How best to help someone die?
March 14, 2017 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Help me help my best friend through the end of her life.

My best friend is dying of ovarian cancer. I'm not going to talk in detail about that, except to say that it looks like maybe two months left. She's too young, it's too soon, her kid isn't grown. It's awful.

I'm her best friend and I have been, and will continue to be, the person who is always there, and who listens to her talk about everything. I need advice about what I don't know about the coming months. Have you helped someone through death? What can't I predict right now?

I'm particularly interested in advice from anyone who has done this under the too young/too soon scenario. Meaning, yes, I have been present at the end of life for older people, when it was sad but part of the natural rhythm of life. And I have been in situations where a young life has been snuffed out suddenly, like in a terrible car accident. But I don't know what is coming under the situation I'm facing now.

I am not asking about these issues, which we already have under control:
-- legal issues like wills, child custody and such
-- medical issues, or looking for more treatments
-- right to die issues, or my friend's intentions about how she wants to go out
-- other people helping out, like delivering meals, etc.

My BFF's household: a husband, a teenager, an ex-husband
My household: my husband, and my young teen (who will definitely be freaked out by seeing someone his mom's age die, leaving a child behind)

What do I need to know about the coming weeks?
posted by BlahLaLa to Human Relations (24 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Humor in every form will be as a toolbox to repair moments of despair.
posted by Freedomboy at 2:06 PM on March 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry.

I can't speak to this situation specifically, but have had some family deaths and some traumatic incidents in the last few years.

Assume the best from everyone, and don't cultivate drama. Everyone around is affected in different ways, so be kind. Don't hold grudges about anything "weird" or "insensitive" anyone close might say or do.

What's the name for that idea, of "comfort in, dump out?" Or something. You're there to support your friend, your processing of everything isn't her problem. So you need to make sure you have someone there to help YOU out.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 2:09 PM on March 14, 2017 [23 favorites]

It will be hard to prioritize your wellbeing during the next few weeks, but do try. Make time to go to the gym, step out for a hike, meet other friends for dinner and drinks. Get away from the situation now and then.

When the time comes, encourage your friend's next of kin to get way more copies of the death certificate than seems reasonable. Everybody will want an original. 20 is a good number to start with.

Source: three of my four parents died in 2016.
posted by workerant at 2:15 PM on March 14, 2017 [12 favorites]

What's the name for that idea, of "comfort in, dump out?"

The Silk Ring Theory, yep. I assume you've seen it, but the thing that I think a lot of people sometimes miss is that they can help the entire situation by moderating their own stress levels. So, obviously, be there for your friend. Care for her, comfort her, make sure she knows her people are well cared for and she will be favorably remembered, whatever is appropriate. But also try to help yourself destress which may mean hanging out with her people but not with her (take the kid out to be somewhere other than home with sick/sad people) or taking yourself out somewhere either solo or to a support place where you can maybe be the center of your own ring when you need it.
posted by jessamyn at 2:17 PM on March 14, 2017 [14 favorites]

I am so sorry that you're having to face this. Cancer sucks. I lost one of my closest friends from growing up to a brain tumor several years ago. It was so unfair, to her, to her family and to the world at large.

What her husband found helpful:
1. There was a village of people who just quietly moved in and did the mundane things that needed doing. Her son was invited on playdates and spent time with friends' families when he needed to get away. Friends walked the dogs, friends quietly dropped in briefly and took out the trash, etc. If her family is open to this, having a list of jobs that need doing can keep this all humming in the background. It left time and space for him and for their son to just be with my friend.
2. We sent little distractions and reminder of the world outside. I sent just a silly flower arrangement and they were both so happy to see something cheerful, it ended up being a much more meaningful thing that I could have anticipated. Ditto for texts, dropping of a six-pack of his favorite micro-brew, etc.
3. Asking "how are you" and really, really listening.

What her son found helpful:
1. Having a routine that he kept.
2. Hearing funny stories about his mom.
3. Giving him space to be a kid, and space to grieve when he needed it.

What she found helpful:
1. Efforts to give her physical comfort
2. Space to rest, rage, cry as she needed
3. Safe people around her.

Sending so much love to you.
posted by goggie at 2:18 PM on March 14, 2017 [26 favorites]

I'm sorry that you are going through this.

