What Level of Pain Does a Death Bring?

Levels of Grief After Death


Both sets of my grandparents lived in a state 500 miles away. We usually saw them once a year during summer vacation, With each of their deaths, my level of grief was pretty minimal. Of course I was sad, but their deaths had little impact on my life.


The deaths of my parents brought on a much higher level of grief. We were a close family, spending vacations together with my parents, sisters and their families as well as my own family. Christmas was another wonderful family time. However, when Dad was diagnosed with cancer, our grieving process began even before his actual death. In some ways, his death brought us relief from watching him suffer. In addition, his death put me in the position of personal representative for Mom. Even though she was in a wonderful nursing home, there were so many ways to co-ordinate her care, personal business and finances. Mom, with her dementia, accentuated our grief as we watched her slowly slip away from uis over the next four year period. When she became comatose that final week, grief was heightened. We also knew that her death brought the end of an era in which our large family get-togethers would come to an end and the sisters and their families would begin a journey with holidays in which each family would be on their own.


I'll never forget the night that my sister Deb made a three way call to my other sister and me. She wanted to tell us both at the same time---she had breast cancer. It was the aggressive kind. As the weeks and months went on, we learned that the cancer had spread to many vital parts of her body---liver, lymph nodes, then bones and finally, the brain. Again, the grieving process begins before the actual end. Her death was harder on me than either of my parents. With Mom and Dad, they had lived a full life, with many blessings and they were in their 80's. It just wasn't right with Deb. She was three years younger than I. For my early years, Deb was my playmate, my confidant, my partner-in-crime when we stole bubble gum from the drug store and my companion until after our college years. It just wasn't fair. She was just made a grandma. She loved to travel. She and her husband had a business to run. She still had more life to live! My level of grief over my sister's death was more intensified than with my parents.


But the death of a child brought an excruciating level of grief. Even if the child was a young adult at the time of death, their life was cut short before their time. Grief made it almost impossible for my husband, older daughter and me to function in those early weeks. Grief brought sleep issues for us. Wanting to sleep all the time. Not being able to sleep. No family meals together, but piecemeal eating from food brought from friends and neighbors, snacking or not eating at all. Kind of a withdrawal from the world, and not wanting to leave the house. The highest level of grief that I've ever experienced. Life as we knew it was forever changed.


How will we begin a new family life without our youngest daughter? Will this level of pain ever subside? How can I get help to navigate through these days and nights of grief?


Post Script: Lest you think that my life has been very morose, that is not the case. The death described here have taken place over my lifetime. The deaths of my grandparents all took place prior to the year 2000. Dad's death was in the year 2009, Mom was 2014, Lisa's was in 2015 and Deb was in 2018. During those years, we also had many good family times and made many good memories to cherish.

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