Grief During the Last Stages of His Life

Barbara, My 32 year old son is dying. He is waning slowly. It is hard watching him be miserable and having no quality or enjoyment of life. I do not want my son to die, but I do not want him to suffer. I feel so guilty because I know what the only alternative is (other than an absolute miracle-which is always a possibility). Some days I am ok, others I just cry on off all day. I am at a loss of how I should feel or think. I didn’t really realize how a person could grieve before the imminent death. Any words of wisdom or reading that might help my heavy, sad, fearful heart.

I am so sorry to hear of the challenge you and your son are facing. Our children are not suppose to die before we do. I can not think of any grief more intense than watching your child deteriorate before your eyes. You are grieving his dying and his eventual death. This is oh so normal, but that doesn't make it any easier.

From the moment of a diagnosis of a life threatening illness we begin grieving. We grieve not just the eventual losses that come with serious illness but the approaching death itself. We grieve our losses before they ever happen and while we are doing this pre-grieving (for lack of a better word) we are looking for the miracle.

There are no words that can really make anyone feel better when life seems out of control and we are faced with an inevitable and unacceptable future. I can only suggest you love your son, be there for him. Spend time with him, talk to him about everything - good and difficult. Make some memories. Use this gift of time with him wisely. Treasure what you have together now. Although you would like life to be different for the two of you, it isn’t. Right now is probably the best it is going to be so live through it, make it special.

You might find The Eleventh Hour helpful as his condition continues to deteriorate. From what you described in your email it doesn't seem like your son is actively dying (weeks) so you might find A Time To Live helpful. Even though I wrote it for the patient, I think it can give family members direction also.

Related products


kenneth d marlatt

yes I went through this process for almost 5 months with my wife of 60 years. to watch her slowly fade away but yet determine to beat death head on. we tried to keep her in any and all activities as a family. she was so brave right up to the end. she had actually more strength than I myself or our children who had been by her side from the very beginning. it has been almost 2 years since being gone and it doesn’t get any easier. we did so many things together that I find I miss her all that more. at least she got her final wish that she could pass away at home.


Yes any info about greaving helps. Thankyou

Nancie Ryan

Thank you for your writings. The little blue book brought comfort and understanding for me this past couple of months. I lost my Mother and Father two months apart.
I was able to identify with several things in the book.
Thank you again!

Nancy Buckingham

My husband is on hospice at home and my brother lives with us and makes it possible for my husband to be home. They have told me anywhere from weeks to months and it will be 8 months soon. I do wait for that miracle. We have talked about everything, but it’s still difficult. We have been married 28 yrs, I’m 65 and he is about to turn 81, we worked together, we did everything together, it is hard.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published