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Wife is terminally ill with a few weeks left

(272 Posts)
TheConstantGardener Mon 27-Sep-10 11:33:16

Hi all, first post here so please be kind!

To cut a long and hard story short, after 3 years battling with breast cancer my wife has stopped treatment and has been told she has 'a few weeks left'. I am 36 and she is 40 and our 2 sons are aged 3 and 5. We're using the remaining time to sort out practicalities (hard work) and spend some quality time as a family and have a few days out. I have been given time away from work for the time being.

My reason for posting is to get any advice/support from anyone who has been through something similar. We have a good family/friend support network with access to counseling, which has helped somewhat. However, I'd still like any advice on support for my sons - have checked out 'Winston's wish' which only works with kids 6+ and have been advised the 'Child bereavement trust' is not brilliant - so if anyone has any other tips I'd appreciate them. Obviously helping the boys with this is a source of huge anxiety for us.

Also, anyone with knowledge of possible widower benefits would also be useful, unfortunately these practicalities need to be discussed, however hard it is.

Thanks all and please message if you get a moment.


I have no experience, but just didn't want you to go unanswered. Wishing you strength at this difficult time, and hoping that someone will be along soon who can offer you some more helpful advice x

ShinyAndNew Mon 27-Sep-10 11:38:38

Do you have a MacMillan nurse? They were great with my niece after we lost nephew to cancer. They will also be able to advise on any benefits.

Also my friend died leaving behind a little girl (6). The girl has coped amazingly well. It's surprising how resiliant children are. But my friend made videos of herself/video messages for special occassions i.e 18 birthdays/first day at uni/graduation/marriage etc. As well as birthday cards and memory boxes.

It might make your wife feel happier and will will bring comfort to the children when they are older.

I am so sorry for what you are going through. I wish you all the strength in the world.

Haliborange Mon 27-Sep-10 11:41:26

I have no experience, but have you been in touch with a local hospice? They often have staff who are trained to help children deal with losing a parent so they might be worth a call.

kittywise Mon 27-Sep-10 11:41:46

I have no advice, but didn't want to pass this by without saying thatI'm so sorry and wish you , your wife and children strength.

FrameyMcFrame Mon 27-Sep-10 11:44:34

Best wishes from me too, you sound like you're doing a great job and do keep on posting on Mumsnet for support in the weeks and months ahead.

bronze Mon 27-Sep-10 11:44:50

I'm surprised about Winstons wish as they helped my friend and her children were young

I am no real help I'm afraid but felt I couldn't not post.
Just want to wish you all the strength in the world.

bronze Mon 27-Sep-10 11:45:43

I've just checked and winstons wish do things for preschool children. I would get back to them if I were you as they can be so good at time sliekt hese

myredcardigan Mon 27-Sep-10 11:47:08

No real advice other than I once watched a programme where a terminally ill mother wrote letters for her children to open at different times; at 13, 18, on marriage, parenthood etc.

Another of the mums wrote birthday cards in advance or made films.

Wishing you all strength at this difficult time.

TheConstantGardener Mon 27-Sep-10 11:47:25

Thanks. Yes my wife is making memory boxes and writing memory books, which although painful to do will help in the future to demystify this time for the boys. Videos are a great idea though and we'll look into that.

My eldest has some 'place to be' counseling at school which will help and the school have been very supportive so far. It's just making sure I am aware of any other help out there, so if anyone knows anything then let me know. Unfortunately from what I have seen so far there isnt much out there for kids so young or indeed a 36yr old widower - I guess it's hardly the norm.

It is a hard time and has been for some time, obviously my greatest anxieties are seeing my wife unwell and also for the future for me and the boys, its hard to imagine how things will be/how we will feel so I'm pretty anxious about that. Taking it day by day and setting small goals seems to be the sensible approach right now.


NorbertDentressangle Mon 27-Sep-10 11:48:22

I'm so sorry that you are going through this.

As someone has already suggested contact your local hospice. They tend to have Family Support Teams who can offer your children help and support in the form of counselling, one-to-one help or group activities.

They will also be able to help you and your wife now as they can answer any questions you may have and point you in the right direction. In the longer-term, they can offer you help, support and counselling too.

Wishing you all strength to help you through this difficult time

arfasleep Mon 27-Sep-10 11:49:35

Hi, very sorry for you all, must be really hard. My dad died year & half ago with cancer, it was very difficult. My mum found the macmillan nurse to be very helpful, esp with benefits/practicalities. At the time I found the cancerbackup website very good, altho think its merged with macmillan now, theres a online community/forum which is good. Best wishes

myredcardigan Mon 27-Sep-10 11:51:40

For yourself, have you checked if there is a branch of WAY near to you? I know a few MNetters have found them a great source of support. (WAY is Widowed and Young BTW)

I'm so sorry to hear about your wife's prognosis.

Look into WAY (Widowed And Young) -- I know a lot of Mumsnetters have drawn support from them, and they do cater for men as well as women. See leaflet here (they do have a website, but it's not terribly informative and I get the impression that it's the local groups that are the real heart of the organisation. They do also have a list of other helpful organisations here -- one or more might be useful for you and your sons, depending on where you are in the country.

duchesse Mon 27-Sep-10 12:02:35

Oh goodness, I am so sorry.

