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Help me to prepare for death

(51 Posts)
mcjx Wed 20-Mar-19 14:46:42

Posting here mainly for traffic as I don't really have anyone else that I can speak to.

My dear nan is dying slowly and I need advice on how to try and attempt to mentally prepare for her death. We are not sure how long she has left but we know she is very ill and is deteriorating fast.

For a backstory, she is now 88. She suffered a massive stroke at 71 and wasn't expected to survive. She defeated the odds and lived but was left in a wheelchair, with her right side no longer functioning and her speech and memory affected.

Since the stroke she lived a fairly healthy life and had no physical illnesses and even outlived my grandfather who was younger than her and passed almost 10 years ago.

Anyway, last year in October we found out she had breast cancer. This isn't the first time she has had cancer as she had cancer of the bladder in the 90s but managed to defeat it.

Nan refused all treatment last year due to her age and just wanted to stay at home. Since then she has gotten worse rapidly but more so in the last couple of days. She no longer eats, is throwing up and is bleeding from the bottom (the doctors believe the cancer has spread) and this is probably likely as she has not gone through any treatment. They also think she has been suffering mini stroke attacks as she will have periods where she is dizzy, confused and has difficulty speaking.

I know death is inevitable but I'm really torn up about the prospect of losing her. I have always been so close to her and she's been my second mother in a sense, I think the world of her and it is killing me to see her suffer.

I have dealt with death and grief before when I was 14 - I lost my granddad, stepmother and other nan in the same year. At the time I was young and blocked everything out, it was only when I was about 17 that I started to become really depressed and start the grieving process.

Now that I am older I am worried about how I am going to deal with my Nan passing.

I'm sorry the post is long but I had to get it off my chest. And I hope there is somebody out there who can help me see things differently right now sad

Thank you.. thanks

Princessmushroom Wed 20-Mar-19 14:50:36

I just want to say that I’m thinking of you. You don’t have to have it all figured out, or know how to feel or react x

mcjx Wed 20-Mar-19 14:53:58

@Princessmushroom thank you sad I'm worried about how I'm going to cope, I'm currently pregnant at 33 weeks and I am suffering from depression and anxiety along with other complications in my pregnancy. Everything seems so shit at the moment when it should be an exciting time in my life x

ShatnersWig Wed 20-Mar-19 14:55:06

I've been there, not quite identical circumstances, but five hideous weeks that even now almost three years on still haunt me. I can't advise because we all handle things differently and situations even similar can also be very different. All I can say is be kind to yourself x

Star81 Wed 20-Mar-19 14:56:08

Sorry to hear this is happening.

I think the best way to deal with it is to acknowledge her long and presumably happy life with lots of lovely memories she - and you - must have.

She has decided that she didn’t want to fight on any more with treatment and you have to accept this and understand it’s not because she wanted to leave you all, really it’s just that she knew the toll the treatment would take and decided it wasn’t what she wanted. Sit with her and remind her of the happy times. Make the last moments matter. x

LailaByron Wed 20-Mar-19 14:57:05

It’s very difficult to help someone else prepare for the loss of a loved one. I worked as a palliative care nurse before I had my DC’s and the only advice I can give you is to cherish the time you have left together, be thankful that you had such a wonderful woman in your life, be proud that she was strong enough to survive the stroke she had years ago and be grateful for the memories of her you’ll have. It’s never easy and grief affects everyone differently so when it happens, give yourself time and allow yourself the time to feel whatever you’re feeling. There is no right or wrong way to feel, no way to make it hurt less or stop hurting at all. Sending hugs xx

mcjx Wed 20-Mar-19 14:57:25

Thank you @ShatnersWig thanks

I guess it's just a case of seeing how things play out. In the meantime I'm going to ensure I spend as much time with her as possible.

StillMe1 Wed 20-Mar-19 14:59:48

I don't know of any way to cope with impending death and the following grief. We all just try to cope I think.
I wanted you to know that I am thinking of you and your grandmother at this sad time. Try to spend as much time with her as you can and talk over some of your memories if possible. Tell her you love her.

