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Wondering2208

Old grief made stronger by new grief

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Hi,

I just need to get this off my chest.

Some backstory first: About eight years ago, when I was 19, I lost my grandfather to cancer. He was one of my greatest role models, one of my best friends in this world. It was so painful to watch how he just got worse and worse over the course of a year and a half, and I still feel like an important part of me is missing. 

Now, sadly, the exact same thing is happening to my husband's grandfather. A little while back, the treatments stopped working, and we don't know how long it's going to be. 
As we live a couple of hours away, our opportunities to visit are limited. My husband has said he'd like to go as many weekends as possible, which is something I fully agree to. 

However, I'm really struggling to keep myself together. The situation is bringing up all the pain from my grandfather's death, and mixing it with the new pain, if that makes any sense. I'm also fighting these instincts that tell me to just stay away (defense mechanism, I guess) - but I think I got that part mostly under control.

The main issue is that I feel like I'm thinking too much about how I feel in this situation. After all, it's not my grandfather this time. It's my husband's, and I need to be there for him. I just don't know exactly what to do, how to act. It takes so little for me to tear up, and I don't want him or his family to feel like they have to take care of me in a situation where they suffer just as much or even more. I also don't want to say the wrong things and make it even worse. That's why I've decided not tell my husband about these feelings I'm having, at least for now (he didn't know me back then, so he never witnessed how it was). His grandfather is a wonderful person who I care very much about, and I do realize that it's normal for me to feel sad about it, and that i need to consider my own feelings too. I guess I'm just trying to find a way to be supportive and not self-centered, but also deal with all the emotions. 

I'm sorry if this post is a mess, I'm just not very good at putting my feelings into words in a well-organized way.

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Your husband may very well be noticing how it's affecting you, we usually aren't as good at keeping everything to ourselves as we think, I think it'd be good to talk to him about how it's affecting you.  New grief can stir up old grief, that's for sure.  As you see this man going through the death process as your own grandfather did, it triggers memories and brings the pain back fresh.  It'll be good to give the loss of your own grandfather grieving as it warrants, perhaps you have unfinished business with that?  It might help to talk to a professional grief counselor and get some direction with it.  These losses are separate, and while it's good to recognize that, it does stir it all up for you.  I'm sure Marty will be along shortly to give some help.  

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Dear Wondering, I think Kay's advice to you is sound. The fact that the current situation with your husband's grandfather is reawakening your past experience with the death of your own grandfather is not surprising, and certainly not unusual. And if there is any unfinished business surrounding that death, it's never too late to address it ~ perhaps in a session or two with a qualified grief counselor. After all, if you were only 19 when your grandfather died, you may not have acknowledged and worked through all your thoughts and feelings about that significant loss and the effects it has had in your life. I agree with Kay that open communication with your husband about all of this can be very helpful.That said, it may help to know that we all grieve differently, and how your husband is reacting to this impending death may not match your own reactions. Here are some readings that I hope will help:

Grief: Understanding The Process

How We Mourn: Understanding Our Differences

In Grief: "Being There" for Someone in Mourning

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Thank you so much, both of you. 

I think I definitely have some unfinished business - mostly feeling guilty about not visiting enough and for going home to eat and get some rest on the day that it happened and not making it back in time. I have started to work through it, slightly at least, by trying to see things from the other side and focusing on the fact that I did visit as often as I had the chance, and I did stay by his side almost that entire day. 

I will probably talk to my husband about it at some point, someday when it feels natural to bring it up. I just don't feel like it's "out-of-the-blue-material".

I'll definitely have a look at those links, they seem like good reading. 

Again, thank you!

 

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Here's another link to an article dealing with guilt due to not being there at the moment of death:
http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2016/03/in-grief-coping-with-moment-of-death.html

Understand, we do have to live, eat, sleep, we can't be there 24/7, no one can.  

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Hi,

I think you should definitely share it with your husband. You do not have to tell him everything at once  but let him see that you do feel his pain. I believe it may help him not feel so alone in this process. I recently lost my father. I had a lot of great people give me good words of encouragement but I felt the greatest comfort from those who have had a similar lost. It was a sense of understanding. That is why I think maybe if you share it with him, he can feel that you understand what he is going trough. Feeling have a way of coming out. I have come to realize that it is best to let them out while your in control of them. Otherwise they will simply gain strength and then come out. 

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I agree, Bre.

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