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My Mom Is Dying Of Cancer

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Hello, My name is Grace. I live in Minnesota and my Mom lives in Arizona. I have 7 children so it has been hard to visit. My last visit was 6 months ago, and 6 months before that. My sister called me and told me that my mom is close to the end, so I am flying there this Sunday. I am so scared. I've never seen anyone at the end of cancer. Let alone, this is my mother.She is dieing. I am a wreck. My therapist says since I live so far away and may not be there when she dies...he said I was grieving already.Well I want to stop.{doesnt that sound easy} My mother doesnt want me crying...I dont want to cry.But I cry everyday.My body does things of it's own. Somedays I am dizzy and pukeish, sometimes for days. I cant eat, I have to take meds to go to sleep, sometimes my body stays tight for days. Like when you flex you arm..only its my bodies natural state.Sometimes I cant breathe either. I just know all this stuff is grief related. I have went to the doctors for all of these things. They gave me Lithium, but that med scares me.I just need to find some strength..or something. Any advice? Thank you

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My dear Gracey,

I’m so very sorry to learn that your mother is dying, and I can only imagine how painful it must be for you to be so far away, yet so fearful of going to see her, so helpless in the face of this horrible disease. It is extremely difficult to know from a distance that your loved one’s health and quality of life are deteriorating this way, much less having to witness it firsthand. And as you have discovered, you are already experiencing all the emotions of grief in anticipation of losing your mother. This is known as anticipatory mourning, and the physical and emotional reactions involved are the same as those experienced in normal grief.

You say that you don’t want to cry, but you’re crying anyway, as your body “does things of its own.” You feel sick at the thought of seeing your mother like this, and you worry how you will control your tears when you get there.

I wonder, Gracey, how you would feel if your own daughter knew you were dying and refused to cry for you? And if she did cry, how would you read her tears? It seems to me that crying in your mother’s presence simply shows how deeply you care about her, and how deeply saddened you are to know that she is dying. Perhaps your tears will speak much more powerfully to your mother than any words you could possibly say. As Washington Irving has written, There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than 10,000 tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

I know you’re worried about how you’ll ever find the courage to go to your mother’s bedside and face whatever lies ahead. Somehow we think real courage is about soldiers being the first ones to charge up the hill, or about firefighters running into a burning building when everyone else is running out. Yet real courage is simply facing that which we're most afraid of, and doing it anyway despite our fear. Somehow you will find the strength to do what you need to do, Gracey, and you will be glad you did. Think of how you would feel if you chose not to go to your mother, and missed this opportunity to be with her one last time. Maybe you can think of this as the priceless gift that only you can take to her.

You don’t say whether your mother is aware of her condition, or if you’ve talked about it openly with each other, and I’m wondering if that may be part of what’s giving you such pain right now. If she already is on hospice care, your mother probably knows a whole lot more about her illness than anyone else does, even if she does not acknowledge it to those around her. Keep in mind that this is her life, and her dying, and she will do it the way that she needs to do it. Also remember that we human beings are pretty well defended – we hear what we want to hear and keep out the rest. That is how each of us just gets through the day. Your mother will face her dying as she is ready to do so, and for all you know, she may have begun doing that already. As your mother, she may be feeling a need to protect you by not expressing freely and openly what she feels and knows. As her daughter, you may be feeling the same way. This is what Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first described in her book On Death and Dying as the "conspiracy of silence." Nobody says what needs to be said and everyone ends up suffering alone. I encourage you not to assume what your mother is thinking and feeling. The only way to know for sure is to ask!

When you're with her, you might ask her what she makes of her illness or what she thinks is going to happen to her – then take your cue from her. If she's ready and willing to talk about it and she knows that you are ready and willing to listen, she will let you know what's on her mind, and she’ll want to know what’s on your mind as well. The greatest gift you can give to your mother right now is just to be there with her – to be open to whatever she needs to say to you, and to be open with whatever you may need to say to her.

I’d like to recommend to you two wonderful books that I think you might find helpful at this sad and difficult time. If you just click on their titles, you can read Amazon’s description and reviews of each. The first is The Four Things that Matter Most, by Ira Byock, M.D. He is an international leader in hospice and palliative care, and in this book he discusses how four simple phrases can guide us effectively through whatever interpersonal difficulties may stand between us and another person (and most especially when that other person is dying) to help us finish whatever unfinished business may be getting in the way. The four simple phrases are “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you.”

The second book is Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying, by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley. The “final gifts” of the title are the comfort and enlightenment offered by the dying to those attending them, and in return, the peace and reassurance offered to the dying by those who hear their needs.

Most of us find it very difficult to think about the death of our loved one. We act as if merely thinking or talking about a person’s dying will somehow make it happen – or we act as if not thinking or talking about our loved one’s illness will somehow make it go away. Yet the reality is that none of us has the power to cause the death of another being merely by thinking or talking about it – and illnesses aren't prevented or cured simply by choosing not to think about them. Facing the loss of a loved one is just as difficult whether it happens suddenly or over an extended period of time. But having time to prepare for what lies ahead can be one of the more positive aspects of anticipatory grieving. You can make the most of the time you have now by talking openly with your mother about what is happening to her, and by making your remaining time together as special as possible, as you make those treasured memories that will offer you comfort later.

Make sure, too, Gracey, that you are taking care of yourself while caring for your mother (by getting enough nourishment, relaxation, rest and exercise). And know that as you face the difficult days ahead, you are not alone. I know that every person reading this is thinking of you as you embark upon this trip to see your mother, and we will be here when you return, so you can continue to use this forum to express and work through your feelings about all of this.

