn’t worth living, or of harming yourself
  • Any inability to stop blaming yourself

A therapist can help you explore your emotions. She can also teach you coping skills and help you manage your grief. If you’re depressed, a doctor may be able to prescribe medicines to help you feel better.

When you’re in deep, emotional pain, it can be tempting to try to numb your feelings with drugs, alcohol, food, or even work. But be careful. These are temporary escapes that won’t make you heal faster or feel better in the long run. In fact, they can lead to addiction, depression, anxiety, or even an emotional breakdown.

Instead, try these things to help you come to terms with your loss and begin to heal:

  • Give yourself time. Accept your feelings and know that grieving is a process.
  • Talk to others. Spend time with friends and family. Don’t isolate yourself.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise regularly, eat well, and get enough sleep to stay healthy and energized.
  • Return to your hobbies. Get back to the activities that bring you joy.
  • Join a support group. Speak with others who are also grieving. It can help you feel more connected.

Complete Article HERE!

How Death Positivity Helps Me Mourn The Living

By: Lola Phoenix

[T]here are many ways that death has followed me throughout my life. I was born with my umbilical cord wrapped around my throat and a disability nearly caused my death several times as an infant. When I was three and I stopped growing, my growth hormone, before it was made in a lab, was taken from cadavers.

Fearing death dominated my childhood so much that I became extremely paranoid. Growing up with a gay parent and hearing about Matthew Shepard, I had to trust the friends I brought home into my life. Already having been bullied in school for supposedly being a lesbian, I didn’t want to give them any reason to escalate the harassment physically. While I know I’m not personally going to be targeted, the spectre of death is ever present.

But so much of death is about mourning people who have died, when, for LGBTQ people especially, there is a kind of death that is not really discussed, explored or acknowledged—the death and mourning of the living. Estrangement grief is a thing, and it’s complicated to mourn a person who is not dead.

Death positivity” is about coming face to face with mortality and, instead of fearing and ignoring it, embracing it. I came across this movement through the “Ask A Mortician” channel on YouTube run by Caitlin Doughty, who is also behind the death positivity movement Order of The Good Death. Fundamentally, death positivity is about challenging the way our society views death and creating a culture that allows people to be more prepared and ready to make the difficult choices around death that they may be avoiding.

All around the globe, people have signed up to be part of The Order of The Good Death, and this may mean something as simple as taking an active interest in making end of life wishes to educating people locally about burial options to campaigning in local government for options such as water cremation, which aren’t available in all areas.

The process of becoming death positive is about embracing the realities that lie at the end of my life, it also has helped me embrace several lessons that have helped me live my life.

I am estranged from both of my parents: one of them disowned me and the other has mental health problems that make a relationship between us difficult. Other family members either don’t show very much interest in me or, when I have attempted to reach out for support, have either not responded or told me they were tired of “weird.” As someone who has always felt quite strongly about family ties, these losses were difficult to endure. But the lessons I have learned through death positivity have made them much easier to cope with.

1. Sadness is not shameful.

This seems obvious, but it isn’t. Part of death positivity encourages people to think about what choices they want for their bodies after death. That got me thinking about the complex way I’ve felt about funerals I’ve been to—how cold and incredibly formal they’ve felt and how awkward it was to express strong emotions in austere settings. I decided I didn’t want the people I left behind to feel how I felt. I wanted them to feel like being sad was okay. And in doing so, I had to tell myself that it was okay not only for the people who lost me to mourn, but for myself to mourn the people I have lost.

Estrangement isn’t always permanent, but holding on to the hope of change in many instances can end up causing more pain than it’s worth. It may seem on the outside that your estranged relative has more of a chance of coming back into your life than a dead relative, but that isn’t true for everyone.

Giving others the space to grieve helped me understand that it was okay for me to grieve. At least now when I mourn the loss of people in my life, I can accept that I have these feelings and not fight against them.

2. Grief and recovery aren’t linear.

In thinking about how I wanted to prepare as much as possible for my loved ones before I die so that they don’t have to stumble around in the process of grief, I had to come to understand it more. Despite the presence of death and loss in my life, there have been few family members I have actually felt sadness at losing. My mother was 18 when she had me and her mother was 18 when she had her, so I have a relatively young family. I lost my grandfather and step-grandfather when I was in high school, but I knew both of these men as abusers of my mother.

When they passed, I wasn’t even remotely sad. Many of my great uncles and aunts had passed, and I lost a second cousin to a tragic accident, but I didn’t have very close relationships with these people. It was when my great grandmother died in 2013 and I didn’t have the money to fly home and attend her funeral that I came face to face with my biggest loss.

One of Caitlin’s videos talks about the reasons people fear death, and one of them is the impact it will have on their loved ones. Much of what I suspected from both Caitlin’s videos and the crowdfunders I’ve contributed to for funeral costs spelled out the reality of the impact “traditional” funeral homes and their soaring prices can have on families. I had to understand that grief is expressed in so many different ways and it’s not as simple as “letting it go.”

In the case of my great grandmother, losing her felt so odd and numb that I had almost no emotion when I heard the news that she had passed away. She was 98 years old and the morning I got the news, I’d had a funny feeling that she was gone. Without having ever experienced a massive loss, I didn’t at the time know what was normal. And I secretly felt ashamed that I hadn’t shed many tears, though I told nobody.

Years after her death, I was trying to recall how she made biscuits every Sunday morning for breakfast. My mind walked through the process of her pouring flour and lard on her biscuit pan, but there was a lot I couldn’t remember. When it occurred to me that I couldn’t ask her anymore, something broke in me and I finally cried. After being active in Death Positive communities, I knew and understood that grief wasn’t linear and that sometimes the sadness comes and goes when it wants.

Likewise, I stopped telling myself to “let it go” when I was grieving estrangement from my parents. When you experience a loss, you have good days and you have bad days. Thinking about my own death and preparing for it meant thinking about what my loved ones would go through in their grief. I would never expect them to just stop feeling their feelings, so why should I expect my feelings to suddenly go away?

3. Celebrate the time you have.

The Order of the Good Death may sound very morbid and odd to some. But in her videos, Doughty points out that “the good death” is not about failure if you don’t plan, but about the idea that avoiding conversations about death ultimately means much more hardship than addressing it at all.

Facing my own mortality in a healthy way encourages me to actually take advantage of the time I have. When death becomes something that moves from being in the unknown, terrifying and looming but never addressed to being looked at, planned for, and understood, that also means that you’re more likely to take advantage of life.

Loss and grief become part of the process of death and equally part of the process of life. When I learned to address the fact that all life will end including my own, it felt easier to for me to cope with the idea that several of the relationships I once valued and held dear in my life were also at an end—and that’s okay. And what’s more, it’s helped me appreciate what time I do have and know not to waste it on people who hurt me or don’t respect me for who I am.

Death positivity may sound like a bizarre notion, especially as a queer person and a disabled person fighting in many instances to stay alive. It’s not about wanting to be dead. It’s not about being happy about dying. But it’s about facing the reality of death in a way that isn’t the paranoia and fear I’ve had sit heavy on my shoulders.

And doing so has helped me cope with what a lot of other people like me go through when we lose a family member either because of our own identities or because of their inability to accept and see us for who we are in a loving and positive way. Reckoning with the face of grief and mourning has given me tools to use to cope with a different but also painful kind of loss.

Because I embrace the fact that I will die, I live better.

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