Dying & Death Talk

Looking at dying and death for what it is: a part of life.



How to Cope with Anticipatory Grief and Ambiguous Loss

Courtesy of | By Cynthia Orange | Photo Credit: Adobe Stock | Originally Published 09.14.2017 | Posted 11.27.2018

The longer we live and the more we experience, the more we find ourselves in the cracks between joy and contentment on one side of life’s continuum and grief and loss on the other. Children leave our nests, we move from vocations to avocations — from retirement to, as a dear friend puts it, “re-aspirement.” Addresses, relationships, bodies, even spouses, can change. More loved ones get more serious diagnoses. Sometimes we get dreaded medical test results ourselves.

When someone dies, the loss seems clear. But what about those times when grief is anticipatory — when the diagnosis is terminal and we grieve the inevitable? Or times when the loss is ambiguous? Perhaps a parent shows signs of dementia, a son or daughter in the military is missing in action or returns from combat with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or a dear friend has a serious stroke. Maybe a loved one is in the throes of addiction. What was has changed, replaced by uncertainty. Continue reading “How to Cope with Anticipatory Grief and Ambiguous Loss”

Anxiety Is Another Stage of Grief

Courtesy of | By Claire Bidwell Smith | Photo credit: Adobe Stock | Originally Published 10.18.2018 | Posted 11.23.2018

A new book explains why so many grieving people also experience anxiety

(This article is excerpted from Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief by Claire Bidwell Smith.)

What is anxiety? Where does it come from, and how can you gain control over it? And why is it so frequently spurred by the loss of a loved one? These are often the first questions I address when meeting with a new client, because understanding anxiety is the first step in learning how to overcome it. But understanding how it is tied to the loss of a loved one is even more important.

I have been a grief counselor for more than a decade. I’ve worked in both hospice and private practice. I’ve held the hands of many people in their final moments of life, including my own father. And I’ve worked with countless people who have struggled to cope in the wake of grief after losing someone they love.

Yet while I’ve written and spoken and worked with death in so many capacities, it is this one issue that I have encountered more than any other: anxiety following a loss.

It is understandable that death makes us anxious. We experience anxiety after a loss because losing someone we love thrusts us into a vulnerable place. Loss changes our day-to-day lives. It forces us to confront our mortality. And facing these fundamental human truths about life’s unpredictability can cause fear and anxiety to surface in profound and unexpected ways. Continue reading “Anxiety Is Another Stage of Grief”

The Quiet Blessing of Grief That Never Ends

Courtesy of | By Jill Smolowe | Originally Published 04.27.2016 | Posted 11.14.2018
This writer finds beauty in the pain she feels over the loss of her sister.

In the almost seven years since I laid my husband to rest, followed barely a year later by the loss of my sister and mother, I’ve developed an appreciation for just how unpredictable and, well, amazing grief can be.

I’m not talking about the period of hollowing when the shock and fog of loss clouds every thought and informs every waking (and perhaps sleeping) moment. No, I’m talking about the grief that comes after that. After the deceased loved one’s absence is no longer a constant presence. After the acute ache subsides and then, unthinkably, stills. After life moves forward, opening new melancholy-free vistas that trace no connection to the departed.

The grief I’m referring to lays claim to no stage and holds no hope of being put behind. Even on the happiest days, it lies patiently in wait for some quirk of logic to unleash it. A scent. A song. A glimpse of an almost-familiar face. Suddenly — whap! — you’re puddled in a heap, sobbing and thinking, WhatTheWhatThe. Continue reading “The Quiet Blessing of Grief That Never Ends”

Anticipatory Grief Symptoms and Purpose

Courtesy of | By Lynne Eldridge, MD | Photo Credits: and Counseling Free Photos/Creative CommonOriginally Published 08.26.2018 | Posted 11.08.2018


Understanding Grief Before Loss and Death

Article Table of Contents

What Is Anticipatory Grief? 
Does It Help Grieving Later On?
Treatment and Counseling 

Anticipatory grief is a common grief reaction among people who are facing the eventual death of a loved one. Yet, while most people are familiar with the grief that occurs after a death (conventional grief), this kind of grief that occurs before a death is not often discussed. Because of this, some people find it socially unacceptable to express the deep grief and pain they are experiencing and receive the support they need. What is anticipatory grief, what symptoms might you expect, and how can you best cope with this difficult time?

As a quick note, this article is directed more to someone who is grieving the impending loss of a loved one, but preparatory grief is also experienced by the person who is dying. Hopefully, this article on coping with anticipatory grief, will be helpful to both those who are dying and those who are grieving a loved one’s imminent death.

Continue reading “Anticipatory Grief Symptoms and Purpose”

How to Deal With Grief After a Loved One’s Death

Courtesy of | By Amy Florian | Originally Published 07.24.2017 | Posted 11.02.2018

This can be a devastating time, but these tips from a grief expert may help

I’ll never forget that night. I was expecting my husband to arrive home from an out-of-town business meeting, but instead of hearing the garage door go up, I heard a doorbell. My heart pounded as I opened the door, and I felt it would stop when I heard that John died in a car accident and would never come home again.

