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Three Deaths in a Row: Third Time's the Harm

Updated on July 19, 2012
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

Go away!
Go away!

I've now hit the trifecta

Three deaths in six months is a lot. Three fathers gone within months of each other is almost too much to absorb.

It's one thing to say good-bye to your parent after a long, fulfiling life. My father and Hubby's father made it to their mid 80's. That's how it should be. My father and father-in-law got to see their children married (and divorced and remarried). They enjoyed retirement and grandchildren. Losing them in their 80s is the natural order of things.

But my son's father has none of these things to look forward to. He will not see his son graduate from high school or college. He will never be a grandparent.

You see, he died prematurely. He was only 57. Our son, only 17.

It's different this time

Having already beaten the topic of death to death, so to speak, I wondered what else I could find to say. Turns out, there's all kinds of new thoughts and emotions associated with this latest loss.

Even though I'm once again writing about a man in my life who is now deceased, losing an ex-spouse is nothing like losing a parent. It's more complicated. And it feels completely unnatural. There simply are no natural instincts to take over.

Soul Meets Body

My role is ambiguous

My ex had been my ex for 12 years. That's two years longer than we were married. And yet, even in divorce, he was part of my life, as we attempted to co-parent our only child.

There were also numerous medical emergencies during and after our marriage.

It's always felt awkard stepping in and out of his world, bonded by his illness. He'd go into the hospital -- for scheduled surgery or to the emergency room. I'd take our son to visit. Mostly, I visited and Sonny mumbled a quick, "Hi Dad!" and made a quick beeline for the exit. Then he'd come out of the hospital and it would be like my bedside visits had ever happened. We'd go back to squabbling.

In between, he kept me firmly outside the circle of trust. He kept everyone out, preferring to battle his chronic pain demons on his own.

In my heart of hearts I always knew he would die exactly the way he died: Alone. But I also knew that when it happened, I would not hesitate to step to the plate (trying hard not to step on anyone's toes).

Still in fighting shape from the past few months

Having just gone through the whole dying process with my dad and my father-in-law in recent months, the tasks are still fresh in my mind.

The only difference -- and this is a major one -- is that I watched both patriarchs make their transition to the other side. My ex died alone, and more or less unexpectedly.

My ex was a loner. He was chronically ill and in almost constant pain. It was not uncommon for him to hole up in his house not answering the phone, emails, texts or the door for days on end. And that's exactly how it happened. I got a call from his sister in New York. She'd gotten a call from his workplace. I double checked with Sonny. None of them had had received a call, email or text since last week.

When I added up the number of non-responses there was no other conclusion I could draw. I prayed to be wrong -- that we'd find him weakened and needing emergency care. But on some level, I just knew.

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Wish I could grieve for my son

The practical details will be taken care of. His sister is flying out Monday night. She's working with his employer on a memorial service. I don't have the familial responsibilities I had with my dad and Hubby's dad.

No. My responsibility is much more challenging. I need to help my son grieve. And I have absolutely no idea how to do that. I'm not exactly a model of grief myself. I could sooner teach him to fly a plane, perform brain surgery, or solve the riddle of the Sphynx.

The mother in me wants to grab hold of his heart and pull the pain into myself. I'm on a first-name basis with Pain. Please, God, let me unburden him. He's already been through so much in his young life.

Mom, Dad, Sonny and MM a few years (maybe 6?) back.
Mom, Dad, Sonny and MM a few years (maybe 6?) back.

Daddy, Mommy, I need you!

I'm caught in a situation that's more than slightly above my pay grade. It's exactly the kind of situation that makes me want to call my Dad. Or my Mom. They might not be able to do anything about it, but it's comforting just to know they're there. Alas, the only way I can talk to my parents these days is through prayers.

But more than enough about me. How must my son feel? Here he is only recently stabilized from his own emotional turmoil. Many issues still left unresolved with his dad, but they were working on them. Many future bonding opportunities now closed to both of them. 

My time to cheerlead him through the ups and downs of male teen/fatherly relations is now up. The buzzer has sounded, and there'll be no overtime for this father/son pair.

I so want to help him. I want to comfort him. I want to protect him from feeling his feelings -- even though I know that's the only way he can heal. I want to shield him from any urge to regress. Old habits are numbing. They are also self-destructive.

Anyone can tell you he's extra vulnernable now. And because of that, I feel vulnerable, too.

I've called everyone I can think of. I'm not going for shock value. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm looking for someone to give me the answer:

"How do I do this? How do I do this for my traumatized son?"

If you have any experience with losing a parent as a child/teen/young adult, or experience helping a child grieve a parent's death, I appreciate your comments.

God bless and thank you, Mighty Mom


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    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you so much for sharing that, Jean.

