How well do you cope with death?

This is kind of emo so if you’re not into feelings or don’t know what they are then you should probably turn back now…

Whilst my sister was here on the weekend she informed me that my grandfather was kind of ill and that it’s possible that he may not have long to go. I think this is her way of letting me know to be prepared.

Today I get a phone call. It’s my sister and she sounds shit. She asked me if I was sitting down… now, I spend 90% of my time at a computer so yes… I was, though I’m sure asking if someone is sitting down before you tell them bad news is a standard practice. Anyway she’s a little upset and tryig to get to the point so I step up and just say “Pop’s dead right?” and she replies “No, mum Col” . Mum Col isn’t actually my mother, though she had a place of one. I lived with her for about a year after I moved out of home. My sister did the same thing after she moved out of home. She was a ‘marshmellow’ (tough looking on the outside but soft and squishy on the inside ). Apparently she had recently lost a lot of wieght and started taking proper care of herself. I would guess her age as around 45. This morning she was in bed - she was currently caring for her daughters sons - one of which had fallen asleep beside her. The story I heard is that the boy went out to the kitchen and told Col’s husband, Bruce, that she wanted a cup of tea. Bruce made her one and took it into her where he found her.

Anyway, after being told all this I am in utter disbelief and I keep telling myself it’s a cruel joke. For some reason I just can’t see this lady as ‘dead’ and cling to something which says that I’ll probably see her again. I have not cried even though people keep telling me it’s ok to. So I was just wondering… how do other people here cope with the unavoidable?

Well, I’ve lost a large portion of my family by now. The first is always the worst. I lost my grandmother when I was 16. I grew up with her so it was pretty bad, but after that the others weren’t as hard. It’s kind of wierd, and I’m sure that when my actual parents die it will hit me hard.

Really, it’s ok to cry, but if you can’t then you can’t. People handle it all differently and everyone seems to think that if you don’t cry you’re bottling it all up. In my case I cried a little with my grandmother and haven’t since. It’s not because I don’t want to but I just really can’t. So yeah. I always just kept them in my thoughts and went on. They wouldn’t want you to give up or anything.

Sorry to hear the news, n00t. =(

I’m also one of those people who just don’t seem to well up easily over the death of someone close, so don’t worry too much the whole not crying deal. It’s just another one of those experiences that people react to in a different way.

As for coping - it all depends on my mood. For a great deal of the time I’ll spend it with family and friends, talking and sharing stories about the deceased, but then usually later on I’ll feel the need to just be by myself and reflect on them privately.

In any event, it’s not an easy thing to cope with - I always find myself in a swirl of emotions that seem so out of place, so unusual. I want nothing more to get myself out of that place, and eventually, it does happen, but not before I’ve had plenty of time to appreciate everything that the person has done to make my life brighter.

The unavoidable and expected is no trouble. I was a little down when my grandmothers died - one the week before my wedding - but I knew they were coming and managed fine.

When my brother-in-law died of a heart attack in his living room, though, that led to some serious crying. I recovered, but then I saw my sister and her kids. That was rough. Unexpected deaths are the hard ones.


I’m sorry for your loss.

The death of a loved one is hard, especially when it’s someone who dies ‘before their time’ - i.e. in their 40s or younger.

You will probably cycle through a lot of emotions and thoughts over the coming days, weeks and perhaps months or longer. Last year, my 42 year old sister-in-law died after a long battle with cancer - I definitely cried at the funeral, and at some other times too. She was the first relative reasonably close to my own age to die, and it made me think through aspects of my life a lot - all the ‘meaning of life’ questions that I hadn’t thought of too much since college came rushing back. It makes you appreciate your life, family and friends more.

I haven’t had to deal much with death yet. Both of my grandfathers have died within the last several years and it was just surreal until the funerals. I had a hard time with the open casket at one of them because it still didn’t seem real. For me, I was in a sort of a denial phase for a while until all of a sudden it just dawned on me that my grandad was gone and I began thinking of the last time I spoke with him since he lived so far away. Then I started getting pissed off that I didn’t see him as often as I should’ve or called, etc.

