What I’d Like For You To Know: Losing a Parent


Christmas is a merry time of year.  Except when it’s not.  For all the comfort and joy around us this time of year, there are plenty of people bearing heavy hurts.  .

Today’s guest poster in my What I’d Like For You To Know series (details are found here) is Nicole of Here’s the Diehl.  Her mom passed away this summer, and Nicole is now walking through her first holiday season since her loss.  Here’s a little of Nicole’s story, and some ideas on reaching out to others…

Thirty-one years seems like a long time. However, it’s much too short when you’re talking about how much time you had with a parent. My dad, my 3 siblings and I are gently navigating our way through our first year without Mom. She passed away on July 7th, 2 days after my 31st birthday.

My mom was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2004, right after I found out I was pregnant with my second son. We knew from the beginning that her odds of beating this cancer were not good; her cancer, a thymic carcinoid tumor, was extremely rare and unfortunately, very resilient to any kind of treatment. Over the course of the next 3 years, she spent the majority of the time planning for, thinking about, or undergoing various treatments: injections, chemo, radiation, surgeries. When in May of ‘08 we found out that the tumors had metastasized all over her body, including her brain, we knew that there wasn’t much time left. Quite quickly, her speech started to become more incoherent, and she wasn’t able to walk anymore. Miraculously (and I don’t mean that lightly), she was able to make it to my brother’s wedding on June 7th, even though hospice care had already begun.

My husband, (and by now, three!) sons and I live two hours away from our hometown. On June 26th, the boys and I went to stay for what I thought was one night, but turned into 15 nights away from home. When I got there on the 26th, it seemed like Mom didn’t have much time left, and I just couldn’t leave. My husband packed enough clothes for all of us and drove over with them that night. The feeling was definitely that it would not be much longer. And then the days dragged by…it’s a horrible place to be, knowing that she could pass away at any time, and literally praying for that to happen so that the pain ends for her and the agony of limbo ends for the family. My mom passed away at home, where she wanted to be, after being in a coma for the last 36 hours of her life.

So I guess this brings me to the first thing I’d like for you to know: when a death occurs in this manner, the family might be feeling some guilt over praying for the end. For me, I think I felt guilty about not grieving instantly; in the immediate days after her death, it was simply a feeling of relief that she wasn’t in pain anymore. And that just feels wrong, I guess. So know that if a friend is going through this, there might initially be feelings of guilt mingling with mourning over their loss.

We had an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from friends and extended family in a variety of ways. I thought that sharing them might give you some ideas of ways to reach out to grieving families.

The obvious answer is food, and it’s a great thing to bring! We had lots of casseroles, meat/cheese/vegetable/fruit trays, etc., and all of those were a huge help. It’s comforting to know that when you’re hungry, there’s enough food to feed a small army in the fridge, so you don’t have to cook. Some less-traditional food items that we enjoyed included breakfast food (egg casseroles, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls) and snacks (homemade salsa and chips, veggie pizza).

Now, for the maybe slightly-less-known, but still-very-much-welcomed ideas:

  • Coolers full of drinks, which was a big help, since there was so much family in and out through the week.
  • Paper products, including cups, plates, silverware, paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, and ziploc bags.
  • Stamps. There are so many thank you notes to write and it’s nice to not have to run directly to the post office. Plus, if you don’t live in the same town as the family, but want to do something to help, these slip into a sympathy card so easily!
  • A family friend brought us a gift bag of snack foods for the boys (even Gerber puffs for the baby!) as well as a new DVD for them to watch…very thoughtful, and it kept them busy for a bit while we were taking care of arrangements.
  • Books for the children about death and heaven (but be certain that they are aligned with the family’s beliefs).

Everyone says, “Let me know if I can do anything.” I KNOW that they mean well, but at least for me, it’s difficult to say, “Can you take my kids for the afternoon?” If you know the family well, instead call them and say something like, “I could take your kids to the park today or tomorrow; which would work better for you?” A friend did this spur-of-the-moment for me one day after I was back in St. Louis and feeling lousy, and it made a huge difference.