Sadly, I have known a number of young people who've died of cancer. Allowing your friend to talk about death is important. I came right out and asked if my friend was scared to die. She was so relieved to talk about her fears and feelings about death.

You might ask if she'd like to dictate letters to her child. The two of you could go down memory lane and write out some of the fond memories that she'd want to share with her family.
posted by jennstra at 2:36 PM on March 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm very sorry this is happening to you and your friend.

The kindest thing you can do for your friend is to be a Good Death advocate. It will be the most difficult and most rewarding thing you can do for another human being. Prepare yourself for not just the physical signs of death, but all the various emotional ones as well.

It will mean bluntly telling her you want to make sure she has a Good Death, and that she is welcome to confide in you about things that go beyond the logistics of dying. This might mean conversations about the possibility of remarriage for her husband, how the approach to pain management changes when you're in hospice (aka, don't be afraid to ask for more painkillers), etc.

It will mean putting your friend's comfort first, should she go through social withdrawal. Don't be offended if she doesn't even want a hug, it isn't a reflection on either of you. Be prepared to run interference if her seeing other people agitates her. Put her needs first. This might make you unpopular with family.

Keep a camera/recording device handy -- both my father and grandfather spontaneously decided to tell me their life stories near the end, and I wish I was able to record it.

Be prepared to make executive decisions on-the-fly. Your friend might suddenly wish to die at home, not die at home, speak to someone, not want to see someone, etc, etc. You need to decide how to honor wishes that can be very chaotic.

It means listening, being present, and making sure she feels safe and not a burden. It means putting aside your own fear of death so you can make room to address *her* fears. And above all, remind her that you are doing this not just out of duty (for I feel it IS a Sacred Duty), but out of love.

You cannot fix this, but you can make it easier.
posted by Wossname at 2:38 PM on March 14, 2017 [35 favorites]

And if she and her family are not connected with a hospice program yet, that can make so much difference in the end of life.
posted by goggie at 2:41 PM on March 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm sure you will get awesome advice. I would say most of all though, trust yourself and your relationship because that is what you are for each other - each other. What she needs will change, what you need will count.

One other bit...I was there for a friend who was in your position and she and her best friend/former spouse got to a place where my friend was dealing with the pain of withdrawal, because her particular friend-with-cancer gradually withdrew to some other place as she was dying. It was hard for my friend because she thought being there would look different. But she was there and it was hard and awful and beautiful and loving.

Strength to you.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:56 PM on March 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also came in to say hospice. Home hospice is a tremendous, tremendous blessing.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:04 PM on March 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

My aunt died last year of a very complicated and aggressive cancer, leaving behind a 2 year old son and my uncle. They lived a very interesting international life and knew people all over the world. One thing that happened was that dozens of people came out of the woodwork to come visit her in her last months.

Of course your friend is likely to be different, but people will show up from the strangest places and times in her life to see her before she goes. And there's going to be all the related complications of visitors - where do they stay, what do they eat, what's the visiting situation like where your friend is being cared for, are the other family members feeling obligated to spend time with these people, etc.

Hotels near hospitals often do deals for grieving loved ones, even if it's before death, but someone has to talk about it and set that up. Making a list of restaurants so people can just go and feed themselves on their own time is helpful. Many people have it in them to show up but then feel uncomfortable asking to actually visit, while others are pushy and need to be told to go spend time elsewhere. Your friend's husband may or may not be up to the task. It's not definitely your job but it's something to pay attention to.

Hospice care will likely help with these things. They can also probably coordinate grief counseling for your teenager (and hers) if you ask about it.

But sometimes people are too close to a situation. It sounds like you're family, and dealing with these kinds of things shouldn't be family's job, because your job is helping your friend and grieving. Be on the lookout for that perfect person who is close but not too close who can take responsibility for many of these things, and ask them, using your words, to do it. Someone like a cousin, or maybe an old friend who isn't as close to you but has been there all along, or depending on their relationship the ex husband, or an in-law.
posted by Mizu at 3:17 PM on March 14, 2017

My mom died of cancer when I was a teenager. You might need to be prepared for some strange effects from meds. Some of the painkillers my mom was on had her hallucinating, which was super scary for me at 17.

There may also be some surprise revelations. I learned that my mom thought I had been smoking for years (turns out it was my brother), and though it's super hilarious now, I was really offended then.

