Jump to content
Online Grief Support, Help for Coping with Loss | Beyond Indigo Forums
  • Announcements

    • ModKonnie

      Advertisements   09/05/2017

      Hi all,  I'm sure you've noticed some changes in the forums. We've again had to do some updates, so that's why things may look a little different. Nothing major should have changed.  Also, we are going to start adding advertisements sensitive to our community on the boards. This is something we are experimenting with, and we will certainly make sure they are in the best interests of everyone. We want to make sure our forums continue to stay accessible and cost free to all of our members, and this is a way to ensure this.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to privately message me or email me at Konnie@beyondindigo.com.  As always, we will be here with you, ModKonnie

Coping with the loss of grandpa, step-dad and dad's diagnosis

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone,

I was looking online for a support group to help me through the losses and stress and from what I can see this is a very supportive group and I'm glad to have found that.  I'm 35 and feel like I should be able to handle life, stress and coping much better than I am.  On the outside I look strong, confident and ready but on the inside I can tell I'm not.  I'm going to say this is long right now so I don't expect anyone to read through it all (although I'm hoping, of course, that some do) and provide me with some insights or...something I guess.  For me, writing is therapeutic, I enjoy it and I'm naturally long winded but I really think you need to know the whole story so you understand how I'm currently feeling.  If nothing else skip to the last paragraph or 2.

On July 30th, 2017 I lost my last living grandparent, my mom's dad, and by far the one I was closest to.  Even though he was 90 up until a week before his death he was happy and for 90 years old, very healthy.  It was unexpected and hard but I thought manageable because "he was your grandpa and you knew it was coming".  I thought I was as prepared as I could have been.  I was sad.  I still am but I felt it was normal, manageable grief.

August 4th I found out my dad had tonsil cancer and then 1 week later we learned it was stage IV.  While trying to continue to learn a new job and hoping to at least feel like I was helping as much with my dad (living 1 hour south with treatment another 1.5 hours south) and my step-mom take care of their farms and getting to chemo and radiation treatments my step-dad had to have an emergency bowel resection in October.  At that point we rallied the troops.  Mom had retired earlier in the year so she had my step-dad's care handled.  My step-mom retired and took care of my dad, letting us be as big or little a part of his care that we could and wanted to.  Older brother 1 (of 3) took mornings off to drive dad to chemo and radiation when we thought my step-mom needed a break.  Older brother 2 was in the middle of a life change so him moving across the country back home was good timing, he took turns taking care of dad as well.  Older brother 3 helped with everything as well.  I went to a couple of appointments and treatments but was mostly moral support on the phone and visits to the house.  We each took time to visit my step-dad at the hospital and then when he was back at home. 

The end of October dad finished his treatments and we went into a waiting game until January to find out how well or if the treatments worked.  So as we watched dad continue to be sick from the treatment and lose weight we also watched my step-dad get better and then worse and then better...  Wounds would not heal and then they would get better.  Then he would feel worse and be back in the hospital for one reason or another.  Never sick enough to require more than a couple of overnights in the hospital but not well enough to just be completely better.  I called my mom, if not every night, every other night.  That's been our routine since I started planning my wedding in 2006 so nothing out of the ordinary.  Emotionally I was there for mom and offered continued support and always asked about her husband's health and how he was doing and offering to come visit.  She would of course decline the offers because she knew I was busy at work and it was a long drive for me and also because she's strong.  Mom is a strong woman but she's also emotionally dependent on others.  She would rather make you feel guilty for something you didn't do rather than just tell you what she wants or needs when you ask.

Which leads me to December 4th.  My step-dad was back in the hospital with failing kidneys.  Rather, they had been failing over the last several weeks but this was the first it was really being addressed.  He had a kidney biopsy and things went well so my mom started to make the long drive back home.  One hour later she gets a call from the hospital saying he had internal bleeding and was being taken to ICU.  That's where he stayed until Wednesday.  Of course my brothers and I called and checked on mom, sent flowers, offered to drive down to visit but he was improving and she said not to.  By Thursday he was back in a regular room and although he was very confused, from what we assumed was the pain medication, he was improving.  Saturday the 9th, mom gets a call at 5:30am saying he was being taken to ICU and they needed immediate authorization for emergency dialysis.  Of course she said "yes" and that it would be 2 hours to drive back that far to the hospital.  She called me at 6:30am letting me know what was going on.  Since I was on-call for work I said I could not leave until 9:30 when I could find someone to fill in for me.  We decided that since older brother 3 was planning to visit the hospital that morning anyway I would come down on Sunday.  I talked to brother 3 at 8:30 that morning and he was on his way to visit the hospital and would call me that afternoon with an update.  9:03am I answer the phone to my mom saying "He's gone.  I don't know what to do.  I can't talk".  Click. 

