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Dealing With My Grief


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About 3 years ago my mother (73 at the time) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After a hysterectomy and chemo things seemed to settle down. About 2 months ago she started to feel pains again and her walking slowed down. She went to the doctor 10 days ago and was told that her cancer has returned to her liver and kidneys. She has been given 3 months to live. While I thought I had dealt with the grief 3 years ago, its come back to me like being hit by a truck. BANG! My father (83 now) has been going on a roller coaster. At first he broke down completely but now seems to be putting on a brave face for her sake.

The biggest issue is with my wife and children. Just before my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, my wife had a rather bitter feud with my parents. She has kept the feud going all these years. Now I have feelings of guilt about my parents not being as close to their grandchildren as they could have been but, in truth, they never really seemed to care when I gave them the opportunity in the past but the guilt remains. We are about to leave on a long planned trip to Europe and I'm not sure if my mother will be alive when I return so I am going to insist that the grandkids get to see their grandmother before we go. My brother, who is currently ill, is coming out in July with his family to see my parents. He doesn't know about the relapse yet. To top it off, my wife is a battle-hardened geriatric nurse and doesn't see what the fuss is about in an old lady dying (both her parents are still alive). She sees no point in my grieving so I cry when I am alone.

Thanks for listening.

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Grieving alone, welcome to the Board. Firstly, let me tell you this is the place where you will find empathy, understanding and it's such a safe environment ... I can honestly say that I feel like the people here are a "second family" to me.

I'm really sorry to hear your sad news ... and also feel for your Dad, and your Mom too, of course. Cancer is such a cruel disease.

Guilt is part of the grieving process and it is one of my worst demons. My own coping mechanism has been to categorize my guilt into two "boxes": unjustifiable and justifiable. As time has passed (almost 6 months since I lost my husband), I find that almost all the guilt has now been allocated to the unjustifiable box :) and that is an enormous relief. As you say, they they never really seemed to care when I gave them the opportunity in the past. Please don't forget that in a few months' time. That said, it sounds like the right thing to do - to ensure that your children spend some time with your parents before you go on vacation.

I had to smile at your words: battle-hardened geriatric nurse and doesn't see what the fuss is about in an old lady dying. My sister was a nurse for many years and I think it does de-sensitize you to suffering around you to some extent. It's a case of self-preservation for them - a very tough job, and if they didn't wear that "armour" they wouldn't be able to function in the role that they do perhaps? I am wondering if she is being a little remote because she harbours her own guilt (over the feud), or perhaps she is worried about you because you are already grieving and fears that when your Mom leaves that you will "lose it"? Or that you will resent her because of the feud? I remember when Cliff's Mom died, I felt so helpless and useless ... because I couldn't take away his hurt and that there was nothing I could do to make him "better" - it was then that I finally understood just how he had felt when I lost both my own parents. It may be that your wife has gone into "professional mode" because she too feels useless, therefore is dealing with this tragic situation in a way that makes her feel a little more in control? The fact is, we all grieve differently ... when my father had his second heart attack and it was a serious one, I KNEW that he was going to die, even though the hospital never confirmed my fears. I can remember my husband saying, "he's not dead, he might live, and you're acting as though he's already gone". But I knew beyond doubt that he was going to die ... and my grieving therefore had already started, as yours has.

It might be worth checking to see if your travel insurance will cover you ... if you wished to delay your trip to Europe (if you felt that you wanted to). I only say this because I remember that we were in Spain when my Mom's Mom died ... and my Mom felt immense guilt over this afterwards. And more to the point, resented my Dad (not for long though) for insisting that we went. But as I said earlier, we are all so different that this may not be the way forward for you ... perhaps your Mom would even prefer that you went ahead with your plans? I know that my Dad told my husband that he was dying, and told Cliff to look after me and take me "out of there" (the hospital) and not let me come back, because he didn't want me to witness him going and I've always thought since that was a lovely selfless request, as much as it hurt at the time.

