Coping with the Death of a Parent

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Need a Therapist Near UC Berkeley for Grief Issues

April 2011

I would like to find a female therapist with the United Behavior Network insurance who can help me deal with my grief at having lost three close family members in a year and a half, all of whom lived about three hours away. I am now linked, against my will, to an addict brother who has gotten a nasty attorney and is handling the probate as administrator. I would prefer someone close to the south side of campus so I can walk to appointments. I prefer someone who is insightful and no-nonsense. No new age-y stuff for me. The one therapist that was recommended to me is not taking new Berkeley patients. Thank you!

I know you are looking for a female therapist, but if you are open to a male, Dan Quinn as an exceptional therapist who I cannot recommend highly enough for working with grief issues. Dan is tremendously supportive and compassionate, while also bringing his deep intelligence and wisdom to the table in his work with individuals, couples, families and groups. You can find out more about Dan, and get in contact with him through his website: Www.DanQuinn.Info. Best of luck to you in this difficult time. H.T.

Therapist for grief and family dysfunction

March 2010

At the age of 54, my mother is unfortunately weeks to days away from death. I always imagined that all of our family **issues** would spontaneously evaporate if someone died. Unfortunately, the family dysfunction has increased manifold. I am not sure which is greater: my grief for my mother's impending death, my disappointment and horror at the behavior at a couple of my siblings who live with her and do little to nothing to help her, the realization that my parents really actually dislike each other and death is not going to change that, or the fact that my father's only method of dealing with emotion is to become explosively angry. In any case, I need to talk to someone SOON....Am looking for a good therapist to help me cope. If they take Blue Shield insurance, that's even better. Thank you. Death doesn't change things...

I highly recommend Knute Anderson, PsyD Clinical Psychologist (925) 234-6676 She is terrific, kind and intelligent. Her office is in Orinda. Anon

Struggling with loss of mother

May 2008

My partner (female 56) lost her mother late last year and is really struggeling with the constant pain of that loss. She would like to find a greif group that is facilatated by a therapist. Or, she would like to hear from others who have struggled with the loss of their mother and how to begin to move past it.

My mom died 10 years ago now. I was 29, she was 54. It took more time than I ever would have imagined to get through the bulk of the grief. For me, the second year was harder than the first in some ways. I found that a support group for women that had lost their moms was very helpful. I think they still do these groups through VNA Hospice . They used to be in Emeryville-maybe still are. It does get better with time. Although I really miss my mom still at times, I have learned a lot through this experience. I feel that I am a more compassionate person now. I also feel that I appreciate being in the moment more than I could before and appreciate the people in my life so much, knowing how precious the time that we have is. Although it may not seem like it now, grief is a transient thing. The lessons and love that you have been given by your mom will always stay with you--and you can pass them on.

Just a belated word that it's okay and expected to mourn and miss years afterwards. It's been 15 years since my mother passed away at age 50. Every Mothers Day, her birthday, the anniversary of her death, every time I wish my kids could have known their grandma, every time my sisters and I need more advice, understanding and comfort than our dad can provide... yep, lots of tears. BUT, my therapist advised that I get a journal just for ''conversations'' with her. It does help. I wish you healthy healing and the ability to laugh and smile at the good memories as well as have good old cry occasionally. Ellen

Grief Counseling for loss of my Mother

April 2007

My mother recently passed away. Can anyone recommend a grief counselor in the East Bay? I would be interested in seeing someone who is also great with working with family dynamics. Thank you anon

Sheryl Sheets on College Ave near Ashby is great for grief counseling for loss of a mother. She has an MFT. I worked with her during my mother's terminal illness and after my mother's death. She was at (510) 549-9297. Anon

I have been working through the loss of my father and also my my feelings regarding my aging mother with Yvonne Mansell who specializes in death and dying, mindful parenting, and menopause. I have found the work manageable due to her ablilty to bring compassion, honesty, and at times, humor into most difficult moments. She offers individual and group sessions. Her office is in Albany and you can visit her website at Best of luck to you.

Howard Lunche is an incredible grief counselor. He reallly helped me understand and manage my immense grief after my husband died. He also wrote a book about grief that I gave to the people around me so they could understand what was happening with me. I very highly reccomend him as a caring and compassionate therapist. his number is 841-2930 and his office is in berkeley.


End of life discussions with dying mom

May 2006

My mom, in her late 80's, living in another part of the country, has been diagnosed with an inoperable and deadly cancer. She is still functioning very well and not in pain, and (at least currently) will take no treatments. My problem is that I'm at a complete loss about what I need to do, emotionally, spiritually, before she dies. Finances and legal issues have been taken care of. My children are very young and hardly know grandma. I speak with her twice a week but it's mostly about medical facts and small talk about books or movies. The attempts I have made to discuss more emotional issues have been met with comments like ''I don't want to discuss depressing things, when you die you die, I hate when people have cancer and people look at them with pity and say - oh, I'm soooo sorry, I love you I love you.'' She does not want to resolve old conflicts, it seems to get her furious all over again - we've managed well over the years because we have learned to not discuss these things. But it frightens me that I will lose her soon and that there's something I will wish I had done or said. We are so lucky to have this time...but what does one do with this time? I would like advice about how any of you have handled this, any regrets you have had, and any spiritual or psychological counseling that has helped you understand your role with a dying parent. --unsure what to do

My heart is with you. If I say anything you are not ready to hear or it sounds rude, I apologize.

