A Long, Lonely Death

world-alzheimers-monthLosing a close friend or relative is possibly the most intense emotional experience someone can undergo, but it doesn’t stop there.

When my father passed away in 2009, the emotional pain was so immediate and excrutiating, it became a physical spike in the middle of my chest which stayed there for several weeks.  I spent months tortured by thoughts of what he had gone through in his last moments. The mental image of him lying so still and helpless on a hospital bed still haunts me. I cried all day for several days, no matter what I was doing.  Even walking down the street, the tears would come as the grief conjured memories of times we’d had when he (and I) were younger.  Things I’d see or experience would remind me that my dad would never see or experience them, and I wept for him.

People call it loss.  That doesn’t cut it.  Not by a long shot.

My mum passed away yesterday morning. Today I’m still waiting for the tears.  I wonder why.  I want to cry.  I know I should cry.  But for some reason, I can’t.

My reasoning mind can’t help but try to examine this extreme difference in reaction.  My relationship with my father was very different to the one I had with my mum. Both were complex people who were difficult to deal with in different ways.

As a fellow Aries, I tended to gravitate towards Dad, who shared many of the same interests as me as well as the same sense of humour.  We connected intellectually.

I struggled with my relationship with Mum.  Even before she became ill, there was not a lot between us we had in common. Where Dad would explode and then get over it when he was upset, Mum would simmer. She never seemed to appreciate or understand the things I was passionate about, and vice versa.

The circumstances of their passing is another possible reason why I’m having a different experience this time.  Dad’s death came suddenly.  His journey from becoming ill to passing away was relatively short. And there was the denial.  This is Dad.  He can’t die!  When it happened, it was unexpected.  I was unprepared.

Mum’s illness has been eating away at her for years.  Insidiously at first.  Mum’s always been a little forgetful.  Her mixing up names and going through a list of them before hitting the right one had been a standing joke in the family for as long as I can remember.  That, however, is a fairly typical thing for people under a lot of mental pressure to do.  Working memory gets stressed and we get muddled.  So, when things got more muddled for her, we really didn’t notice.  Not for a while.

When her walking got bad and she burnt down her bungalow (thankfully getting out before she got hurt), we realised that there was somthing going on.  A medical investigation diagnosed Altzheimers.  From that point, when she was moved into residential care, to yesterday when she passed away, my siblings and I watched her personality change, her mental and then physical capacity drain away.  The person we knew faded away until she lost all interest in the world beyond her dying mind.

As a woman in her prime she was energetic and fun-loving.  From a vibrant mother, she became a wizened hag trying to curl up into a foetal ball in her chair.  Everything had to be done for her, from feeding her to changing her adult nappies, she was literally an infant in an old person’s body.

So, for me, her passing brings a sense of relief.  I’m relieved that she’s been released.  She can move on to whatever better place exists beyond life. To see her writhing in her chair, barely able to communicate that she’s in pain, or reaching for a jelly baby on the tray table in front of her like a child in a high-chair was unbearable.

Before she died, I remember thinking that the woman who was my mother passed away some time ago.  Slowly, invisibly, but dying none the less.

I’m sure the grief will come.  But for now, I’m just glad she doesn’t have to endure the indignity of advanced dementia any longer.

By Martine Lillycrop

Science fiction author. I write about worlds that could be and worlds that never were. My books are full of action, adventure and suspense along with cool heroes and likeable villains. Join me on an adventure to worlds unseen, along paths untrodden.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I had a similar experience when my grandfather who I was quite close to passed away. I was relieved because he was finally freed of a torturous lung cancer. I think other family members felt a similar relief. But he became earthbound because of the souls confusion over the unnecessary prolonging of his physical life. The deep existential acknowledgement of loss that is brought about by proper grieving of loved ones is important for helping the soul of the deceased to properly let go of the earthly plain. This is especially true if the person has been heavily medicated or was suffering from serious mental deterioration at the time of death, they may not have been aware enough of their body to realize that it has become deceased. This happened to my grandmother who also suffered from Alzheimers. It took her a long time to even understand that she had left her body. When she finally did, it took an awful lot of of spirit work to eventually convince her to finally step into the light and move on. I recently came across a brilliant teaching from a Shamanic practitioner named Martin Prechtel ( on You Tube, Called Grief and Praise) on the importance of grieving properly from a Mayan Shamanic perspective. I highly recommend this teaching. I believe it will help you to let go and finally grieve. If you want to try this, I recommend you spend a little time during the Mayan prayer at the beginning of his presentation finding dear things that you have lost with your mother and acknowledging them. If you listen to the soothing sound of his voice and hear of his experience you may find yourself weeping. I had a cathartic moment with this. Some things in life that I had not properly came to the surface and I was bawling my eyes out and I felt so amazing afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, healing is most definitely a shared experience. I hope your healing process is progressing well. Many blessings to you and your loved ones.


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