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John James, founder of The Grief Recovery Institute

John W. James

Founder of The Grief Recovery Institute®
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve

Ask The Grief Experts

It's sometimes difficult to stay to the end when someone you love is dying. (Published 1/28/2014)


In march of this year, I learned that my dad had lung cancer. I was devastated and I took time off from school to go support him and go to his appointments, etc. He went through radiation and was scheduled for chemo. By the time we got to his chemo appointment, he was too weak to even walk. When he arrived for his chemo appointment, he was already in a wheelchair. The Dr said that it was too late and left the room to call hospice. I wasn't there for this appointment, but I had arrived in town that day. (I was doing 3 days at home and 3 days in his town pretty much) His mother gave me the news. I went over to my dad's house and I crawled in his bed. And I promised him that I was in it for the long haul. And that I wouldn't leave until it was over. For the first few days after that, he was pretty normal, then suddenly he changed. I saw him exhibiting the signs of a dying person (picking at his sheets, not really being in 'reality'.) It was all downhill after that. His mother and I were doing 12 hour shifts to give him his medications to keep him comfortable. And I got scared. I saw him dying. I promised him that I wouldn't leave him until it was over, but I had to. I left him on a Wednesday. My aunt called on Friday and told me that things had changed and to come ASAP to say goodbye. When I got there I was so afraid at what I saw. He was in a hospital bed (at home), wearing nothing but a diaper, and gripping the bed rail. I laid down next to him and told him how much he meant to me. But I was still so scared. I spent 20 minutes with him and I left the room and told my boyfriend to take me home now. I was done. I was so scared to see him die that I left him. He died on father's day. I feel extremely guilty for leaving him. I’d just like to know if it's normal for someone to flee right before a loved one dies. I promised him, but I just couldn't do it. Thank you.

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