Also, please know that it’s okay for you to talk about your own mom, good stories and bad. Don’t feel bad for talking about what you’re doing for Christmas. It’s a normal part of most people’s lives. I realize, too, that not everyone has a good relationship with their mom like I did, and it’s also okay to talk about the not-so-good stuff. I would just encourage you to take the steps needed to mend whatever damage is there. I am fortunate that I was not in that situation, and that my family had the time to say everything we wanted to say to my mom before she passed away. I can’t imagine what it would be like to feel that I’d missed that chance.

More than anything, people dealing with the loss of a loved one want to know that people are thinking of them and praying for them, especially during the holidays. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re doing. Whatever you can do to help them will go a long way towards mending their hearts.

To read more of Nicole’s posts, visit her blog, Here’s the Diehl.

82 thoughts on “What I’d Like For You To Know: Losing a Parent

  1. Mo says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I lost my father when I was 15 after his long fight with MS. His last days were spent in hospice as well, while the family sat in waiting and prayer and wondering and hoping. I so related to what you mentioned about the feeling of guilt mingled with grief. Thank you again, it’s such a blessing to realize that you’re not the only one to have felt a certain way or walked a certain path.

  2. Mo says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I lost my father when I was 15 after his very long fight with MS. He spent his last days in hospice as well, while the family sat in waiting and prayer and wondering and hoping. I so related to what you mentioned about the feeling of guilt mingled with grief. Thank you again, it’s such a blessing to realize that you’re not the only one to have felt a certain pain or walked a certain path.

  3. Dee says:

    My dad died 6 months after we moved 20+ hrs away from home for my husband to attend school. My husband didn’t want to go home for Christmas because of monetary reasons. We had gone home for Thanksgiving because we were already committed to being a friend’s wedding that weekend before we moved. The decision to go home was last minute after I insisted that I was going period. My dad died less than a week after we got back from Christmas. I’m glad we went home.
    This will be the first Christmas without my grandma. Her house was sold this year even though she had lived in a nursing home for a couple of years. It seems strange to drive by the house when we went to the funeral without stopping. That was always a warm place and the “center of the universe” for our family.

  4. Tammy says:

    This is my first Christmas without my Aunt Clarice.I had forgotten how many Christmas decorations were from her so she is all around us this year.
    I lost my mom at 5,first step mom at 13 and my dad when I was 30.Christmas of 1989 was the last time I saw my dad.We drove up from Florida to Ohio for the holiday so that I could see him one more time before he passed away-which was February 1 of 1990.

  5. Lanie says:

    Thanks for posting this. I cried as I read what Nicole went through. My mother at this moment is fighting ovarian cancer two states away. I can’t visit as much as I like and she has been in the hospital all but 14 days since Sept. 6 due to complications other than the cancer. I cry alot, I miss her, I am sad that she is bearing this. I too feel guilt sometimes because I want God to comfort her no matter how he has to do it, including calling her home. My prayers are with any family dealing with illness or death during the holidays. May God bring us all comfort throughout these tough seasons in our lives.

  6. Lynette3boys says:

    Nicole, I thank you for sharing this with all of us. Your post gave me a different perspective and insight. Thank you for that. I pray that you are comforted this holiday season and surrounded by love and happy memories!

  7. Kelli says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. Nicole, my heart goes out to you and your family. This is my second Christmas without my Aunt Louise (Fees, we would call her) and I still miss her terribly. You said something that completely struck a chord with me. You talked about not grieving instantly. I was at her hospice bedside for days. She was in so much pain, and I was so relieved when she finally passed. I didn’t cry for days, and I really struggled with that because I didn’t quite understand what I was feeling. I still think about her everyday, but know that she’s here with me in some ways still. Even two years later, I guess I’m still learning to live with it. Thank you again.
    May God bless you and your family through this holiday season.

  8. Heather says:

    My mother in law passed away in April this year of lung cancer. It was a hard week from when she was discharged from the hospital to go home to pass away with family surrounding her. I work with seniors regularly and often sit with hospice patients. It is never easy to watch them slowly deteriorate before you in a matter of days, yet, its a comfort that you get to say your farewells and I love you and sorry if need be. Not crying, not grieving right away — I think that is normal when you have an opportunity to spend that last little bit of time with them before they leave us behind. The grief does eventually come. I still have days I grieve for her as she was and still is a special person in our lives.