EnlightenmentwasaPassingPhase Wed 20-Mar-19 15:01:20

OP - please believe that I am saying this kindly but this is the circle of life. Your GM is very old and her time on earth is coming to an end; her suffering will be over. It is as it should be.

mcjx Wed 20-Mar-19 15:03:26

@Star81 @LailaByron thank you both thanks

One thing I have said is that we should be very grateful that she survived for so long after her stroke. No medical professionals believed she would make it out of that alive as it was so massive. She is a miracle and incredibly strong.

I know I will be able to feel at peace when she finally does pass. I used to live with her during the 6 weeks holidays after my granddad passed.

We had the best times together and in effect I cared for her as much as I could, even though I was only a teenager myself. I never felt pressured to look after her, I did it out of pure love as I never wanted her to feel alone.

I know I've done so much for her and I was always there when I could be.

It probably sounds really sad but when other teens were out socialising on the weekend, I spent the time with my nan and I never felt happier.

mcjx Wed 20-Mar-19 15:03:56

Thank you @StillMe1 ❤️

mcjx Wed 20-Mar-19 15:05:37

@EnlightenmentwasaPassingPhase i understand where you are coming from.

I feel like I should already know this as I have dealt with death and grief but I have really blocked out that time in my life.

I feel incredibly stupid and naive for doing that now

Limensoda Wed 20-Mar-19 15:07:44

It's really difficult. Just because your Nan is very old doesn't mean it's just easy to accept when you feel she will leave a huge gap in your life. You love her so it's not easy to let go.
Perhaps focus on all the good times you've shared and try to accept we can't turn back time.
Your Nan is very very ill now and you really couldn't want her to stay and suffer.
You are bringing new life into the world and I bet your Nan would be thrilled about that because it's beautiful and natural. Sadly, death is natural and inevitable when we get very old.
You have been so fortunate and blessed to have had her in your life, so accept the immediate future will be difficult for you but your Nan wouldn't want you to be suffering.
Honour her by appreciating and remembering her life and focus on the new life you are growing.
She's sounds like a lovely strong woman who is tired now and made a brave decision to refuse treatment.
I hope you can find strength mcjx

mcjx Wed 20-Mar-19 15:10:42

Thank you for your kind words @Limensoda ❤️

NWQM Wed 20-Mar-19 15:13:23

Having been in a very similar position with my Mum I thought it might help if I passed on some of the advice that I was given and found useful:-

- think about how you want to make some last memories. We had a cast made of me and Mum holding hands. It's not something that I thought that I would ever do and its not on public show but it's lovely for me. There are lots of ideas on the Winstons Wish site that are children based but nevertheless thought provoking;
- you might enjoy looking through memories like photo's if she is well enough and getting her to explain the stories behind them. Write some notes;
- if you dont already have any do a couple of videos. You may never look at them but.....
- spend as much time as you can with her. You can watch just the same tv etc. You wont get this time back;
- try and act as normal. This is scary for her too. If you can arrange a trip to somewhere you both like....even if it's M&S so that you are doing things still.
- Dont forget you though. You still need to function.

I've lost both my Mum and Dad and each time the McMillian nurses and were really helpful. Have you any support in real life?

I know these are all very practical things but sometimes it helps you get through the very sad time to do something.

These next few weeks will be so difficult. There are a number of threads on here that have helped me. Look for them in the bereavement section when you are ready.

fingernailsbitten Wed 20-Mar-19 15:17:48

Our local hospice helps familes and provides counselling before and after the person's death. Could you look into contcting your local hopsice for care for you ( i assume Nan would not want to be moved into a hospice for her end of life care).
Also speak to your doctor. They can help.
Sorry you are going through all this.
Keep well for yourself and your baby.

