What Will They Say When We’re Gone?


One year ago, several of us who blog in the “mental health, chronic illness and pain” sectors were anxiously asking one another if anyone had heard from Johnna, the author of the above-quoted blog. She hadn’t been heard from since the end of January. Not like her at all.

I had had a growing uncomfortable feeling that something was up. Not only was Johnna a prolific blogger and outspoken commenter, but she had texted me in January that she suspected her end was near, and she wanted information on how to execute an Advance Directive, to make certain that she wouldn’t be resuscitated if found unconscious.

I asked her if she had any relatives whom she could appoint as a Health Care Power of Attorney, to carry out her wishes if she was incapacitated. She wrote that she had a son, with whom she was not particularly close, and a sister, who she felt didn’t give a shit about her. (That’s what she felt, which is the important thing.)

A couple of months later, Johnna’s landlord broke open the door…just like in the story she had shared in one of her final posts in January, the one I’ve shared with you above. It gives me chills to read it now. It was prophetic.

Johnna was not an easy person. She told it like it was, often in the most unvarnished tones. She had strong opinions, and expressed them. She was usually right.

She was also kind and caring, as many of her eulogizers noted. If she didn’t hear from someone in her circle for a while, she reached out–sometimes in a rough-edged way, but you knew it was because she truly cared. It wasn’t superficial.

When news of Johnna’s death reached her family, they were, naturally, stricken with grief. Maybe they were stricken also with a little bit of remorse for writing her off, when she was suffering and grumpy….who knows. They did what families do when somebody dies: they dealt with her belongings, her apartment…and her body, which had lain there dead for already a couple of months before her overdue rent triggered the landlord to open the door and find it.


I read about a woman in Belgium who, having suffered alone from bipolar disorder into her sixtieth decade, managed to convince the euthanasia doctors to take her case. Her grown son, long estranged, was outraged that she would take it upon herself to go ahead and die without consulting him! All of a sudden, after she was gone, he missed his mama something terrible, and went after the doctors for neglecting to take him into counsel before sending her peacefully to sleep.

Upon reading this, my first thought was, “You stupid shit, did you forget something? When she was alive, she was just an embarrassment to you. Now that she’s at peace, you wish you could have kept her alive? For what? To suffer isolation and agony, so that you don’t have to feel guilty for neglecting her?”

As I get older and sicker the thought crosses my mind: what will they think when I’m gone? Will they be relieved? Will they feel angry that I wasn’t a normal participant in life? Or angry that I left without consulting them?

As I read my words, I realize that I don’t even know what “they” might think. My brain doesn’t work like theirs. And I’m glad.

I hope that if you’re reading this, you’ll stop and think for a moment about your loved ones who are suffering. Do they need anything? A kind word, a meal, a helping hand? Advocacy? Chocolate?

You will never regret reaching out. We can’t save everybody, but we can certainly make someone’s life a bit easier, maybe give someone a bit of happiness, by simply showing them we care.

And when they’re gone, we’ll have the comfort of knowing that at least we did something, rather than simply waiting to find out that their body has been discovered.

Next Post
Leave a comment


  1. I knew a few days after she hadn’t emailed me back. I miss her and I’m sad we didn’t get to hang out – the idea of the three of us together in one space was an ultimate item on my bucket list (right above eating tacos in outer space)! She gave me a hard time about ev-ry-thing because she could but she also made me laugh like very few people can. I have nothing but love for both of you. ❤️

  2. I wonder what my children will think after I’m gone. I have “preached” to them their entire lives about giving roses to someone while they can still see them, smell them and touch them….not after they’re dead….and after they’re dead, don’t spew out a bunch of useless platitudes when you wouldn’t give them the time of fucking day when they were alive.
    So, you’re right. Reach out, unless you’re a selfish lot who have inherited narcissism from a parent and it’s all about you.
    Off track…on track.
    I do appreciate the boldness this woman apparently had. I like people who don’t have time for bullshit and won’t stand for it. Those of us who suffer understand and when one of “us” leaves, we’re left with a hole in us somehow, don’t you think?

  3. I remember having a sinking feeling because I knew when she went silent. That wasn’t like her….like you said. She is missed. And she certainly made a difference to some of us! ❤

  4. The silence said so much. She simply was no longer there. We lost an amazing woman…as you said, a one of a kind. I wish I had the balls she did. She wasn’t afraid of a fight for the right cause.
    There have been a couple of other blogging friends who have disappeared and I have no idea what happened. I often wonder, did they die?

