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How to come to terms with the way someone you love died (i.e. not peacefully in their sleep)

(34 Posts)
TorNayDoh Mon 09-Oct-17 15:17:00

My DDad died of cancer almost three months ago. What I am really struggling with, and almost feels like a separate thing to deal with aside from the grief at losing him, is the way he died and the horrible awfulness of what death by terminal cancer actually means as a visceral lived reality, and witnessing the suffering and fear of someone you love, who really doesn't want to die. How do I start dealing with that? The way he died and what he went through hurts almost as much as the loss of him, iyswim? I know that his suffering is over now, and at that time that thought helped but now it isn't much comfort.

Strokethefurrywall Mon 09-Oct-17 15:38:38

I'm so sorry for your loss, I understand exactly what you're going through flowers
I lost my younger brother to cancer 5 years ago, he was 28.
The grief of watching him come to terms with his diagnosis and deciding to stop treatment was almost insurmountable. I knew how scared he was, and that hurt more knowing there was nothing we could do about it. The grief was one of absolute helplessness, raw and totally visceral.

The grief after he passed was for me, my parents, my sister, his wife and his friends.

It took a very long time to come to terms with how he passed, I met with a counsellor during his illness to help process it especially because of the hopelessness of the situation. All I could think was that I would try and deal with it as he did, with a wit, humor and determination that saw him through to the end.

Grief is a painfully slow process - even now I am crying as I type this as I remember it all too well. The only way I got through it was to talk about it, with friends, family and on here. The more I talked, the better I could verbalise my feelings and realize others were feeling the same way.

I'm so sorry that you're feeling these things, it's such a head fuck to process. My therapist told me to let all else go and to treat myself like I was wounded (which I was emotionally). Each time I felt lost and depressed, I was to find a small joy, basically any small thing that would help lift my mood, like a square of chocolate, a licorice tea or a crappy magazine. And to allow tears anytime I needed. I visualized the tears as a slice of grief leaving me so the more I allowed myself to cry the better. It's how we heal.

I don't know if any of those things will help but I hope they do flowers

guilty100 Mon 09-Oct-17 15:42:08

I'm so sorry for your losses tor and stroke.

I agree that talking to a counsellor who specialises in grief can be really helpful.

We are like trees, and a death of someone we love is like the removal of one of our main branches. We never get over it, it never regrows. In time, leaves and other branches grow to fill the gap, but they always grow around it, not perfectly inside it. It becomes a part of us that we learn to live with, without forgetting the person. But doing this takes a long time.

Giraffey1 Mon 09-Oct-17 15:43:19

There are no rules for dealing with loss, there's no one way, or right way. think you have to give yourself time - allow your self to feel emtoion - or to feel nothing, if that;s right for you right now. Be kind to yourself. Talk to people if you can, and if you want to. Write down how you feel, if that helps you. It did me when my dad died of a massive stroke. Find things to do if that helps you, or just sit and 'be' if that's more in tune with how you are feeling.
In my experience, grief is a journey. Be prepared to travel where it takes you.

TorNayDoh Mon 09-Oct-17 16:04:57

Thank you for your replies. I think you are right and I am going to have to find a counsellor or someone to talk to. I just feel stuck at the moment and my head is full of it all. Even when I'm not actively thinking about it, there's a chunk of my brain space that's still full of it on loop. Thank you for sharing your experience Stroke, I haven't really talked about it as I don't really know anyone who has been through similar and my family are busy going through their own stuff. I don't really know where to start with talking about it but i guess that's where the counsellors come to you all.

whatisforteamum Tue 10-Oct-17 16:52:10

Thank you for starting this thread and sorry for you losses.My df died of cancer and his last two months were bad and last days horrific.In his last 24/hours he was bringing up chest secretions which I didn't stay to witness.DM stayed and apparently df was choking and the gunk was coming out of his nose too.I think her mind is understand ably reliving those days and eventsno one warned her it would be so bad
I thought the loud gurgling breathing and Df losing his mind due to the cancer in his brain was sad enough.

