Dwelling on mistakes I made while mum was in hospital

My mum was a mostly fit and healthy 70 year old who had been diagnosed with diverticular disease a few years prior and was unexpectedly found to have terminal cancer after a CT scan in A&E late last November. She had had symptoms for a few months that had been attributed to her diverticular by herself and her GP, but treatment was not working and she developed what we thought was a severely distended stomach. She went to A&E to get scans and answers, but this result felt completely out of the blue (it turned out her distended stomach was ascites). They thought it was kidney primary for a week or so until it became clear it was most likely ovarian, so they did some tests and scheduled a biopsy for mid December.

Just 3.5 weeks after her diagnosis while waiting for her biopsy and for palliative care to finally get in touch, and with me increasingly needing to care for her, her condition suddenly worsened and she was in extreme pain, so after some argument, she allowed me to call an ambulance (she was always very afraid of being admitted to hospital). It turned out she had a perforated bowel as a complication of her rapidly worsening metastasis. She was far too sick for them to operate so they opted for conservative management and couldn’t say whether she would improve or continue to worsen. She was admitted to a busy emergency surgery ward in the early hours of Sunday 18th December and was able to have her biopsy as scheduled the following day, but we were told the results wouldn’t come in until after Christmas.

By this point and increasingly in hospital, our relationship wasn’t particularly good with bickering, frustrations, and disagreements, and generally not being as nice to each other as we could have. In hospital there were ups and downs, but mostly it was just very stressful as I ran around after her doing the little bits and pieces she needed that nurses didn’t have time or capacity to do. I am her only child and she only wanted me around at this point. When she was home, at least there were friends who could pitch in with some things, but she would only have me visit at hospital and I’d stay throughout visiting hours. It was within the last 4 days of her life that I find I have my biggest regrets that I am struggling to let go of.

On the Wednesday she had originally arranged to meet a solicitor to amend her Will (she had one dated from when I was a teenager but she wanted to make me executor and add a few more beneficiaries). I was surprised to hear the day before that she’d asked him to come to the hospital as she was on so many drugs and was alternating between very tired and groggy and hyper stressed and agitated. She had already told me the changes she wanted to make and while I maintained hope she’d become well enough to go home and eventually commence treatment, I had told myself and her I would honour them when I inherited if worst came to it and she passed in hospital. The solicitor called the day before and said he needed to speak to me an hour before to determinate if she’d be able to see him. On the day, I basically screwed up. She was texting saying she was groggy and would try and sleep and I just felt it was all too much for her and that she may not be able to do it. But I couldn’t bring myself to go up to see her, the weight of responsibility felt too great, and I ended up calling him off. She was briefly upset he didn’t come but seemed to move on, but the palliative care consultant told me the problem here was removal of her agency. I felt utterly awful as that aspect just hadn’t occurred to me, I thought I was sparing her the stress and potential failure. I hoped there would be a chance to rectify in the New Year, but knew I would absolutely honour her wishes myself if it came to it (and that is what I am doing now).

That evening she said she wanted a shower and she was getting increasingly weak and had so many pouches or boxes of meds attached to her I felt overwhelmed at the prospect. I had helped her shower just a couple of days prior but this time it felt too much. A nurse offered to do it instead and told her I wasn’t allowed for health and safety reasons. I know my mum wanted me to be with her and she’d have had more time to do what she wanted (being clean has always been very important to her) and the nurse obviously didn’t have the same amount of time. I felt I’d failed her again, twice in one day.

The next day, I realised I wasn’t really eating or sleeping and needed a short break. I told her I would be going and she pressed for a return date. I wanted to keep it open, planning to stay in touch but not stay away long, but she told me to come back on a day that was 5 days away, which seemed too long but I went along with it assuming I could just opt to come back sooner. It would mean being away for Christmas Day, but it wasn’t about that for me. The day after that, my partner came to get me and she called before we’d set off because her X-rays were back and the doctors had finally given her a prognosis of sorts, and told her she was going to die, only had either days or perhaps a few weeks left. My partner and I immediately went in to see her, she was angry and stressed and it wasn’t a pleasant encounter. However, my partner was able to reassure her he’d look after me, and I told her I loved her and would be back soon. I still left, I thought surely it would be more than a few days, but I knew it might not be.

I encouraged friends to see her so she’d have company, and several made arrangements. The next day, one friend travelled 5 hours on Christmas eve to see her. Another popped up with a card and held her hand. She died peacefully I’m told within a few minutes of them being there, less than 24 hours after I’d left her. One of them called me to let me know. I have beaten myself up often wondering if I should have stayed with her and been with her at that moment. I have never wanted to see her die and was stricken at one point in hospital when I actually thought she might be about to pass but didn’t. Part of me thinks she wouldn’t have wanted me to witness that, but I will never honestly know.

3 months on, and while I’ve done many things like talk to my partner, friends, a grief counsellor, even my mum in my head, I haven’t been able to move on from the moments I described. Sometimes I am kind to myself and acknowledge I too was in extreme stress and was trying to do my best even if I didn’t always make the right decision, but since these were some of the last things I did and will now never see her again, I find it so hard to fully forgive myself.

I don’t know if I’m looking for people to respond with their thoughts (they are welcome if people would like to) or just somewhere to post my (admittedly rather obsessive) angst and trauma around these mistakes. But thank you for those who have taken time to read.


My situation is very different to yours in some ways ( I didn’t know my mum was dying, for example) but I have complete sympathy and empathy with your regrets.
I obsess over my own regrets regarding how I treated my mum, things I said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do. I often feel compelled to talk to her aloud and apologise to her repeatedly.
I wish I had advice for you. I just wanted you to know you’re not alone. It sounds to me like you were there for your mum as much as you could be under the circumstances, and most importantly of all, you told her you loved her.


Hi @NorfolktoBirmingh I am and so sorry for your loss.
Obsessing over our loved ones’ final hours/days and the could of would of should ofs is so common in grief.
You were in an extremely stressful situation and you did so much. I also lost my dear mum suddenly in October and still obsess over what I didn’t do or say. Unfortunately the suddenness of the passing didn’t give me the time.
Of course we now have the benefit of hindsight which we didn’t have then. Of course we would want a perfect end for our mums like we see in the films, but that’s not reality. Death is messy and rarely goes to plan.
Our mums know and knew how much they were loved and we can’t focus on the unperfect ending when we had done so much and naturally would have done things differently had we known.
Try to be kind to yourself now. Going over it all makes the suffering worse. Reach out whenever you need here. Sending you love and strength.xx


I’ve just found this thread having just posted something similar.
@NorfolktoBirmingham my dad passed on Dec 2nd 2022, the next few weeks were a blur of trying desperately to arrange a funeral and support a grief stricken mum. I took only mimimal days off (working from home most mornings before mum would get up) Dads funeral was 22nd December, i was back at work between Christmas and new year, trying to work full time, still support mum and deal with my own grief. I booked a weeks annual leave the first week of January as i was in dire need of some time off and space. I didnt tell my mum as i knew she would have been asking for me to come up daily… she died on 8th January unexpectedly.
If i could replay time and knew what was coming i would have made time for her that week. However i knew i needed some space, the weeks between dad dying and my annual leave were exhausting mentally and physically (coming off the back of dad being in hospital for 5 weeks and trying to visit with mum and still work full time)
Please try not to beat yourself up too much., but i know how it feels to dwell x

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