My Marriage Didn’t End When I Became a Widow

Posted on Apr 16, 2017 in Caregiving, Facing One's Own Death, Spousal/Partner Loss

Today’s post features a 2016 New York Times article, “My Marriage Didn’t End When I Became a Widow” by Lucy Kalanithi. I know it is now 2017, but I think it is important to hear Lucy’s voice before I introduce you to her husband, Paul.

When Lucy’s husband, a young and brilliant Stanford neurosurgeon, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, he moved within the world of medicine from physician to patient. Lucy, also a physician, became his caregiver and the mother of a daughter conceived after Paul’s diagnosis.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on his book When Breath Becomes Air. The book is beautifully written (not many physicians also have two degrees in English literature) and an inspiring memoir. It was named one of the best books of 2016 by the Washington Post, The New York Times and National Public Radio, and has 4.7 out of 5 stars from 6,265 readers on Amazon.

Janet Maslin from the NYT says: I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option. Part of this book’s tremendous impact comes from the obvious fact that its author was such a brilliant polymath. And part comes from the way he conveys what happened to him—passionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die—so well. None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: “It’s just tragic enough and just imaginable enough.” And I say just important enough to be unmissable.

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Why Losing a Dog Can Be Harder than Losing a Relative

Posted on Mar 25, 2017 in Fresh Grief, General Grief, Pet Loss

I recently read an article (link below) entitled “Why Losing a Dog Can Be Harder than Losing a Relative.”

If you can’t understand the phenomenon, you likely haven’t experienced 15-18 years of sweet, eager, unconditional love from a pet. Nor have you experienced your own sweet, eager, unconditional love for your pet.

Lost and found

I have had clients who have deeply grieved the death of a spouse, but admit that losing their beloved dog was tougher experience to tolerate. It is not surprising as we aren’t often loved without expectation, i.e., without someone wanting us to look, act and think a certain way.

On the other hand, I have watched in amazement as a struggling bereaved individual comes alive and starts to rebuild their life – after getting a new pet.

Honor the loss

So if a family member, friend or co-worker is grieving the death of a pet, bite your tongue before you say “it’s just a dog, for heaven’s sake.”

Enjoy the article and the latest research on our relationship to our pets!

>read article



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Featured Book: Insomniac City, New York, Oliver and Me.

Posted on Feb 26, 2017 in General Grief, Spousal/Partner Loss

The late Oliver Sacks’s life partner, Bill Hayes, has written Insomniac City, New York, Oliver and Me. It is an incredible memoir and honors his relationship with Oliver, Oliver’s decline and death, and Bill’s love of New York City. The writing, the telling, pulls the reader into a place that is quietly special.

I suppose it’s a cliché to say you’re glad to be alive, that life is short, but to say you’re glad to be not dead requires a specific intimacy with loss that comes only with age or deep experience. One has to know not simply what dying is like, but to know death itself, in all its absoluteness.


After all, there are many ways to die — peacefully, violently, suddenly, slowly, happily, unhappily, too soon. But to be dead — one either is or isn’t.


The same cannot be said of aliveness, of which there are countless degrees. One can be alive but half-asleep or half-noticing as the years fly, no matter how fully oxygenated the blood and brain or how steadily the heart beats. Fortunately, this is a reversible condition. One can learn to be alert to the extraordinary and press pause — to memorize moments of the everyday.


I highly recommend the book – for many reasons – but it shines in its ability to remove the reader from the current political intensity. It reminds us that we can be inspired. It reminds us that the world at large doesn’t need to change who we are or how we chose to be. It reminds us to pay attention to what brings us joy.

Found on


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Teen Suicide: A Life Worth Living

Posted on Jan 15, 2017 in Child Loss, General Grief, Suicide

We are featuring a recent video, “A Life Worth Living”, made by the NYC support agency, OHEL.

The Roth family shares their experience of losing their son, Jonathan, to suicide.  The video is particularly important because it emphasizes how easy it is to ignore, and/or miss signs that a teen is suicidal.

Watch Video>  A Life Worth Living

For more info on OHEL:


If you want to access free audios by Vicki to quell your anxiety, deal with your grief, find sleep or just become motivated, go to her YouTube Channel, ComfortCareConnection.

If you liked this post, please forward! Thanks!

Vicki Panagotacos PhD, FT is a grief counselor and life transition coach.  She writes for her blog,, is founder of, and author of Gaining Traction: Starting Over After the Death of a Life Partner.
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Will Trump Presidency Be a Razor Blade in the Hands of a 3-Year-Old or Not? *

Posted on Nov 30, 2016 in General Grief, Uncategorized


“To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.”Ursula LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness

In the last weeks, clients have asked me, “What were people thinking when they voted for Trump? My answer has been some form of: “They weren’t thinking, they were feeling. If a person doesn’t feel safe, they are less likely to be able to think –  so they take a stab in the dark.”

They did and now we shall see.

The Mourning After the Election

Many agree with David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, who said in his Nov. 13th online comment: “(Trump’s) level of egotism is rarely exhibited outside of the clinical environment.”

  • Few voters are aware of recent research showing roughly 20% of CEO’s are psychopaths – the same rate found in the prison population.
  • US Emory University researcher Scott Lilienfeld found that psychopaths are over-represented in the fields of politics, business, and high-risk sport. UK Oxford psychologist Kevin Dutton’s research showed that CEO’s, lawyers, TV/Radio media, salespeople and surgeons are the professions with the highest number of psychopaths.

How does a psychopath behave?

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What David Taransaud Learned in Uganda

Posted on Nov 5, 2016 in General Grief


“Trauma is contagious; but love is contagious too – that’s another thing I learned – it is the healing agent.”

I occasionally post an article which addresses a problem so foreign to my experience that it is important to hear it from another. In this post, London-based psychotherapist tells a heart-rending story about how art is allowing Ugandan adults to finally speak about being child soldiers.

It is an opportunity for each of us to realize:

I am all right right now I am all right,

and to be grateful.

Article Link:

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What’s the Downside to Trading in the Traditional Funeral?

Posted on Oct 22, 2016 in General Grief

(Excerpt from coming book, Help! Someone Died!)


Is there a downside to trading in the funeral…for a celebration-of-life service?

I have attended end-of-life services since I was toddler and have watched the services move from being a sacred space of shared sorrow and concern for the surviving family—to being a memorial, which seems to be a secular form of funeral—to the current trend of celebration that rewinds the deceased’s life away from the tear-filled reality of death entirely.

There seems to be trend in the US for milestones such as bar/bat mitzvahs, high school proms, graduations, weddings and now, end-of-life services, to be lavish rather than intimate.

Do deathstyles match our lifestyles?

We naturally distance ourselves from what is unpleasant but, historically, we didn’t expect every life experience to be enjoyable and we didn’t distance ourselves from the reality of death. When someone died, friends and neighbors actively helped the family face the reality and mourn the death, because the potential of the entire community was as important as individual potential. As far as the deceased’s legacy was concerned, it was obvious the day the person died, for good or ill.

Is there value in gravity?

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