  9. jennie says:

    I also lost a parent this summer. I am 30 years old and although my Dad has struggled with heart problems and multiple heart attacks since I was in first grade, I traveled from Indiana to Florida in August thinking I was just going down to be with Dad before, during, and after another surgery. He ended up suffering from some serious complications and died unexpectedly less than a week after I got down there. It was horrible to see him in so much pain, and I completely understand your sense of relief that his pain is gone, and also the guilt for feeling that relief. You grieve during the time leading up to the death because you know it is coming, then feel the relief, and then the grief kicks in again. Thank you for your post. It is comforting to know there are others out there with this fresh pain during the holidays. Merry Christmas.

  10. Candace (Mama Mia) says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I lost my dad 2 years ago- 4 days before I turned 30. I can relate to the guilt about being relieved that they’re no longer in pain. My mom, sister and I had to make the hard decision to take my dad off of life support. He had a massive heart attack and a stroke and we knew that he wanted us to let him go. He couldn’t talk and the left side of his body was paralyzed. We could see the relief in his eyes when we told him. He was ready to go home to heaven.

  11. Amy in West TX says:

    Thank you for this post! I agree with everything you have said. My mother-in-law passed away Oct. 4. Her funeral was in another state, though she had lived with us. Fortunately my children are all old enough to care for themselves and be left alone. Family in the area where she was buried made sure that there was plenty of food for us at the funeral home. One cousin took my children and I out to lunch at a very nice restaurant. She didn’t think they needed to spend 3 days at the funeral home. She wanted the children to see the area and know where their grandparents had come from. Now that we are home and facing Christmas without her, it’s a bit hard. I know my husband will struggle on Christmas morning without her here.

  12. Nicki says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Within the last 48 hours we have stood by and watched my father-in-law fight to survive. It looks like we are fortunately going to have him around for awhile longer. But, facing this has definitely had us thinking about the loss of our parents. Thank you for your ideas on how to help others during these times.

  13. Leigh says:

    My grandmother passed this summer, and aside from the fact that I was very close to her, she was the last of my four grandparents. There seems to be a hole there now that wasn’t before.
    You are correct in saying that you don’t grieve instantly, and I fully believe that you never really stop, as there will always be memories that cause you to stop and catch your breath, both out of happy and out of sad.

  14. Denise says:

    I lost my dad 7 years ago after a short but painful battle with lung cancer. I really understand that guilt over grieving thing. With my dad, it was such a short time from diagnosis to death. One day in early summer he was walking on the beach without any problems, then by fall he was struggling to breathe in a hospital room. I cried just about every day he was sick, but as soon as my mom gave me the “call” I was at such peace. I was the first one of my friends to lose a parent, and it was hard for some of them to understand what to do. The best thing someone told me was my Mother-in-law who said since her dad died, there wasn’t a day that went by when she didn’t think him. It was comforting to know that even though I wasn’t crying all the time in grief, I wasn’t just going to forget about him. However there is just never the “right” thing to say to someone. Everyone is different.

  15. Wanda says:

    Thank you so much for opening up and sharing such a painful memory. One of my closest friends just lost her 22 year old son to cancer on Dec.5th. We teach together at a high school. She has just returned to work and I want to minister to her in a way that is tangible yet sincere.
    Losing someone you love…..is never easy.

  16. Robyn (3girlsmom) says:

    My dad is a pastor and officiates at a lot of weddings – and funerals. He has a closet at his church that he keeps stocked with paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils, canisters of coffee, toilet paper, and kleenex. When someone in his church passes away, he takes a big box to the family’s house so that the essentials are covered. He doesn’t ask, nor does he require to get paid to perform weddings and funerals, but is often compensated, especially if he has to travel. He uses this money solely for restocking this closet. I’ve been with him on several occasions when he took these items to a grieving family and I know that it is a huge help and (especially toilet paper) is often overlooked by the family.
    Thank you for your post – I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, full of fantastic memories of your mom.

  17. Rina says:

    I have never dealt with this myself, but my prayers are with you and your family. Thank you for letting us know some of the things we can do to help others during their time of loss.