The death of a beloved person is a scenario we all dread, and rightly so. It is one of the most devastating experiences one can endure. In the initial period of time after it occurs, most people wonder whether they’ll survive.

So if it happens to you, what can you expect and how do you cope? Full discussion would take a book, but hopefully these tips will help. Continue reading “How to Deal With Grief After a Loved One’s Death”

Watching Your Parent Die Is Absolute Hell

Courtesy of Scary | Posted 10.02.2018

My dad was dying long before we received the devastating news on a cold winter morning. After suffering a minor stroke, my father’s stage 4 cancer was discovered quite by accident while he had follow-up tests to prevent further strokes. As my father relayed the news to me, I gripped the phone and tried to comprehend what he was saying. His cancer was advanced, and suddenly, his time on Earth was finite.

His battle was over before it started.

At his advanced cancer stage, chemotherapy options were limited and surgery wasn’t an option. Radiation wasn’t going to thwart the progression, and when we looked at the hard evidence, it was clear that his quality of life was going to suffer a great deal if he put himself through the rigors of a chemotherapy regimen that had little to no chance of prolonging his life. Continue reading “Watching Your Parent Die Is Absolute Hell”

Do Animals Experience Grief?

Courtesy of The | Published 08.24.2018 | Posted 09.27.2018
Lisa’s note: This 15 second recording is of my dog Bella howling over, what I presume is, the lost of her brother, Argyris. It pierces my soul and I hurt because I can’t help her with her hurt.


A growing body of evidence points to how animals are aware of death and will sometimes mourn for or ritualize their dead.

For many weeks, news of a mother orca carrying her dead infant through the icy waters of the Salish Sea captured the attention of many around the world. Keeping the infant afloat as best she could, the orca, named Tahlequah, also known as J35 by scientists, persisted for 17 days, before finally dropping the dead calf.

This has been one of the most protracted displays of marine mammal grieving.

Among scientists, however, there remains a prejudice against the idea that animals feel “real” grief or respond in complex ways to death. Following reports of the “grieving,” zoologist Jules Howard, for example, wrote, “If you believe J35 was displaying evidence of mourning or grief, you are making a case that rests on faith, not on scientific endeavor.”

As a bioethicist, I’ve been studying the interplay between science and ethics for more than two decades. A growing body of scientific evidence supports the idea that nonhuman animals are aware of death, can experience grief and will sometimes mourn for or ritualize their dead.

You can’t see when you don’t look

Animal grief skeptics are correct about one thing: Scientists don’t know all that much about death-related behaviors such as grief in nonhuman animals. Only a few scholars have explored how the multitude of creatures with whom humans share the planet think and feel about deatheither their own or others’.

Continue reading “Do Animals Experience Grief?”

Losing A Parent Is Hell, So Stop Telling Me To ‘Get Over’ My Grief

Courtesy of Scary | By Christine Burke | Posted 09.15.2018

As I held the phone to my ear, listening to the sounds of the ICU in my father’s hospital room as he lay dying, I thought, This is the hard part. This was the part that I’d prepared my heart for, the inevitable day that we all knew was coming after my father’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer nine months prior. Every chemotherapy setback, every hospital admission, every missed family gathering had led us here. We knew cancer was going to rob us of our father and my kids of their grandfather.

He was dying, and his cancer-ridden body would finally be at rest.

I was 1,600 miles away and helpless to do anything but whisper to my father through the phone I clutched in my hands as I sobbed.

When the nurse got on the phone and said, “It’s over. He’s gone,” I breathed a sigh of relief.

My father was at peace.

The worst was over, I told myself. Continue reading “Losing A Parent Is Hell, So Stop Telling Me To ‘Get Over’ My Grief”

The Perfect Soundtrack for My Grief

Courtesy of | By Kathleen O'Brien | Illustration by Yvetta Fedorova | Originally Published 06.22.2018 | Posted 07.29.2018

Ms. O’Brien is an amateur cellist.

 A friend of mine died recently.

Judged by the conventional standards of friendship, a stranger might conclude we weren’t particularly close. We never met for lunch. We didn’t send each other birthday cards or give each other Christmas presents. She’d never been to my house.

By those measures, Karen Pinoci’s short but lethal illness shouldn’t have rocked me so.

Were it not for this: She was my conductor.

I play cello in a community orchestra in New Jersey, the New Sussex Symphony, and she was its music director for 27 years. For two hours every Tuesday night, she led us, taught us, cajoled us, amused us, goaded us, encouraged us.

We’re a small orchestra that others might view as rinky-dink. (How rinky-dink? Let’s just say that when I joined nearly three decades ago, the men still had to be reminded that “concert attire” meant no white socks.) Continue reading “The Perfect Soundtrack for My Grief”

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