Didiusfalco Wed 20-Mar-19 15:17:54

I understand. I had the same feeling about my grandma earlier this year, she was old and we knew she was dying, but we were incredibly close. I felt like a complete tool for getting so upset about someone old dying but I was lucky that my sister felt the same so I could talk to her and feel less foolish. Do you have anyone like that to share things with? Watching her die was very difficult and it was almost less hard when she had gone because I’d felt like I was holding my breath and then I could just feel sad. I try to remember her positive outlook on life, how she would want me to enjoy it and not mourn and let precious time with my family and this lovely spring day pass me by.

fingernailsbitten Wed 20-Mar-19 15:25:27

Also, Can you record her speaking to you? My DH lost a relative recently and they regularly say they wish they had a recording of her voice. They took some photos with the ill person in the long lead up to her death and stange as it may seem the photos do help.

Middlrm Wed 20-Mar-19 15:27:08

Op I really don’t think there is a way to fully prepare.

I have been so lucky in life and have only lost one person ... my grandad 4 years ago.

In many ways like your nan he was such a strong person , surviving so many things against the odds ... cancer / tumours 3 times in fact had a brain tumour when he died but that didn’t kill. Him pneumonia did.

Like your nan he also made the choice that he had had enough.

After watching my grandads quality of life deteriorate so much over the years I was actually so relieved for him for the first 24 hours, almost on a high.

I didn’t waiver while I watched him die I swamped back tears a couple of times but I found a strength I didn’t know I had ... I literally remember running to a different corridor sobbed in a doorway and then told myself to man up it wasn’t about me and I managed to hold it together , I couldn’t sleep and drank more coffee than was sensible over the 4 days.

After the death and the following high it hit me a lot harder than I exprected, a lot harder than my partner expected... p he almost split with me over it as I couldn’t be that upset about my grandad being dead I must have another issue ... ( i have another grandad that I am a little closer to ... but I did see this grandad a fair bit and I loved him we just had less in common )

I still miss him but it’s not as bad now.

But that’s one death.... I don’t think you can prepare and I don’t think you can predict how you will react ... I might not be able to be strong and resilient another time especially now I know what it is to feel the void of a death of a loved one in your life.

Just take each day, do the best by your nan that you can, tell her you love her every day and have no regrets because you better bet your nan wouldn’t regreat a thing about you x x
So sorry for what your going through x x

Mummyoflittledragon Wed 20-Mar-19 15:29:41

You have been so lucky and blessed to have someone cherish you so. Not all of us have this. Your nan has lived her life wisely teaching you many of the things you know, which makes you the adult you are today. She will live on in you because she is so very much a part of you. You will be able to tell your child about her and how much you were loved, how much your child is loved. She is old and in pain. It is time to let her go gently and tell her your baby will hear stories of the things you got up to together.

The only sure thing about life is that we die. It’s an inevitable part of life. So many parents protect their children from this fact. Mine taught me so very little about anything. In contrast I have chosen to bring my dd up knowing this to be a fact. In so doing I am not only preparing her for my death I am acknowledging the cycle of life, my mortality and preparing me as best I can for the loss of people I hold dear.

Idk if any of this helps. Good luck with the pregnancy. Be kind to yourself. Hormones won’t be helping. flowers

cjt110 Wed 20-Mar-19 15:30:00

You will cope. It's hard and takes some time.

My grandma was 69... She was a fiercely independant lady who had latterly gone through a separation with my Grandad. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer in May 05 and died Oct 05. She had one round of chemo but it made her very poorly and she decided she didn't want any further treatment. She knew the outlook. She had been a nurse from the age of 17, latterly working in a cancer hospice as a nurse and then a fundraising manager for them following her nursing retirement.

I took great comfort from the fact she had made a decision, however had that may be. That she was "beating" the cancer. She wasn't letting it win - she had decided not to continue treatment. Her decision.

She spent 3 weeks being nursed at our home, with my parents taking it in turns to sleep beside her hospital bed in our lounge. She sadly suffered a stroke and lost the ability to swallow or talk. As such, she agreed that the best place was our local hospice. This took some weight from us as we knew she was being looked after.

We spent hours upon hours with her. She was Type 1 diabetic and refused to have a drip or be tube fed. As such, she slipped into a diabetic coma. Again, her strong will and her decision showing through to us all. She had the final say. Not the cancer.