  18. Melanie says:

    My husband just lost his very-loved mother the day before Thanksgiving this year. You are spot on with the comment about feeling relief that they are not suffering anymore. (She had fast-growing aggressive stomach cancer. She was home with hospice for only 3 weeks and 1 day.)
    For those who do want to bring food, do check with the family first. Too many people were wanting to bring food during the days that it was just my FIL at home, and he finally had to tell people to stop. Find out how many family members are there before bringing big meals. But you’re spot on about the paper goods – it was SO nice to have paper plates and cups when we were all there so that the amount of dishes was reduced!!
    If anyone really reads this, I’d like to get one other thing off my chest. If you know the sick person and are visiting, and family is there, don’t just assume that family has had all the time they need to visit, and you can spend as much time with the sick person as you want. There were so many people who wanted to visit with my MIL, which wore her out so much when they left, that none of the 5 grandchildren really got to spend much good visiting time with their Nana before she passed. That still hurts me, and probably will for a long time. Her two sons got to spend a good bit of time because they were there morning and evening for a while, but the grandkids were only there during regular day hours and everyone else was taking up Nana’s time.

  19. Angie says:

    I have a sweet friend, L, whose mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when L was only 15. She lived until L was 20 (in college), and two years ago today my hubby and I sang at the funeral. I think, too, the grief continues no matter how many years it has been… and once the cards and food and people disappear, the grief, the memories continue. I know for L it’s the remembering… the cards she gets today letting people know they still remember and they still care even after 2 years. That’s important, too.
    Thank you for sharing this!

  20. pam says:

    Great tips, my Mom died right Thanksgiving two years ago and the first time back home after everything was weird, you know Mom’s a lot of the times make up the home and it was weird not to have her there cooking those great meals, and to call home once a week and not be able to talk to her was really hard. But it fun now to get to know my Dad and to see him different.

  21. Heather says:

    Another note – feeling guilty is also part and parcel for the “grieving” — please remember just they are feelings and each and every person close to someone they have lost is going to feel those things. I have read all the comments here and felt I needed to share that you cannot let those feelings get you down too much. Recognize them and comfort yourself too. Be self-compassionate. Guilt for feeling grateful the one you loved is no longer suffering is part and parcel of what you have gone through with them. You may not be the one in physical discomfort as they are but your heart felt discomfort is just as tangible. And keep in mind everything you did to help ease them along their journey is and was a blessing.

  22. Photoqueen says:

    Thank you for sharing. My mother-in-law died 7 years ago, and holidays are still difficult to navigate. You’re right – I have certainly been guilty of the “let me know if I can do anything” offer. Good tips for actual things to give. Thank you.

  23. Nicole says:

    Nicole, thank you so much for sharing. It was somewhat eerie reading your story, as this summer I lost my grandma (who was more like my mom to me), and while she had a relatively short time from diagnosis to death, her last days were spent at home, where we prayed it would end more quickly for her once she went into the coma. (It was about 36 hours as well.) This first Christmas without her is already very hard for me, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my feelings. Thank you for sharing. (And my name is Nicole too! Weird, huh?)

  24. Tabitha (From Single to Married) says:

    I can’t imagine losing my mother so my heart truly goes out to you. My husband lost his ex-wife rather suddenly a few years ago and even though they were no longer together, it was still a difficult experience for everyone. He went through a lot of the feelings that you mentioned here and it was a very tough time for him. I appreciate your words because it’s often hard to know how to help a person during that time and your suggestions are very insightful.

  25. sh says:

    What a brave woman you are to share your pain in such a public forum. I’ve been there. I know this valley you are traveling very well.
    My mother (and best friend) passed away 8 years ago, I was 35 and had no children. I now have two children and one of my greatest regrets is that my children never had the chance to know her. Now, this year, my father died the week before Thanksgiving. Losing my mom was probably the hardest thing that ever happened to me because it was so sudden – two days from stroke to death. But, losing my father has not been easy either. His death was slower and we had to make very difficult decisions about his care. That is a different kind of pain, but just as painful. It is an odd feeling that I realize now I’m an orphan. There are no parents to share my stories or ask questions. Just me.
    One of the comments said, “You don’t get over it”. She’s right. You learn to live with it, but there are times, even years later when the pain returns.