      My husband has been saying for years my son needs a mentor.

      I've never been more convinced than I am now.

      Your wisdom and kindness are much appreciated!


    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      7 years ago from New Jersey

      Dear Mighty Mom,

      I just read your kind message, so looked at some of your hubs. I'm sorry that you have had so much loss, and know how it feels. My Dad lost his Dad at 17, and then my brother was only 17 when our Dad died, history repeating itself. It affected them both badly. Boys really need role models, and it's harder to find them. Girls hear us talking with friends about our feelings and problems, because that's what women do. But men aren't as open as we are, and it's a harder issue to find men that can mentor your son so he feels he has someone to go to with his problems. I know he has you, and you seem very strong, so that's a plus. If your son has an interest, a coach might help. My son does martial arts, and began at 10, and people tend to stay with it, so now 13 yrs later he's a 2nd degree black belt. But those people are his family, they help if we're sick, we go to weddings and celebrations, etc. I saw my Dad never get over his loss, and my brother turned to drugs. Therapy is useful, if only for objective advice, or another person to lend an ear besides you if your family is not big. I wish you all the best.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks for sharing a very personal and poignant memory, gerrwalker. I'm heartened to hear that you a) found a good man and b) got counseling to get past the unresolved grief.

      I definitely don't want my son to carry the scars of losing his dad so young and tragically.

      Appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment! MM

    • gerrywalker profile image

      Gerry Walker 

      7 years ago from Treasure Coast, Florida

      Hey MM: just read this as I've just joined; came by to say Hi and thanks for reading my hubs. Got to answer this...I was 13 when my grandma died, she was my "mom" to all intents and purposes as my brother was a sickly infant so I was sent to grandma's a lot, all holidays and summers, etc. When she died it was as if my world had ended. I got stuck in an adolescent world of trying to find love in all the wrong places. Didn't really get out of it for many, many years until I finally dated a fine man who got me to a counselor and I got to say goodbye to my grandma. That was the worst thing, not getting to say goodbye. I'm 74 now, so it's been 61 years since this happened and just writing this still makes my eyes fill. I don't know what you can do to help your son; when I divorced my son's father he told me it was like having one of his arms or legs cut off. but at least he was still in my son's life (still is) and for that I'm truly thankful. But some kind of counseling would probably be helpful. You may be past this. You may already have gotten him counseling. I certainly wish for him to be able to handle this, grieve, get through it and live the rest of his life without having it affecting him in ways we can't possibly anticipate.

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 

      8 years ago from home


      Sorry late to the party here-sorry to hear about your loss but trust me here- I know they are in a better place now. Looking down hoping you can move onward with their memories which kinda keeps them alive too- i was not dead long enough to verify this but my relatives did recognize me - so i assume they still knew of me and where I needed to be, you need to be here for other members of your family too.


    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you so much Elle. Your words made me feel so appreciated. The feeling is mutual.

      Justknow that I'm definitely nicer to my Hub friends than I am to my own family:-). Not really.

    • RedElf profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      MM, I came across this wonderful, sad, moving hub while doing some maintainance. I am so moved by your courage. Yes, I know we do what we have to do, but you are always so supportive and giving (and funny). You are among the first to reach out with a caring word or a funny thought to cheer someone. I feel honored to have met you.

    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 

      9 years ago

      Hi MM!! Just checking in. Hope all is well.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you, Mamahops. I appreciate your support. We're gonna get through this -- we are survivors! And it gives me fodder for hubbing, too. MM

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I am sorry for your family's loss. Thank you for sharing your reflection on this - it moved me. My thoughts are with your son as he navigates through the emotions of the loss, and grows stronger each day.

    • blondepoet profile image


      9 years ago from australia

      I agree with GT too, it must be so hard on your son, thank god he has the best of mums, who is there for him, in this moment of great sadness and loss.

    • blondepoet profile image


      9 years ago from australia

      MM you have gone through so much I feel for you very much, I certainly can relate to loss myself (hugs)

    • goldentoad profile image


      9 years ago from Free and running....

      The shit is never easy. Unfortunately, your son is learning that early. I'm sure he'll be alright with a mighty mom.

    • tony0724 profile image


      9 years ago from san diego calif

      MM I truly wish I was some wise old sage that could give you the magic answer as I know you have had a tough time of It lately. But I am afraid all I can do at this time Is give you my condolences and a prayer . And I hope your son overcomes the trauma , time does heal wounds . Best to you my friend

    • Hawkesdream profile image


      9 years ago from Cornwall

      My son lost his father [my ex] when he was nine years old, and it was very difficult to tell him but I had too. I was expecting the worst kind of response, but kids are resilliant and he accepted, he wanted to know if he could still talk about him to me. It was important for him to know that and then he just went back to what he was doing.