Is your wife writing letters for your children- like a series of letters and cards to be given to them on their birthdays every year, with the kind of things that she would want to be there to say to them? I believe that they can be very helpful for the children.

taintedpaint Mon 27-Sep-10 12:08:37

Oh I'm so sorry to hear this. I'm also very sorry that I don't have much real advice (although the MNers so far have offered you some helpful bits I see) but I couldn't read this and then not comment. My only small piece of advice comes from seeing my cousins losing their mum (my aunt) when they were children (though they weren't as young as your LOs). It was, and still is, important for them to have contact with as many people as possible who knew their mum and could talk about her in different ways. Could you possibly arrange for a couple of your wife's friends to spend a day with your DCs every so often in the coming years? I'm sure this would happen anyway, but if it was engineered in a way that the days were arranged near special occasions (such as their mum's birthday etc), they would have a chance to talk about her and you have some time to yourself to remember her? I'm sorry to be talking this way now, but I think practical advice is probably the most helpful thing for you.

Will be thinking of you, your wife, and your children. x

meltedmarsbars Mon 27-Sep-10 12:20:28

I'm very sorry you are all in this situation. The memory boxes and videos are lovely ideas.

Would you keep some of her clothes and jewelery, as these will bring back memories later on?

I'd also second the WAY suggestion. They do kids stuff too, and nights out for you.

The hospice might have a club for your children - mine get taken on trips out/activity days (in age appropriate groups). They can be with other children who have been through similar things, and although they might not talk directly about their situations, knowing that there are others "like you" can help.

Another suggestion is Homestart who have volunteers who come to your house to help out. We have had various ones over the years - some came to play with my dc's others would bake a cake or read with the eldest.

Our situation is not the same as yours but many of the helping organisations are the same.

Best wishes.

DinahRod Mon 27-Sep-10 12:20:47

Am so truly sorry your darling dw, you and your children are going through this. It's a testament to your love for her and your dcs that you would write this.

As a bereaved child, normalcy and routine were so important. My brother and I went to our schools the day after she died, this may not be appropriate for your dcs but having adults behave so out of character was scary and we wanted predictability. It was the era before counselling for bereavement was offered (as it might be through your eldest child's school?), you had to seek it, but it was months or even a year later that it would have been beneficial rather than immediate iyswim.

My mother was too poorly to think of these things but in hindsight would have been lovely to have:

- photo of dcs being hugged by their mum to show how much she loves them (my brother has one as I took it); photo of you two together as a couple and photo of you all as a family together. I read a story recently were a mum had some cushions made with her photo on them with each of the three children, with the words, “When you need a cuddle I’m always here”.’ She also made up ‘memory boxes’ filled with items to help them remember her, wrote a journal of her life and had lots of family photographs and video they know what her voice sounds like.

Have to dash but will be back later if I think of anything else

littlemisslost Mon 27-Sep-10 12:25:22

hello and first can I wish you and your family all the best at this very difficult time. I work at a hospice and I am sure you will have one close to you, where abouts do you live? But basically most hospices will not only offer end of life nursing care and respite for the paitent but also support and counseling for relatives and the children. You should be able to access any of these services and its normally free of charge, ask your GP or Macmillan nurse if you are not aware yourself of one locally?

laughalot Mon 27-Sep-10 12:31:43

Im so very sorry that you, your dear wife and children are going through this. I dont have much advice but felt I needed to post as my children are the same age and it just made me feel so sad. My love, thoughts and prayers are with you all especially your wife xxx

littlemisslost Mon 27-Sep-10 12:31:57

hospice care is not something everybody wants to go for but it can beneficial in many ways as it takes those memories of (death) out of the actual family home and you can walk away from it physically when the time comes. Its individual but sometimes people cant face being in the family home afterwards if the loved one has acually passed away there. Also they will accommodate you and the children and usually let you stay there and feed you, You and the children will be come familiar with the surroundings and be more willing to return for support or counselling if necessary than going to s strange place.
Things to think about sad

laughalot Mon 27-Sep-10 12:33:50

littlemisslost i dont know how you do that job very brave.

Flighttattendant Mon 27-Sep-10 12:42:41

Welcome, and I am sorry you are all going through this.

For what it's worth a very close friend (also a Mumsnetter) died in the spring and her husband is the same age as you are, with two children, 5 and 2 years old.

I thought it might help you to know you're not alone, in a sense.

I think videos of your wife, especially interacting with the children or just talking to them through the camera will help them as they grow up. Photos are not quite the same...having a real tangible sense of how a person sounded, moved, laughed is really important and easily forgotten.

I know the immediate future will be extremely painful for all of you but have heard that with time things can be managed and return to a semblance of 'OK'.

Please keep posting, there are several other men on here on a regular basis and most of them are quite nice smile

I'm glad you have found us.

mommymeaghan Mon 27-Sep-10 12:44:43

the first thing that comes to my mind is to be honest with your children. My husband, now 70 years of age, is still scarred by the loss of his mother when he was 4 years old. In those days nothing was talked about. Speak openly to your children, answer their questions as best you can, and take the time to grieve. You will be their role model. HUGS..and hope you find what you need.

spiritmum Mon 27-Sep-10 12:51:27

I can't really add anything to all the wise advice that you've had already, but just wanted to say how sorry I am and to send all of you my love. xxx

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