Dealing with Grief, Anger and Frustration

Dear Drs. Gloria and Heidi,

My son died last December 6 and on Dec 10 the coroner called me and told me that the autopsy had revealed he died of pneumonia.  They knew he’d had no symptoms and there were no drugs or alcohol in his system. Almost as an afterthought he told me that there would be toxicology tests that would take some time to complete and I would get the report then. I was very confused by this diagnosis. What 22 year old ever died of pneumonia that no one knew he had?

Last week I received the report which said there were no signs of pneumonia and he died of an accidental drug overdose. The coroner has apologized that he did not make himself clear but I have witnesses who heard me say “pneumonia?” and “are you sure?”  He told me he was absolutely sure.

I had made peace with the “fact” that my son had died of pneumonia. He had bi-polar disorder and did abuse drugs. Now I have to start all over trying to deal with this new cause of death. I am so frustrated and angry. I will see this coroner (who did not do the autopsy) and the chief coroner of our area tomorrow. I’d rather be seeing a lawyer but I don’t want my son’s autopsy results publicly known. My mother has had three heart attacks since Paul died and is now receiving palliative care in my sister’s home. She doesn’t need to know this now and if I sue she would find out.

How do I deal with this anger and frustration?


Drs. Gloria and Heidi Respond

Dear Margaret,

We are so very sorry for your loss. Nothing prepares us to lose a child and there are few words that can console or give us confort as we go through the grief that ensues. It is a time to be gentle with yourself.

We are hearing that you have great anger and frustration regarding your sons death as well as change in the cause of his death.  You also have your mother’s health issues to deal with.  It sounds as though you need some sound support at this difficult time.  Yours is a very early loss and we would suggest that you reach out as you have with us.  Talk to your friends and if you have a member of the clergy go to them.  The more you can discuss this issue and gain clarity the more you will have an understanding of how to proceed.

While it is understandable that you may want to look at legal avenues, many of our bereaved parents have tried this route and found it to be highly unsatifactory and a painful process.  We think it is good that you are talking to other coroners.  The more you can reach out the better.

Again we are so very sorry for your loss.  Please keep in touch and let us know how it goes.

Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley


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  • Debra Reagan says:

    I am so very sorry for the loss of your precious and beautiful son. I am also sorry that you have had to deal with this confusion during this terrible and painful time. Our 20 year old son also was bipolar. After an autopsy, we were also told he died of an accidental drug overdose and pneumonia.

    December is still so recent and the pain is so large. I hope you take care of yourself during this time.

    Gentle Hugs,
    Debra Reagan

  • I am so sorry for your loss.I know your pain.I too lost my beautiful Child.Come join us at
    and then join our loss forum.
    or if you would just like to e-mail me that would be fine too.

    [email protected]

    We are sister’s and brothers in grief.
    Peace and light

  • Anne says:

    My daughter was also bi-polar. For four years I fought and argued with doctors who constantly mis-diagnosed her, After they finall realized she was bi-polar they had her on five different meds and only two were the right ones. Out of those two, the one that would have helped the most she was only getting a third of the dosage she needed.

    At the time of her death, she had been getting better for about five months. Then she was given aan antibiotic by her PCP, from his supply closet. This drug interacted with another grug she was on and as a result she died. She did not tell me that she had been given that drug; if she had I knew she could not take it and she would be alive today.
    Her PCP states that he did not know she was on the other medication, which is a lie because I filled out the forms. Of course there was no medication list in her file. I would not have sued; I just wanted him to tell me he was sorry.
    I don’t believe you ever get over the death of a child. Miranda was my only child, she was only 26; she would have turned 29 on January 26, 2008.

  • M Moir says:

    Margaret and Debra and others…This is unreal…my 19 year old son was also Bi Polar and his death last July 1, 2007 was ruled accidental drowning as he was found in a lake. BUT the last week of his life he was not himself…and had been to his “mental health clinic” 3 times…”crawling out of his skin”…definitely NOT himself. Coroner said NO drugs…and we concluded he had stopped taking his meds…Clinic had put him on Invega…which seemed to only highten his mania and agitation…Anyone know anything about this Invega??? I wouldn’t give it to a rat..Anyway we are coming up on the one yr anniversary of his death and it hurts just as much as ever…every minute of every hour of every day..Thanks for listening…Mary

  • Debra Reagan says:

    My heart aches along with yours, because I know the deep anguish you are going through. I am so sorry about your son’s death.

    I am not familiar with Invega. Many different types of medications were tried on Clint, but nothing seemed to provide sustained relief. For the longest time my heart was heavy with questions and wondering what could have been done differently. I felt guilty that I could not solve everything. Now, I know we all did the best we could at the time with the information we had. Clint fought his battles the best he could.

    I will be thinking of you.