      Children are a matter of fact creature, so, there it is.

      Sorry to hear of this loss.

    • Williamjordan profile image


      9 years ago from Houston TX

      sorry for your lost

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      You have posted the most emotionally moving Hub I have read.  I am sorry for your losses and I empathize with your pain.

      I had not been called very many funerals—I mean they were scattered every few years there would be one—until: All of a sudden, in the last three years, I have lost a cousin at 46 who was a sister to me; another cousin at 63: my last grandparent; my stepfather; a nephew 18 (car wreck); two aunts; one uncle (all of whom I was close to); and half a dozen old family friends.  The funeral home director said, "We have to stop meeting like this."  I have lifted more caskets in the past three years than the previous 51 years of my life.  I only say this to say, I get it. 

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 

      9 years ago from Manila, Philippines


      I'm sorry to hear about your loss. My virtual arms are on their way for a hug.

      Grief is a lonely affair. We ultimately grieve alone. But knowing that there are people around somehow lessens the burden and that there is life still.

    • GiftedGrandma profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Prayers in your time of need. Death at any age is a great loss for everyone involved.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, everyone. This advice is really helpful and I feel incredibly supported by my HP friends, both "old" and "new." Thank you! MM

    • lxxy profile image


      9 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

      "No. My responsibility is much more challenging. I need to help my son grieve. And I have absolutely no idea how to do that. I'm not exactly a model of grief myself. I could sooner teach him to fly a plane, perform brain surgery, or solve the riddle of the Sphynx."

      Well written!

      My heart goes out to you and your son, sincerely.


    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 

      9 years ago

      MM, the great advice already given is beyond anything I could toss into the ring. While I was reading, I kept thinking that you should talk to KCC. But when I got to the comments, I saw that you've already done that. I'm so sorry for what you and your son are going through.

    • Claudia Adães profile image

      Claudia Adães 

      9 years ago from Portugal


      Let the sun enter your life. Open all the windows of your house. Turn on the lights at night. Don´t be in the dark. Death is not darkness. Death is light, even if we see it as a dark situation. Emotionally we are never prepared to live death, to accept death, because we need our loving mother, father...

      We are not prepared to accept changes in our lives. You know that, because you lived a situation of divorce. You wanted or you needed to go through a divorce, but it was a big change, it was the end of a marriage didn´t it hurt? Yes, it did. And you wanted the divorce, because you couldn't change the situations that were hurting you in your marriage, so you had to go tthough divorce.

      What I am trying to say is that every change in our lives hurts, because it is a change, but you handled it. When divorcing, as you have said, there was your son uniting the old couple - you and the father of your son, that stopped being your usband. You started your life again.

      But when we're talking about death it hurts the universe on us. It is something huge. It is the end of a person. We will never be able to see that person, the real love of our life, our best friend, the one who really loved us above all. We can no longer call them, touch them...

      But we can remember them. It is not enough? No, it isn´t. So cry if you feel like crying. Accept life, but cry. You need to cry so much as we need to eat or drink. Cry and let you sun cry. We all need to cry, cry a lot, because we are hurt. We feel hurt. Someone took away from us our loving relatives. We need to blame someone.

      We sometimes feel responsible for things that happen in our lives. We are not responsible for death - that is for sure. Death is a natural moment in life that man will never accept, which is also a natural thing- not to accept what is no good for us.

      I think you all need to be surrounded buy family and friens. Stop trying to find a solution for that situation - you will never find the solution you want. Life itself will give you and your son your own solutions and the peace you need will come along.

      Don´t change your life habits. Do everything you are used to do. You know, you can always improve you life. It is up to you. Don´t call your friensd asking for a solution. Invite your friends home as you used to be. You have the time - you are alive. Take life to your home. Invite your son'friends. Go out. Go in. Go out. It doesn't matter whatt you do nor where you go. What really matters is that you ar going somewhere and that you are doing something. That is what life is all about.

      And probably one day you will find out that that light in your life is very special and comes from above.

      There is nothing that you can say or do to stop the pain, to change what your son is feeling, so let your son feel. Those are his feelings. I know it hurts to see our babies'suffering.

      Just be by his side as you used to be. He is much stronger than you think.

      Sometimes words are not needed, but talking about the ones we love might be one of the best things to do - we need it - but only if we feel like it.

      I am sorry if my words hurt you! I am just trying to help.

      Claudia Adães

    • profile image

      bean counter guy 

      9 years ago

      I've never lost anyone in like manner... but I've had my share of grief in different ways, and I've found that the people who have made the most difference are those closest to me. And they merely showed up. Nothing more. No words. Just presence.

