An Unexpected Grief Down Under

Anyone who has lost a close family member to type 2 diabetes understands the grief and paralysis it creates, especially when the one who died was only 53.

Two weeks ago, my sister Mimi came by my home unannounced at midnight, which seemed odd because she had just left two hours before. I sensed that something horrible had happened. She held back her tears and spoke slowly while informing me that our brother Jamal had passed away. Surprisingly, my initial reaction was calm. He had type 2 diabetes and had struggled with managing it.

Three years ago, Jamal came to the U.S. to celebrate a monumental passage: his fiftieth birthday. It was then that I realized his diabetes was not well managed. Although Jamal was a bright and avid information seeker, he did not realize that his inability to sleep through the night had a direct correlation to his high blood sugars. Sleepwalking to the bathroom three times a night had become a way of life for him as his body struggled to rid itself of poisons.

After observing Jamal’s daily routine, I realized that he was in need of a more aggressive therapy and a lower carb diet. I taught him about low-carb foods and the importance of testing his blood sugar. I even asked a local physician to see if he should be considered for insulin therapy. After seeing the physician, Jamal walked out with a new therapy that included both long- and short-acting insulin. My Irish-Iraqi twin brother had a new lease on life, with daily access to his sister-a person with whom he could discuss new ideas about how to better manage his diabetes.

Jamal came to the US looking gaunt and sleep-deprived. He left a vibrant man with a skip in his walk. I was so proud of him. He embraced his new therapy. Before he headed to the airport, he said ” Sis, I have not felt this good in years.” Translation: His blood sugars had not been under control for years.

Fortunately, Jamal was able to enjoy a couple of years of relatively good health before he passed. But I know that his passing is the toll his body paid for all the years his blood sugars were high. As a knowledgeable diabetes family member, I do understand how pivotal one’s support team is. Many programs are popping up where knowledgeable readers like you can be lay support persons to people who are learning how to better manage their diabetes.

Below is an email my brother sent to my nephew Adrian, who works at Diabetes Health.

Happy new year, Adrian. This website is teaching me a lot. The links to the other websites are fantastic. Please give Nadia a hug for me.



As someone that has worked personally and professionally in the diabetes community for 20 years, I understand many of the challenges that type 1s and type 2s face. My former husband of almost 20 years is a type 1. This year marks his thirty-seventh anniversary of diabetes without one complication. The children and I are thankful for his good health. My mother, brother, and some of my grandparents on both my maternal and paternal sides passed away from type 2 diabetes complications.

Diabetes health is a topic close to home. Every year I get tested to insure that I do not have prediabetes. The toll on my family has been great. My children have not had the opportunity to have grandparents involved in their lives. Now they have lost an uncle who had a wicked sense of humor. A man who could perform stand-up monologues that left you rolling on the floor in laughter.

He was a loved man. Below is a link to an obituary guest book that the Western Australia newspaper provides online. You can see my entry date 10-27 by clicking on the link.

Please write [email protected] and let me know if you would like us to provide something like this on Some might view an online obituary guest book as being in bad taste. I love the idea because it keeps Jamal alive. For the days where my heart aches and no one person can console me, I can go to the obituary guest book and read the beautiful things that family members, friends, and colleagues have written.

My dearest Jamal, losing you has forever changed me. May you rest in peace.



Nadia Al-Samarrie is the cofounder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Health.


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