Monday, February 28, 2022

Death That Brings Relief: Suggested Resources

[Reviewed and updated January 21, 2024]

It is not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it. 
~ Lena Horne

A reader writes: Hello, I lost my mother last month. She died after a 3 year battle with lung cancer. She also had a stroke a year into her cancer treatments which left her unsteady, unable to drive and with slurred speech. Although she went through Chemo, and two series of Radiation, in addition to 40 days in the hospital for the stroke, she never stopped smoking. This was very frustrating to all of her family, as we were spending most of our time caring for her and taking her to Doctor appointments. It felt as though she didn't care about us. She was also very difficult to deal with, not taking her meds at the right time, over-medicating herself, not eating, not allowing for the care that she desperately needed in the home.

At the same time we were also caring for my 95 year old Grandfather who was suffering from blindness and kidney failure. His long time companion (who we also cared for) died two weeks before my Mother. Grandpa was what people described as "a piece of work" and although he agreed to a daytime caregiver, he refused care at night. His daytime caregiver threatened to call adult protection services unless he agreed to get a in home monitoring system, and after three attempts he finally allowed the people to install it. All of this to say (and there is much more) for the past three years, caring for these people was hell. It seems to have numbed me to my feelings of deep love and connection that I once had for them, and all I have now is a sense of relief, tinged with anger that they put me through so much with their stubborn selfish behavior. My friends think there is something wrong with me that I have suffered so much loss in such a short period of time, and yet I do not grieve. Am I heading for a breakdown? 

My response: I’m so sorry to learn of your difficult situation in caring for all these loved ones all these years, and I can only imagine what that must be like for you. Given the circumstances you describe, I certainly would consider your feeling a sense of relief from the burdens of care giving ~ along with the guilt such relief engenders ~ to be a normal and healthy reaction ~ and no, I do not think you are “heading for a breakdown.” 

Caregiving, especially in the situation you describe, is not for the weak or fainthearted, and over time it can push you to the brink ~ but it is the situation that is "crazy" ~ not you and your reactions to it. I’d like to suggest that you visit some of the links I’ve listed in my article, Caregiving in Serious Illness: Suggested Resources. I think you will find some of the articles and websites listed there to be quite relevant and helpful.

I also think you'd be particularly interested in the book entitled Liberating Losses: When Death Brings Relief, by Jennifer Elison and Chris McGonigle. Both authors have lived through their own “liberating losses,” and Chris’s husband Don died after fifteen grueling years of debilitating, progressive MS. The book has been praised by grief experts as "a remarkable and pioneering book about a profound and complex subject not previously addressed or understood . . . a gift to those struggling with unfinished business and ambivalent feelings." 

In addition, I've assembled below a list of resources that I hope will speak to you in a helpful way. As always, I invite our readers to add their own suggestions in the Comments section below:

Death Wish: Dealing With a Negative, High-Maintenance, Aging Parent by Mark Goulston, MD

Dealing with the Death of an Abusive Mother by Marty Tousley

Dying Parent: Woman Makes Decision about Visiting Abusive Father in Hospice by Lisa Belkin

Forgiving Your Parent for How They Treated You in the Past by Marlo Sollitto

Grieving After Your Abusive Relationship - Why Do You Still Love the Abuser You Left? by Dr. Jeanne King, PhD

Grieving A Difficult or Conflicted Relationship Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care

Heartbreak, Abandonment & Betrayal Guided Imagery by Belleruth Naparstek

Help! I Still Love My Abuser! by Dr. Irene Matiatos

How Do We Mourn the Death of a Difficult Person? by Larry Barber

Is Anger One of the Stages of Grief? by Marty Tousley

Liberating Losses: When Death Brings Relief by J. Elison and C. McGonigle

Mourning An Abusive Relationship: Suggested Resources by Marty Tousley

Psychosocial Death: Symbolic Loss by Trish Williams

Tears and Healing: The Journey to the Light After An Abusive Relationship by Richard Skerritt) 

The Grief That Dare Not Speak Its Name by Sandra L. Bloom, MD

Tough Transitions: Navigating Your Way through Difficult Times by Elizabeth Harper Neeld, PhD

What Is Complicated Grief? by Marty Tousley

When An Alcoholic or Addict Dies by Buddy T

When Grieving An Abandonment by Marty Tousley

When The Walls Come Down by Pat Schwiebert

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here.


  • Caregiving After a Stroke: Suggested Resources
  • Caregiving in Serious Illness: 8 Ways You Can Help
  • Caregiving In Serious Illness: Suggested Resources
  • InGrief: After Caregiving Ends, Who Am I?  

  • Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

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