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How to say goodbye to a dying parent?

(10 Posts)
Earlybird Tue 19-Jul-05 20:20:03

Wondering if any of you have shared my situation, and might be able to offer some advice. It's long and heavy, so brace yourselves....

My mum had some cancerous cells removed in January. The doctors removed more cancerous cells last month. They said the second operation was a regrowth, and not simply cells that were missed the first time. They have recommended a course of chemotherapy and radiation, and want to start immediately. My mother is refusing, as she doesn't believe she has the emotional or physical strength to withstand the treatment - and she's probably right.

She was due at a family reunion this past weekend, and decided not to come at the last minute (even though transport had been arranged for her). She seems to have given up all hope, is severely depressed, rarely answers the phone and stays in bed all day. She is also smoking and drinking heavily every day. (It's likely her cancer was caused by smoking, and she has permanent liver damage already due to a lifetime of heavy drinking.) It's almost as if she's committing a slow suicide.

We have never been close, but it is clear that she will probably not be alive much longer. I live in London, she is in America. We are due to see her in the next few weeks, and it is likely that it will be the last time I see her alive.

I've been thinking about what to say to her when I visit. She was a decent mother when it came to feeding/clothing/ferrying us around. But, she was a crap mum on the emotional/supportive spectrum. She was verbally abusive, angry, hostile, aggressive, depressed, needy, self absorbed, etc. Both she and my father were alcoholics, and "home" was a poisonous place as a child.

I don't want regrets or guilt when she's dead. I feel sad and angry that she's chosen this route. But, how do you say goodbye in an honest and yet compassionate way to a parent who failed you on most every level?

wordsmith Tue 19-Jul-05 20:25:36

Oh Earlybird, I'm so sorry. I don't know what advice to offer but I would imagine that total honesty isn't what is called for at the moment. You want to be able to look back on the last time you saw your Mum without feeling guilty, as you say, but it sounds as though you need to offload as well. Why don't you write down how you feel (again without being too honest). You could then decide whether to give her the letter once you have seen her, depending on how it goes. She may want to do some offloading of her own, you never know.

I hope it goes as well as it can.

KBear Tue 19-Jul-05 20:26:43

Firstly, I'm sorry this is happening to you - it's especially hard when you're so far away.

I think you can make your peace inwardly by looking at yourself as a parent and realising how good you are at it despite your upbringing and you survived your "poisonous" childhood.

I have no idea how to say goodbye to her except to let her know you're okay, you're life is okay and you're raising a family okay. Now's not the time for recriminations but you already know that of course, I think peace and forgiveness are the order of the day.

I have no experience of this except how my dad and his siblings felt when their mum died. Their upbringing sounds similar to yours.

Best wishes.

MarsLady Tue 19-Jul-05 20:27:46

I'm sorry for what you must be going through right now Earlybird.

I think that the only thing that I can suggest is that you tell your mother that you love her. I'm guessing that you do.

motherinferior Tue 19-Jul-05 20:30:07

Earlybird, I have been thinking over anything I can possibly say - I can envisage a slightly similar scenario for myself - and I really don't know. But I wanted to offer you all my support.

Personally, if you don't feel you love her, I wouldn't say so.

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 20:31:02

Oh Earlybird, I'm sorry to hear this. I don't know the answer though, can you see a counsellor to help you decide what to say and how to say it? I think you do need to be able to say goodbye without any regrets afterwards. Have you seen the book by Deborah Hutton, there's a bit about it here about how to help someone with cancer and what to say - she died on Friday. It's hard saying goodbye for the last time to a parent whether they failed you or not, good luck with finding a way to deal with this.

helsi Tue 19-Jul-05 20:33:47

sorry to hear this. I've not been in this situation but I will try and offer my advice the best I can. I hope it helps.

I would part on good terms maybe stating that you are happy and enjoying your life. You would like to thank her for trying her best when you were a child and you realise how hard being a parent is. Tell her she did a good job (the WHOLE truth is not always needed in these situations) and that you have taken some positive things from her. Thank her for being your mum. Tell her you love her and will never foget her. Ask her to be there for you, help and watch over you when she can.

Tipex Tue 19-Jul-05 20:34:41

Earlybird, I have no relevant experience and hope others on here can help you. However, I was wondering if you thought it may be helpful to talk to a counsellor from CRUSE before you visit your mum as they are bereavment 'specialists' and could no doubt offer some useful help. They will be in your local phonebook and I have used them in the past and found them very helpful. I know that relationships which are difficult are often the ones that cause grieving problems so it may be helpful to you to talk to someone who could help.
Such a difficult time for you I do hope the trip proves to be a time of peace and not anxiety. xx

pinkmama Tue 19-Jul-05 20:37:08

I have no experience or advice earlybird, just really wanted to say sorry, that must be a hard thing to face. The only thing I could think of would be to maybe look at CRUSE and see if they give advice on this matter. i know they help with bereavement, so imagine they have some material or support for people facing bereavement as well as those who have already experienced it.

I dont think that confronting the past right now would be of much help to either of you, its not going to change anything and it will probaly leave you feeling guilty about your last time together.

Sorry, feel really inadequate, not sure what to say.

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 20:38:45

Calling Cruse is a great idea I think.

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