Wednesday, December 30, 2009


She lost her mom two weeks ago. It was an expected death, after a full life.

Still, not easy for her.

She cries all the time. She can't get anything done. She sits and stares at the wall. She wakes thinking about her. She hears her voice.

All normal responses to grief. I used to know it, having read it in books, and heard it in lectures. Now I KNOW it. I grok it. I have done it, all of it.

We talked, she cried, somehow I didn't. She wanted a pill that would help. But we both knew there isn't any.

So we settled for talking, and both felt a little better, if just for a little while.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Food for Thought

A brilliant bit of reporting on NPR regarding how money drives way too much in medicine. Really a delightful piece, exposing how Big Pharma makes everyone think they have a disease that needs a drug. TBTAM did a similar expose a year ago on Pfizer, this one is on Merck, but be sure they would all have done it if they had thought of it first.

It should give pause to physicians and patients alike.

And make us wonder why last week the FDA approved Crestor, a powerful cholesterol-lowering drug, for people who do NOT have an elevated cholesterol.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


So far, so good.

I always tell my patients who have suffered a loss to expect a difficult holiday season. So many memories to deal with, expectations to temper, gatherings to weather....

I have figured all year that this 6 week stretch would be intense and painful. So far, so good. Perhaps my low expectations have made it easier to deal with. Perhaps I haven't hit the tough part yet.

I elected for a no-nonsense approach to decorating this year. We lugged all the crap out, decorated with our favorite stuff for a couple hours, and immediately put it all away. Might be good to do it this way all the time. It was like a dental cleaning; I dreaded it, but felt better when it was done.

We bought and decorated a tree for Henry this year. I find it surprisingly comforting. It's got "his" ornaments on it: Lightening McQueen and Sally, some he made, some with photos of him, some he was given. Toward the end of his illness, he became very fond of painting various cheap wooden models we got from the craft store. We put hooks in them and put them on the tree too. Who knew that tanks and fighter jets in rainbow colors would double as Christmas ornaments? I'm really happy to have them on the tree. We haven't known what to do with them, and they are so emotionally valuable. To have a way and a reason to use them, celebrate them, treasure them annually is so comforting to me.

So far, so good. Henry has been gone for 10 months on Christmas. The intense pain that accompanied Mother's day, his birthday, my birthday, so close to his death, has lessened. For this I am grateful. I'm cautiously optimistic that we will be able to enjoy, truly enjoy, the holidays and family, all the while missing him.

Friday, December 4, 2009


I'm borrowing this poem from another site. Compassion Friends is an organization for bereaved parents. They have published a poem that really spoke to me; I've modified it to my own taste.

Bereaved Parents Wish List

I wish my child hadn’t died. I wish I had him back.

I wish you wouldn’t be afraid to speak my child’s name. My child lived and was very important to me. I need to hear that he was important to you as well.

If I cry and get emotional when you talk about my child, I wish you knew that it isn’t because you have hurt me. My child’s death is the cause of my tears. You have talked about my child, and you have allowed me to share my grief. I thank you for both.

Being a bereaved parent is not contagious, so I wish you wouldn’t shy away from me. I need you more than ever.

I need diversions, so I do want to hear about you; but I also want you to hear about me. I might be said and I might cry, but I wish you would let me talk about my child, my favorite topic of the day.

I know that you think of and pray for me often. I also know that my child’s death pains you, too. I wish you would let me know things through a phone call, a card or a note, or a real big hug.

I wish you wouldn’t expect my grief to be over in six months. These first months are traumatic for me, but I wish you could understand that my grief will never be over. I will suffer the death of my child until the day I die.

I am working very hard in my recovery, but I wish you could understand that I will never fully recover. I will always miss my child, and I will always grieve that he is dead.

I wish you understood how my life has shattered. I know it is miserable for you to be around me when I’m feeling miserable. Please be as patient with me as I am with you.

When I say, "I’m doing okay," I wish you could understand that I don’t feel okay and that I struggle daily.

I wish you knew that all of the grief reactions I’m having are very normal. Depression, anger, hopelessness and overwhelming sadness are all to be expected. So please excuse me when I’m quiet and withdrawn or irritable and cranky.

I wish you understood that grief changes people. When my child died, a big part of me died with him. I am not the same person I was before my child died, and I will never be that person again.

I wish very much that you could understand – understand my loss and my grief, my silence and my tears, my void and my pain. But I wish more that you will never understand.

I'm really lucky in that most, if not all, of the people I am close to understand this poem without having read it. I think the part that spoke to me the most was the third paragraph. I can't often talk about Henry without crying, and I see it scaring people away from talking about him. I wish I could control my tears, but it's not in my genetics, so I don't even really try. I do wish I could tell people I'm happy to talk about him and share, but usually I'm crying so much I can't get it out.


It's been a rough week; I'm not sure why.

I'm still struggling with quiet time. There's been a lot of it lately. I'm still unaccustomed to not being needed all of the time. The girls kinda do their own thing in the evenings, leaving me with more free time than I can remember since college. It doesn't take long for my thoughts to settle on him.

I contine to feel like I'm making progress in my grief. I'm a little frustrated too. I feel like I'm in some Hitchcockian movie, trying to walk through an endless progression of doors. I work and struggle and sweat my way through picking the lock or figuring out how the door works, and when it finally opens there is relief, and a sense of progress, and....another locked door.

I'm not sure where I think I'm supposed to be, but I'm continually surprised that I'm here. It's like every day, sometimes every hour, my brain grapples again with the fact that he's gone. My son, my smart gorgeous funny healthy son got cancer. Oh my god, he got cancer. And then he got chemo, and infections, and a central line, and TPN, and radiation, and then the goddamn thing came back and he died. Oh my god, my son died.

Over and over and over.

Is this the denial people talk about? I always thought of that more in a literal way, where you really don't believe something happened. But I do feel at some level I haven't accepted it...