  26. Hayley says:

    Nic, this was really good! I know all about it already(I’m Nicole’s sister) but it still helps knowing how that someone feels the exact same way. It took me nearly 2 weeks to start to actually grieve. Always remember she’s still listening to us and won’t ever stop loving us.

  27. Gretchen says:

    I always wondered how the world could still spin on its axis when I lost my mom. It’s been nearly 10 years. You’ll be okay. You really will. The tough days come and go, and even at this point, I’ll have a tough one.
    I’m so sorry for your loss, and thank you for a lovely post, for which your mom is surely proud.

  28. Sarah the secret blower says:

    Nicole, you have spoken it so well…I lost my grandmother (she was more of a mother to me, we were THAT close) a year ago and last Christmas I couldn’t get excited about much of anything…and that is okay too…everyone grieves so differently…I pretty much just had to shut down on a lot of outside activity…I didn’t have the strength for anything else…it helped me realized that weakness is okay and I don’t have to perform for anyone….if they love me, they will understand…
    thank you for sharing your heart with us!
    and the tips are great!!

  29. Chris says:

    My mom died November 29th, and I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I can celebrate again. The holidays this year are just too painful. I know that will fade with time, but for right now the hurt is too fresh.
    We also felt a sense of relief when Mom passed, only because her suffering was finally over. The grief is hitting now. It hits us broadside in little ways…in the middle of the grocery store when you see an item she loved, when you think you’d love to pick up the phone and call to tell her something and realize she’s not there, when you need someone to pick up a kid from school and there’s no one to do it.
    I miss her so!

  30. Ingrid says:

    Thank you, Nicole. My mom died of cancer a year and a half ago, when I was 27 and had just gotten married 7 months before. This Christmas my husband and I found out that we’re expecting our first child, which is bringing up the grief of losing my mom all over again. Thank you for helping people understand something that can feel so awkward.

  31. Julie says:

    I can understand. I was 22 when my dad passed and it’s been almost 7 years and it’s still hard to believe. Take care and try to focus on all of the good and funny moments in life. That always made us feel better.

  32. angie says:

    thank you so much for writing this it seems that we will always remember that day a parent passes no matter how much time passes. Thank you also for sharing ideas on how to help others when they face this situation

  33. Joni says:

    Nicole – thank you! You couldn’t have said it any better. Small world – a good friend of mine pointed this out to me knowing you were my niece and she also reads this blog.
    We lost your Grandpa (my dad) 31 years ago to cancer and it still stings. This is something that never goes aways but truly does dull as the time passes. You still have moments of grief that hit like a brick sometimes, when I smell someone with his cologne, see someone who looks like him from the back, here a phrase he always said, etc. The grandkids and great-grandkids he missed always makes me sad thinking of how much he would have enjoyed them. He loved his broad of kids and would have truly enjoyed all the additional ones we have added over the 31 years.
    I, still to this day, feel “something” in missing during the holidays and don’t enjoy them as I should because of him not being there but I do know he is with us in spirit(you can see a little of him in all of us).
    I know your Mom knew how much everyone loved her and she couldn’t have asked for anything better. She is truly missed.
    Take the time during the holidays for a little grief but also many smiles about all the great times together.
    Love and prayers to all of you!!

  34. Jenni says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Nicole. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I will make an extra effort to treasure every moment I have with my parents…

  35. MM says:

    This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it. A friend of mine lost her grandmother (that raised her) a few years ago, and I’ve never really understood how much pain she was going through. Or how to help for that matter. Her father is now dying from cancer and doesn’t have but a few months left. Thank you for mentioning things that I can do to help. Prayer is a given, but those TANGIBLE things are what I struggle with.
    Thank you for sharing!

  36. Mandy says:

    Oh Nicole,
    I started crying at the first sentence and haven’t stopped. I think of your mom often. I pray that this first Christmas with her in heaven isn’t too difficult for you or your family.
    I love you!

  37. Amy @ Cheeky Cocoa Beans says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post! My mom passed away 11 years ago after a long illness, when my firstborn was 9 mos. old. It is certainly true what some other commentors have said–that the grief can resurface in a powerful way, sometimes out of the blue. Then there are the not-so-unexpected times, such as at Christmas and with the births of my two other children. I will always miss her! Thanks again!

