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Ask Ellie: Pain of grief eases but never fully goes away

Grieving a parent with whom you were close can be acute

Dear Lisi: My mother died during the pandemic and I’m having a really hard time. We were very close, always, as I am her only daughter. She loved family and the holidays, so the holiday season is especially tough. I tell myself it’ll get better — but it isn’t.

I have a husband and adult kids long out of the house. I have great friends, a job I enjoy and hobbies that keep me occupied. I’m not moping around the house in grief. But sometimes my grief overwhelms me, and I’m stopped in my tracks.

I know everyone grieves differently, but when will this overwhelming sadness end?

Miss my Mom

I’m so sorry for your loss. You’re not alone in feeling the emptiness at this time of year. Though the holidays are a time of cheer, family and friends, laughter and good food, for many it only highlights what’s missing from their lives, be it any of the aforementioned.

Grieving a parent with whom you were close can be acute. And yes, over time the pain eases, but I don’t think it ever fully goes away. I lost one of my best friends 11 years ago. When she comes to mind, tears spring to my eyes and my heart hurts. I take solace in all the good times we shared and the great memories I have.

But grief can be unmanageable and overwhelming. It helps to talk with a specialized grief counsellor if you feel you can’t handle it on your own.

Dear Lisi: My brother never married, never had kids. I’m married with three children, ranging in age from six to 12. Fortunately, my wife and my brother get along really well. He’s very funny, very generous and a fantastic uncle to my kids. We include him in everything we do, from a trip to the zoo to a week in Mexico. He always joins in and is always a great addition.

But he never engages in conversation about his dating or sex life. He just shuts down and changes the subject. I’m concerned for him that underneath his Best Uncle exterior, he’s unhappy.

And, if I’m being truly honest, I’m curious.

How can I get him to open up?

Loner Brother

It sounds as though he’s had ample opportunity to talk with you, and he’s chosen not to. So, for whatever reason, he’s very private and very secretive. It’s interesting because it sounds like you and your wife don’t get a lot of privacy if he’s always around, and that’s OK for you.

I have two thoughts:

1) Have you actually said, “Hey, I’m worried about you. Can we have a serious conversation?” Maybe under those circumstances, he’ll actually open up to you. Or not.

2) I was just watching snippets from that holiday movie,‘Love Actually, which prompts me to ask – do you think your brother could be in love with your wife?

FEEDBACK regarding the man who found out that his neighbours threw him under the bus years ago (Dec. 3):

Reader – “Wow, what an amazingly strong and wonderful person. I don’t know what I would do, but we all need more friends like this person.”

Lisi – I received several emails basically saying the same thing as this reader. I agree. What a lovely person. And in the spirit of the holidays, I wanted to share this feel-good thought.

This time of year can bring out the best and the worst in people. Hopefully, whatever and with whomever you celebrate, this holiday season brings you joy, love, laughter, rest, relaxation and peace.

We all deserve a break from our normal grind. Be kind to yourself and others. Be generous of spirit. And enjoy.

Reader’s Commentary “When I was a child, I never understood why my mom wasn’t best friends with my best friends’ moms. I’d ask her all the time and she’d say things like, “Oh, we just run in different circles.” Or, “We just like to do different things.” But it never made sense to me. If I liked my friends so much, weren’t their moms just as nice?

“Now that I’m a mom, I completely understand. My daughter, and my son, are both very different than I was at their respective young ages. He hates the outdoors and prefers video games over anything else. And she’s really into dance, princesses, and anything sparkly.

“I do like some of their friends’ moms. In fact, I even like some of the moms of the kids they’re not friends with. But I’m not besties with their besties’ moms and I doubt I ever will be.”

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: [email protected].