So after all my waffling, as hard as it may be, take comfort from the fact your dear Nan has taken a decision, that she feels is best for her.

It will be hard. I remember feeling like I would never feel the same again. I was 19 and she was my first bereavement. We had a very special bond due to my own ill health as a child. I went off the rails a bit and ran up an overdraft - buying things to make people feel better.

I now try and remmeber the good memories. It's 14 years now.. I sometimes think I must have imagined her. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Shodan Wed 20-Mar-19 15:30:03

Ime, there is really nothing you can do to prepare yourself.

My dad died 2 and a half years ago, after a long battle with cancer and heart problems. I knew it was coming and could do nothing. Because he had cancer of the gut he could barely eat, so just wasted away in front of me. Even though the battle was long, it still felt sudden when he actually died.

Until you get to that point then, my advice is this : try not to think about how little time you have, but concentrate instead on spending time with your nan and listening to her stories. I learned more about my dad in the last year of his life than I ever had before. It made his life before this illness far more real than any of the memories of my own I had.

When she does go, accept that you are going to feel awful. Don't try to brush it away, allow yourself the time to grieve. Bring back, in your mind, the stories she told you. Remember the joy. Talk about her with family. Slowly it will get better, but be prepared for tears to hit at random times thereafter.

I can remember thinking, years ago, how callous people were, who laughed at wakes. But my brothers, sister and friends of dad's were in stitches at some of our shared memories, and it really helped.

My sympathies to you. flowers

Sparklesocks Wed 20-Mar-19 15:35:29

Very sorry you are going through this.

I don't think there's much you can do to prepare, but tell how much you love her and how she's brought joy into your life before she goes. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do so.

My gran recently passed after a long battle with Alzheimers, she didn't know who I was in the end (and hadn't for a few years). It was very difficult, and as sad as the funeral was there was still an element of joy to it. We played all of her favourite songs, read poems at the service and hired out a room of a pub for the wake where we all reminisced about her. My mum, her daughter, was devastated of course but she felt the funeral was quite cathartic as it was such a lovely goodbye.

She took a turn very suddenly in the care home and nobody got there quick enough so we weren't with her when she passed, but one of the carers held her hand and stroked her hair as she went. She told us it was very peaceful and quick, and my gran seemed ready. That brought us all great comfort, carers are angels on earth.

I didn't get the chance to say goodbye or tell her I loved her and I'm not sure she even would've known if I had, so please ensure you are able to do so flowers

TheMightyToosh Wed 20-Mar-19 15:35:37

Lots of good advice here for you OP thanks

Mine is to say the things you want to say to her while you still can. Remind her of things you did and memories you cherish. 'Remember when we did X Y Z together? I loved that'.

You might find after she's gone that you are flooded with those memories and you might be comforted that you shared them with her while she could hear you and told her what they meant to you.

Even if she can't respond, say it anyway. It will help you afterwards thanks

Manikoutai Wed 20-Mar-19 15:39:11

I’m sorry about your Nan. 💐

My mum just passed away, so here are a few thoughts about how to prepare for a loss:

- it may hit you in waves, sometimes many times a day. But it will recede over time, as weeks and months go by.
- I find the dreams at night most difficult. Sometimes I dream my mum is still alive and happy, sometimes it’s about the past, sometimes she’s in pain and suffering greatly, sometimes she’s already dead but still around us 🤨. It has taken a big toll on me emotionally.
- if you have young children, don’t expect them to recognise your loss or empathise greatly. My kids are in the 5-10 yo range, and even though they are loving, and i would say they have a good EQ generally, they haven’t known what to do or say when I’m sad. I think it’s just beyond the reach of children.
- when in grief, people can lash out at others because they are stressed and they don’t know how to express it. Anything from the funeral reception to mementos from the person who has passed away becomes a reason to argue (for some people).
- i would highly recommend Joan Didion’s memoir, The year of magical thinking. It’s a masterfully written, very honest book about loss.

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