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MIL & cancer - DP's reaction

(10 Posts)
QueenMas Thu 28-May-15 12:07:01

DP has never been good at showing emotion, particularly around negative/upsetting events. That's fine, I know he feels things in his own way. However, lately this is worrying me.

MIL has been diagnosed with cancer again. She was last unwell a couple of years ago. She has recently been told that it is back, and that it has spread to different areas. She is starting the scans/chemo cycle again right away.

DP says he is fine, he isn't worried. I know that isn't true. He is becoming withdrawn and is barely speaking to me at the moment. Not in a horrible ignoring way, he is just incredibly quiet.

I'm trying to tread a fine line between asking about how she is/how did the appointment go today/are you OK (i.e. showing an interest... I care very much), and not talking about it to stress him out. He will reply very briefly, for example "fine I think" and immediately change the subject.

I don't like to push him on this, I know it isn't about me and how I feel. I don't want to force him to talk, but on the other hand he is clearly struggling and I'm not sure what to do. I do feel like we are drifting apart and not as close as usual which worries me.

How can I deal with this and be supportive when he is basically refusing to accept this is even happening?

At the moment, two other family members are also suffering with cancer and are possibly in the final stages (one on his side, one on mine) which is an added stress and worry for both of us. sad

QueenMas Thu 28-May-15 12:52:01

Help? sad

Tommy Thu 28-May-15 12:54:35

can you not just keep in touch with her and ask about treatment etc?
My DH is quite hopeless at such things too sad

Finola1step Thu 28-May-15 12:56:21

I have been in the exact same position Queen. All I can suggest is that you carry on asking the questions and listening even if the info is tiny. Is there any possibility that you can attend appts with MIL so that you can see how things are for yourself?

GammonAndEgg Thu 28-May-15 12:56:26

I've had cancer myself and I think it's easier to be the poorly one than a family member coping with it from the outside.
IMO there's no right/wrong/easy way to cope with it all. All you can do is support.

fhdl34 Thu 28-May-15 13:02:47

My DH is a bit like this and when his grandfather got diagnosed with terminal cancer (they were very close, he was like a 2nd father to him), my husband didn't cry or show any emotion about it. He did end up off work with stress and depression and I think antidepressants may have dulled his responses. I don't think it helped that I cried a lot for both of us (I was extremely fond of him too and 3 weeks post partum when he was diagnosed) so he was being strong for me. Eventually though 18 months after diagnosis he broke down; he had been to visit both grandparents on his own and his nana asked him to find a certain song for the funeral and he broke down when he told me about it; had I been there at the time I'm sure it wouldn't have had the same impact.
You just have to give him time and space really, I was so relieved when he got upset as he then seemed more able to cry about it after that. Sadly we lost his nana very unexpectedly about 9 months after his grandpa passed so there have been many tears since then.
My thoughts are with you both, tough times

OpheliaBitz Thu 28-May-15 13:06:02

I don't have much advice to offer, but didn't want to read and run. You are in a horrible situation, and I do hope your DP pulls his head out of the sand soon.

Does your DP have any siblings you could keep in touch with? I would also agree with the idea of speaking directly to your MIL, although obviously not in a way that your DP could mistake as 'going behind his back', IYSWIM. Only you can judge that though.


Velvetbee Thu 28-May-15 13:18:03

I don't have anything to add really but you sound lovely. I hope you find a way through this

QueenMas Thu 28-May-15 13:34:18

Thank you everyone.

Fhd - that's what I worry about most, that he takes on too much without expressing/processing. I'm scared he will end up making himself ill with it all and have a breakdown or something.

I will reach out to MIL directly, and his sister, as you suggest. I'm not sure it will massively help though, his Mum is very much the same breed - everything is always fine, big smiles and asking how YOU are while the house is burning down around her. She's wonderful and such a lovely lady but they do like to stick their heads in the sand!

I text DP earlier and asked how he was doing, he just replied with an apology for being distant and told me he was worried about how his Dad is coping. I take these small nuggets of info when I can. I do love him so much.

Like I said before, I know this isn't about me AT ALL. I guess I'm just finding it hard as a very emotional and expressive person, I just don't understand. Inside I secretly feel like screaming sometimes! If you can't have an emotional reaction to your Mum being seriously ill when can you?! I'll keep plugging away in very understated ways ��

fhdl34 Fri 29-May-15 13:25:30

That's exactly what concerned my DH most, how his mum and Nana would cope during the illness and after. I think it's called displacement, worrying about something or someone else to avoid how you feel. I was so glad he was able to eventually express his emotions before his Grandpa passed or I thought he may feel worse but interesting that it was his Nana showing just how well she was facing it, by making funeral plans while he was still with us, that eventually allowed him to express how he really felt.
Perhaps your husband finds it easier to discuss it over text rather than in person. How is your relationship with your FIL? Maybe you could offer some support to him, and that in turn supports your DH and may help to reassure him on how his dad is coping? Maybe that will allow him to then refocus on how he feels about it. I think it is going to be slow going for you but you just have to wait for these nuggets to come along and work with them as best you can. My DH has been like this with most things in his life, and it was the first loss of someone very close to him in his life, so hard.

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