Is there anything ever easy about a death in the family? 

After years of being a nursing home invalid, and weeks following a stroke from which she could not survive, you would think we would all be prepared for the inevitable, but some hold hope beyond reason, and can never be prepared.

I am in the middle of a family undergoing grief, sniping at one another, fighting over insignificant things.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much psychology, experience as a grief counselor, or any other background of dealing with the grief of others, the family members have, they all are experiencing grief differently.

As an in-law I am somewhat an observer, but not an impartial one.

Kübler-Ross postulated five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

To put them in the vernacular they are:

“This can’t be true.”

“I hate you for even suggesting it.”

“Dear God, I’ll walk on hot coals to keep this from being true.”

“OMG, it’s true and I don’t know how I can bear it.”

“It’s true and I will find a way to go on.”

To be sure, the vernacular is too specific.  Anger may be directed outward or inward, for example, and the five stages may come in any order, repeat stages, and come to resolution sooner in some case, and later in others.

It is sometimes startling.  I once went into the “quiet room” to tell a woman that her husband who had had a cardiac arrest in the emergency waiting room had not survived.  Her reaction?

“That miserable son-of-a-bitch!  How could he leave us at a time like this?”

She went straight to anger, and it was directed not at me or at herself, but at the victim.

So, it isn’t surprising that one of the survivors of my mother-in-law is angry at my wife.  For someone who has a minor in psychology, was a psychiatric nurse, and  once worked as a rape counselor, L is handling this very poorly.  That would be surprising except for the fact that she is grieving, too.

Everyone grieves in their own way.  It is a mistake to think that others grieve like you do.  I’ve been involved in a lot of family grief and it is the rule rather than the exception that there is anger and squabbling over everything from what time the memorial services are held, to which clothes the deceased is going to wear, to where people stand at the graveside. 

I’m hoping acceptance comes quickly here.

To answer the initial question about the expression, “Good Grief”, it is probably a softened oath, which might be considered blasphemy:  “Good G_d”  It’s strange, but no stranger than “Dag nab it!”

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Comment by koshersalaami on June 27, 2018 at 9:00pm

Detachment is a skill often not developed.

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 27, 2018 at 9:35pm

From day one, medical students are taught to be objective, and a kid a subjective approach. The result is n an appearance of coldness.

Feeling everyon’s pain would be crippling and prevent rational treatment. From time to time all of us got caught with our defenses down.

i would not take back those moments. Painful as they were they made it all real and worthwhile.

Comment by Ron Powell on June 27, 2018 at 11:44pm
Comment by Brazen Princess on June 28, 2018 at 2:14am

Grief is so tricky!  I usually am passed over by any feelings of grief during the time everyone is gathering to share broken hearts-- only to be mugged by it later, when no one knows why I am grieving!  Don't worry about L - they'll come around. 

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 28, 2018 at 6:20am

Ron, thanks for the meme.  That's perfect.

Autocorrect corrected something so bizarrely that I have no idea what was supposed to be in place of "...a kid a subjective..."; maybe it was "instead of a subjective"

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 28, 2018 at 6:22am

Brazen Princess, thanks for stopping by.  L is much like you.  She takes care of details and only stops to grieve much later.  I hope you are right about them getting past it.

Comment by Anna Herrington on June 29, 2018 at 7:44am

I consider my siblings and I incredibly lucky in how completely drama-free the dividing and settling of Mom's life and stuff went. We're all so completely different, none of us were interested in the same things - except the jewelry and of course my sister took it all - but I, in turn, got some antiques I've always appreciated my carpenter ancestor making a couple hundred years ago.... it's tough enough dealing with a death in the family, made so much weirder and worse when there's bickering over stuff or even the funeral service.

I guess I have to take the 'drama free' back - remembering the funeral and Mom's husband (they'd been married for six years, married at age 80. They met at age 21) grabbing her ashes from the preacher guy no one knew and wheeling himself out of that church as fast as he could go while a line of 'concerned' shouting and crying people ran after him. He was down the street and headed for the hills before anyone caught up!  It says a lot about us that I and my siblings were the only four who were laughing.

Good luck over there. Deep breaths.  

...and Brazen Princess!!! what a treat to see you here  : )

Comment by Rodney Roe on June 29, 2018 at 8:37am

Thank you, Anna. I attended the memorial for an old friend a few years back in which it was obvious that the priest had never met our friend. A mutual friend rode around Atlanta with Harold, a pet rooster, perched on the back of the passenger’s seat. The priest knew Harold. Less than six degrees of separation.

The argument is about the date of the service. We are visiting kids and wanted to have the memorial after we get home. Others want us to fly back for a service this weekend. We don’t need to go to a viewing. Others think we are being disrespectful/cheap. It looks like it is all going to happen w/o us.

Comment by koshersalaami on June 29, 2018 at 10:44am

The difference between clergy knowing the deceased and not is immense. I’ve seen a lot of both

Comment by Anna Herrington on June 29, 2018 at 12:13pm

Mom's preacher guy she loved and admired for thirty plus years retired two weeks before she died. He had gone on retreat in the wilderness of Wyoming or he would have come back for her funeral.... it put a rather surreal feel to the service, that's for sure, having a total stranger trying his best to relate to Mom for the half devout half irreverent crowd.

The neighbor who stood up and talked for too long, taking the WWJD (what would Jesus do) phrase that so many liked-that-fad at the time and turning it into WWPD (what would Pat do (my mom)).... was cringeworthy. Hence the laughter-of-relief from all four of us siblings when Don took off with 'Mom,' I think. I do remember going from laughter to sobbing at some point.... you're right, FM, it's just emotions and reactions during certain times after a family death.

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