Finding Meaning

One month after my brother’s death I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a retreat on grief lead by David Kessler in the beautiful Northern California Redwoods. Even in the safety of this intimate grief community, I was unable to share the true nature of my brother’s death; I only shared privately with David.

David Kessler is a world-renowned expert on grief. He co-authored books with
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: On Grief and Grieving and Life Lessons. In his earlier book, he reviews and offers his compassionate insights into the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Even though I was familiar with these stages, it was an intellectual understanding rather than a heartfelt one. Sadly, he later experienced the painful loss of his twenty-one-year-old son, and recently published a new grief book honoring him. The insights from this book allowed me to integrate the mind and heart approach to soulfully embrace life after the death of my brother and mother. I highly recommend the book: Finding Meaning – The Sixth Stage of Grief.

“The path to freedom from the suffering caused by our mind is through finding meaning.” David Kessler

ILLUSION of Permanence

As the darkness of night descends,
The memories of you throw shadows on my mind.
Then . . . the sudden stabbing pain in my heart.
The shadows dissolve into the dark emptiness of loss.

Where did your vibrant life force go?
I seek it in the stillness of the night.
Death shatters our illusion of permanence.

My suffering trying to accept your nonexistence,
Strengthens the bond of a lifetime of memories.
Where do I direct the love I have for you?
It is tapping on my soul trying to let the light in.

Dark Humor

So, I just opened my brother’s laptop for the first time since he died, and found a his document labeled Tombstone Ideas. They actually made me smile as I remembered his gift for dark humor. Miss you little brother . . .

  • Yada, Yada, Yada … I died.
  • I guess it wasn’t a hernia after all
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Worst Case Scenario
  • Trying to think outside the box
  • He died in California. Ended not with a bang, nor a whimper, but rather with a government form.
  • For a REVIEW of surgeon Dr. A____ L_____, see below.

Semantics of end of life choices

Do words matter? Evaluate your initial reaction to the following phrases:

Assisted Suicide
Assisted Death
Death with Dignity
End of Life Option
Physician Assisted Death
Medical Aid in Dying
Physician Assisted Suicide

All of these descriptive phrases result in the same end point – death. The act does not differ with alternative semantics. The bare, raw truth of two physicians screening a terminally ill patient, and after a 14-day waiting period prescribing a lethal combination of drugs self-administered by the patient to end their life does not change with softer phrasing.

The end of life option movement faces many political, societal and religious obstacles, so a description of the choice has evolved to a currently used label, physician assisted death (PAD). The act does not guarantee “death with dignity”. In my brother’s case, there were adverse complications including vomiting bile, severe upper GI burning, intestinal obstruction and many hours rather than minutes passing before his death. The unexpected adverse effects he experienced would not have changed his choice. He was terminally ill with metastatic cancer and was at a point where physical deterioration, end stage cancer incapacitating fatigue and severe pain robbed him of even the smallest sliver of the life he previously enjoyed.

The personal choice to control one’s exit in these circumstances is a human right irrespective of our desire to euphemistically name the act.

Gender and Grief

As we learn to navigate the world after the loss of a loved one, there is no one right path. Do men and women grieve differently? Do gender differences really exist? Dr. Kenneth Doka has described two types of grieving, intuitive and instrumental. The intuitive tends to be more associated with the female gender. Intuitive grievers are more outwardly emotional and support groups are often comforting. The instrumental grievers, attributed to the male gender, are described as more action and cognitively oriented, often grieving by delving into an activity. These styles are viewed as a continuum, but I see grieving as beyond gender. If we feel that our grieving style is not appropriate for our gender, then our suffering may be prolonged. The manner in which we communicate within our family and social communities will likely predict our grieving style. Ultimately, living without your loved one will forever impact your life. We will never “get over it”, but respecting the beauty and love in that relationship can facilitate cherishing other relationships. Whichever style you grieve, there is no right way, only your way. Honor yourself without judgement by embracing self-compassion.

Gratitude in the Time of Pandemic

Gratitude after losing my younger brother and mother within the last 12 months may seem a curious choice of emotion. My brother and I predicted my Mom’s health would decline after his death. The timing of her decline allowed me to move in with her for the last eight days of her life – just days prior to the Covid-19 pandemic lock down of her assisted living facility. Now witnessing the sorrow and heartbreak of people not able to be with their dying loved ones due to this pandemic, I am forever grateful to be able to be present to walk her home.

“Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down to let us know they are happy.” Eskimo Proverb


One Journey Ends …

Welcome. The intention of this blog is to offer compassionate support for people who have been present for loved ones during assisted suicide.

If you would like to anonymously share the story of your journey after assisted death of your loved one, please email:

With your permission, your story will be posted to the blog in order to support members of our community. Allowing your story to be compassionately witnessed may begin the process of healing from loss, and sharing your unending love for those never forgotten.