As Shakespeare suggested: “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.”

My husband’s younger brother died this weekend.

He was barely into his thirties, a large guy with a fondness for tattoos and clothes  that feature skulls and flames   If you went by appearances alone, you might think him a bit of hellion. But that would be because you never saw him allow his 4 year old niece to clamber all over him,  jabbering non-stop and you never heard him rumbling out a deep, booming laugh when she  drew “marks” on her arms to try to match his. (Laughter that only increased when
he realized the ink that she’d used was definitely not washable.) Nor did you see his sentimental streak- how he teared up when  my husband asked him to be the best man at our wedding.

My daughter is baffled by what  happened to her uncle.  She has had a hard time coming to terms with the concept of death ever since she first came across the idea last year when a classmate’s pet goldfish perished.  The very idea was almost too  scary for her to consider. She came home and announced that “Things get old and they die. Grammy is very old but she is never going to die.” And then burst into tears.

[Mind you, my mother is not that old but I too hope she is immortal.]

However, now that someone she knew and liked is gone, death has become that much more tangible and that much more frightening.  Last night she kept asking if I was going to die and if her father was going to die and asking why her uncle had died. [I tried to make things easier by bringing in the idea of reincarnation but that didn’t exactly take because she kept asking how her uncle would know how to find his stuff and whether she would be able to keep all her toys if she died andcame back. So that was a “mom fail” right there.]

An aspect of parenting that is hard is having to teach your children fundamental truths about the world- stranger danger,  the existence of death and so on .
Little kids are so innocent and happy and you wish you could protect them from these things forever.  As someone who is a professional communicator,  it is sometimes part of my job to find a way to make unpalatable truths easier to accept.  But even with those skills, trying to teach my daughter not to fear death while not courting it either is one of the hardest things I have  ever had to face as a parent.

Mind you, it is nothing compared to what my in-laws are going through right now.

It is not the natural order of things for a child to predecease a parent.  It is something no parent should ever have to endure.  My in-laws are bearing up under this tragedy with grace and strength. They struggle but they endure admirably. They are heroic, as is my husband, whose grief , though
barely verbally expressed, is clearly vast and deep.

I share this with you in part as a means of processing the experience-because I too am still in shock and somehow writing about it makes it slightly more comprehensible.

How uncertain and short life sometimes is. If there is someone you love or even like and you have not spoken with them in a while- pick up the phone or get  on Skype or text them and arrange to see them face to face.  Because you do not know whether their last moment– or yours – is just around the next bend.


15 comments so far

  1. Bonnie on

    Thank you for such a touching an poignant post.

    I don’t think anyone truly comes to terms with the death of a loved one. Part of it is the emptiness created when they are no longer there; the other part stems from questioning your own existence – when is my time going to come?

    I don’t think you failed at all – your attempt to shield your daughter from a subject that is hard to understand even in adulthood came from love. I don’t think it is ever easy.

    I went through it last year and still get pangs of grief when something reminds me of the people I have lost.

    You and your family have my deepest condolescences.

  2. abbymartin on


    Thank you so very, very much for your kind and thoughtful words.

    I think you expressed the hardest part of losing someone quite beautifully: The sudden hole in the universe where that person that you loved used to be- the fact that they had always been there and are suddenly gone.

    I’m sorry to hear that you understand this all too well. I wish nobody had to go through it.

  3. Ironic on

    You already know I’m sorry about Andrew, and that if Mr. WHynaut needs anything, he is a call away.

    That being said, Death is a necessary part of life. And we should not fear it.
    Everybody and every living thing will die, but that is not necessarily the end. I’m not talking about the after life (though I know our sainted mother believes in this). It’s in our memories and it’s in the lessons we take from those who have come and gone.

    That’s why all life is the John Glenn effect.

    That being said, I love you, I’m glad you’re my sister, and all will be well.

  4. abbymartin on

    Thank you for your good – and sage- thoughts.

    And I love you too. You could not be a better brother if I had designed you myself. 🙂

    Have you dealt with the death issue with your child yet? And if so, what did you say?

  5. John Deal on

    I’m sorry for your loss. Best wishes for strength in grief.

  6. abbymartin on

    Thank you John. That’s very kind and much appreciated.

  7. darlene on

    My deepest sympathies to you, your husband and your daughter.

    • abbymartin on


      Thank you so much for your kind thoughts. They are very much appreciated.

  8. christine on

    i am so sorry about your family’s loss. and shakespeare’s words are the true ones – i’ve been writing a blog about my mom’s death (she died a year ago next week) and when it really felt like a howling wilderness and i had nowhere to go with my pain, writing it out and writing it again, and again, has been the thing that has saved me.

    take care – christine

    • abbymartin on


      Thank you for your kind words. I am so terribly sorry for your own loss and the pain it has caused you. I am glad that the writing has helped. You take care too.

  9. Amani on

    Hi Abby. I finally found your blog and this is the first entry that caught my eye. I lost my father 4 years and 10 months ago exactly today. I am wary telling you this but the pain doesn’t really go away. It fades slowly but the memories are fresh. I feel your husband is lucky b/c he had you. I was alone and my brother didn’t really talk. I will share that what happened broke my heart worse than any girl/woman has ever broken my heart (yet). I still can’t wait to really talk to a best friend/partner about it. I feel 100% confident that you are filling that role for Mr. Abby Martin. 🙂

    • abbymartin on


      I’m so terribly, terribly sorry for your loss- and the fact that you went through the grieving process alone. You are very strong soul indeed to have done that. And I do hope that you will find that partner/best friend soon who will be a source of solace when dealing with this and a source of joy in all other things. Thank you for your kind words and your confidence in me. I try to help my husband with this burden but it is so fresh and it is so agonizing for him still. Our daughter has been his greatest comfort- and a blessing for both of us.

  10. Margie Hord on

    Hey, hope everyone is strengthened through this. I found your site while looking for the Shakespeare quote! From Mexico,

    • abbymartin on


      Thank you so much for taking the time to write something so kind. It is very much appreciated!

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