Coping With the Death of a Parent, Everyone Does It Differently

Earlier this week, I was among the millions closely following the Twitter feed from NPR’s Scott Simon, who was tweeting about the final days, weeks and hours of his mother’s life. His mom, Patricia, died on July 29 at the age of 84.

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Since then, I’ve been amazed by the blowback that Simon has been getting in the Twittersphere about his heartfelt observations from the ICU. Naysayers accused him of taking advantage of his mom’s death, calling it “ridiculous” and “a stunt.”

As a family caregiver, I wholeheartedly disagree with that assessment, and I’ll tell you why: It’s none of anyone else’s business. You don’t know what people are going through or how they cope when a parent is dying.

I asked my mom and dad how they would feel about me tweeting from their hospital room during their last days: “It’s not going to hurt me; why should I care?” said my wise mother, Kathy. “If it’s going to make you more comfortable and help you get through as a form of venting, I say, ‘Go for it.'”

And dad? “I feel the same way.”

I have never met Scott Simon or his mom, I’ve only listened to his program on the weekends. But the tweets he sent in his mom’s final days gave me a great sense of both of them. Their entire relationship and their Irish humor (see tweet below) came through vividly. They clearly had a fun and loving household. If the only way Simon had of dealing with with his mother’s imminent death was tweeting about it, then so be it.

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“Don’t they have anything better to do than get bogged down how one man is coping with the death of his mother?” my mom asked after I told her of the detractors. “He just needs an Internet hug.”

At AARP, we talk about creating your caregiving team well before you get to the end stages of life, getting people around you to talk and finding people to lean on. Simon, cooped up in that ICU room, sleeping on the floor, didn’t have a huge team – he had millions of Twitter followers. And that’s OK, too.

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