Finally, I want to leave you with this wonderful piece:

How Well Are You Doing with Your Grief?

"If I were doing well with my grief,

I would be over in the corner

curled up in a fetal position crying,

not standing here acting like no one has died."

-- Doug Manning

in The Gift of Significance: Walking People Through a Loss

We are doing well with our grief when we are grieving.

Somehow we have it backwards.

We think people are doing well when they aren't crying.

Grief is a process of walking through some painful periods

toward learning to cope again.

We do not walk this path without pain and tears.

When we are in the most pain,

we are making the most progress.

When the pain is less,

we are coasting and resting up for the next steps.

People need to grieve.

Grief is not an enemy to be avoided;it is a healing path to be walked.

-- from HOPE Line Newsletter, August 2002

E-mail: hope@dreamscape.com

Web site: www.hopeforbereaved.com

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T

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Hi Grace,

First I would like to say I'm so sorry, I know you must be a wreck, I pray for your peace, believe me I do. If its any help I know your mom will be in good hands. She will be amongst friends and family and they will welcome her with open arms I promise. She will be pain free, and the warmth of the lord surrounds all.

We lost a loved one who past 4 years ago. I found her passing to be actually quite peaceful Grace. My wifes mom died of pulmonary fibrosis. She had it for 8 years before it finally took her from us.

I saw in our circumstances more of a peaceful ending. The pain was gone, and she was comfortable with the knowledge she was going home.

I just lost my mom suddenly in January. She was 60, in excellent health, active swimming, dancing and always having fun. She was one of those moms everybody loved to be around. She was a true blessing to know if you got the chance to meet her. I miss her terribly, as I know you will miss yours. I feel mom all around us, her spirit soars Grace. I know you will feel your mom too.

Much love and blessings coming your way my friend,


edit to add: Marty that was absolutely beautiful, thank you for sharing.

Edited by Seanboy
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Hi Grace

I am so very sorry that your Mother is dying, I know what a painful event it is to know that the end is near, I just lost my dear Mom, after her long suffering battle with other problems, not cancer. And I would like to share this with you, I always tried to be so very strong around my Mom and her very long hospital stay, just wanted her to see the happy side of me, not the tears and my fears. When Mom came back home with hospice care, I knew in my head that her end was near, but not in my heart. I also was so worried that I did not have the strength to face her going, but when it came right down to it, the strength was there, It is my hope that it will be the same for you. One of the hardest things I ever did was to finally tell my Mom that it was okay for her to go, that I loved her and I would really miss her, as I told her my tears were flowing, and with such great effort Mom reached up and wiped away some of my tears and said Thank You, I love you so much, and I will miss you also. This was the first time I cried in front of my Mom, and it was okay, and in a way healing for both of us, then my tears didnt stop, for the rest of her days, and that was okay also. I just wanted to share this with you, as this is How things happened for me, not to tell you that it will be or should be the same for you. When I lost my Dad, I was not able to get there in time, and I really believe that it happened the way it was supposed to.

Please know that this group will be here for you whenever you need us to be.

Hope that this helps some, take care, Debbie

When Silence Is Broken Does Not The Soul Begin To Heal? dlf

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Hello to all of you, thank you soo much. Tonight is a new beginning. I am going to buy a couple books to help me, I feel better knowing I'm not alone, it is an awful feeling having all these feelings and having no one to talk to. My husband said once that I was a baby. Joking or not I feel he thinks that everytime I cry.And my friends don't know what to say. My sister is in denial, but she also just had heart surgery done, so I am afriad to cry with her. She refuses to cry. I know she is in pain. I love her, and I will be here for her when she wants. She's my sister. I will see my mother and take all the advise I can with me in my heart. I will let my heart guide me with my mother. I thank you all again and I will be coming on this sight everynight. I hope we all talk more.Gracey

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I'm so sorry about your mother, and remember (too) well how awful it feels once you know your mother's time here won't be as long as you wanted.

I noticed this article in our local paper this morning, and thought it might be worth sharing. I'm not sure how long you're going to be with your mother, or if you're planning on staying indefinitely, OR if she's at home for her last days, so this may or may not be useful to you, or possibly your sister. A local woman wrote a small handbook, after having taken care of her dying brother at home and has had it published recently. I don't know, either, how many copies are available so far, but it's just come out. But it takes you through all the required steps and plans you need to do homecare without burning right out. She makes the point that it's so exhausting providing this kind of care, and it can totally debilitate you if you don't plan it out correctly. So whether you, or anyone else reading here who IS providing homecare, might find this helpful, I'm providing this info.:

"Compassionate Homecare: Making Home Care Easier, A Six-Step Handbook", by Cathie Johnson. Ph: (403)652-3558 ( Alberta, Canada ); email: cjohnson@telusplanet.net

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Guest Vicky B

Hi Grace,

When you see your mum give her a hug and tell her you love her.

I have just lost my mother to cancer Jan 16th 2006, she was 64. I know exactly the pain you are experiencing. From the first day she told me she was sick I began to grieve for her. I felt I had lost her long before her physical body left me.I prayed that her suffering would end.I always found it difficult to be optomistic despite desperately wishing she would improve and have some quality of life. The tears still flow when I am least expecting it, I don't know where they all come from!

I am pleased that you have a large family as they will support you and give you strength especially your own children. You will find an inner strength to help you.

Vicky x

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