I think if you just keep showing up and know that weird things may happen (and just let them roll off your back), you'll manage to be good support for her and her family.
posted by ktkt at 4:08 PM on March 14, 2017

Document every dose of pain meds administered. Newbie pharmacist can be clueless about the incredible tolerance cancer patients can build up and nobody needs to be talking to cops about stealing meds for the black market.

Learn the best way to change the bedding for an unresponsive patient before you need to. Deal with possible constipation early, impactions are painful and undignified. Get a prescription for 1% silver sulfadiazine cream (much better than over the counter diaper rash meds).

Emotionally, I had to dress my brother in street clothes for the trip to the crematorium (a front button shirt is easiest). He had many small rocks, shells, driftwood, etc. he had saved from various places, whose meaning was lost, we made a box for them to go in the grave with him.

You should probably make sure you have someone to take care of you the night after, it was the only time I got stupid drunk in 40 years.

Y'all have my sympathy, I hate cancer.
posted by ridgerunner at 4:23 PM on March 14, 2017 [8 favorites]

I'm very sorry about this happening to you all.

I can't stress enough to have someone to support you the night she passes away. Think about whether this is people from your family, or a friend who isn't as emotionally invested. Different people grieve different ways and some of their reactions may make you feel worse. I had a friend to call and even though I didn't do much on the phone but cry it was comforting to have someone with some distance that I could depend on.

In the days between the death and the funeral I wrote a poem that I read at his funeral. If you're planning to speak at her funeral, you may want to start thinking about you want to say. It could be a conversation you have with your friend.

Don't overestimate what you can do. For a brief while, I thought that I would play Taps (trumpet) at my dad's funeral but as the date grew closer I knew that there was no way I'd have the strength.

Plan what you'll wear at the funeral. This was another thing I didn't think about until after he had passed. I was on a tight budget at the time and ended up shivering through the graveside service - March in New England - in an off-season short sleeve dress.

These may seem like trivial things but these were the things I thought about, partly as a distraction from my grief and partly out of not knowing what on earth to do.

All the best to you and the family. Fuck cancer.
posted by bendy at 6:04 PM on March 14, 2017

What do I need to know about the coming weeks?

I can't know if this was just me so I am speaking as if it's typical:

time gets weird when you have an estimate of how much is left but no certainty. There's an unbearable stage where it could happen any day but keeps not happening: can last a week and seem like a year. But of all the things you go through, this is one that just ends after the person dies. it doesn't persist along with grief, that terrible strain of what I will call perceived infinity. You may have lingering trauma-like reflexes for a while after she dies over stuff like phone calls and sleep but that one very particular feeling does not last forever. it almost seems like a dream when I think back to how bad that one part of it was. this is lousy comfort but it may be some comfort, if you find yourself caught in this sensation.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:13 PM on March 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

My husband died young of cancer. Our children were very little. It was a terrible, terrible time. When I think about what was helpful to him and to me, certain things stand out, in particular assistance with practical daily living things. For instance, our microwave broke down in his final month. My sister went out and picked up a new one. My baby needed a high chair as she had just begun eating solids. Again, my sister went and got one. His brother accompanied us to some of his final medical appointments. He was on oxygen and needed to be dropped at the hospital door. With two of us accompanying him, we could coordinate this more easily. I also had people checking in on groceries regularly. It was most helpful when they simply handed over the bags and didn't try to come in.

Speaking of which, crowd control was a big issue for me. I allowed too many people access to my spouse. I know they wanted to say good-bye but, really, that was for themselves, not him. For him, it was awkward and exhausting. I wish I had been a better gatekeeper. Ask your friend what she wants. Are there particular people she wants to see? Not see? You could be her gatekeeper, offering to play the heavy as in, "sorry, she can't see you today." Repeat as necessary. You can also be the timekeeper on visits. People will linger much longer than they should. They are struggling with how to say the Big Good-bye so they stay and stay waiting for inspiration. You can be the person who gently but firmly says that it's time to wrap up a visit.

Would your friend like to write her obituary? Help her with the editing. Offer to call the newspaper for her spouse after she passes. Does she want to plan her funeral? Again, talk with her about it. My husband gave me instructions to spend as little as possible on a funeral. He said that if I was allowed to bury him in styrofoam, I should go for it. (That's a no-go.) So, I became a member of the National Cremation Society and the fee was minimal. We had a church service and I spent money on the food at the reception afterwards. He and I didn't discuss the specifics of the funeral but with the marching orders to go cheap, I felt amazingly unburdened.

