When You Experience Grief…

I lost an aunt a couple of weeks ago in New York. I’ve never mentioned her here. She was the widow of my other uncle – my mother’s and my novelist uncle’s younger brother. He died at 48 in early 1994.

My aunt had been ill for a long time. I hadn’t seen her in about 5 years. I last spoke to her just after my mother died in 2015.

Yes, the beard is off. The major reason it is? She who is dearest to me, revealing: "It's as I imagine kissing a brush might feel."๐Ÿ˜œ . Okay, it's Friday and given previously I've put up paintings of lovely eighteenth century ladies, why not a handsome bloke of that era?๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธIt's only fair.๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ–Œ . And how about an *unbearded* man? This is American diplomat William Short, painted by Rembrandt Peale in 1806, when Short was age 47.๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ . #humor #humour #painting #USA #France #diplomacy #Europe #travel #expats #classical #history #art #writing #authors #photo #photography #beards #Hertfordshire #England #novels #fiction #romance #writing #writersofinstagram #authorsofinstagram #fun #Friday #weekend

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My writing is a form of release. (As is social media.) It’s a means to try to get away. It has proven especially important to me in the last couple of years.

My mother, my novelist uncle, and now my aunt, all gone in 18 months. And my father is a wreck. I had been feeling low at times in the last few weeks – as if I had lost most of my American family virtually all at once.

Grief is like living a nightmare that you can never awaken from. You cannot shake a sense of feeling trapped and isolated. You become short-tempered. Little annoyances are suddenly magnified a thousand times.

I had an especially bad moment yesterday. When my wife – not knowing how I was feeling – related innocently to me that family members would “talk” if her father did not drive to Devon (in the English southwest) for a cousin’s funeral, I saw stars. It was like a match had lit a fuse. I felt anger rising. I exploded: “He’s 86! He can’t drive from London there for a bloody funeral! Someone needs to tell them to f-ck off!”

She shouted back at me: “That’s uncalled for.”

It was like vomiting. And her becoming uptight back at me just spurred me on. I couldn’t stop. I think I then blurted out something like, “On at him over a f-cking funeral! Do they have any brains?! He can’t drive that far! They need to be told to shut the f-ck up!”

I was trembling. She didn’t see how I felt inside because she couldn’t. I went up into our bedroom and … cried.

I wasn’t angry at her. I was just venting. I wasn’t even that troubled about my father-in-law: he has not exactly been a great guy to us over the last decade.

I had earlier taken an afternoon nap – I don’t often do that – because I was feeling out of sorts and a bit down. When I awoke, much as I tried to think happy thoughts, I still felt off. Her telling me of family nimcompoops making unreasonable demands and being judgmental of an 86 year old set me off. I could have jumped through my skin at the idiocy.

A grief counsellor weeks after my mother’s 2015 death had said people react to loss in their own ways. And often unpredictably so. With me I notice grief can appear over silly things, or in moments of stress.

Yesterday, my in-laws were coming to visit and the extended family dynamic since 2004 has at times been very unpleasant. And there you get that stress. They blame my wife because a pig sister-in-law told my wife to get lost after we had spent a year and a half helping them, and by extension also their kids, with work and money after my brother-in-law had lost his job.

As we helped them, all they did was abuse my wife and expect more. They blackmailed us with their kids. Essentially we were told give over money unconditionally and indefinitely or you won’t see the kids again – oh, and by the way, we have you over a barrel because if you don’t do exactly what we want we’ll whine to the grandparents and they’ll back us, not you, because of our children. And you don’t have kids.

Our reaction: shove your kids. No one threatens us. That woman – and my brother-in-law went along with it – created a rift that exists to this day and will never go away. Because of her decree, we have had nothing to do with their three kids since; however, we do have excellent relations with my wife’s other brother’s three kids. That difference – forced upon us by the pig sister-in-law – and that the kids are all of similar ages, has naturally created a great deal of friction over the years with my in-laws. I can’t begin to go into the trouble and ugliness it has caused us time and again.

The pig sister-in-law was right: those three grandchildren “trumped” rationality and justified any level of ingrate, obnoxious behaviour on her part. After all we’d done for them, my wife being told off by that pig became … somehow … my wife’s fault. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. If you are young and newly married, allow me to offer this piece of advice: NEVER EVER EVER get involved with relatives and money.

