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Navigating an onslaught of grief

HI, CAROLYN: I've got some pretty heavy stuff to handle in the coming months. My parents both have dementia. I have power of attorney for them. Meanwhile, my sister is terminally ill. I also have three children who are close to my sister and who need to be told and helped through this. Any recommendations to help me figure out how to navigate all this?

Managing Grief

MANAGING GRIEF: I'm so sorry for the pileup.

Grief support is often more accessible and less expensive than therapy, so I'd start there. Area hospice providers can refer you to a local group; this is what they do. Also, you don't say what your sister has, but illness-specific support organizations in general are a good resource for caregiver support — the ALS Association, for example, was there for us during my mother's illness.

I also appreciated the life-affirming messages of "When Breath Becomes Air," by Paul Kalanithi; "Man's Search for Meaning," by Viktor Frankl; the series "Rectify" (Sundance); or, if seriously dark humor is your balm, "Six Feet Under" (HBO).

Also, please keep in mind that your job now is to get through this, taking steps as small as you need them to be, and finding as much time as possible with people you love. It will all happen whether you do an A-plus job of it or a D-minus, and no one's grading you anyway, so don't feel as if it's all on you. It's just life and you manage the best you can.

DEAR CAROLYN: My husband and I have a 1-year-old and are reasonably certain (98%), after a great deal of thought, that we do not want to have another child, which is a departure from our pre-baby desire to have two. There are no fertility issues or health concerns, and I loved pregnancy. But, the demands of one seem like just enough for us to be able to both continue working at the pace we work, and also be good citizens, family members, friends, etc. We both have the same very small reservation that our son won't have a sibling, though, as we both have positive sibling relationships. I also don't want to regret much later on that we didn't do something now, but I also don't think bringing another child into the world for fear of a potential regret later is a good reason to do it.

98 Percent

98 PERCENT: I actually don't see a problem here. The way to pre-empt regrets is to make the best decisions you can based on the best information you have at the time, and then trust yourself in retrospect to have done so.

You've given this some thought, you've made your decision, so, onward.

Being an only is not some exotic form of punishment, and close sibling relationships are not a guarantee. There are pros and cons to every family configuration. No need to second-guess unless you want to.

RE: SIBLINGS: But also — the first year can be so hard. It couldn't hurt to give it another year or two before making any irreversible decisions.


RE: ONLIES: The Washington Post's Caitlin Gibson had an excellent story about only children; can you link to it?


READER: Happy to. I love her work:

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