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To worry that MIL will die on Christmas Day.

(104 Posts)
fadingfast Tue 22-Dec-15 13:43:27

She is terminally ill and at a guess has 2-3 weeks left at the most. We're trying to carry on as normal for the sake of the DCs but it is beginning to really panic me about what we do if she dies on Christmas Day. I know it sounds ridiculous in the bigger scheme of things but I'm the sort of person who needs to plan ahead and we just can't do that. I'm terrified that their every future Christmas might be scarred by their Grandmother's death.

Sorry for the depressing thread sad

AlisonWunderland Tue 22-Dec-15 13:45:19

I worked in hospital on terminal wards for many years.
Strangely we rarely had any deaths on Christmas Dday, but Boxing Day was another matter. Not unusual to have 2 or three deaths then

wowfudge Tue 22-Dec-15 13:46:52

Firstly, I'm sorry your family are having to deal with this. How old are the children and how is your partner coping with things so far?

I think how you and he deal with things will have a bearing on how it affects the children more than anything really, unless they are particularly close to her.

Northumberlandlass Tue 22-Dec-15 13:48:54

My Granny died on Christmas Day night, many moons ago when we were young teenagers. You can't plan these things.
We take a wreath up to the cemetery on Christmas morning. There is no scarring - it happens, it's shit and then you make an effort to make the next one a joyous occasion & filled with memories. You are being slightly ridiculous.

I am sorry about your mil flowers

knobblyknee Tue 22-Dec-15 13:49:54

YANBU. One approach is 'as she is at the end of her life we all rally round her to let her know we love her.' Go visit, let them phone her, have some conversation prepared so no one is just sitting there.
Next year light a candle for her. Honestly, it wont traumatise them if she dies on Xmas day or two days later or a week later.

fadingfast Tue 22-Dec-15 13:51:04

DC are 11 and 7. We haven't told them that she is dying, in the hope that it will be after Christmas and I'd rather tell them just before it happens than too far ahead (I've no idea if that's the best thing to do). DH is dealing with it reasonably well but I suspect will fall apart when it happens.

Goingtobeawesome Tue 22-Dec-15 13:52:20

You are not being ridiculous at all!! You can't change the fact your MIL is going to die soon so of course you are thinking of future Christmases with your children.

I hope your fears aren't realised.

marmaladegranny Tue 22-Dec-15 13:52:35

My DF died, unexpectedly, at 11pm on Christmas Eve. I won't say that it isn't hard and does taint Christmas a bit but you do get used to it. That was 40 years ago and I was stuffing the turkey when DM rang with the news - every year someone else needs to do that job as it still reduces me to tears.
Whenever your MIL dies will be sad and you will always remember that date.
Would send hugs and cup of tea smileys if I could work out how use them!

sonjadog Tue 22-Dec-15 13:52:47

This is completely pit of your control so there is really no point worrying about it. Can you try to repeat that to yourself and then resolutely åut it out of your mind and focus on the here and now?

NewLife4Me Tue 22-Dec-15 13:53:05

I know its not the same but my dm died the week before my ds1 birthday and was buried on his 16th Birthday.
We put his birthday on hold as he wanted to, celebrated it another day and he too was worried that B'days wouldn't be the same again.
Now he is 24 and honestly there has never been a problem and every year it gets easier.
Your children will be taught that their gm wouldn't want them to miss out and be miserable because she is no longer with them.
I'm so sorry your family are facing this it is awful at any time of the year, my thoughts are with you all thanks

Raxacoricofallapatorius Tue 22-Dec-15 13:54:29

My uncle died on Christmas Day and I do understand, truly. What a terrible thing for all of you.

I think as far as future Christmases are concerned, it can be quite a positive thing in time. You can celebrate them if that doesn't sound too crass. I know that there is a sense for some of us that instead of remembering the 25th as a time of sadness, it's the day he was at peace and we are together to raise a toast. Does that make sense? Christmas is for family and it's a bittersweet reminder of those no longer here.

I hope that makes sense.

