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Feel cheated of the chance to say goodbye
28

SlightlyJaded · 31/05/2022 00:14

I lost my mum two years ago, my dad four. And I am still here - years later - really struggling with the fact that I wasn't able to be with either of them when they died. I don't know what anyone can do or say, but if it's okay - I just need to write it down/get it out.

I am an only child and was very close to both my parents. Lived a few streets away and saw them several times a week and spoke to them almost daily. I have a lovely DH and three DC - lots of friends etc - but no other family. No grandparents, no aunts, no cousins - so before DH - it was always just the three of us.

Four years ago, mum was struggling with really bad dementia and had gone to a local home for a four day respite stay - respite really for me and dad who were exhausted and a change of scene for her as she was so anxious and agitated. Up all night, calling police/ambulances/neighbours, wandering out etc. Dad needed a break.

I was driving past my parents house and there was an ambulance outside. I parked up and me and DD went to see what was happening. My lovely, healthy and active Dad was sat in a armchair looking a bit pale but not too bad, whilst the paramedic did an ECG. He had fallen and been unable to get up for a few hours and eventually someone heard him calling out. ECG was ok and paramedic assured me and DD that he would be fine. DD and my DDad were best friends so she really grilled the paramedics (as only a feisty nine year old can) but they were very confident that he would be fine. They took him to hospital for an overnight stay to keep an eye on him and I told dad i'd pack a bag and come in the morning. All fine.

At 5am I got a call to say I should get to the hospital straight away - he was having a massive heart attack. At 5:15am - just as I was leaving, they called to say he had died. I was inconsolable. I went anyway and sat with him, kissed him and read to him, but I was so so angry that I didn't get the chance to tell him that he was the best dad in the world. I then had to go and tell mum what had happened. She was heartbroken. The home where she was having respite wouldn't let me take her home, so I had to leave her there which broke my heart. I went back that evening and she had forgotten so i had to tell her again (as I did many times over the next two years). But anyway, Dad died alone.

Two years later and still managing to keep mum at home through support from me and local care workers, I arranged for her to have two days respite care again so i could go away for one night with DD who was struggling with school/friendships etc. One night. The first one in actual years. So we drove to a hotel around three hours away for a break for me and her to be together. DH was at home with DS and they said they'd visit mum for me.

Later that day DH called to say he found some ticks on DDog and if he took her to the vet to ensure they were all out, he wouldn't get a chance to visit my mum. I told him not to worry, I'd visit tomorrow when I got back.

At 2am I got a call from a hospital to say that Mum had been brought in by ambulance from her respite care place and that she had suffered a massive brain bleed and was on life-support and would not survive. I had drunk a couple of glasses of wine and there was a thunderstorm. We were in deep countryside with twisty windy roads and I knew driving was not an option. I BEGGED them to hold on for a few hours so I could drive at first light but they wouldn't or couldn't promise me. I tried calling a taxi but noone would take me all the way back to London so I called DH. He. took DS to the hospital and they sat with her for me. They also begged the hospital to leave the machine on until i could get there but the hospital said it was cruel and they turned it off.

So i never got to say goodbye or thank you or I love you because I was away having a fucking spa day.

And I can't reconcile it or accept it. They were there for me for every bump, bruise, tummy ache, shit boyfriend, friendship drama, wedding, pregnancy, everything. And I let them both die without me.

And when I read about people sitting with their loved ones as they pass, I feel envious (which I realise is disgusting of me) but I do. And instead of it getting better, the pain of not having been with them is getting worse and I feel ridiculous for fixating on it, but I really am.

I know I told them in life that I loved them, but neither of them had a life-limiting condition or anything to indicate death was coming for them any time soon. My mum's dementia was bad but she still knew who I was / was continent / mobile etc So i never told them meaningfully what a great job they had done and how loved they were. And worse, I was not there holding their hands as they left this world.

I know I have to let it go, but I don't know how. I would be grateful for anyone who has a) got this far and b) has any words of wisdom.

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Danikm151 · 31/05/2022 00:20

I’m so sorry that you went through this.

sometimes, actions speak louder than words so they knew you loved them even thought it may not have been said as often as you’d like.


Could you try and write your goodbyes in a letter? Then burn in/post it. Getting the words out may help. You can pour all your love into the page and maybe help with some of the grief?

