forgetting the illness- any advice?

It’s nearly the 1st anniversary. My husband died of cancer. I mostly remember the ill Paul, not the fun, argumentative, strong, loving husband. Every time I think of a good memory, it is almost immediately overwritten by a painful one. Him giving me a hug in the kitchen, is overwritten by him telling me he was scared. Yes I have positive, even photos of him displayed, videos where he was being really funny, and amazing cards he wrote to me, but I then see how I’ll he was. Has anyone else felt like this? It’s 1st anniversary in 2 days, and I’m reliving every painful detail of his last week with me. I don’t want platitudes, real experiences from those who are maybe further on?

I am exactly the same. My wife died in July only 3 weeks after diagnosis at 51 years old. I can’t get those last 3 horrendous weeks out of my head. Life is just crap at the moment.

In a lot of ways I can directly relate to your experience. My wife died six months ago. However, she was diagnosed in June 2014 with incurable brain cancer immediately after an operation to remove a brain tumour. The four years after were a mixture of relatively good times and difficult periods of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiotherapy and a second brain operation. All things considered she managed to outlive her prognosis by three years. I struggle to have consistently good and clear memories of the time before 2014. I imagine that I will eventually feel more able to look at older photographs and more fragments of memory will return.
I find that if I sit and become to introspective then my mind returns to particular Traumatic events. The original meeting with the consultant when he confirmed the diagnosis is vividly clear, as is having to break the news to my four children one at a time. I clearly remember walking with my wife to the door of the operating theatre both times and the anxiety about three monthly scans, although some of the detail is fading.
These Traumatic memories are etched on our minds, as is the final few days of the struggle for life. I can’t imagine we will ever forget, just as we don’t forget lots of other good and bad memories. Somehow we have to be able to accommodate the Traumatic memories but hope the good memories come to the fore. I still have difficult and painful memories of the death of my parents but they don’t dominate my thinking. The loss of a life partner is at a different level and I don’t expect a similar experience with regard to memory or the processing of grief.
As my father developed Alzheimers I’m scared stiff of everything related to memory. With that in mind I wonder whether to develop some story books, glorified scrap books with narrative, concentrating on different eras.
At the moment I think my most effective solution is to continually switch my thinking away from things that take me down. It takes a lot of effort to do that but as I have a lot of interests I try and switch away from memory to something current, in the moment.
I’m always interested to read of the experiences of those further on as I look to learn how others have dealt with, or coped with, similar issues.

I am sorry for your pain, Val. I completely identify with your feelings. It’s been only 16 weeks for me and my husband died of a totally out of the blue diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and suffered greatly in those last weeks both with the pain and the mental anguish and disbelief that he could do nothing. I can’t stop the pictures in my head of those days however much I try and then feel guilty for trying. I currently seem to be going backwards but do hope to find those good memories again one day. I must admit that reading this forum us a mixed blessing as so many people are suffering for so long. YorkshireLad talks great sense and I do try to take it in.

Hi, my husband died 12 weeks tomorrow. He had been diagnosed with cancer less than 6 weeks before but died suddenly of pulmonary embolism. He had been admitted to hospital a couple of days before, and I did not get there in time to be with him. At the moment all I can picture in my mind is him immediately after he died and then in his casket. I feel more traumatised by it all as time goes on and still really cannot believe it has happened. George was so poorly in the last few weeks of his life and his personality had definitely changed, although there were moments when he was his normal loving self. We were never told he was dying, although on reflection I think the signs were there especially over the last few days and I think in my heart of hearts I knew. George just kept saying to me ‘we will get through this kid’, oh how I wish he had. I also keep thinking about what we were doing this time last year, when we had no idea what was ahead. It is all so cruel both for our lovely partners, but for us as well. Hopefully your good memories will slowly replace the bad x

I can well understand your pain also. I’m sorry I’m not further on. My Brian died in November so it’s still raw. I try to forget those last couple of months when I watched him become totally dependant. I made up my mind I would be his only carer, he would have dignity and I prayed for the strength to do what was necessary. He hated me having to do so much for him at first but eventually accepted it. He called me his angel. His personality also changed as my gentle loving husband became demanding, awkward, sometimes fighting me off when |I tried to care for him he even called me a bloody nuisance. He was in such pain and accused me of causing it when I washed him etc. He asked me why I kept telling him I loved him, but not sure if he was aware of me by then but at least he heard my words. He asked me what he’d ever done to end up in the state he was in and where was my god now. Yes, all this is constantly with me. Brian also wrote me cards usually with a poem on it. He told me how much he loved me and I take some comfort reading them now. The kitchen must be a place for cuddles, that’s where we usually had our morning hugs. I called him soppy but I would give anything to feel just one more hug from him now.

Love and strength to us all on this thread x

Dear Val, it’s so hard not to relive those moments and I feel for you. My husband died 11 months ago. He’d had had Parkinson’s for 12 years and was 67 when he died. In my mind’s eye I so often see his face in his final hours and I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that I was looking at him for the last time.

In contrast to that image I have a photo on my fridge door of him at one of our daughters’ weddings, about six years ago, laughing heartily and looking well. It’s both a comfort and a heart- wrench to see it every time I get the milk or whatever out of the fridge.

My best guess is that we’re experiencing something like post traumatic stress disorder. Our worlds turned upside down really quite recently and in trying to process it and make sense of it all we tend to focus on the shock. I know that my husband’s future, if he had lived longer, wouldn’t have been great. But I still want him back.

I’m sorry that this might not be much help to you. I agree that platitudes aren’t much use, however well meant. i’d adapt the one about time - not so much that it heals but that it enables one eventually to live with the loss, with less pain, and with a sense of comfort about all the good and positive times. I’m nowhere near there yet.

A thought - maybe write down some memories of the times before your husband’s illness. Now and again, when you feel that you can.

Take care. X

Hi Val, I lost my wife 11 months ago aftwr fighting cancer for two years, she was 48.
I know exactly what you are going through. We were such a fun loving couple who always looked at the positive things in life. When Nick became ill she maintained her sense of humour even at the darkest of times. But watching her body disappear before my eyes, the procedures, sepsis 7 times. Watch her say goodbye to all the people that she she loved and who loved her. I also have the lovely photos and 20 years of great memories but at the moment as I approach our wedding anniversary and the anniversary of her death all I can think of are the bad times.
Sorry I don’t have any words of wisdom to offer, i’m hoping once I have got through these events things may improve. I sincerely hope thats the same for you too.
A x

Thank you all for your comments. At least I’m not alone in this. I do try and switch to doing something else, and I coped quite wel on the anniversary. After all it was about remembering my hubby, not about me. And with the focus on that, people were saying “do you remember when …” , so that helped. Hope to revisit the site next year, and be a little more positive !,

The Loss Foundation has a short video about dealing with flashbacks following the death of a loved one. It might be worth a look on-line. The presenter suggests staying with the memories as the brain is trying to process them and by bearing them they will find a place in your mind which you can access and then they will lessen. I had a traumatic grief over 20 years ago and I have never forgotten the images and can still recall them but for many years now I do not access them on a daily basis. I am on this site as I have a more recent loss of a loved one and these images are bothering me. I hope and believe by bearing them I will eventually have the more pleasant memories with me instead. Lots of love to all. I have found your postings helpful in recent months and have only just started posting myself.

Thank you. Sounds exactly what I need.