Keep in mind that the actual activity of dying can be long and arduous. Your friend may be unconscious for several days in advance of that. At the point that she is unconscious, it really becomes about what her spouse and son want. Their needs trump hers at that point. If her spouse doesn't want people at her death bed, then your gift of friendship can mean accepting that gracefully. On the other hand, he may appreciate your spelling him in the final days so that he can take his son out to dinner or the movies. It was enormously helpful to me that my husband's mother and brothers were able to watch my girls and sit with him so that I could get some breaks.

I'm so very, very sorry for this journey that you're about to embark on. It's not an easy one but there will be moments of grace -- and humor -- threaded throughout it.
posted by MissPitts at 6:44 PM on March 14, 2017 [12 favorites]

What a nightmare; I'm very sorry. A friend had to go through this with a dear friend a couple of years ago.

One thing she took care of that was helpful: internet stuff. Much will depend on how public/private your friend is, but. My friend kept a Caringbridge journal very touchingly updated -- just the right amount of medical details with just the right amount of practical what-not, and humour; her friend had, if she was up to eating, fairly particular junk food cravings while ill, and my friend would note the specifics of that day's junk food requisitions. I don't think her friend's mother would have been up to it. We all read it regularly with gratitude and sympathy. (She also set up a GoFundMe for the expenses/kids, and, not to sound crass, but, I think those updates did a lot to give people a good window into the reality of it, and leave her kids with some funds for university they might not have had otherwise.)

If she is on FB, make sure she has people linked as family -- my grandfather just died and I was relieved to have added him under "family" and that he had at some point years ago reciprocated, because that and the sad posts were all it took for FB to quickly "memorialise" the page; it now reads "Remembering..." (Grandpa) and people can still post to his wall. Friends only, though -- unfortunately only apropos of this did I learn about designating a "legacy contact." If she names a "legacy contact" on FB, that person has the ability to manage the page and add new friends, which one can't do as just a relative and not a specially designated contact.

There will be e-mails and so on arriving in the future from far-flung acquaintances who didn't hear the news. Would she like her e-mail, etc, shut down, or would she like to transfer the password and have you reply? Etc. One of my great regrets is that I'd sent my grandfather an e-mail not too too long before he died, and my best guess is it never made it to him. (I wish I had posted on his FB wall, where someone living near him would have seen it and read it out to him...) You might want to monitor accounts and read stuff out...

It has been some time now since the friend of the friend died (breast cancer, single parent, two young kids -- thank heavens for Grandmas) and her FB page still regularly collects memories and little "thinking of you" notes and old photos, and I notice her mother thanks the posters. I expect her kids will/do? enjoy it, too. A friend died far, far too young on me, and people mostly just didn't speak about him afterwards, even though he had lived with me for the last, traumatic year of his life. That was very painful. I would have loved a "Remembering..." page on-line for him (the internet was in its infancy at the time, though). An easily accessible sort of scrapbook of her life that still gets updates, that makes clear that people have not forgotten her -- it's a nice thing for even me, once removed, to browse, and, best I can tell, a genuine source of comfort for those she left behind.

It's a hard conversation to contemplate but if she has been a social media user, it's probably one worth having. I wish FB had better-advertised the legacy contact thing. Anyway. My sympathies to you and yours, and, yes, please make sure you have people around to care for you, and take no shame in getting leglessly drunk or grieving in a black bikini on a beach or whatever it is you need to do. My grandfather was nearly 90 and lived a remarkable life, but I've been pretty sofa-bound, and probably should go and get legless and backwash the filter a bit at some point. Expect to need time to return to your normal orbit after she passes; plan on as much time off from as much as possible.
posted by kmennie at 6:48 PM on March 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm very sorry to hear about your friend.

One piece of advice that my aunt gave me (she cared for her husband, who died of early-onset Alzheimer's) was to preserve the person's voice, or video of them. Of course, this is only if it's expressly permitted by your friend and her family. She said that people always think to save photos and things like that, but it's their voice and presence that often don't get the same treatment.