My mother, 84, died in October. She was confined to a wheel chair for years. When I walked into her hospital room a few days ''What (possesion) do you want?'' I wasn't quite on that page yet. Being the youngest, 46, my mother wanted to make sure I wasn't left out. Once I got over the shock, it was a wonderfully ordinary conversation.

When she was settled back at home, I asked her why she had refused the feeding tube? (as little cracking in my voice as I could) She said ''Why would I want to live like that?''

I was blessed to have those words. I know that dying for her was an ease to her suffering not something to be feared. I hope you are able to hear it, if this is what your mother wants to say. I really had nothing to settle. I later learned things from another sister that I wish I did not know. She did have issues but she didn't feel the need to go there with my mother (her stepmother).

My children (7 and 9)were in the room a few hours before she died and immediately after. My mother was Catholic, so we prayed the rosary before she was taken away. My children never seemed to have been traumatized. My mother had been getting progressively weaker all of their lives.

If your children could visit your mother, they might realize that she is ill and it may help them understand better. Unless she is a very young looking 80, chances are they already see her as an ''old person''.

I wish I had something to say that would ease you through this. At the risk of sounding like a Halmark card, your mother will always be in your heart. Which reminds me of when my oldest sister and brother went to the mortuary. My sister reminded the man that she had made the arrangements for my father a few years earlier and that we had a large family (more repeat business). He said ok, he would not charge for taking the flowers to the cemetary. To which my sister says ''Oh, I can't wait to tell mom that they gave us money off''. My sister did not realize that she had said it out loud until my brother pointed it out to her. We all smile and laugh knowing our mother would be amused.. My mother's daughter

You will have your needs in this process and she will have hers. It sounds like right now, she needs for you just to be the same-old-same-old with her in order to support her. That is one of the normal stages of dealing with dying (denial). So, since she's going thru the harder time, I'd listen to her asking you just to be the same daughter you've always been.

As for you and your needs, you might think some about it, maybe read some about dying, look into your religious roots on dying or consider therapy JM

My mother-in-law died of cancer last year after a 14 month battle. She had two sons, one of whom had periodically been estranged from her and who has been angry with her for his whole life. She spent most of her illness convinced she was in remission. I kept on waiting for the acceptance stage, and for the heart-to-heart between her and her sometimes-estranged son.

Neither one happened. Up until the day she died, she insisted she was going to get well, despite the fact that she was in hospice. She never had the slightest inclination to discuss spiritual matters -- she was a die-hard (so to speak) existentialist and remained so.

And yet, despite the fact that all these coming-to-terms things never happened, her death was one of the most beautiful things I''ve ever been part of. We all told her that we loved her when she was literally on her deathbed, and the sometimes estranged son made his peace with her in private, while she was semi- conscious. She died surrounded by her family, and felt loved, and that was all that counted.

So how do you spend these last months? Visit as often as you can manageand bring the kids with you sometimes even if she's too sick to interact with them. It will mean something to them later on that they knew her. Even visiting for a day or two will mean a lot to both of you. My husband called his mother every day, just to talk for five minutes and check in, update her on the grandchildren, work, whatever.

That's all you can do -- be together, enjoy each other's company. In the end, I felt like it was exactly right. If there's something you feel like you'll regret not saying, say it, but know that mostly what matters in the end is letting go, forgiving, accepting. Unless she wants to talk about spiritual/emotional matters, I'd do your processing with your partner, your friends, your spiritual advisor if you have one, or a therapist. One word of warning -- the year of my MOL dying was hell on my marriage. It brought up a lot for my husband that I was unprepared for. Counseling saved us. Good luck to you. It's such a hard, sad thing to lose a parent. nelly

Oh this is so hard, and I'm sorry you have to go through it. I lost my dad last year after a six year struggle with leukemia, and I had a hard time with the same issue. I didn't want to be overly dramatic every time we talked and make my dad feel like he was about to die, but at the same time, I was aware every time I visited that it could be the last time I saw him. So like you, we ended up chatting about nothing - or going over and over his medical history. I was frustrated with it at the time, but in retrospect, it was fine. What my dad wanted more than anything, I think, was more of the relationship we already had - the chance to spend time with me, not changed in any way, but to get as much time as possible together. So I'm happy that I called all the time, made the effort to visit as often as possible, and didn't radically change our relationship in any way. It's pretty hard for me to write about this in a public forum - and to fully describe how I feel about the experience 1 year later - but if you want to e-mail more about it, feel free to contact me Nerissa