The only thing that made both of their deaths easy (that may be the wrong word) was the fact that they were both ill for a while, so I kinda came to terms with the fact that they might not be around much longer. I haven’t had to deal with anyone else close to me dying, so I’ve yet to see how I handle losing someone unexpectedly. I’ve stayed awake at night thinking of what I’ll do when my mom and dad die and it just scares me a lot to even think about it.

I’ve never really found death difficult to deal with. My paternal grandparents died when I was very young, and my father was kind enough to actually sit me down and explain what had happened and why I wasn’t going to see them anymore. I have since had my maternal grandparents die when I was in college, a few friends here and there. None of them really got to me that badly, mostly because they were all following long illnesses. It’s sad, but it’s not the end of the world, I guess. I never cried when childhood pets died, but I did cry when my cat died last year, I think because I considered him my responsibility and felt like I let him down. The vets had no idea what was wrong with him, but I still felt like I failed him. In July a friend from high school was murdered by her boyfriend of eight years, which made me more angry than anything else.

To me, I guess it comes down to the fact that the deceased doesn’t know they’re dead, so any mourning seems to me like self-pity of a sort. I’m sad because I will miss them. Of course, I know for a fact there are certain people whose deaths will devastate me, such as my mother and several very close friends, so I’d wager that my less-than-traumatic experiences with death have mostly been due to not really losing someone of monumental importance to me, plus experience with it at an early age.

I really only knew one of my grandparents, and she lived in Ireland, so we only saw her once every two years or so. She passed away when I was twelve or thirteen.

My condolences on your loss, nutsak.

It all sucks, but I’d lean towards watching someone die slowly, in pain, of a terminal disease as being harder all around for everyone than a sudden death. I’ve experienced both in my immediate family, and while sudden death is shocking, watching someone die slowly is a lot worse because of the feeling of helplessness, despair, and the drawn-out agony and frustration. Unless it’s a death of old age, I find that the “it was expected” line to be, well, crap. At least as a mitigating factor for some of the grief.

My mother died of ovarian cancer on Sept. 20, 1999, and every year I get really down in the run-up to that date, like I’m reliving the very hard last couple of months. My mood lifts as the actual date of her death gets closer, though, because by that point her release from suffering was a good thing.

I think sudden death is tough in a different way. Since it’s unexpected, it’s hard to believe and accept. I see this with my wife. She went out one morning to get her healthy father a Father’s Day card. He had a stroke right after she left and by the time she’d gotten home the paramedics had already taken the body away. Everything about her life changed between the time she left for the mall and the time she came home. Needless to say, that sort of thing causes a lot of lasting emotional turmoil and feelings of insecurity.

That’s what I’m running over in my head now. I keep thinking to myself “My Aunti Col is dead” and then shaking it off as not real.

What’s really getting to me is that my sister was on the phone to her last night. I hadn’t spoken to her for ages because she was mad at me for some reason or another (She had a thing for holding a grudge). Last night she finally asked my sister for my number, this morning she was dead. That last bit makes no sense to me. Your condolences are very much appreciated, thankyou.

I guess it depends on the nature of the gradual death. My family has always been pretty stoical about illness - my grandmother forbade postponing my wedding or my going home to her funeral because she didn’t want to intrude on the course of my life.

Helplessness was never an issue for me, because I’ve always assumed some helplessness in my life - the whole knowing what you can change and what you can’t.

But watching someone who was vigorous and energetic waste away - especially before their time - is something I have, thankfully, not had to face.

My father is in his 70s now, and his father died young, so I expect “the call” regularly. I have no idea how I will handle that no matter how he goes.


Sorry to hear that. I have no idea what to tell you, I’ve never really lost anyone I was close to.

Sorry for your loss, nutsak.

In my experiences, it was difficult to deal with when I would come across belongings or during certain time points. Seeing a car that resembles the one they drove or remembering that every other Wednesday was a preplanned lunch date.

My first experience with death was when i was 13. A close friend was killed by a car when he crossed a road a couple of hours after i saw him. His mother called me to ask if he is at my place. I still to this day - 21 years later - don’t know if she really didn’t know what happened to him or was hoping against hope that he is still alive. I heard about it only the next day from another friend while waiting for the school bus. I cried then and at the funeral. I had dreams about him for a long time after.