When I cared for my father as he was dying of cancer, I remembered that, and recorded a couple of late-night conversations we had. In one of them, he happened to tell a few of his favorite jokes. I am very thankful to have those to listen to.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:30 PM on March 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

You sound like a great friend. Lots of people will be there, but to be really really "there" emotionally for a person, is an amazing thing and it's good that you're asking. My mother died three years ago. A lot of people were around her, but nobody talked about the important things. She didn't want to much either. It's the way her family is, but I don't think it was good for her. I am more emotional and I tried to really connect with her in a way that suited her and the way we always were (thought she didn't talk to me about it either).

Some things that I did for my mother since she didn't want to talk about the illness - to give her all the attention, to show her she is loved. It's amazing how many people talk over a bedside and not really to the person. Soothing chats, remembering things, remembering her life and her good times. If there isn't much time left, and it sounds like there isn't - these things are important. Touch and care. Tell her what you told us - that you will be there for her, always have and always will. You sound like you really mean it and many people don't have someone who can do that for them. It will bring her comfort.

Tell her you are there for her son, and that someone always will be. I'm sure this is her biggest fear. Tell her she'll be remembered always and what a good person she is. Tell her what a great mother she is and how she could have done nothing more for her son.

It's really hard to know what to advise as regards talking about the illness - whether your friend wants to cry and rage, or keeps it in. If she is open about it - let her talk, let her tell you things she wouldn't tell her husband or son maybe. As said above, ask her if there's anything she wants to tell you about either of them, messages to pass on, letters to write.

But in general, if your friend is communicating, these things will be sorted out. In the meantime just be there as much as she wants, and just love her, hold her if you do that, hold her hand. These are the things I did for my mother. Just stay with her and keep her company and show her how much she means to you. You can never tell someone how much you love them too much.

If she doesn't want to talk about her situation - just be with her. If she wants you to make her laugh, do. Some people deal with things through humour, or by laughing at silly things to not focus on the terrible thing that's happening. There really is not much you can do besides just be there for her. If she needs something, she'll ask. If there are tough conversations that need to be had - as said above - ask her once if she wants to have it. You'll know what to do. But just comfort her, in any way you can in the moment. Imagine you are there in her place - what would you want? What does anyone want except to be told the good things they've done, the legacy they've left, what they meant to their loved ones, and not to be left alone with their thoughts. (Some people may want time alone. You don't have to tire her out - you can just sit in the corner of the room.)

I'm very sorry this is happening to your friend.
You could also ask her family if there's anything they need or want to know. Tell her son how much she loves him.

I would just connect with her emotionally as much as possible. This is a very precious time in a person's life - from being there at the end of my mother's life I can see that. The last weeks and months. How you die is a big thing, and comfort is a big thing, both physical and emotional. I dread to think of my mother's mother and siblings who never spoke about anything meaningful or reminisced with her at the end - they tried to pretend it wasn't happening, as did my mother. That's not the way to go. Not that you ignore her wishes but in the last week of one's life - they can handle the emotion then. They are weak and of course they want to be comforted, and how else do you comfort someone except by holding their hand, telling them you love them, telling stories. I read old storybooks to my mother that she read to me. You could sing or play a song she likes if they are things you do. You can help her pass as well as she can. You just need to be there for her. As she gets weaker, you will be doing a lot of the talking so just being soothing etc. But in the last weeks I would be talking more about your memories than what's happening to someone down the road for example. That will just be irrelevant now to her probably. She is in her own world, she is preparing to die and she deserves all the love and care and attention that's there. It sounds like she has good people around her and a good friend. You will know what to do, just look after her like you would like to be looked after and you can't go wrong. We all bring our own way of caring.
posted by cornflakegirl at 8:13 PM on March 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

My suggestion springs from the death of my mother, who though she'd also had ovarian cancer, was in remission after surgery and chemotherapy. Her death was due to an unexpected and catastrophic aortic dissection. I had been focused on cancer; this was something I couldn't brace myself for. I'm the only child, and my parents were divorced, so I had to do everything about her funeral.

Funerals are expensive, and costs can be much more than you think. My mom was involved - what a trivial word - with her church for several decades. I had the viewing there before her funeral, and the congregation footed the cost of the refreshments. I appreciated this because I had to come up with thousands on the spot for the funeral director, cemetery fees, and the caterer for the funeral lunch, who would not perform their designated tasks without being paid. She knew hundreds of people, many of them came to the viewing and funeral, and not having to pay one bill was wonderful.

