COLUMN: Tracy Renee Lee - An Angry Friend is Better Than a Second Funeral

COLUMN: Tracy Renee Lee - An Angry Friend is Better Than a Second Funeral

My friend’s son suffered a life-threatening event last week. Because he resides in a different state, his mom and dad had to travel to be with him. When they arrived, he was in the hospital on life support. A decision had to be made. He died very quickly once life support was removed.

My friend called me. She asked me to take custody of her son and arrange for his cremation. I did.

I went by her home three days later to deliver the programs for his service. She was not doing well. How could she be? “Most parental survivors describe the loss of a child as the most intense pain they have ever experienced.” (Mourning Light II, Grief Brief 148, 2016)

As I approached her, I could see that she was a little feeble. Her hands were not as steady as they usually were. Her voice was slightly breathy. Her skin was a bit clammy. Her hair was slightly out of place, and although she held them back, I could see tears welling up behind her eyes. She said that she had been to see the doctor and that he had administered a dose of medications designed to restore her good nature and health. I left somewhat concerned but decided not to say very much.




Bereaved people have a higher death rate than other people.

The above statement helps us to realize the importance of taking care of ourselves during bereavement.

It is important to keep oneself well hydrated, eat, rest, sleep on a normal schedule, and consume good nutritious foods. One should forgo junk food, caffeine, sugary foods, empty caloric foods, and self-medicating.

Additionally, maintaining your health regime, taking medications as prescribed, and refraining from over indulgences are advised. Should you begin to feel weak, ill, excessively sad, or depressed, consider calling 911 immediately.

For bereaved persons in weak health, one should consider immediately consulting their general health practitioner for advice. (Mourning Light III, 2016)

I attended his service today. I could immediately see that his mother’s condition had deteriorated even further.

I know better than to leave a client without offering a cautious word, but when I visited her home two days ago, I didn’t want to upset her or her husband. Their adult daughter was there helping them, and so I decided to rely on her to hold the fort down.

I should not have crossed that line; that line where friendship overrides professionalism. I should have spoken up and vocalized my observations and concerns. Perhaps if I had she would be doing better today.

Near the end of her son’s service, I saw it coming. I saw her head drop and her shoulders collapse. When the pastor finished his words, she did not stand up. Instead, she lied down on the pew. I waited to see if it was temporary, but it was not.

From the back of the room, I walked forward and assessed her condition. She was pale, clammy, somewhat disoriented, and grabbing at her clothing. I immediately asked if she had eaten today, had anything to drink, felt light-headed, etc.

I began fanning her and asked for someone to fetch a wet cloth to place over the back of her neck. I removed her socks and sweater and lifted her hair so that the air could reach her scalp. Her grandson brought her a cookie and some water, and the paramedics were on their way.

When the paramedics arrived they administered fluids for dehydration, glucose for low blood sugar, and left her socks and sweater off to help keep her body temperature from climbing.

I have tried to reach her all afternoon. There is no answer at her home or on her cell phone. I hope she will be okay.

The primary task of funeral week for survivors is to survive. Many people do not understand the dangers that death imposes upon the living.





Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in abundance during bereavement.

Cortisol weakens the immune system by reducing the function of neutrophils. Neutrophils are white blood cells used to fight off infections.

The weakening of the immune system allows disease and illness to enter the body at increased and in some cases, dangerous levels during bereavement. In case studies, older survivors are more prone to physiological changes attributed to age-related hormone fluctuations.

The effects of the stress hormone cortisol, which weakens the immune system, are balanced by a hormone called DHEA. DHEA bolsters the effectiveness of neutrophils. Unfortunately, a person’s DHEA levels start to drop around age 30.

This age-related drop in DHEA leaves senior-aged persons more vulnerable to cortisol’s influence during times of stress. If left unchecked, the immune system may become compromised and the ravages of stress-related illnesses may prove fatal. (Morning Light III, 2016)

The information in Grief Briefs 282 and 289 show us that companion death is a very real threat to the senior survivor. Realistically, it is a threat to anyone, especially to parents who have lost a child. If you know of anyone displaying these signs, please suggest medical attention for them immediately. Doing so may make them angry, however, an angry friend is better than a second funeral.