My paternal grandparents died a couple of years later. It didn’t touch me in the same way. I remember being sorry for my dad but not for myself.

Last week I have been with my father to a funeral of a one of my friend’s father. It made me very afraid for my own parents. The cemetery is where they will be buried eventually. My dad said that its a nice place and that he will be able to see the sea from there and we joked about it. It was hard to go to sleep that day.

The other death that was traumatic for me was my dog’s a couple of years ago. She was with me for only six years before she died of cancer. At the end we had a vet come over and put her to sleep. She died in my arms and I cried, and then me and my dad dug a grave in our yard and buried her and I was crying the whole time.

MattKeil is right. We cry for ourselves. We cry for being left behind our loved ones, and for dying ourself one day. I’m sorry for your loss. Don’t feel like you have to react in one manner or the other. You morn as fits you.

Sorry for your loss, man.

Everyone deals with death differently. My dad died when I was 17. I was in the Navy and my mom called the Red Cross and had them ship me home. When I got home, I discovered that everyone in the family had converted from lapsed Catholics to fundamentalist Christians. That was their way of dealing with it.

I never did the crying thing either, although I did understand that it was OK to cry. I felt guilty about not crying when I first got the news. I remember telling one of the other sailors what was up, and he didn’t believe me becasue I had a grin on my face. I didn’t even know I was grining until he said to me, “If your dad is dying, then why are you smiling.” I had no idea what to say. I crawled into the bed and pulled the covers over my head and felt guilty because I was grinning when I probably should have been crying. But then when I got home and saw what everyone else was doing, I felt a little better.

It really is hard to know what to do. I remember wanting to do something dramatic, like throw a sherry glass into the fireplace and hear it shatter. But we didn’t have any fireplace or sherry glasses at my house, so I did nothing. If I lose someone again and I don’t feel like crying, I am going to allow myself to do something dramatic.

Good luck!

It really is a horrible thing, especially with a parent. They’re the strong ones, and to see them brought low by a fatal disease…well it really wakes you up to the realities of life, lemme tell ya.

My condolences. :( Yeah, even if you’re expecting it, death has a tendency to remind us of our own mortality, something we normally shouldn’t have to think about while trying to get other things done. At some level, the whole ceremony and convention around mortality has been designed to help people cope with it and achieve closure. Personally, I find that nostalgia works well, but ultimately coping is different for everyone.

  • Alan

My grandparents were all dead by the mid-1980s; my mother died in 1990 when I was 23 and my dad died in 1997. My mother’s death was extremely hard to deal with, since her death was sudden and she wasn’t very old (early 50s). It’s safe to say that I’m still not over her death and probably never will be since we were so close.

My dad’s death was far easier for me to deal with, though no less sad. I became engaged to my wife a week prior to his death, and having my fiancee around made the whole situation much more bearable.

I’ve had a few close members of the family die in the last couple years. No one so close as a parent or brother, but a favorite uncle and the only grandparent I knew passed away. My grief tended to be spread out. I didn’t get it all out at the funeral services or when I heard, nor at some other time. There was a little here and a little there. I’d see an old picture or think about something and the eyes would mist up a bit, maybe more, and then a few minutse later I’d be fine again. Basically this happened less and less often until the grief was gone. I didn’t so much internalize it as just let it out slowly.

I’m sorry for your loss.
Pardon my language, but Death is a motherfucker.
It has it’s own design/plan/whatever, and as clichéd as it may sound.
When a person’s time is up, it’s up.
People deal with it differently.
You may not cry now, but you will later.
And that is ok too.

Personally I lost 3 grandmothers in an 18 month period of time in high school. One was 99, so it was kind of expected. One was in her 80s I think, and the last one was only in her late 60s or early 70s.The last one had beaten cancer, but caught pneumonia in the hospital and died from it.
Later my grandfather died.
This was especially hard, as I had seen him regularly my entire life up to that point.
Afterwards, I didn’t want to go to grandma and grandpa’s house, cause I would always expect him to be sitting in his chair ready to tell me a joke.
I would walk in and think, he must be in the bathroom or somethin, then I’d remember.

In the end how you deal with it is up to you.
There is no right or wrong in this situation.
I hope my inane rambling helps in some way