Tanaqui Tue 10-Oct-17 17:02:30

I am sorry for your losses.

Guilty, I did like that tree analogy, thank you.

Oly5 Tue 10-Oct-17 17:06:17

I too witnessed my dm dying from cancer and it wasn't a peaceful death. It was disturbing, painful for her, she suffered physically and became extremely dehydrated.
I'm still haunted by those images. I don't know if I'll ever get over it but I do know that thinking about all the wonderful things about my dm - and knowing that we were there as she died and was not alone - have helped

Achoopichu Tue 10-Oct-17 17:21:54

flowers for you all, such sad stories here

My mum died last year after years of illness which made her very frail, but eventually cancer took her. She was kept comfortable (and virtually comatose) with drugs, but I was never sure if the drugs were a good thing or might have shortened her life. I suppose her quality of life was very poor anyway, but I still don't know if I was a good enough advocate for her, or if I could have done more.

When she got the diagnosis she was very scared. Her dignity was taken away. At times she was in horrible pain. Towards the end she got angry and said some horrible things to me - i've read that this happens sometimes. All heartbreaking.

There is initial relief as they're not suffering any more. But for me the loss is being felt now a year later more than at the beginning.

Mishappening Tue 10-Oct-17 17:31:41

This is all so sad and I send love to all in this situation.

I am shocked at the manner of the dying of these loved ones. We do now have the means to relieve this sort of suffering - hospices have this down to a fine art and can advise in the home through their outreach. I worked as a hospital social worker and none of the patients I was involved with died in such a distressing way - and this was some years ago. Hospices were able to help them.

whatisforteamum Tue 10-Oct-17 18:10:08

My df was in a nursing home as hospice at home couldn't offer enough support during the night.DM is now angry with them as df was as he felt let down.He died a month ago.I chose to this of his full filled life with his 12 grandchildren and all he did for others than his death.He wanted to take a pill and go.Now DM who has battled cancer twice is scared she will go the same way bless to you all.

Oly5 Tue 10-Oct-17 18:27:01

Mishappening, my mum was in a hospice and then died at home. But even with good care, she still suffered with breakthrough pain etc, distress, anger.. And the lack of fluids in the last week because she was having problems swallowing was a killer.. seeing somebody dehydrate to death is awful

Oly5 Tue 10-Oct-17 18:28:07

Ps Achoo, my Dm also said terrible things. I think it's the drugs that can do that

UntilTheCowsComeHome Tue 10-Oct-17 18:43:39

I can totally relate to these stories.

My mum died 2 1/2 years ago of cancer and the way she died and how she was let down affects me as much as the grief of losing her.

She was a mess. Skeletal, dehydrated, thrush in her mouth, constant diarrhoea yet no one thought she was ready to move to the hospice.

The day before she died she had such awful diarrhoea that it was pouring out of her on to the carpet. Her GP went round when I wasn't there (something I beat myself up with daily but I had no one else to collect the DC from school) and he called me when he'd seen her. I was fully expecting to be told that it was perhaps time she moved to the hospice, but he told me she had a stomach bug. When I questioned how she could've caught a bug considering she hadn't left the house in weeks if not months, he said it was just one of those things.
She fell that night trying to go to the toilet. She died in hospital 6 hours later.

I'm so angry and upset and guilty. She didn't deserve to die like that.

Achoopichu Tue 10-Oct-17 20:41:26

Cows please don't feel guilty. We're not all meant to be experts and have to rely on people who know about these things. It sounds like you were very much there for your mum x

whatisforteamum Wed 11-Oct-17 16:04:52

Cows I can see why you feel bad but really. non of it is your fault.just a tragic set of circumstances. I'm sure your DM.wouldn't want you to be unhappy.Hugs to you.xx

minmooch Sun 15-Oct-17 21:46:35

My son died aged 18 after two and a half years of fighting a brain tumour. I don't think I will ever be able to come to terms with how he suffered in those years, the disabilities he suffered, the horror of chemo and its effects. He dealt with his diagnosis and death with bravery, humour, intelligence, true grace. I am humbled by the way he faced his death. But I'm left with the horror of what he went through.

