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Unwanted Blogging Vacation

I am taking an (unasked-for) vacation from blogging to attend the bed of a close, elderly, family member who is dying. This is not unexpected, but death doesn't generally happen on a schedule and I've no way of knowing whether it is hours or days away at this point: so life for the rest of us is, perforce, on hold—and so are my blog updates.

(There may be some appearances, probably unheralded, by guest bloggers over the weeks ahead. Watch this space.)

45 Comments

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2:

Been there recently myself. :-(

I hope the suffering and trauma is as minimal as possible, for all concerned.

Best wishes.

See you on the other side.

3:

Take care of yourself too. You're important, and you can't be of use to everyone else if you haven't slept or eaten for several days. I know this from experience. Ring for food deliveries if you can't get out to eat. They'll deliver anywhere, even in institutions. I just wish someone had said this to me, so I'm saying it to you.

Love and Hugs.

4:

My sympathies.

5:

Ouch. You have my sympathies and condolences.

Don't forget to look after the living as well as the dying. It's an emotional time, and some people deal with grief and loss by looking after everyone else while ignoring themselves. (Warning from the palliative care nurse when my father was dying. She was right.)

6:

Jedi hugs if you want them.

7:

Best wishes and hoping for optimal outcomes given the circumstances.

8:

Sympathies and condolences, and may their passing be as free from suffering as possible under the circumstances. I hope you get the chance to say farewell.

9:

My condolences, and my sympathies.

There is nothing to be offered in platitudes: all the comfort that there is, comes from the work of reassuring the dying - above all, from talking them through the fear and the guilt and the isolation - and the never-ending work of supporting the living.

That includes a bit of self-care, and a bit of time out, too.

10:

As someone who also earns my living with words, I find it odd that words, per se, don't seem to mean much in the way of comfort. But the knowledge that someone cares enough to send me a few words of consolation? Priceless, and an enormous source of strength in difficult times. (I say this, without meaning to one-up you in the "my mourning is worse than yours" category, having lost grandparents, my father, and a few far-too-young friends in recent years. I hope the words of your friends and fans provide that strength for you too.)

If time and circumstances permit, try to find private time to share any good things you've never quite found time to say over the years. And to the extent you can, forgive them any bad things you also haven't had time to bring up. Leaving good things unsaid can feel horrible; bringing up bad things as your final memory can leave a shadow that hangs over you for years.

11:

Charlie, stay safe and well within your own person. Make your best effort to give what you can to those around you. It's going to suck, but we are hoping for the best possible path for you in this crisis. I don't believe in mystical waves of love traveling through the aether. But I do believe in the material benefit to one's psyche of knowing there are people who care about your welfare. And I think many of us here genuinely do care. So all the best and keep walking your road for as long as it winds.

12:

Much sympathy to you and yours.

13:

Sorry to hear that. Take care of your loved one. But don't forget, now and then, to have a little care for yourself as well.

14:

I hope your loved one will have as easy, peaceful and pain free a passing as is possible.

15:

My condolences on your current situation. Take some time for self-care. We are all thinking of you and hoping for the best, whatever that may be in this situation.

16:

As always, our condolences and support. Take care. No rush, the gang'll still be here when you're ready.

17:

I'm sorry, Charlie. I more than know how it feels, having lost far too many people I cared about in my life.

If they are capable of communicating, please take the chance to ask them what you always meant to ask, and to tell them everything you never got around to telling them.

And tell them you love them.

18:

Not to add to your burden (reading or otherwise), but Maria Popova writes frequently, beautifully, and movingly about death and other important parts of life. You may find some comfort in her current essay (https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/07/10/adam-phillips-darwins-worms-life-death/) or in some of the related links at the end of this essay.

19:

Please accept my sympathy

20:

You have our sympathy and support. I hope everything goes as well as it can.

21:

I am sorry to hear it. Best wishes to you and yours in a difficult time.

22:

The only thing worse than witnessing the passing of a loved one is missing the opportunity to say goodbye. Please take what good you can out of a terrible situation.

23:

That is very sad. My best wishes to you and yours.

24:

My sympathies, I just lost a family member (who had been ill for some time) in April, so I know the feelings well.

25:

...words, per se, don't seem to mean much in the way of comfort. But the knowledge that someone cares enough to send me a few words of consolation? Priceless, and an enormous source of strength in difficult times.

This. There's nothing prose from far away can do to make things easier on you, but I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that people care about you and sympathize with what you're going through. You've got friends who care about what you're going through. (It's a quirk of the 21st century that some have never physically met you.) You don't have to worry about performing for the audience; we'll carry on while you attend to the important things.

26:

My sympathies.

27:

My sympathies as well. May their passing be gentle.

28:

Saw you announce your Dad's death on twitter. Sincere sympathy. If you choose to share any details we (your readers/fans) will pay close attention.

29:

Lovely week. On the other side of the world, Jordin Kare died yesterday. He'd had a bypass, I think, surgery that went pear-shaped last week.

I still object to a universe where people who cause grief stay on, and people we love and care about can't.

30:

Now, the infinitely dreary matter of "sweeping up" remains.
Good luck, take youyr time, talk to us - we will help if we can

31:

I just saw your twitter feed. I'm sorry for your loss.

32:

Just saw your Twitter note that it was your Dad. I'm so, so sorry for your loss. It's been 7 years since my father died, and it's still a rare week when there isn't something I want to call him to share.

34:

Have seen the news on twitter. Sympathy is offered even though words are lacking.

