Experiencing grief when you lose someone who is still alive

This is a difficult post for me to write because it is very personal and raw. I am fully aware that it seems like a dramatic sentiment that one can grieve for someone who is still alive & kicking, but it is the closest emotion that I can compare (to) what I am feeling right now. Whether we mourn the loss of someone we love who has passed, or those that we lost due to a personal and intentional disconnect, the grief that I feel is painfully real.

Currently, I am experiencing an array of difficult emotions, similar to the Five Stages of Grief, developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying (published in 1969), but mine differ in that they range from sadness and pain, to anger, resentment, depression, and even betrayal. According to Kübler-Ross, the last stage of grief is “acceptance”, which speaks to accepting the reality that someone that we love/care about is no longer in our life, and we must try to adjust to this being the new norm… and now there is a 6th stage of grief, called “finding meaning” (Kessler, 2020), which seems to be piggybacked with acceptance and closure, to help transform grief into a more peaceful, reflective experience… I don’t see myself coming to terms with this anytime soon. How could I when the loss is due to me being ostracized for who I am, and what I believe… that takes it to a whole other level of dysfunction that Kübler-Ross failed to include in her stages… perhaps she didn’t anticipate the great political divide that our country would face in the future, and the effect that it could have on American families… I don’t fault her, who could have ever predicted such a controversy?

I am no stranger to conditional love/friendship… meaning that (some) are “fine” with me being a sister, daughter, in-law, friend, etc. as long as I keep my views/opinions/beliefs to myself. The conditional terms to these relationships are crystal clear. I used to be ok with that, I’m a middle child after all, always willing to change for the greater good, but now I’m not; why would I want to be accepted by those who hold me to situational conditions? Where is the trust in that kind of relationship, and is it sustainable? Your thoughts?




Cancer sucks. No doubt about it. While there are many new and innovative advancements in the evolving world of healthcare, increasing the chances of remission and recovery, there are still many whom do not survive; who can’t “win” the courageous battle. I know those people well… they were my beautiful, vibrant cousin, Michele, who passed away much too young from brain cancer. They were my grandmother, who was so full of life until she was diagnosed with lung cancer with mets to the bone; she died within six months… her last breath taken on New Year’s Eve. They were my many brave pediatric patients who didn’t stand a chance against the cruel, non-discriminatory disease. Most recently, it was my father, whose cancer was so relentless that it laughed in the face of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation. Yes, the “cons” of cancer are many, and their faces are forever in my memory and heart. But are there “pros” to cancer? I believe that there are some. The gift of cancer is that it gives us time to prepare; to let the inevitable sink in. It allows us the opportunity to go down fighting; to try everything that is available, from research studies, to proven protocols. Mostly, it gives us the gift of hope. And when we can see that the hope is fading, and our arsenal of medications are no longer working, it gives us the gift of saying a proper good-bye; saying what needs to be said before it’s too late. The closure that it can bring is the only thing that makes it bearable. Traumatic, sudden accidents or events, such as a heart attack, 9/11, or a car accident, do not give you closure; death is unexpected. No one can possibly be prepared. There are no “good-byes” or “I love you”, or “I’m sorry”…. there are regrets. And to me, that is even worse than a prolonged battle with cancer.