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I feel I've let my family down since my wife died

Big Wheels
Posted by

Hello everyone, I am so sorry to be selfish by just starting a new discussion and not reading other posts and trying to be encouraging but I have reached a point where I don't know where to turn. My lovely wife passed away 18 months ago, 6 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 57 and the love of my life. I didn't honestly know if I could make it through the first day after she died but I threw myself in to looking after my three grown up kids and gave them all the love and help I could possibly muster. They have all dealt with the loss of their mum in different ways and I have tried to be there every step of the way for them. However, I have epilepsy which can make life difficult for me in many ways even during more positive, happy times. I can be tired, weak, confused and I can often have fits / seizures which are life threatening and very often result in physical injury. I spend lots of time at home and in hospital as a result and I do find it very frustrating as it gives me far too much time alone with my thoughts. Recently, I have also reflected on whether I could have done more to find treatments that might have changed the outcome and I suppose I feel guilty, that I let my wife down.

That said, overall, things were starting to get just a little easier recently until one of my children has all but stopped visiting me and the sibling who lives at home with me (but who works many hours). He also rarely visits his other sibling (sorry for the formal terms but I'm new to this and also want to protect their privacy). It seems that since he moved to a home of his own with his girlfriend (I am proud of them both for achieving it) he has begun to visit less and less. I don't expect to see him all the time but it seems that he has all the time in the world to spend with his girlfriend's family although they live 30 miles away yet rarely sees us despite us living only 7 miles away. I have seen him for about 5 or 6 hours in six weeks but he has spent 5 weekends at his girlfriend's home. Basically I am finding it all very difficult at the moment because I was in a very dark place this time last year and would really like to talk to him about how I feel but he just keeps saying 'I'm here for you if you need me' and I tell him every time that now is when I desperately need his company and a chat but he always says he is too busy or he has to cook dinner or he can't come over because his girlfriend is due home from work or he has to go with her to her parent's home for the weekend even though she is going out partying all weekend. He only ever visits us with his girlfriend so I don't get chance to have a private chat with him then and she also insists that he has the phone on loudspeaker when we are talking on the phone. I suppose what I am trying to say is that I emotionally wore my self down (until I reached that very dark place) trying to help him through his grief and I don't feel it's fair to keep burdening the others with my sadness and I am scared that by keeping my feelings in I will eventually end up back where I was last year. He just keeps saying "you'll be alright" and the truth is that I'm not. I am far from alright. I don't necessarily even want to talk about my late wife with him, just have some quality time with him. I honestly feel that I must be a really crummy Dad (even though they all tell me the opposite) and I wonder if he would visit more if his mum was still with us? The truth is - and I'm sorry if this upsets anyone - I hate cancer in all its forms, I think chemo is useless and I just want my loving, darling wife and my family back. My poor kids have had to endure six years of seeing the breast cancer spread to the lungs, liver and asophogus and have had to mourn for her for 18 months with no help or counselling from the NHS or any other organisation (for any of us) and the only reasons they still have a dad are because my seizures haven't killed me and the Samaritans answered the phone quickly. ANY, literally any advice will be sincerely appreciated. Thankyou so much.

Posted by

Hi Big Wheels,

I felt so sad for you when I read your post this morning. You sound like you have been through such a hard time with caring for your wife during her illness and then for your children through their and your bereavement and grief. And now your son sounds like he is casting you adrift just as you need him. The mention of Samaritans is at once concerning, as I think I can imagine just how dark a place you must have reached to call them, and a relief a it sounds as though you know when and how to seek help. 

So, and I know this is a cliche and I know it's not how you feel, I would have to say it doesn't sound like you have let your family down, or that you are a crummy dad. It sounds like you were a loving husband and that you have been a caring dad. But now you are at the end of your tether and it's you that needs support. 

If I have advice - and heaven knows it's hard to know where to turn - it would be this. First, call the Macmillan helpline for a chat about your situation and whether any of the drugs you are on for the seizures may be contributing to the way you are feeling and what resources you might call on to help you now. 

The second is to talk about this site. We have no solutions - only shared experiences and a listening ear. It can be very powerful simply wiring down how you feel and knowing that you have been heard. So all I can say is that I hear you - and I feel for you. You have posted in the new to site group - and quite right too - so I would suggest you have a look through the groups where you might find people with similar experiences. I'd suggest bereaved family and friends or bereaved spouses as good starting points. I hope you will be able to find a community of supporting souls.