First, I am so sorry about your Mom. How difficult it must be to deal with her illness. I truly feel for you. In my opinion it is important to respect her wishes at this time - it seems that trying to talk about emotions,etc just upsets her. This must be so hard for you. Are there specific things you still feel you need to tell her? Is writing her a card or a letter an option? That way you could tell her all you want to, and she could read it when she feels like it, and have a chance to absorb it. Even then, she may not 'open up' with a response, though. But at least you will have expressed it Anon

I so sorry to hear about your mother. I am happy that she's not in any pain and that all the financial and legal matters are taken care of. Three years ago my family dealt with my father's terminal cancer, each in our own way. My father was very private and we didn't ever discuss directly the fact that he was dying. This was difficult for me. At the same time I wanted to respect his choices. One book I found very helpful was Dying Well by Ira Byock. Even though I wasn't the one dying, this book helped me look at it from my dad's point of view. It was also really helpful in preparing me for his painful death. In the end the best I could do for him was let him know how much I loved him, and I believe he knew that. If nothing else this book could be a good place for you to begin. Remember, you can't change your mother and you shouldn't try to. But you should also listen to your heart - if there are things you need to say to your mother you should try and find a way to say them that respects both of you. Good luck and my thoughts go out to you in this difficult time - missing my dad

My father died suddenly many years ago, but one thing I did before he died (not knowing he would die soon after) was write him a letter. We had a difficult relationship, and in that letter I wrote him from my heart, acknowledging the pain between us, and that I loved him, and he wrote back, very grateful for my letter. We never talked about it, but I have been forever glad that I did that. So perhaps writing is way for you to say what you'd like to say to your mother, I think it is worth doing anon

My mom died 7 years ago and your situation sounds so familiar. I wanted to have those discussions about all those ''deep issues'' and my mom kept changing the subject. One day she just said that she got so tired of always having to talk about how she felt and what the doctor said and what they were doing. Sometimes she just wanted to forget that she was sick and have a normal conversation about mundane things. Periodically I gave her the opening to talk about her illness but almost always she ignored it. It sounds like you're taking your cues from your mom, letting her talk about what she wants and needs to talk about. Even if there are issues you want to resolve, you're giving her the chance to be in control of at least a little part of her life. It sounds like she's enjoying having some normal time with you, and that's a real gift from you to your mom. Cathy

When my first husband was dying of cancer, he did not want to talk about it. He only wanted to talk about cures and second opinions and even though it was clear to me that things were progressing rapidly he would not process with me the way I so needed. At the time I was living in Europe and didn't pursue looking into a grieving group which is what I really needed. It just didn't exist. When my mother died of cancer, four years prior to my husband's diagnosis, I participated in a grieving group in San Francisco which was great. The Center for Death and Dying? It was 15 years ago and I am not sure if it still exists. The loved ones of participants in our group were at all different stages of dying; it was immensely helpful. With my husband I found I needed to follow his lead. But I would also recommend processing this for yourself now, rather than later. It wasn't until the night before he died that I was able to say what I really wanted to say all along to help him let go, ''that everything here would be fine, his children, me, his finances... (whatever it might be) and that I would always love him very much. I think it is a rare thing to die feeling like one's work here on earth is completely finished. It wasn't until the last night even through heavy sedation that he was able to speak to me about his own death. I could go on and on but what it comes down to, I think, is respecting your mother's wishes and taking care of your needs too. She is not the one to process with, it's probably just too much for her. I wish you the best of luck as you go through this important and amazing time. Warmly, Nancy

I just saw this and wanted to tell you what my mom told me. I was extremely close to my grandmother (am not so close to my mom, although she was close to her parents.) Sorry if that's confusing. However, when my grandmother died several years ago, my mother threw herself into helping, working with her, being there, etc. about 400%. My grandmother never really talked about things all that much either, and I felt a real pull to be LINEAR, get it SETTLED, SAY it. I didn't, of course, because it wasn't my event, although I think that I said something one day and she didn't pursue it.

Finally, I was talking with my mother and I said ''so what do I SAY?'' She gave me one of those profoundly wise mom answers. She said: ''Dying is like going on a very long, long trip, all by yourself. You have to prepare for it. You need to do what YOU need to have done when she is gone, so that you don't have any major regrets. Take care of that. And other than that, just ... be with her. Just sit there. Be her company as she starts on her journey.''

I send you a hug. This is tough stuff cat

A year and a half ago I was in a very similar situation. I do have regrets, and could I do it over again I would have 1)written her a letter saying goodbye in a way I wasn't able to say out loud, 2) called hospice myself instead of waiting for her permission to do so, and 3) gotten myself some grief counseling WHILE she was dying instead of after her death. Some things I am glad I did: visited as often as I could and brought my kids to see her. Karen