For this year I think you do only what you can and deal with what happens, not what might.

cleaty Tue 22-Dec-15 13:54:34

I would talk to them about how gran is dying. Death is easier to face if you have some warning.

fadingfast Tue 22-Dec-15 14:00:29

Thanks for all the kind words.

Yes I do completely understand what you mean Rax. In many ways it will be a huge relief when it happens as she has no quality of life now. She always made a big event of Christmas when DH was growing up so she would definitely want us to celebrate.

TheLesserSpottedBee Tue 22-Dec-15 14:03:37

I totally agree with cleaty I would tell them that she is dying.

I found the death of both my Mum and MIL easier to deal with because we knew they were dying. And we told the children. Their Great Grandad died suddenly and it was a complete shock to all of us.

StillDrSethHazlittMD Tue 22-Dec-15 14:04:02

When I was 18 one of my best friends went into hospital a few days before Xmas for an operation. Unfortunately she developed internal bleeding that they couldn't stop, she went into a coma and died on Xmas Eve.

Christmas was pretty hideous that year and I'm afraid every year just brings it back again. I think it is different for different people. These things happen.

TheLesserSpottedBee Tue 22-Dec-15 14:05:53

Just seen your update, as she loves Christmas that is your way to celebrate her life no matter when she dies.

And yes, knowing someone is dying and has no quality of life is torturous and distressing. flowers Terribly sad to have a parent die no matter what time of year.

Raxacoricofallapatorius Tue 22-Dec-15 14:08:00

I'm so sorry DrSeth. Absolutely everybody is different yes. I speak of a death which while too soon of course, was expected and not traumatic. It was peaceful and a relief for him and those around him. What you describe I can't begin to imagine and I am sorry.

HolgerDanske Tue 22-Dec-15 14:11:03

Please do tell your children. It would be far, far worse for them if it happens without any warning. They need to be given the opportunity to properly say goodbye and also to get used to the idea.

flowers at this awful time.

livvylongpants Tue 22-Dec-15 14:13:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ChinaSorrows Tue 22-Dec-15 14:13:11

My granddad died on Christmas Day.
He wasn't ill, he went to bed on Christmas Eve, suffered a heart attack and my grandma couldn't wake him in the morning.

I was 10. We had opened most of our presents but left them all at home.

Christmas wasn't ruined.
My brother and I spent the day at mum's friend's home with her children. We spent the night too.
They were incredibly lovely, welcoming, kind and treated my bro and I like they always did. No kid gloves and they ensured we had a degree of normal.

It was a bizarre Christmas. But not ruined. It was different but showed what the day is all about. Loving each other and being kind.

Yes, Christmas is tinged with a little sadness at the memory that we lost grandad and how devastated my mum was but also at how wonderful everyone was.

bornwithaplasticspoon Tue 22-Dec-15 14:13:16

I'm so sorry. I don't think you're bring unreasonable at all. Losing loved ones at this time of year is terribly hard. Michael Rosen 'Sad' is a good book for children. Wishing you all the best.

Helenluvsrob Tue 22-Dec-15 14:15:40

You have to talk to your children about grandma being so ill, even if it's " You know grandmas is so very poorly don't you, i don't think this is the sort of poorliness hat the doctors can make better " .

If she has no quality of life can you do something that'll give a wee bit of quality to the time she has to put up with, given we aren't allowed to to give our dying the dignity we give our pets?

If she loves Xmas why not put lights round her bed, wet her lips with baileys or a snowball - what ever she loved , and put the carols on? When my mum came home to die one of the things I think we got right was that for 2 out of the 3 days at home she had a wee glass of baileys in the afternoon.

I'm making plans if I'm terminal to remember that baileys is probably as calorific as fortisip and a lot nicer !

Helenluvsrob Tue 22-Dec-15 14:22:17


I beg to differ Michael Rosens Sad book is devastating.It's about a tragic young death "I loved Eddie very very much but he died anyway" is just about the most upsetting thing ever to read as an adult. I reckon it would give young kids nightmares. Or maybe that's just me, I want to shield them if I can from the fact that the young die of unpredictable things and you can't stop it happening.