The third is to read the book Grief Works by Julia Samuel.

I don't know what to say about your son. Part of me wonders if it's just a new relationship and him not entirely unreasonably wanting to get away from the sadness of your family's loss. Maybe in time he will come back. Another part of me wants to put him over my knee and tell him what a selfish little so-and-so he is being. All I can really say is that I am sad for you; it sounds like you really need him but he can't, for whatever reason, be there for you right now. 

For now, I am sending you a macmillan community virtual ((((hug))))


Big Wheels
Posted by

Thankyou so very much for your kind and thoughtful words. I think it is going to be very difficult for me to accept that I did enough but having read some of the other posts it seems that I am not alone in thinking it. 

I think you are absolutely right about my son in as much that it has crossed my mind time and time again that it may just be his way of trying to escape from the pain. Your response has made me realise that he has regularly mentioned that I might consider selling the house and moving somewhere new. He once said that that seven of the eleven years he lived here hold bad memories of his mum's illness. He has hardly ever talked about it and I think that may be part of, if not the whole problem. We have a great relationship and always have had but he has just never opened up about his loss. I think being a soldier may be part of the reason for that. I just wish I could encourage him to take a leaf out of Prince Harry's book. But I see that it took him 20 years to open up so I guess I just have to make sure I am here for him and wait patiently in the hope that he can one day let it out of his system. 

I did laugh when you said about putting him over your knee and telling him how selfish he is being but I just don't think he is capable of being so selfish. Maybe closed off, unable to confront his feelings and hurting inside but not deliberately selfish. I have considered the possibility myself though so that's why I laughed and I hadn't done any of that until recently so thankyou.

Thankyou also for understanding just what a dark place I found myself in. It was an alien feeling to me because I have always been able to rationalise my thoughts and feelings but for a short while all reason seemed to disappear. Once I had got myself back to a point where I could see sense and remember that suicide itself can be selfish (I know so because I dealt with many throughout my career and I also witnessed one when I was seven years old so I understand the trauma and long term issues it can cause). Ultimately it was the thought of needing to be here for my family that made me seek help. It was also amazing to hear you say that my epilepsy medication may have contributed to my dark feelings and I am certain that it did but unfortunately the opinion seems not to be completely shared by my GP and my Neurology Professor so I am sadly stuck in the never ending circle that is life with drug resistant epilepsy with its ever changing doses and concoctions. I am definitely not the happy go lucky person I used to be but I have taken positive steps to try and regain some sense of purpose so I have started to learn the piano and I also do a few hours of charity work a month although the epilepsy makes me quite unreliable but they are so supportive it is wonderful. I think because they are a life saving charity they somehow realise just how important it is to me to at least try.

Deep down I suppose that after all is said and done I just desperately miss my lovely wife and the amazing times and experiences we shared throughout our 25 years of marriage which we just managed to squeeze in before she passed away. I still miss her every day and I lost count many years ago of the miles we travelled and the places and cultures we introduced our kids too. There is one mountain she wanted to take me to (we loved mountains) but of the many we visited we never made it to that particular one so I made the trip there and back in just a few short days and took a photo of her with me and took a selfie of 'us' together at the summit. 

I know she would be proud of the kids and the things they have achieved even since she left. Is it wrong of me to say that after all this time has passed I still can't bring myself to accept that I will never see her again? 

I have to admit that I have completely lost track of what I have written and I'm sorry that I have rambled on for so long. I feel selfish to have said so much without even a single word of thought towards you and what you have been through. It's so wrong of me - please forgive me but not knowing how to help my son has completely taken over my thoughts. 

Thanks again for now. Your advice has been great and I'll definitely be heeding it. You have given me hope that I thought was lost. I will always be grateful to you xxx

Posted by

Hi Big Wheels,

There is so much sense in what you write - and more importantly so much kindness and compassion for yourself and for your son. You have brought me to tears. I have a feeling you  are going to be alright.

Only you know whether you will see your wife again; personally I think of myself a candle flame. I was not alight before I was born; now I am a burning flame while I am alive and I can light other flames that will live on after me. When I am gone, so will my flame be gone but those whose lives I brought light to will carry my flame. 

I hope today is a good day. 

Love and hugs xxx