Please talk to your wife and make her hear you ... how deeply affected you are by this ... I'd imagine that (if I role play this in my head and pretend that this scene is actually myself, my husband and my Mom) ... afterwards I would have most definitely resented the lack of sympathy or empathy. But again, we are all different, I can only imagine how I would have reacted. As you say, your wife's parents are both still alive and she may, apart from being a little "toughened up" because of her geriatric work, not have the empathy that only the bereaved truly seem to possess.

You will find that empathy here, and support. Please keep posting and let us know how you are.

Hugs.

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Thank you so much for all the kind words, Boo.

My guilt is definitely mixed here. As much as I love my parents, they always seemed in indifferent, all the while insisting that they wanted to see their grandchildren that's all they seemeed to do, look at them. My children (10-15), reflect this indifference towards their grandparents which is a shame but at the same time a relief that they won't suffer through grieving.

I can't judge my wife's reactions because she has seen so much pain and suffering and spent countless days seeing things that would make me lose my mind. She's not completely desensitized as she feels deeply for her best friend whose 11-year old son is autistic and says her friend goes through a sort of grieving process every day of her life. You maybe right about her guilt about the feud, I had never thought of that. For myself, I can't really afford to "lose it" as so many people depend on me, I just have to keep going and find my own time to grieve.

Luckily, both my parents have given me their blessing to go on our vacation and my father said he will not contact us should she pass away while we are gone. Not waiting for a phone call will make a big difference in enjoying my time away. Part of the vacation will be visiting my wife's parents so there will be some opportunity for reflection for her.

Again, thanks for the kind words and understanding, it really helps.

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Grievingalone,

I agree with Boo about the travel insurance. I know that no one can give you a time line but if you think just because your dad isn't going to call you if something happens you are going to be able to enjoy your trip, I'm afraid you may be disappointed. It may help a little but every day you are going to wonder and it will probably still put a damper on it. I speak from the experience of Tom and I having an Alaskan cruise and bus tour scheduled a year in advance and then Tom's dad scheduled a very serious surgery for that day a month before we were to leave. We were going to cancel the trip but he said if we did he would cancel the surgery. When we got off the bus at our final destination they asked where the Graham's were and I thought I was going to vomit. As it turned out it was a message from our daughter saying although the news wasn't good he had come through the surgery fine. The next 10 days were H--- though with worry. Yes, we had some good times but it was always lingering in our minds.

As far as your kids, I would most definitely take them to see Grandma. My in laws paid little attention to my kids and they always realized that, but they were still their grandparents. It may not help your mom (nobody knows her true feelings) but it may help your children in the end.

I'm sorry and don't mean to sound cruel, but I don't understand your wife's attitude toward the dying at all. I know we all handle things in our own ways and I believe that people should die on their own terms too, but I'd sure want an empathetic nurse. My mother in law hated me for some unknown reason for 35 years until she died. I tried to be overly nice and took the best care of her son that I humanly could, but I was still sad when she died and tried to make sure she was comfortable and that her family was taken care of. Yes, old people die, but they are somebody's family member and mean something to them. I don't believe in doing things to prolong life if it means keeping them here to suffer or not have a quality of life, but I would still be sad. I guess that's why I always got graded down for getting to close to my patients on evaluations.

I hope if you do go on the trip that your mother is here when you return and if not I know that she will understand because you said you have been planning this for a long time. I just want you to make the best decision for you because there is no going back. If you don't go and she lives quite a while longer, you can't feel bad that you didn't go. If you go and she isn't here when you come back, you have to know there was nothing you could do to stop it. I hope if the later happens that they might postpone the services until you got back since I have a feeling you might need that closure.

Good luck in your decision and our prayers will be with you.

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Thanks mlg.

Its not an easy thing when you have two sets of parents on two different continents to deal with. It invariably means that someones timing will be off and not everyone can be there all the time. Hopefully my brother can make before I leave so at least one of us will be here for the summer.