Of course I know who she was talking about.  Of course I know I have to do something.  Of course I know I need to call someone.  Problem is I didn't know where to start because I was devastated.  That's not a word I had ever used until August but I was getting to know it well.  I called brother 3 knowing he was driving and he answered with "I know".  We were both in shock so I could not have expected anything else but all I needed to know was how long until he got to mom because even if I had run out of the house in my bathrobe straight from the shower (as I was currently running around my house) it would have taken me over 2 hours to get there.  Luckily he was only 40 minutes away from mom.  I didn't bother calling brother 1 because I knew he was in the woods hunting and would not get the call.  I didn't call brother 2 because he's not great about answer his phone and he was out of town on business.  I woke my husband, balling, and he asked if it was my dad because he could tell someone was dead he just didn't know who else I would be reacting like that to.  I answered him it was my step-dad not my dad and it's funny that I remember that because I for some reason don't recall the minute details of the next 2 hours but I do remember that question.  My husband was upset but completely controlled.  He gave me 1 step after the other, one at a time to keep me going.  I called my mom's only sister and she had gotten the same call as me so neither of us knew anything other than I needed her to get here as soon as possible.  She was in the car within 2 hours making the 4 hour drive and she stayed by mom's side the entire week which we could not have been more grateful for.

The next few days were a whirl wind that I know all of you know well because, hey, we are in this group for a reason.  In the midst of planning a funeral for my step-dad we at least had the good fortune of starting to see improvements in my dad's health and finally getting better from the chemo.  So here I am, 1 month after the death of my step-dad, 5 months after my dad's diagnosis and 6 months after the death of my grandpa.  2017 was not a good year despite having some really good times, the bad outweigh them right now.

I've had some self-revelations.  When my grandpa died I was completely at peace with my relationship with him.  I held his hand the day before and had lunch with him 2 weeks prior.  I'm not religious, in fact I'm atheist so I don't think God will help me through any of this but I do think self-awareness, strength and family will.  When my dad was diagnosed I was terrified of losing him and had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach from the beginning.  I still do, and I will until we get the results of his scan on Monday (60 hours from now).  When the funeral was finally over for my step-dad I felt sad, guilty, mad...all the "normal" feelings.  I think.  But I don't feel at peace. 

I was 4 when my parents divorced, 5 when mom started dating and 7 when they got married, so my step-dad was a part of my life for 30 years.  I'm positive that my childhood was almost, completely, all good.  I have the pictures to prove it.  But the actual memories about my childhood with my mom, brothers and step-dad (apart from my dad, his wife and her kids) are not good.  I remember him coming home drunk, I remember them fighting, I remember being embarrassed to have friends over, I remember playing pool and darts at the bar while they visited with their friends, I remember my mom struggling financially, I remember by brothers moving out and going to college while I was at home with all of it.  I moved out of my mom's house when I was 15 to live with my dad.  I remember telling her it was because of my step-dad and I remember being mad she "chose him over me".  As an adult I thought I had reconciled all of those feelings, that although he was not a good step-dad, he was an incredible grandpa to my 2 nephews and niece.  I assumed it came with age and maturity on his part.  I also realize that at times I was a brat to deal with.  I never thought about the fact that he went from being a 38-year-old life bachelor to the step-dad of 4 kids ages 7-18 and how hard that probably was for him.  As a now married woman I had a much better relationship with him the last 10--15 years as we both matured.

Right now I'm having a hard time dealing with all of the emotions that come with the grief of a grandpa and a step-dad as well as my dad's health.  How do I manage?  What can I do to help myself grieve for everything?  I'm completely overwhelmed by emotions right now, but mostly sadness.  I talk to my mom and we ask how each other how we are doing and we tell each other what made us happy, sad or teary-eyed that day  I talk to my husband but sometimes it feels like he's moved on and I haven't.  I feel like my grief doesn't mean as much to my friends because "it was just your grandpa, it's expected" and "it was your step-dad not your dad".  While that is true, it also could not be further from the truth.  Does anyone have advise on what I can do, should do, read...anything to help me feel like I'm going down the right path of grief and healing?

If you made it to the end of that, thank you.  If you skipped to this paragraph, I understand.  Basically it boils down to this.  I've lost my grandpa, watched my dad battle stage IV cancer and buried my step-dad in the last 6 months.  What do I do next?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear JAGS,

My deepest sympathies and condolences. I'm very sorry for your losses. There is a lot on your shoulders and I know you are doing everything you can to support your mom and dad during this extremely difficult time.

Please be kind yourself. I wish there was a road map for grief. I too wanted to know what to do and how to feel better. I didn't like feeling like everything was out of control and I was raw with so many emotions. I think you are doing the right thing by writing out your thoughts and feelings, I do think this helps. I know everyone is different but maybe consider talking to a grief counsellor or joining a support group. I also found these websites helpful in understanding my feelings:

What's Your Grief

The Grief Healing Blog


The Grief Recovery Method

Grief in Common

Thinking of you and your family. Please know we are all for you. Sending all my thoughts and prayers.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now