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Galaxyrippleforever · 31/05/2022 00:20

I am so sorry. You poor thing.
I also couldn't be with my mum when she died suddenly last year, as she was in hospital and covid restrictions meant no visitors. I find it hard to cope with but I basically tell myself a) I really bloody loved her, which she knew and b) she is dead now and doesn't know I wasn't there. Which is harsh but I need that harshness I think.
I am also aware that many people do get to be with their loved ones when they die and it is shit. There basically is no perfect death and it helps a little to be aware of that.

That being said- it's shit. It really is. I'm very sorry.

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SlightlyJaded · 31/05/2022 09:28

Thank you.

Two responses and two really good pieces of advice :)

The letter idea is good. I will do this. I write a lot so this feels like a good suggestion to me. And @Galaxyrippleforever you are also wise - my DH was with his mum and often tells me he wishes he wasn't. Even though her passing was fairly gentle and expected, he found it hugely distressing.

I think it might be to do with the unlikeliness of me not being with them. Both times it felt like the Universe had changed my usual routine to conspire against me being with them. I feel so angry and cheated and have started to fixate on it. I'll try the letter - thank you.

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Change123today · 31/05/2022 09:35

You sound like a wonderful daughter & they knew that you loved and cared for them.

What would your parents say to you if you could ask the question- they would likely say it’s OK they aware of the love and care you had for them. Whether you there or not, they already surrounded with the memories & love.

I do agree write them a letter and you sound like an amazing daughter, and whilst you didn’t hold their hand you where there for them and they knew that.

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LlamaGiles · 31/05/2022 09:37

Your experience with your dad is similar to what happened to me with my partner. He was in hospital but the news was positive, everything was fine. I could have gone to visit him on the ward but I was busy with childcare and work and never dreamed anything would happen. I thought, I'll go tomorrow. Next thing I had a phone call to say he'd had a massive heart attack and that was it. I tortured myself with guilt, still do sometimes, but I try to remember that his death wasn't our whole relationship, we'd had many happy years together and he knew I loved him.

I also think you can fall into the trap of thinking that if only you'd been there it would somehow have brought comfort or made it easier. Maybe, but I have met many bereaved people and honestly it's shit however it happens. Sudden or after a long illness, there or not there, lucid or not, it's hard and hideous however you have to go through it.

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CiderJolly · 31/05/2022 09:38

What matters is all the time you gave them your whole lives together- they knew you loved them, I don’t think they could have wished for a kinder more dedicated daughter. They would have felt your love and care and been comforted by it in their last years.

I’m 100% certain that your mum and dad would want you to feel peace now and show yourself the same kindness that you showed them. You sound like a lovely family. Allow yourself to cherish the good times and enjoy your lives now. That’s what they would want.

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ventingventing123 · 31/05/2022 09:43

Your pain is so raw and real OP.

Did you know sometimes patients who are terminal wait until their loved ones have gone out for some air or gone home for a rest before they die? Maybe your parents wanted to do the same, as painful as it is for you.

I feel the hospital in your mum's case really let you down and I would have complained about that. At least your husband and ds were there.

You didnt "let" them die alone, in your dad's case it was unavoidable and in your mum's your family was there.

Try to think of all the times you helped them before they died too so you aren't just focused on the ending.

I have no doubt either your parents would want you to find peace with their passing even if it wasn't ideal. They are reunited and maybe your mum couldn't wait to get back to see your dad.

I wish you well.

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Triotriotrio · 31/05/2022 09:43

I'm so sorry for your losses. People dying is tough especially when you don't get to say goodbye in the way you want but, you did say goodbye. They knew you loved them. You were there as soon as was possible. And, in my experience, people often die when those they love aren't there. I mean, it's almost on purpose. When my Nan was dying she held on for days at deaths door and the nurses told us that often people won't die in front of people they love. They seem to wait for that 1 second that the person leaves the room to go to eat or have a shower. It's like it makes it easier for them to go without you there.

Have you sought any talking therapies to deal with this?

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Andromachehadabadday · 31/05/2022 09:44

I am so so sorry.

5 years ago I loved 25 mins from mum and dad so that I could buy a house as single parent.

Mum collapsed at home in December, at 66, and was dead before I got there. I am plagued by the fact that if I had earned more money or let them give me money instead of wanting to do it alone, I would have been closer and been with her. I don’t know how you come to terms with it. But you aren’t alone in feeling this way.

I do keep trying to remind myself that when my Nana died in hospital people were with her all day. Then she had a heart attack and died within 30 mins of us being sent home for the night. The nurse said it happens quite a lot, as though people don’t want their loved ones to see it happen and they try and go when they are alone. i don’t know if it’s true, but I choose to believe it to give me comfort when I need it and feel bad that Nana was alone.

