Horrendous Guilt

I lost my elderly father to bone cancer on the 31st of December. He battled prostate cancer for 18years but when it spread he died within 6 weeks (despite the oncologist estimating 6 months - 1 year). It all happened so quickly at the end that it was chaotic. he was in hospital - which he hated - and then home for 2.5 weeks which was horrendous as he was in a total mess. We then managed to get him into a hospice and he died there after 3 days which was at least peaceful though we had no last words as he ended up in a morphine coma. When i have mentioned to people he lived for 18 years with cancer they think that’s positive - but it wasn’t. He was depressed and anxious for much of it and in the early years when he was actually still in reasonable shape behaved like an invalid (lying in bed all day and refusing to walk more then the length of the street). We tried to talk to him and get him to still do the things he had enjoyed but he refused and the kind/gentle/patient man that we had all grown up with became a grumpy and very inward looking person who took limited interest in his grandchildren (my brothers daughters). But at the end he really was in a terrible state and i feel very badly that we all let him down because we had compassion fatigue but that is no excuse. My Mum looked after him all these years and put up with a lot but she lost patience with him too. Now that he has died i feel utterly devastated. He spent his whole retirement ill and feel we should all have made more of an effort but my brothers don’t live in our home city and were busy with their own lives. I feel i will never be able to forgive myself for not being more understanding. I saw him pretty much every week and tried to do things for him and we did manage to have some happy family times but his illness cast a huge shadow over his life and also the rest of the family as he didn’t like having visitors in the house (apart from me and a small number of others) as he had a catheter the last 5 years which he hated. My Dad was ill for more of my adult life than well and I feel it has only just hit me how unbearably sad i feel for him but selfishly also for myself as i feel i lost my Dad about 15 years ago. I can’t sleep and am overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and regret and dont know how i am every going to get past this.

Dear Kath,

Don’t be too hard on yourself. It sounds like you did really love your father and that you made a lot of effort over the years. It is sad that he was not able to cope with his cancer diagnosis and that instead of making the best of the years he had left he withdrew into himself. It must have been really hard for him, for you and for your mum to deal with his sickness for so many years, but you were there for him. I don’t think it is selfish to feel sad for yourself too, because you are grieving a huge loss and even though he had been ill for so long, his sudden deterioration and death must have hit you hard. I know how I felt when I lost my dad two years ago. I hope that you and your mum will be able to share how you feel and to help each other and that you will find comfort and support through this online cimmunity. Love and hugs, Jo.

Thank you Jo - your reply and kind words are much appreciated. I just keep thinking of all my Dad did for me over the years and still very much feel that my brothers and I fell short in his time of need. I am trying to forgive myself but it was just so horrible seeing someone you love turn into a mental and physical shell of their former self and I don’t think any of us could really cope with that. He was just over 7 stone when he died - he was 5 feet 8 so his body was totally wrecked. It was horrible and I am so hoping those memories will fade. I am sorry to hear of your loss and hope that you are feeling better. Thanks again, love Kath

Hi. What you have said about your dad rang a bell with my husband. He also lived with cancer for years. He was positive and led a full life, we did so much together but when it started to take hold, my beautiful,kind, generous husband became moody, bad tempered. It was as if he couldn’t stand me with him some days, he just wanted to be left alone. I would snap at him, tell him to go and take a ‘happy pill’, and that I would prefer to go out without him if he couldn’t be more pleasant. If we had been younger I might have thought he had another woman. What I didn’t know until he passed away was that he was being given loads of tablets, which he never told me about. I found the packets hidden all over the place. I know now this was the cause of his change of personality. Of course in the end I knew about the medication. It so changed him in the last weeks. He was demanding, aggressive (verbally). I accepted this behaviour at this stage because I knew the reason. If only I had known earlier but he knew about my dislike of tablets, so, now I have so much guilt in me. My memories of my lovely husband dying is also horrible. So much pain. And my handsome husband’s body was also devastated. So very cruel. How I cry when I look at photo’s of him fit and well in his walking gear, or on his bike. I looked after him single handed to the end but wondr now if I looked after him well enough.

Sorry you had that awful experience too. It’s traumatic and scarring. I hope we are both able to heal and move on. x