  38. Carol @ She Lives says:

    When my dad died, we had to make the decision to pull the plug. The brunt of responsibility fell to me – the oldest, the nurse – and it was a really difficult one to make. We all knew that, if he could have, he’d have kicked our butts for letting him go on hooked up to machines as long as we did. It was still really hard.
    I know that guilt. Watching him struggle for those last breaths and praying he wouldn’t take another one.
    This was a great post. And yes, when we lose someone, those are the things we need, practical, emotional and spiritual.
    Well done!

  39. MooBeeMa says:

    Awesome post! I know first hand what it’s like to be in the “sandwich generation.” Be ready folks, caring for parents and raising kids at the same time is a rough ride! But it can be rich too with a little planning ahead.

  40. Kris says:

    Thanks for writing this, Nicole. My favorite aunt passed away a few days ago, and I wasn’t sure what to do for my cousins (her kids). These are great ideas.

  41. Elisabeth says:

    Thank you so much for that post. In the past three months I have lost one of my best friends to murder, one of my best friend’s dad’s to a sudden unexpected heart attack and my grandfather to a slow lingering illness that robbed him of his brain.
    The grief is always resurfacing in the weirdest ways. And the oldest grief is the most fresh. I just want that pain to disappear but that’ll never happen. As I talk to her brother daily we just pretend to forget the grief, to move on, to act like Emily’s death never happened, that she’s simply not here. But neither of us can avoid the truth. She’s in heaven now and I cannot wait to get a good start on eternity with her someday.
    It all comes back to the truth, though, that it is in Christ *alone* that our hope is found.

  42. Lisa says:

    We went through almost the same thing with my father-in-law this year and are getting ready to nagivate our first Christmas without him. it was great to hear that someone else feels and went through what we did. It almost sounds identical. Thanks for sharing.

  43. Debbie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing.I feel like I am not alone nor are my fellings irrational.
    This year my MIL passed anway and the my 22 year old son passed away from a long illness. This has been a tough holiday season for my family.

  44. Gretchen says:

    When my dad died ten years ago, he was in a nursing home and hadn’t been able to get out of bed or walk in years. The end was very difficult, and he was very aware of what was happening. Later, it struck me that as much as we wanted him to live and to stay with us longer, he could not have gotten better until he left us. I imagine him now walking through forests and on beaches – happily waiting for us to join him.

  45. Grateful for Grace says:

    I walking through my first holidays without my mom, too. She died January 25, 2008. It seems like such a short time ago.
    You shared well.
    One of the sweetest gestures during the days after my mom died, was when her neighborhood friends brought TONS of food but also a big laundry basket full of paper goods AND two big plates of PB&J. Since I had 5 kids at the time, that was the kindest and most thoughtful gift. It really touched me.
    I’ve prayed for you and your family.

  46. Tonggu Momma says:

    Nicole ~ I am sorry for your loss. We are navigating our first Christmas without my father-in-law. He passed away after fighting stage three pancreatic cancer for 15 months. The end was… horrific. You expressed things so very well. I know this post will be helpful to many. Thank you.

  47. Johnna says:

    This was a great post. Nicole’s words were right on. I am currently going through the second holidays without my mom. The first one was so hard and unnatural. The second is a bit easier, but still hard. I don’t think time will really change that for me. My mom was best friend, and I too lost her to cancer.

  48. Joanna @ Grace In The Home says:

    Thanks for writing this, Nicole. My husband lost his father on Christmas Day 2007. It was a very difficult time, and as Christmas approaches, we are dealing with strong feelings of both grief and joy. Grief as we experience the memories of last Christmas morning and joy as we celebrate Christ’s birth with our remaining family.
    What we appreciated the most was food (so we didn’t have to worry about cooking) and help with our 2-yr-old daughter. Nicole, I pray great blessings and comfort on you this Christmas as you experience the many emotions of Christmas without a loved one.

  49. se7en says:

    What a brave and from the heart post… A dear friend lost her husband two years ago and she was left with four young kids… the things she says that helped her most at the time: were snacks, she couldn’t think about meals and getting her kids to eat from yet another casserole was a nightmare… My husband pops round one night a week so the kids can just hang out with him and she can get a few things done on her own… even now two years later if I take the kids for an afternoon of swimming she really appreciates the time to get a few errands done on her own and a little time just to gather herself.