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Roselilly36 · 31/05/2022 09:53

Your parents knew how much you loved them, sometimes circumstances prevent us from doing what we wanted or expected to do. From your update I think you think across similar lines to me, the universe changed your routine, what does that tell you? Your parents probably wanted to spare you that trauma, so you can remember them how they were.

Try to remember the happy times OP, and sorry for your losses, look after you and your lovely DD Flowers

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ElenaSt · 31/05/2022 10:25

Please go to a place where you have wonderful memories. Park up or find somewhere to sit and just relax and relive those times in your mind.

I don't know if there is an afterlife but in the song Drops of Jupiter by Train the thoughts of the singer are that after his mother died her soul would explore the universe.

That's a lovely thought and if you are sitting their quietly reflecting on your wonderful memories it would be lovely to imagine that your parents are with you just not in the physical sense.

Grieving is a complicated and often long process but time and taking time to reflect and give thanks in your mind do help.

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SlightlyJaded · 31/05/2022 11:31

Oh Mumsnet, once again you have come up trumps.

There is more wisdom and kindness on this thread than I have had in four years (not because DH is a twat but because I don't think I've ever articulated how I feel properly). They did know I loved them. They did. And I know that the sum of our relationship is greater than their death. It's good to hear it said though. Thank you

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HealthProbs · 31/05/2022 15:05

I think what I would add to this is that feelings are there to be felt (I read this in a book last night). So I think the anger is with you now and you will feel it and get through it, but it won't always be there.
I agree with PP who said people sometimes wait until relatives step out of the room before they die. I don't know how much of this you buy into but it feels as though you were away both times and maybe this was the right time for your mum and dad.
They absolutely will have known how much you loved them and continue to. I hope you are ok

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spiderlight · 31/05/2022 15:19

They knew - I promise you, they knew. You told them you loved them in ways far deeper than words every time you popped in to see them or rang just to say hello; every time you made them a cup of tea just how they liked it, every time their grandchildren hugged them. You showed them what fantastic parents they'd been through the person you grew up to become and the way you brought up your own children. They will have seen that every day.

My dad spent nine years in a nursing home, and the care staff I chatted to said so many times that people seem to wait until they are on their own to die, and will slip away just after their relatives have left, or one the one day they can't make it in to see them. It sounds simplistic, but maybe, as a previous poster has said, they were trying in some way to protect you. I understand how real and how monumental your feelings are (I wasn't there when my mum died and I've never quite come to terms with it), but try to focus on the decades of good memories and all the times you were there for them.

Flowers

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Munchies123 · 31/05/2022 19:30

I'm so sorry for your losses. You sound like a wonderful daughter. Your mum and dad knew how much you loved them.
My mum died last year, she had cancer. My sister and I stayed with her for days, determined to be with her at the end. We gave her 2 mins privacy when the carers came, yep that's when she took her last breath. I'm convinced she didn't want us to have that final moment as a memory. I truly believe many people probably feel the same. I hope you find some peace x

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EarringsandLipstick · 31/05/2022 19:40

Hi OP.

I found your post very moving. Your love for your parents, and theirs for you, shines out.

You are very much stuck in a place of grief, very understandably (I am myself, in relation to my own dad's death).

I really think you would benefit from bereavement counselling. It sounds as if you had an expectation of yourself that you needed to be with them for this moment. In reality, that's impossible to guarantee.

You were so dedicated to the care of your parents, your DM in particular.

Without being disrespectful to PPs, I think in this case, the idea that your parents 'waited' on some unconscious level, to die while you were not there, is not helpful. It suggests they chose to die without you there.

Whereas in fact, it was circumstance - horrible, unfair chance.

I also wanted to share that that even when you are there at the point of death, it can leave many complicated & unresolved feelings. It may be that you attribute your feelings to not being there - but in fact, you may have felt them anyway.

I was with my dad when he died, as we're 3 siblings & mum. It was really utter luck - we were taking it in turns, and my youngest DB had flown in from Australia only hours before. We were swapping over, and

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EarringsandLipstick · 31/05/2022 19:44

Grr posted by mistake ...

And I was able to run back in time for his last few minutes.

We like to say he 'knew' we were all there, but of course, he didn't really, he was unconscious.

I have really struggled to process his death. The run up was so difficult. He suffered greatly. Initially I was so relieved after his death, as that part was over. Several years on, I feel I haven't grieved properly & feel quite 'stuck'. It also changed our family dynamics dramatically. My mum was completely unable to understand that we (children) were grieving. She can only talk in terms of her own grief, which can be very hard at times.