A more " uplifting" book for kids is " badgers parting gifts" wher Mr Badger is old, crumbly and unfixable - he says goodbye to his friends and dies quietly. They reflect on all the loveliness in the world because of him- the songs, the dances etc.

Even goodbye Mog is gentler- where mogs spirit comes back to knock the kitten into shape!

BiddyPop Tue 22-Dec-15 14:27:49

I would start to let the DCs know gently that the outlook for their DGM is not good, look at Winston's Wish website for some help on language and helping to prepare them.

A DGAunt died, after a long illness and well well into old age (aged 97), on Christmas morning. She was a nun, and both Christmas and Holy Mary meant a LOT to her, and she slipped away in the 15 minutes that another nun sitting with her had gone to the loo and to make a fresh cup of tea (there was no indication that it was imminent at that stage, and wider family had not been called, but were called for a couple of other "potentially this is it" moments months earlier). It was a blessing for her, and actually, meant a lot to family that it happened that day. We were all down 2 days later for the funeral and it was lovely.

If MIL is very unwell, and you are visiting, give her "permission" to go when it suits her. IF it happens on the wrong day, it will be sad but it doesn't mean that is the end of Christmas - yes it changes it this year, and next year too. But it doesn't mean that you will never again celebrate or enjoy it.

One thing we always do on Christmas Eve is light a candle, to show any weary travelers that there is "room in our Inn". And as part of that, we spend a little time contemplating the good and bad things that have happened in the year just finishing, and also every year, remember family members who have died (including all of my DGPs, that DD knew 3 of them well, and this year will include DFIL and DH's Aunt as well). For us, it marks a lovely time of quiet rememberance at the start of the real celebrations, but doesn't detract from the celebrations either.

There was very little opportunity to plan ahead much for DFIL either, there were 5 weeks from cutting the grass on Thursday night, going into hospital on the following day, and him passing away. But he did give us some time to wait with him quietly, with 3 days in a peaceful coma, where absolutely no planning was possible beyond which family members slept in hospice that night or who was going to bring back dinner. That is very hard to do, and both DH and I are the planning and organizing types (and the apple didn't fall far from the tree in DH's case).

Just have plans in your mind about what steps need to be taken, like does MIL have a favoured funeral director, cremation or burial, favourite readings/music. Who needs to be contacted (can you set up a circle of - DH tells 1 person, who then has a list to contact and let them know etc to share it out, have you contact numbers for all important people including mobiles in case of Christmas travels)? What to tell the DCs when it happens, as opposed to preparing them for the idea. And having some idea of clothes that you will all need - do you need to get some formal things for the DCs (whether that's nice jeans and plain top, through to formal suit and dress - depending on what the family is normally like and what you think they may expect, particularly your own DH's expectations), do you have suitable things yourself and are they clean/ready to wear, will DH need a new suit or shirt, that sort of thing. (List for sales to pick things up may be handy). And having options in your head for catering when things happen - and you just can't face making dinner but suddenly there are an extra 12 siblings, cousins, aunt and uncles descending and all the neighbours calling, or you may have to decamp to MILs for will it work in your particular family?

You don't have to write anything down, but a list can help you go onto autopilot. I have what I literally call my autopilot list from when my DGPs were ill, as I live in their city but most of my family don't so needed to prepare for invasions of visitors, probably a number needing beds, probably a number arriving off planes needing to refresh themselves before church, and feeding ourselves and visitors around it all. And by thinking it through beforehand, I had time to build in what I needed to tell DD, having easy to make meals listed (including a shopping list of ingredients), and step by step instructions for myself. It also meant that when it did happen (3 times), I just took it out and followed mindlessly, so I could think about my DGPs rather than "what's next".

But before all that happens, visit MIL as much as is feasible - from her own strength and awareness perspectives, and your ability as a family to get there. You probably won't care what day it is when you get that call - but you will feel better if you've had a chance to visit and spend time with her.

BiddyPop Tue 22-Dec-15 14:30:13

Sorry for the essay

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