Deathiquette I : Your Estranged Parents Aren’t Dead

(originally posted 2 February 2012)

Caveat : I have not necessarily grieved more than anyone else. But I’m in the habit of writing snarky posts about my own experiences.

Your parents aren’t dead. If this is true, say that sentence to yourself over and over again before you open your mouth to mention your estranged parent(s) to someone who is grieving. I am always amazed when people compare the death of a parent to their parent(s) with whom they have chosen not to speak. No one is saying that having parental strife is easy, or ideal. The point is in the choice. The idea that an estrangement, regardless of who initiated it, is anything at all like having that choice removed, regardless of the relationship of the bereaved with their dead parent, is inconsiderate at best and unconscionably self-centered at worst. If you COULD pick up the phone and call your mother right now, shut up, take a deep breath, and say you’re sorry for the bereaved’s loss. Please, save the comparison. It is one of the idiotic things people can say to the grieving that will slice through the fog and haze of grief and create sheer rage. Ofcourse, if your aim is to distract a close friend from their grief for a moment, well played.


Losing my mother when I was 22 taught me many things. One of those lessons continues to be that I am not entitled to anything. Just because I want something, would lay down my life for something, doesn’t mean anything to anyone other than me. It doesn’t turn back time, it doesn’t cure cancer. Death shows us the powerlessness of our wants. Losing the thing I wanted more than anything taught me that I am not entitled to anything that I want, have no reason to think I will ever get anything I want again, and am, frankly, naive to ever have thought otherwise.

So, to fill the gaping hole of powerlessness, I became driven. I would do everything in my power to prepare for every contingency. I would never let loose, I would never lose control, I would do all of the things I was supposed to do so that I couldn’t be taken by surprise again. I would give my 20’s to always having a full-time job, always having life insurance, health insurance, making safe bets, being reliable, never feeling that thing unlock in the back of my head that says that things will be ok, because nothing would ever be “ok” again. Certainly not by my old definition. I don’t know what it feels like to “let go”, to believe that things will be ok if I go on a weekend bender or don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from or … any number of things I saw people like aliens doing throughout their 20’s…and some into their 30’s and older.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to consider wanting again. I pressed my foot into the gas pedal for so long that now, my youth streaking behind me, I am far and beyond where I thought I’d ever be in so many realms, and now what? I’ve been so terrified it would be taken away, I didn’t stop to consider what I might want. If I say what I want out loud, I know I won’t get it. If I get it, I won’t keep it. If I keep it, I won’t deserve it. So I worry. And I don’t worry about things, I worry about people. I worry about my loved ones. I worry that, yet again, those I love will be ripped from me with no rhyme or reason.

What do I want?

I want you to be healthy. To live. To love. To be well. I want to be healthy, to live, to love, and be well, to see the world and enjoy my friends well into old age.

My friends are at the age where they’re beginning to lose their parents.

I used to have a friend, years ago. That friend helped me during the darkest hours after my mother died. That friend’s mother had died four months before my mother died, and I watched them, I held onto the line that they held, though I couldn’t see where they were, on the other end of it. All I knew is that they were further along the tunnel than I was, and that, if they were still going, I could keep going. Some days it was the only thing that kept me alive.

To my grieving friends, that is all I can offer you; I am on the other side of the tunnel. It does end. I promise. Beyond the point that you give up ever seeing daylight again, it will end. The other side doesn’t look the same. The world will never look the same again because you have changed, and everything will look different through your eyes from now on. But the world, and you, are still here. It is not much, this promise that you will survive, but it is something. I know this, because there were many days that the only thing that kept me going was knowing that someone else could make it further along, and out of the tunnel. That survival was possible.

And the thing that made me tenacious as hell was losing my mother when most of my friends still had grandparents, and knowing I wasn’t entitled to any of my many glorious moments with you amazing people. I’ve never taken those for granted, and treasure them above any travel memory I can conjure.

So. Again, to my grieving friends… when you are ready (and I really do recommend 30 days of not shoulding on yourself for even a moment), I wish you luck kicking the shit out of Option B.

Deathiquette VI : I Told You So

“I knew she was sick.”

Shut. Up.



Shuttup shuttup shuttup.

Don’t tell me, don’t tell the bereaved who are absolutely wrecked right now. Don’t tell anyone. Step 1 – invent time machine. Step 2 – tell them to go to the doctor. Step 3 – don’t take no for an answer.

“I told you so” is gross in absolutely every context. Saying that you knew the dead person was sick… well. GOOD FOR YOU. Here’s your GOLD STAR. Enjoy that. Put it on your binder with your “I got an ‘A’ in gauche and inconsiderate” sticker.