    I have some people in my life who are estranged from me, and I’ve wondered, if I die, what will they do? Will they pretend they care? Will they act heartbroken? Will they realize how stupid they’ve been? Does it matter? I guess not. But I am a little bitch sometimes and I actually have it written up that certain family members are not allowed at my funeral. I don’t care what kind of stink it causes, they will not suddenly act like they loved me.

    Always know I care.
    I hope Johnna knew how much we loved her.

    • And that’s exactly what I wanted to highlight here: that when you’re disabled, people tend to go their own way. I know very few disabled people whose family/spouses/children are in it for the long haul with them. Most of us end up isolated, to one degree or another. I wonder what will happen when we’re finally not around? I know in my own case there will be plenty of blubbering and plenty of talk about how I “did it to myself.” I very much hope that my poor spirit is not forced to hang around and listen to that nauseating crap!

      PS– if you’re going to be a bitch….be a BIG bitch 😉

      • It’s funny how the people who are supposed to know us the best often don’t know us at all. I am very lucky I have a spouse who really is in it for the long haul, but if I loose him…..well, I’d be pretty lost.
        I’m so grateful for our community here. These are the people who will care when I’m gone.

  5. susan

     /  February 24, 2018

    I recently watched Love, Actually. (I’m disabled, and easily entertained…) and found to my shock there was a segment about love and your disabled family member. Watch it. Profound.

    Thanks for your blogging.

  6. I think suicide is sad but kind of an occupational hazard of people suffering with serious mental illness.7 people I have known ended their own lives and I feel sorry it came to that for them . I have 3 diagnoses myself.The son in the Belgium story has a long post and it shows a caring person who communicated with his mother and sometimes didn’t. When I found out about Belgium and euthanasia I contacted them and they answered that when helping foreigners die they would be able to help cross over.I don’t really advocate suicide for young people but I am 64 and not young.3 of the people I knew were jumpers; one used a gun and one hung himself.I would prefer to get a lethal injection while someone kind holds my hand.The system with its’ forced interventions and drugs has not helped me.Peace to all the dead.- Don

    • Hi Don, thanks for your thoughtful comment. When you say, “they would be able to help cross over,” what exactly did you mean: help with travel, or help with the Final Crossing?

      Yes, the son was a good person, but like many young people he had his own life, and his mother was not his first priority. In our times that’s normal, but it leaves us old folks isolated and with nobody to help us. Unlike previous generations when parents sometimes resorted to suicide because they didn’t want to be a burden, in this generation we’re not a burden in the first place because our children are often completely unconcerned with our condition. My own son wants no part of me (unless he’s broke and wants a handout). When I’m finished with this life, I’ll go quietly and peacefully, I hope. It would be nice to have someone who cared to hold my hand, as you say, but that’s unlikely to happen for me.


      • Don Emmal

         /  February 26, 2018

        I mean the final crossing. On Youtube the video “24 and ready to die” tells about it. My family presented me with abuse and neglect and finally abandonment. People who are friends know about my wishes and I will enjoy my life some of the time until my earthly end.

  7. Laura,

    I have thought about you a couple of times when I open my wordpress.

    Hope you and your dog are doing fine.

    I don’t know the person you are talking about but yes you have raised very valid points as always.

  8. A little chocolate goes a heck of a long way. So do smiles. When I’m out and about on foot, I try to smile at and greet all the people I see going the other way, just to acknowledge that they’re a fellow human being on this planet. Not everyone wants to be seen, but I try my best. Because I have no idea what’s going on in someone else’s life and sometimes, just seeing that they’re a person can be a big help.

    Here in the UK, people are able to complete forms that they must carry, which specify “do not recusitate”. Generally it’s only older folks who have them, but I think they’re a good idea for those who want them.

    • You’re a wonderful person, Sister. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach of blessed memory used to talk about doing exactly what you’re doing. The simple acknowledgement of a person’s existence and worth can literally make the difference for someone who is not sure about living another day. Kindly eye contact, a sincere smile…yes!


  9. Sheldon Kleeman

     /  June 9, 2018

    Just dropped by to hear your voice
    Something about certain people have this calming affect on me……just writing this I’m starting to feel at home
    Take care Laura

  1. What Will They Say When We’re Gone? – Therapy Bits

What's your take?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: