Grief Therapy? Try working on your income tax!

Feb 12, 2024 | 3 comments

February 12, 2024

Published in 1998 “Thank you for giving Lottie a home,” the letter said.

“They” say the grieving process can take two years or more.  Some say there are five stages to get through.  Some say there are seven.  And dealing with a suicide, they say, is different.  No one talks about a double suicide, perhaps as many as ten years in the planning, to be done when both parties were “at the top of their game” and “in the peak of health” with everything pre-arranged right down to leaving their home to their cat-sitter so the cats would have the security of a home they had known for years.  And the provision for friends — a letter mailed to arrive after it was all a done deal.  My letter began, “Dear Sydney, It’s time to say goodbye.” Followed by a few thank yous for shared good times and favors.  Handwritten on a page from a lined yellow note pad.  Two signatures.  Over and out.  No forewarning — not ever.

Birthday Visitors- August 2017

Depending on whose list you look at, the first stage in grieving should be “shock” or “denial.”  Sorry.  Once again, I don’t fit the mold.  My reaction was anger pure and simple.  It still is — with quite a dollop of bitterness.  All I could/can think about is what a selfish, uncaring thing to do.  And why did they tell Nyel (and me) so many times that they admired how we dealt with his years of illness and injury?  Admired us?  Or thought we were examples of what they chose not to deal with?  Certainly we weren’t “the role models” they said we were.  They were liars.  Frauds.  Not the good friends we thought they were.

On Two Legs with Michael and Petra, 2014

Still… I’m trying to cut them a little slack.  Perhaps they didn’t truly believe (though they said they did) that we are all connected — that our lives and the way we live them are intertwined on this earth — that we need one another and that faith and charity and all the rest of it can only be expressed with and to the rest of humanity.  How selfish to check out when they were in their prime, flipping off those of us who loved them.  Yes, I’m angry.  I doubt that I’ll ever move past that.

Or, actually, maybe I have already done so — if there’s a stage of grief called irony.  When the letter arrived, I had just begun to pull together all those pieces of “stuff” that I need to send my CPA.  Yes!  It’s income tax time and as I work on it I wonder if that was one of the many things they “took care of” before they checked out. Or did they just blow off that responsibility along with their friendships?  Was their grand gesture just a giant copout?  (If you are tempted to answer… don’t.)  We were good friends (or so I thought) for a quarter of a century and for almost half that time they were secretly planning their time “to say goodbye.”



  1. Nancy Lloyd

    Dear Sydney,

    I am so sorry.


  2. Patty

    Dear Sydney,

    I am the “cat sitter” and I have known Michael and Petra since the late ’70s. They were like family to me and my family, especially my brother in law, Bruce (a fellow photographer).

    How you process their death is not my business, but I am sorry for the pain their choice of departure has caused you.


  3. Sarah Mosley

    I can not imagine! How awful. I wonder if they gave much thought to the additional trauma that would inflict. I’m so sorry.


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