  50. Happy Mommy says:

    Thank you for sharing this story… I have really been struggling with this Christmas I just lost my Grandpa who raised me, in October. There is such unnecessary quilt that comes with holiday planing.

  51. jennielynn says:

    Thank you, Nicole. I am losing my father to ALS and this is our last Christmas together. It’s so very hard not to grieve now, to treasure this time that we have and save the sadness for after he’s gone. I know this next year is going to be terribly hard and your post helps me put it perspective.

  52. Sara T says:

    Nicole – We are thinking and praying for you and your family this holiday season and in 2009. Your mother was a WONDERFUL person, she always had a smile for anyone and everyone!
    Take care,
    Sara and family

  53. Joy says:

    Thank you Nicole for sharing. My dad passed away when I was 26 from primary liver cancer. It was a quick fight that just took over his body before we even knew what it was. The first year is the hardest. Though you will still miss them very much each year, you cope with it differently as time goes on. I ditto everything you said about dealing with the aftermath. hang in there and know that mom would want you to continue to celebrate life.

  54. jay says:

    Thank you for the advice!! A friend just lost her dad a few days ago unexpectedly. They are out of town but there were some great ideas!

  55. Cheri says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! My mom was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and lung tumor in May. She is now in remission, but the tumor on her lung was stage 4 so who knows how long the remission will last. Thank you for knowing that I’ll live through the loss. My mom and I are very, very close and I am glad there won’t be any unresolved issues whenever the end comes.

  56. Jen says:

    Having lost my dad to cancer when I was 26, I understand too well what you wrote about. Clearly, based on the comments here, your courage is inspiring to many. Don’t forget to let yourself be weak, too. If you’d like one article of proof that you will never forget your mom and that you will get through this (over a lifetime), check out
    If you go on Friday or anytime through the weekend, it’ll be the top post. After that, click on “grief” (It’s scheduled for Friday morning, the anniversary of his death, so please bear with me on the clicking thing)
    May God bless you and keep you!

  57. Jill says:

    Wow. Beautiful post, and so right on. I lost my Mom just over a month ago. It’s a journey, that’s for sure. LOVE your tips to others – exactly right. The “let me know if I can do anything” is hard. You are so emotionally spent, the last thing you are going to do is call in a favor. I’ve definitely learned it’s better to just do, and don’t ask.
    Thanks for sharing your journey.

  58. Suzanne B. (Crunchy Green Mom) says:

    Thank you so much for this! I have not lost any family as of yet and I’ve always wondered what to do for friends, etc that might lose theirs in the near future. It’s good to have an idea of what they are going through and what I can do to help. I’ll file this away in my brain!

  59. Maureen says:

    I just recently moved into a new apartment. The reason this apartment was for rent was that the previous tenants, an elderly couple, were killed suddenly in an automobile crash. I met their daughter the night I looked at the place and we have become friends these past two months. I blogged about the grace of our friendship a few days ago (http://beingchronicallyillisapill.blogspot.com).
    THANK YOU for sharing your story. It helps me to understand a little better what my friend is going through, and to try to help support her in the best way I can. I pray for you and your family as you go through these holidays, that you are surrounded by the good memories of the holidays you had with your mom, and that your grief eases some with time.
    Good luck to you and God bless you.

  60. Lisa Albrecht says:

    Nicole — I so needed to know this. A friend’s mom went to heaven a month ago after a very long illness, and I’ve been at a loss knowing how to help. Your article will help me better love on her during the holidays.

  61. Lesley says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. My mom died April 8, 2006 and I miss her so much. She had non-hodgkins lymphoma and like your mother, she fought a 3 year battle. It was tough to go through, and being 3 hours away added to the stress. Each week for the last year, I would drive the 6 hours both ways to see her. Many weeks I drove it 3 times. Though it was hard, I would not have it any other way. It was a little that I could do, for someone who meant so much to me.
    This Christmas take it easy. Give yourself time to heal. I will be praying for you and for all the others that I know who are going through this.