35:

I'm sorry to hear of your loss,
may his memory be a blessing.

36:

Much sympathy to you and your family.
I've nothing to say that wouldn't echo what others have said.

37:

Hey, if it's getting you down you could read a Stross novel that always...oh...

38:

I am so sorry to hear this. Losing a parent is always aweful. Take some time for yourself. A week at the beach (or wherever you like to go) would be great if you could manage it.

39:

Very sorry to hear of your loss. You have my sympathy and condolences.

40:

Unfortunately, I know what you must be feeling. My father died about a year and a half ago. A minor infection in the end that was just that little bit too much.

So, for the next little while every so often emotion will overwhelm you. Let it. This is normal, and over time the episodes will reduce in frequency.

You will now be going through the legal process that occurs when someone dies, which is rather like a security process anywhere else in that every step of the way is there because someone tried to exploit it some time in the past. Eventually you will negotiate all of this.

For now, grieve.

42:

My best wishes go with you.

43:

As any reader of Peter Watt's Blindsight[1] knows, we can't know how somebody feels, all we can do is imagine how we would feel in his situation. For most extant members[2] of our species it's ingrained into those parts of their brains that do the job that haughty frontal cortex can't be bothered with, like not shitting your pants or breathing, while for some of us it's more of an intellectual task. The accuracy is somewhat all over the field, with both approaches[3].

Having said that, when I first heard the news, I thought I could imagine your pain somewhat, even with my notoriously erratic sense of empathy, but then, I don't trust my emotions and my interpretation of them much at the moment[4]. On a second thought, I have seen people react to personal loss in quite a few different way, and I know I did so myself, both from internal memory and external observers; it's not that both add up necessarily, there is the death of one uncle when I was seven people say I hardly reacted to, and I remember I had nightmares for quite some time, though then I had already learned to hide my emotional reactions in kindergarten, at least most of the time. Being not that good at beating back sees to that.

But actually, the time I think might come most closely to your experience was when my father's last sister died some years ago, and at least here internal and external memory agree, actually the weeks afterbare one of the few times of my life I'm sure I was not depressed, I was just mourning heavily and in pain, a normal human reaction.

And aside from my father[5] singing and praying with her in Polish for the first time in years, my cousin's daughter telling me about the time she tried to kill her inner hippie by getting cold and cynical and getting past that[6] while driving me to the railway station and my cousins trying to cope and failing badly, I remember quoting Richard Dawkins to my aunt, "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born."
Not literally, not in translation, but I guess I got the spirit somewhat.

No idea if she registered it at this point, she hardly ate and drank at this point, and I guess we could have made quite some money with the fentanyl patches and diazepam she was on, if we sold them at the right places. But it was the last thing I said to her if I remember correctly, with memory somewhat hazy at this point. I don't remember much of the next few days, aside from me losing my keys in the general haze and even enjoying to believe in Tipler's Omega point for some time...

Actually I'm writing this for the second time, since my smartphone ran out of juice the first time, just when I had gotten over the tears, so there is this nagging sense of faking my emotions, but then, as a friend most likely on the same spectrum as me I have lost contact with somewhat once said, "that's just normal for people like us". And come to think about it, it's about time to get into touch with her again, even if it will be quite some chaos[6]. Because life is too short anyway, even if it was till the Big Rip.

Footnotes for another post.

44:

[1] Thanks for recommending it in some thread some time ago.
[2] We don't know how it was for Neanderthals. Or Denisovans. Or any of that extinct branches of the hominid family bush we only know from some bones or quirks in some extant population genetics in Africa.
[3] I'm still not sure if some people are even more impaired in their social cognition than me or just not that used to doing an intellectual emulation and otherwise more normal. I'm on my yearly family holiday, why are you asking?
[4] Sometime after UCon in June I realized I don't remember if I went home for my brother's birthday in early May. And there is a matching hole in some of my online activities from May 3rd till about May 16th. Which is somewhat troubling, even if I had not stayed clear of alcohol, cannabis and most other drugs except for caffeine, fluoxetine, methylphenidate and sometimes an ibuprofen for some years. Double troubling, because I went to work duribg this, of course I didn't work well, but at least nobody noticed. I'm not sure when it started, but I guess it was already going on last September. And I'm also not sure what kind of affective psychosis it was, my depressions have always been somewhat atypical, but there were quite a few days I slept less, ate little to nothing, had loosened associations, was more talkative, went on a guarded shopping spree in bookstores and felt more creative. Actually I lost about 6 kilos in the short run and 15 in the longer one, though I can hardly recommend it. Trying to keep my weight. And there is a long appointment with my psychiatrist ahead...
[5] Who is actually doing quite well, it's just he broke his arm lately and was somewhat unoccupied for one or two days in hospital. Which doesn't go well in my family, after two days the nurses suspected dementia. Then we got some occupational therapy in, namely some music scores. Still, with me realising again I'm a workaholic, and memory of the aftermath of my burnouts more than 15 years ago still quite clear...
[6] Though I still think searching an actual hippie and telling him about the Big Oxygenation Event, AKA those pesky cyanobacteria kill off nearly all life on Earth is a better idea. People with good knowledge of Sanskrit might search out some ISKON guys and talk about their translations...
[7] You know why I liked Mhari's return...

45:

As a belated footnote, don't fret if it takes a while to regain your equilibrium. We never 'get over' these things...but we learn to live with them.

This Saturday I visited my father's grave, the first opportunity I'd had to do that since the funeral two years ago. Oh, the feels.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on July 17, 2017 9:56 AM.

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