But I can say nothing to my mother-in-law when she occasionally passive-aggressively insults her daughter, my wife, right in front of me. My wife has the patience of a saint. If she were my mother, I’d have told her off years ago.

And there we have the connection. My wife’s mother is not my mother and never will be. I could disagree and even yell at my mother and call her on her nonsense. I cannot say even “Boo” to my mother-in-law because she gets “offended.” She can dish out insults, but can’t take them.

So when I see my wife pained by her mother, I’m infuriated. On her deathbed, my mother asked for my wife: but my wife couldn’t be there; she was in England – doing a favor for her parents because they were away with the pig sister-in-law and family. I find myself often thinking that on her deathbed my mother-in-law doesn’t deserve my wife at her side. She deserves that f-cking daughter-in-law sitting there, asking about what’s left in the bank account.

I miss my mother. I miss my uncle. When you experience grief, you can feel as if walls are closing in. Yet you can’t escape your body. Yesterday at one point I even felt as if I was outside myself looking at myself trapped inside myself and losing my rag. I was yelling because I couldn’t escape from me. And there is no escape.

Be patient with those who lose those they love. You cannot know the pain. Grief may erupt unexpectedly for reasons you don’t understand. They aren’t angry at you. They are angry at what is lost that will never be again. They are bitter – if ever so briefly – at the world that lives on happily, or obsesses about nonsense, while their loved one(s) is gone forever.

Thank you for reading that. I just had to get that off my chest. Have a good day, wherever you are in the world.

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Author: โ€œConventions: The Garden At Paris,โ€ โ€œPassports,โ€ โ€œFrontiers,โ€ and โ€œDistances.โ€ British Airways frequent flier. Lover of the Catskill Mountains...and the 1700s. New novel of 1797-1805, "Tomorrow The Grace," due out in 2019.

12 thoughts on “When You Experience Grief…

  1. Families, ey? Who’d ‘av ’em? I’m sorry for your loss and the continued family feuds. There’s so much I could say about my own on my own blog but I can’t. Some things you just can’t fix๐Ÿ˜•.

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  2. Dear Robert, cheer up! Family is a cross we bear all our life! And look at somebody’s death as a release: the souls releases from griefs & misfortunes on Earth. Try to be happy for your aunt and she will be happy for you. She is on a new way, she has transformed to the other world.

    And imagine your mother-in-law as a dragon you must fight with! )))))

    Never lose the spirit! Cheer up!

    Best regards,


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    1. We all have our burdens in life! The biggest mistake I have ever made was on an April day in 2003, when my wife rang me at work telling me her brother had lost his job, and her mother had been on the phone begging us to help. I told my wife, “Do whatever you think best.” I should’ve said, “Wish him best of luck that he finds another job soon.”

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      1. Oh, well, dear Robert. Our biggest mistakes at least help us to see what people are around us. Certainly, they’re extremely painful if we mean those who we consider to be our family. However, to live in illusions is far worse!

        Never lose spirit!

        Best regards,


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          1. Saint Truth, dear Robert! Internet must bring joy & certainly positive emotions! ))) By the way, if you haven’t watched yet a video I’ve published for winners of my first award, please do. It will raise your spirit! ))))

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          2. A joke: One friend tells the other:
            I’ve arranged a wonderful cruise for my mother-in-law by liner ‘Chapaev’. Certainly it’s not the ‘Titanic’ but there is always a hope!

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  3. So sorry for your loss, I hope it gets easier for you. And hopefully by getting that off your chest has eased it a little. In-laws would drive you demented! Mine do, just keep breathing. It won’t fix the problem but it’ll keep you focused on something other than wanting to jump across the table and slap someone! ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

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    1. You are so right. Much of the time, my in-laws are fine. But there are those moments when they insult my wife, I could shout. What bothers me the most is the feeling that my wife has been assailed unfairly. I have said it quite plainly to both of my in-laws at times. It’s those other three grandkids: they are obsessed by them. And that my wife and I are so close to the other three drives my in-laws bananas. But my pig sister-in-law did this and that’s that. The stress over that, and the loss my own mother, can be a lethal concoction when they come together. We all have garbage like this in our families.

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