      But a strong and close relationship for this kind of comfort is an absolute must - it won't work without it. And I would assume that you would have just such a relationship with your son.

      I'm truly sorry you are going through this. God bless...

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      9 years ago

      It's hard to lose a parent whatever age you are, but then you know that. Just being around for your son will probably help, so that he has the reassurance of knowing he still has the security and love of one parent.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Just another thought: is a site aimed at grief. There's a forum, and it is categorized by type of loss. They have other resources there. I hope people know this is not a spam comment. I have nothing to do with that site, just know about it, and thought it may be useful to someone.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      9 years ago from St. Louis

      Gosh, MM. You sure have been put through the ringer this year. Should I send Pepe? I wish I could help you by giving you the advice you need. My sister was only 9 when my mother died (I was 19), and she was the one who found her. Her reaction was very interesting. She decided that she now had to be the "woman" of the family. She started trying to cook the meals and stuff like that. 9 years old. Nobody knew what to say to her. I finally told her that she didn't have to grow up...that she should enjoy her childhood and us "men" could take care of ourselves. Anyway, I keep trying to think of how that can be applied to you and your son, but i don't guess it can.

      I wish you the best of luck!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, KCC and Triplet Mom.

      I can handle anything God sends my way. It's just so very, very painful watching my son suffer. I am trying to be positive and keep the faith. It's really comforting to have HP as an outlet and supportive space for me. Thank you!!

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 

      9 years ago from West Coast

      Oh MM I am so sorry this must be very hard for you and your son to deal with regardless of your relationship.

    • KCC Big Country profile image


      9 years ago from Central Texas

      I went there after writing the post. There were several sections for teens who have lost their dads. It just helps to read other's stories and be able to relate what you're feeling to what they describe. It helps to validate what you're feeling.

      You have inspired a hub that my little fingers are tapping away on tonight. It's quite an emotional hub. My husband walked in on me a bit ago and asked me what on earth had happened. Once he realized it wasn't anything he did, he was good...LOL

      Take care of yourself and I wish you and your son the best.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Dearest KCC -- That sounds like an amazingly helpful resource. I will definitely check it out. I wonder if there will be people who have lost three important men within 6 months:-)? Seriously, it's so important to connect with people who have been there.

      I am grateful to you for this referral. Hugs back atcha, MM

    • KCC Big Country profile image


      9 years ago from Central Texas

      I'm so sorry to hear this MM (hugs). A terrific resource is They have message boards for every type of loss. I spent hours there when I first lost my son. I desperately needed to talk to someone who had lost a child. The more similar the circumstances, the better. It was so comforting because these people knew the right things to say, where other people didn't. You and your son both could go there. Just create a log in name and then it allows you to anonymously tell your story, ask your questions, or just read what everyone else has said. I'm sure there is a category for exactly your situation.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Fishkin, Maggs, Lisa, thank you for your support. I feel comforted knowing that death still is part of everyone's life and somehow we do all find a way to get through it.

      TOF -- So lovely to see you again! Haven't had the pleasure in awhile. Sorry it has to be under such circumstances! MM

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      9 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      I acknowledge your loss, MM; it's been a rocky few months. There's little I can say that won't sound trite, please don't let it wear you away. You've friends out here.

      Best wishes. TOF

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      MightyMom, sorry to hear this.   My younger brother was only 16 when our father died at 62.  I was 21, and my sister 24.   It was only after my sister and I had our own children and grew a little older that we realize how extremely young our brother was to lose our father (as well as how young we both were).

      My sister and I have both been very aware of how old each of our children are at any given time, with regard to whether they still had their fathers.  My youngest child is now 24, and my sister's is 28 - so we both now know that our kids will not lose their father as young as our brother did.

      As you said, when people live a long life and die when their children are in their middle years it's bad, but it seems "normal".  When someone dies young it's a whole different thing.  As we all do, your son will find his way to deal with it as best as he can.  If he's like my siblings and me, even though he's not a little kid right now, he may always kind of feel short-changed not to have "the normal amount of time" with his father.  My sister and I have compared losing our mother in our forties to losing our father as young as we did (and as young as he was).  With our father it was just such a big, giant, shocking, "kick in the head" (as compared to kind of expecting it and being more mature with our mother).   Still, in spite of it, as I said, we all just moved on and somehow got used to it. 

    • maggs224 profile image


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Not having had to deal with this kind of loss (only parents) I have no useful advice to give but I will be praying for you both and for you especially that God will give you the wisdom and grace that you need to help your son grieve.

    • fishskinfreak2008 profile image


      9 years ago from Fremont CA

      So sorry to hear this


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