Perhaps you and other close friends could let her husband know that he will not need to concern himself with the cost of something, such as a funeral lunch, which will help ease his immediate pain. Money seems so trivial against the loss of a loved one, but there are expenses that must be paid. Even if there is life insurance, that will not appear in time to pay for these immediate expenses. Even though I'm not a member of my mother's church, I do attend from time to time, and I will always remember their kindness at a time I was both grieving my mother and acquiring debt for these urgent expenses.
posted by citygirl at 9:26 PM on March 14, 2017

Another idea is to audio or video tape her talking. If she wants to tell her life story or crack jokes or whatever, it's all good. Her family will love to watch it (maybe not at first) but it can become a great memory.

There are so many ways to keep a person's spirit alive. What are her favorite organizations? Charities? Recipes? Does she coach a soccer team? Anything you can do in memory of her is awesome. I make my dad's famous apple pie for everyone I can.
posted by bendy at 11:23 PM on March 14, 2017

I am so sorry about your friend. I came in to recommend this book, that I read when my mother was dying years ago: Needs of the Dying. It talks about death in a way that I appreciated.

Fuck cancer.
posted by lyssabee at 8:21 AM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I went through this with my friend K almost exactly one year ago. She had just turned 40 and had been diagnosed with brain cancer 8 years earlier. There were no kids in the picture, but along with her husband, parents, and sister, I was one of two non-family members supporting her and her husband.

Probably the most salient thing I learned was this: While I would wish for hospice at the end of my life, I was shocked by how different hospice was from what I'd imagined it would be. The hospice nurse came by once a day to check on K--vitals, brain surgery wound, skin tone, etc. The hospice social worker called or came by less regularly to check on her husband's state of mind and their funeral plans. For them, hospice workers were present 30 minutes of each day that she was dying in a hospital bed in their den. For the other 23.5 hours, he was attending to her every physical need, and, briefly, flirting with hope that when her eyes opened, she recognized him so that he could say goodbye. He turned her body in the bed. He changed her bandages. He changed her hospital gowns. He soaked up the fluid that leaked from her brain. He emptied her catheter. He bathed her. He took off her wedding rings when he hands swelled from the steroids. He put the cats on her so they would know she was dying and not coming back. He ran into the room when she groaned, but she wasn't conscious. He watched movies and read next to her, or read to her. He eventually hired a night nurse 5 nights a week so that he could sleep. I gave him xanax so he could accomplish that.

He didn't feel burdened by needing to care for her around the clock, but other people in similar situations might feel that burden.

Here's something else I learned: Be prepared to swing wildly from snotty ugly crying to sardonic jokes. Even when someone is dying, there are things that are still funny, like if the dog does something stupid. It's still ok to laugh at things in front of your dying friend, hopefully with her.

The morning K died, her husband texted me that she was gone. I replied "Do you want me to come over?" I wish to god I'd just said "I'm coming over." So, learn from me on that. He didn't want to impose, but our other friend went to be with him, so he wasn't alone. The funeral home came to get her body. He'd already picked out clothes for her to be buried in--something really cute including a matching bra and panty set she had loved. The funeral director told him she didn't need underwear. So he stuffed it in his pocket, where the panties still were when we met up later that day for burgers and beer. I don't know about your friends, but we took his cue toward gallows humor when he joked about having his dead wife's sexy underwear in his pocket during dinner.

There's more: I brought food all the time, and I cleaned the house. I never asked if I should do it, knowing there was no capacity for decision making there. Sometimes I cooked and brought it, sometimes I cooked there, sometimes I brought Boston Market or a frozen pizza and made it and ate with him, next to her.

Oh, one more thing: K's husband truly suffered when her parents--at varying times when she was in hospice--broke down in front of him and said things like they couldn't handle it. So he resented feeling like he had to take care of them, too. Her stepfather did a thing where he threw himself on the grass face down when he first saw her in the hospital bed at home, nonresponsive to people trying to get him up. He was having a legit panic attack and couldn't help it, but they thought he was having a heart attack and an ambulance came to take him to the ER. It was just super fucking difficult for everyone, but I was closer to her husband and felt I needed to give him extra care during that time.

The whole thing is just fucking awful. You have my deepest sympathies.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:11 PM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Many thanks. The situation is terrible. I'm unable to mark a best answer because that would require more cogent thought than I'm capable of at this moment, but every single answer helped me.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:45 PM on April 14, 2017

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