After talking it over with my wife, she does admit to some guilt over the feud she had with my parents but to be fair to her my parents share in the blame. My father never could accept either my wife nor my brother's into the family. Her attitude comes from seeing people die every day, sometimes in horrible circumstances. I can't really blame her as she had to harden herself to face such suffering every day and be able to come home to her family at night but I think the ice is finally cracking. Things might change if one of her parents becomes ill.

I noticed lately that I'm very tired. I guess this is part of the grieving process. Its so difficult dealing with a young family and the lingering death of an elderly parent.

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Grievingalone - I'm so glad that you talked to your wife :)

Tired? Oh yes, grieving is so tiring, unlike anything else. It is more tiring than hard labour, studying for exams, jet lag or anything else on this earth. I have NEVER known tiredness like this. It can be an effort to even brush my teeth, and that's when I am having a good day. It's an effort to open the mail, or the easiest of chores.

Mary Linda - there should be more nurses like you in the world :wub:

Hugs to you both

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My brother came yesterday with his family and we just spent a wonderful afternoon together. It was so good to see all of us together one last time. Lots of pictures were taken but no tears were shed although I am crying now as I think about it. My mother seems in good spirits but I can see that she tires easily especially when 6 grandchildren are present. A good day today.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes. I am on my trip now. Just before I left my mother was moved to a hospice and we said our goodbye's or as much as we could through the cloud of morphine. My father is happy that I have gone as the last thing he needs is yet another grieving family member. :lol:

Both my parents have shunned the idea of any funeral but her wishes are for her ashes to be spread in her rose garden which she loved so much so I will always have a place to "talk" to her.

Thanks for the support, Boo.

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You are not alone. I lost Cindy on 3/12 and had to go through the wedding of my daughter on 6/13. It was hard enough to show up but when I was there I asked where is, my mother in law, "Evelyn"? She is a supreme bitch who was quite the sales person in her time and fell apart with Altheizemers when her husband passed. I was the only one that transported her to family functions when Cindy was here. Pissed me off. To me it doesn't matter, family is family no matter where you find it. I believe you should do what you feel is right. Life is too short and kids need to experience family. I pray for you and yours and share your tears. Yes it is OK to cry.

Yours,

Gatorman

About 3 years ago my mother (73 at the time) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After a hysterectomy and chemo things seemed to settle down. About 2 months ago she started to feel pains again and her walking slowed down. She went to the doctor 10 days ago and was told that her cancer has returned to her liver and kidneys. She has been given 3 months to live. While I thought I had dealt with the grief 3 years ago, its come back to me like being hit by a truck. BANG! My father (83 now) has been going on a roller coaster. At first he broke down completely but now seems to be putting on a brave face for her sake.

The biggest issue is with my wife and children. Just before my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, my wife had a rather bitter feud with my parents. She has kept the feud going all these years. Now I have feelings of guilt about my parents not being as close to their grandchildren as they could have been but, in truth, they never really seemed to care when I gave them the opportunity in the past but the guilt remains. We are about to leave on a long planned trip to Europe and I'm not sure if my mother will be alive when I return so I am going to insist that the grandkids get to see their grandmother before we go. My brother, who is currently ill, is coming out in July with his family to see my parents. He doesn't know about the relapse yet. To top it off, my wife is a battle-hardened geriatric nurse and doesn't see what the fuss is about in an old lady dying (both her parents are still alive). She sees no point in my grieving so I cry when I am alone.

Thanks for listening.

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Mom finally gave in at 9:00PM last night according to an email my brother sent me. I fully expected her to die while I was away and it comes as no shock to me although I am still sad at her passing. I am also relieved she is no longer in pain. Thanks for all the support but I think I will be back here off and on for the next few months coping with this.

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I'm sorry for the loss of your mother. I can certainly visualize a wonderful place in a garden of roses. She sounds like a special person.

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