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October 9, 2002

Community Resources

Question from Los Angeles, California, USA:

My younger sister died almost four years ago, at the age of 21 as a result of DKA [diabetic ketoacidosis]. She struggled for years with depression and had a terrible time keeping her blood sugar down to a reasonable level. Some people seemed to feel this was because she didn't take proper care of herself; others seem to think that some people can't get blood sugars under control no matter how hard they try. I sometimes feel terribly angry, like her refusal to take responsibility for her health has caused this grief, like a slow suicide. Other times I am ashamed and think I should have more compassion for how difficult it was for her. I think it would help me to talk with other people who have lost loved ones to diabetes at a young age, but I don't know where to find them. Is there specialized therapy available to those who lost people to chronic illnesses? I understand if you wouldn't want to post this -- it's not exactly encouraging to all the young parents of little kids with diabetes, but any direction you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much.


I appreciate your question, and you have every right to write it. Your grief is complicated and unique to your own situation. I am so sorry you lost your sister and know how difficult it is for anyone to find peace following such a loss. Your sister was young and had a difficult disease to navigate.

As you look back, I am sure you have various feelings, and you are correct in stating that you need somewhere to process all of the conflicting feelings — a safe place to be heard. In Los Angeles, there are a variety of personal support groups. Even if they do not focus on diabetes singularly, living beyond loss is a common basis for many of these groups. Please seek out one that most suits your needs and give it a try. If it doesn’t feel right, try another. Give some local psychiatrist offices a call and ask for a referral to a local group that deals with complex grief reactions. Better yet, call a few mental health agencies and ask the same question.” What groups exist for people who have lost loved ones to illness or sudden death?”

Finally, I offer my own beloved quote that seems to reflect what you are feeling:

Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship which struggles on in the mind of those left behind toward a conclusion it might never reach.

Very responsible people have died with DKA [diabetic ketoacidosis]. Your sister might well have tried the best she could and lost the struggle. You might be fortunate enough to find a therapist who knows this and can help you through this traumatic time in your life.