  62. gillie says:

    Thanks for your post, I hope you have peace in your heart this holiday season.
    My mother passed away from cancer 11 years ago, just before thanksgiving when I was 21. Every holiday season the sadness of our loss creeps into my heart, but then I am reminded of the goodness of God and the blessing it will be to see her again perfected.
    It is wonderful to have good friends to support us through the times we need it.

  63. Jennifer C says:

    Thank you for this post. My mom died on Monday. I am still in the very beginning stages of grief and your words were comforting. My mom also suffered, she had MS. I am glad to have your words about feeling guilty about praying for it to be over quickly. The last 12 hours with my mom were such a blessing for our family.

  64. Barbara H. says:

    OK, I had to wait to read this — it was so busy this past week, I couldn’t afford to stop and get emotional, so I waited til now.
    We just passed the third anniversary of my mom’s passing. She had heart problems, and though we knew she wouldn’t make it to 80 or 90, 68 just seemed way too early for her to go. If not for knowing that God is in control and had SOME reason for taking her when He did, it would have been unbearable. There are so many times I would so love to pick up the phone and call her or arrange to do something together.
    I agree with the tips here. Food and supplies were a great help, with so many family members coming in and out. Our kids weren’t little at the time, but I love the ideas mentioned for young ones. I especially like the tip about offering specific help. Whatever you feel led to offer might be just what they need but are hesitant to or just wouldn’t think to ask.
    I would add that there is no time limit on grief, so don’t expect a friend to “get over” the loss of a loved one in a certain time period. Even though in one sense it does get easier over time, there are unexpected waves of grief that can be triggered any time by something unexpected.
    For a while in my circle of acquaintances, when someone would speak of losing a loved one, someone would say, “They’re not lost: God knows where they are” or “We know where they are.” True and well-meant, but not much comfort is in such statement. It’s not the same as losing the car keys. Though we rejoice that our loved ones are with the Lord, and we really couldn’t wish them back from what they are experiencing in heaven, we miss their fellowship and presence with us just as we would a loved one who is on a long trip. But the difference is we can’t communicate with them, and we don’t know how long it will be til we see them again.
    I wouldn’t worry about feeling you have to say something to comfort your friend. There is probably nothing you could say she doesn’t already know. It’s ok to let her cry and just put your arm around her shoulder — or let her talk about everything else under the sun if she doesn’t feel like discussing her loss. Just someone’s presence and care mean a great deal.

  65. spiritmom says:

    My dear friend made a “get to know Ga-Ga” book for her three young children while her mom was dying. She knew her kids wouldn’t remember her mom, but they could get to know her through the pictures and memory book. I thought it was a beautiful testimony of her love for her mother.

  66. Forgetfulone says:

    I lost my father four years ago, and it was the hardest thing. I was 39. Now, my mom has lung cancer. Perhaps it is operable. We’re not sure yet, but with lung cancer, the five year survival rates are low. So… I don’t know if this year is the last or not.

  67. Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING says:

    My husband is in the late stages of brain cancer. It is awful for us, yet we have so much peace in our Lord and his promises of provision for us. We have a 5 and 7 year old boy. This post is very well written and practical. I know from my perspective, those most helpful are the ones that don’t ask, but INSIST they are coming over to help clean or do laundry regardless if I am home. I always feel like taking help means I also have to entertain, but when help like I just mentioned comes along, sometimes, I just have other things to do and I say I can’t be here. I come home to a clean kitchen or vacuumed floors and it is SOOOO relieving.
    This is great advice to anyone who truly wants to help a friend in need who won’t tell you what she needs or wants.

  68. tammy Thomas says:

    NIcole, I’m so sorry you are traveling through this grief, it is so hard I know.
    10 years ago (I was 32) both of my parents were killed in an auto collision (mom instantly and dad a few hours later). So unexpected and shocking. We grieved instantly, and wished for the chance to say goodbye. The pain still surfaces at most unexpected times and then at those that you might also expect. Your post has brought the tears.
    That is something you most assuredly never expect, is to hold a double funeral for your parents. While we were so grateful for the blessing that they went together, we were also wondering why both of them.
    A friend that was with us for the week watched our children and fed and cared for them when we were just going through the motions of arrangements and living.
    I hope your post helps others know what they might do for someone in your situation.
    God bless and comfort you at this time.

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