Feeling lost after losing Mum to a long cancer battle

I’m sorry if this becomes a bit of a ramble, I haven’t really been able to get many of these feelings out yet. I wonder if anyone else has experienced grief in this way?

I lost my Mum in early 2023 following an 8 year battle with metastatic breast cancer. She was 63, I am 30. Her last years since her diagnosis were boring really, most of them spent living a fairly normal life around “management” drug treatments and radiotherapy. Covid messed up a lot of the plans she had with my dad to travel and enjoy the time she had, especially after she became reluctant to leave the house following the pandemic. We went through phases of her feeling unwell and well again over the years, and I think I had persuaded myself that the swings would just go on and on forever. While at the same time I spent years anticipating losing her, thinking about what it would be like.

I used to feel guilty if I became emotional at work, because it was going on for so long. Surely people were bored of me using the “my mum has terminal cancer” line after 8 years? To the point where sometimes I felt like I was using it as an excuse for having a bad week, and that maybe people thought I was lying as it just seemed to go on and on and on.

Only in the last few weeks of her life did it really feel like she would leave us, with her declining very rapidly - treatment was cancelled one Wednesday as she felt tired, and by the next Tuesday she had passed. Even with 8 years of knowledge that the day would come, it felt so incredibly sudden, and I didn’t get a proper goodbye.

She always insisted that my brothers and I carry on as normal, refusing when we offered to move home or take time off from work. She also refused to talk about her own death, we never discussed anything relating to our feelings about it. After her cancelled treatment and transfer to home palliative care, I still thought we would have time to talk about things, but she was tired and stubborn - at no point did she talk about the fact she was dying. I have spent many hours wondering if she was scared, or if she was ready to go.

My grief feels weird. I have been anticipating these feelings for so long that now it feels like none of it is real, an anticlimax as it were. One of her symptoms was to nearly completely lose her voice due to a growth near her saliva ducts - so I hadn’t had a proper “chit chat” conversation with her in nearly a year. We hadn’t gone out and had a day out together since before covid. Mets on her brain made her grumpy and prone to spacing out of conversations - most noticably when I got engaged in 2022 and she barely reacted for several hours. I’ve been missing those normal interactions for much longer than the 3 months it has been since she died.

Sometimes it feels like she was never even here at all, when I struggle to recall times that I wasn’t anticipating her death. When I can’t remember the last time her cancer wasn’t on my mind during an interaction with her, can’t remember the last time there wasn’t a cloud over the family home. People talk about the amazing memories they have, but so much of my relationship with her was defined by her cancer, by the 26 years since she was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 37.

I miss her, but I also miss everything that our relationship should have been, everything my friends have with their mums that I never did, and everything that she will miss as I move in to my 30s - getting married, buying a house, having children of my own.

I don’t know how I can ever process all of this and move forward, I don’t know anyone personally who has gone through something similar at a young(ish) age, and I don’t know what my next steps should be. I have signed up for some online counselling but wait times are long, I think it would be great to talk to anyone in similar situations - if you have made it this far on this ramble I would love to hear from you!


Hi, im stiĺl here x

I lost my dad to lung cancer last year and now, i k ow i didnt grieve prooerly as i had ptsd. However, i get what you say and ultimately you may need help so as your brain can r
Process stuff. There aint no shame in it and it helped me no end. Sending hugs x


Thank you for posting. I can relate to so much of what you have said. My mum is really very poorly now after a long battle with breast cancer, 4 years at stage 4. I’m 43 and she’s 70. There are so many similarities, my mum also is very covid careful. She doesn’t openly talk about the end but I’d personally rather it just all be said. I sometimes wonder if she tries to protect me from the truth or if distancing yourself from others is something that people do to try and make it easier.
I found some comfort from knowing that I’m not the only person who feels this way so thank you for posting. I hope you can find some comfort over the coming weeks and months.

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Thank you for replying, I am so sorry for what you are going through and am sending lots of peaceful thoughts to you and your family at this hard time.

There definitely was an element of protection from my Mum, I think it’s natural to want to protect people from the pain :frowning: the only thing that seemed to get through to Mum towards the end was my uncle telling her that carers and conversations “are for Rob (my Dad) not for you” - that made her a bit more open with him, although it didn’t really extend to us.

I hope you are able to have some productive conversations over the coming weeks and months - I have done a lot of journalling since Mums passing - I wish I had said those things to her no matter how hard it might have been x

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Thank you, that’s really kind.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many years there was to get used to this idea (my mum first had breast cancer 20 years ago, similar to yours), it comes as a shock. Even though we’ve known for 4 years that it would come to this one day, the sudden decline is unbelievable.
I relate to what you say about anticipatory grief casting a shadow over everything. It’s felt like someone is pulling a plaster off me as slowly as possible and it really hurts.