My mum died the following year from cancer too. She was so frightened of dying. It was horrifying witnessing her fear.

I feel traumatised and exhausted by watching them both die.

My father has just been diagnosed with early onset vascular dementia and I'm doing a great job of pretending/hoping he's not going downhill fast as I simply don't have the energy to watch someone else I love die horribly.

I am learning to live and love alongside all this pain. It's fucking exhausting though.

TorNayDoh Mon 16-Oct-17 20:22:02

My heart goes out to you minmooch. flowers

Keel Mon 16-Oct-17 20:34:55

So sad reading all these stories. I lost my mother in law to cancer followed by my dad six days later two years ago. Both had a horrible time at the end; mum in law in hospital and dad in hospice. Cancer is such an horrible illness. Still have nightmares over seeing them both struggling at the end. Sending love to you all x

whatisforteamum Mon 16-Oct-17 22:03:35

Sad stories.Love to you all.Knowning there was no more we could he done helps me at the moment.Unsure if this helps DM as she sat with him every day for weeks and watched Dad choking to death the last 24 hours.Brown gunk and blood leaving his mouth and nose.she has battled twice with stage 4/cancer and now fears her own death.
Mi mooch and keel I am so sorry.

Keel Mon 16-Oct-17 22:14:15

flowers xx

Jankwrs1 Tue 17-Oct-17 23:49:11

My son died aged 17 of cancer. He managed 18 months from diagnosis. The end of his life was traumatic. We were all with him. It was not nice and it was not peaceful.
At Christmas Eve it will be two years; it feels like yesterday.
He was beyond brave and selfless.
His twin, sister, Dad and I live with the horrific flashbacks every minute of every hour of every day.

Keel Thu 19-Oct-17 12:30:23

Jankwrs1 flowers xxx

DrMadelineMaxwell Mon 23-Oct-17 21:12:08

Ddad's last week was very distressing for him. He had suffered a lot of indignity as well as pain and fear for a few months already at that point. But when he was taken in to hospital with malignant bowel obstruction, despite them knowing from scans that he probably had it, they kept him on nil by mouth for a couple of days.

He was desperately dehydrated and was put in a side room. Right next to a bloody tap! So he could see the source of water but wasn't allowed any. He cried and begged for a drink when we visited and we had to tell him we'd been told he wasn't allowed any. One particular nurse took pity on him and let him have a mouthful or two, when strictly, the doctors didn't want him to have it in case it made things worse. But they didn't give him IV fluids either.

When they finally realised that he wasn't going to improve they let him drink, warning him it would probably just come back up again. He was much calmer when he was allowed to have small amounts of drink.

A week later he died. I struggled to cope with the thoughts of what he was put through far more than I struggled to cope with the thought of his actually dying.

BillyDaveysDaughter Mon 23-Oct-17 21:22:50

These stories are terrible, flowers for you all.

OP, I understand that a very common part of grief is worrying that your loved one was frightened when they died. I remember when my stepfather died of lung cancer - I wasn't there, but mum was - I tortured myself endlessly, wondering if he was scared and in pain and hoping it was a relief for him to let go. It was my main thought and the thing that made me cry hardest, for a long long time.

But you do process it, and eventually it will stop hurting. I took some comfort from a hospital doctor and a grief counsellor, who both told me that the brain has a very clever of shutting down as the body starts to move toward death - to the extent that, as bad as it looks at the end, the reality is probably that they knew very little about it.

Sending you all the very best, with an assurance that with time, it does get easier to bear. flowers

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