The reason I'm sharing this is to say that death & grieving can be complicated (not always). And there are myriad reasons.

While you feel it is connected to being absent, it may be more a reflection of how much you loved them & miss them. ❤️

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Babyroobs · 31/05/2022 22:34

So sorry op. We have lost 3 of our parents this way, although with MIL, dh was able to say goodbye briefly. It is so hard. My own mum was looking after my 4 year old dd one evening then dead by 11am the next morning. It was horrific.

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HardRockOwl · 31/05/2022 22:47

Picture your mum and dad now and really think about whether they would want you to be torturing yourself like this. Do you think they would? Or do you think it would make them desperately sad that you were feeling this way?

I think that's probably your answer

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rnsaslkih · 31/05/2022 22:59

They 100% knew you loved them and this was demonstrated by your consistent and dedicated actions whilst they were alive.

If you consider how much they loved you, they would want you to be happy and not worry about them. My MIL and FIL are dead, but before they died (both died in hospital without any family there) they told us explicitly not to worry about them, that they'd had a good life and we would be OK without them. My MIL was very straightforward and was crystal clear that we should not worry about them or be too sad. She gave me her jewellery whilst she was still alive. In the summer, I'm going to get out some of her earrings for my dd. This would make my MIL happy.

I think it would be better to think of them in times before they were old and infirm and I am certain that they would not want to be remembered with reference to their final day - they would want the good times to be remembered.

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ItWillBeOkHonestly · 31/05/2022 23:08

My mum died suddenly last year and I wasn't there either. She went into hospital for IV antibiotics for a bad chest infection. She rang me, we chatted and I said I'd pop up later with a bag with some bits for her. 1 hour later the hospital rang to say she'd suddenly arrested and that was it, they couldn't do anything. Here's the thing though...you clearly loved your mum and dad to bits and suspended your life to care for them. They will have felt all your love and thoughtfulness and if they were here right now, it's pretty likely they'd tell you they were loved and they knew it. You couldn't possibly have seen what was to come and so this is a guilt burden you don't need to carry. Maybe you could chat this through with a counsellor? It sounds like there's still a lot of processing to do. I wish you peace.

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Mossstitch · 31/05/2022 23:29

I work in a hospital and have thought of this quite a bit. I love my kids more than anything else and would not want them there watching me die. Often family are with people for days in side rooms expecting/waiting for the end to come and equally often the person seems to wait til they have left to die. They knew you loved them and the end was mercifully quick for both of them, far better for them than a long drawn out death. 💐

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Babdoc · 31/05/2022 23:47

OP, after any bereavement, it is very common to feel inappropriate guilt. If you had been present with your mum and dad, you would have found something else to feel guilty about - perhaps that you hadn’t visited daily, or had needed respite care, or had been impatient with them three months ago, whatever.
When my DH died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage at 36, I tormented myself with guilt for not diagnosing the cerebral aneurysm earlier and preventing it rupturing, and for cooking him a boring chilli con carne as what turned out to be his last meal. Even though my rational mind knew I couldn’t have made the diagnosis, and I didn’t know in advance that night would be his last meal.
Be kind to yourself. You will go through waves of guilt, anger, denial and tears, in no particular order, and you need to accept your feelings and let yourself grieve.
But gradually you will reach a place of acceptance. You will recall the happy memories of your time with those two dear people who loved you, and it will not hurt as much as it does now.
I often quote the words carved in stone by the Water of Leith in Edinburgh:
“Grief is not forever. But love is.”
Hold that thought, OP. My prayers that you find comfort, and are reunited with your parents in the loving arms of God, when your time here on earth is done.

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grapewines · 01/06/2022 00:01

No advice beyond what has already been said, especially writing letters, but I wish you and your family the best. Your post is very moving, and your pain is so raw even through the screen. I'm very sorry you had to go through that. Hope the advice here helps you find some peace.

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Misspollyhadadolly92 · 01/06/2022 22:25

I am sorry you are feeling like this. Grief certainly does unexpected things to us :(
I was with my mum when she died, it was cancer, and horrendous. I was 24 and it tortuted me for years. I think if she could tell me not to have witnessed it she would have.
My dad died earlier in the year, he had cancer but had a stroke and passed. I had a timeline I'm my head because of the cancer and prayed something else would take him rather than the death my mum experienced, and it did, a stroke from nowhere. The guilt is overwhelming and all consuming. I wasn't there and too feel the guilt of wishing something else would make him pass quickly.
I am sure your parents knew they were loves, please forgive yourself for not being there.
Lots of love xx

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