overwhelmed by grief and guilt

Some days I wake up sobbing and can’t seem to stop all day. Other days I feel what passes for normal. My husband had a rapid advancing cancer but he wouldn’t accept it and seem to believe he would beat it even when he was bedridden . In the space of a week he was unable to respond so we never got to say all the things we wanted to tell him, my daughters and me… He was taken into a hospice on a Tuesday, we just presumed he would be there a while, so we went home late and didn’t get much sleep . The next day I was still exhausted and when the nurse asked me if I wanted to stay I said No, I was so tired, I didn’t realise what she was asking me, I went home. He died early in the morning . We were married for 46 years and I am now alone in this house with every room reminding me of him. Not being able to see anyone because of the pandemic hasn’t helped, but I can’t stop feeling so very very guilty for not being with him, leaving him to die alone. I can’t forgive myself. it just hurts.

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I experienced the same in that I went home from the hospital and he died in the night, I have felt the guilt about this but I have to terms with it by thinking the following.

If I had been told he was near the end of course I would have stayed!

Yes I wasnt there at the end but he didnt know that.

Would he have wanted me to go through the pain and terror of watching him die?

I wasnt there at the end but I was there every other time throughout his illness, these are the time she knew and appreciated.

Hope these thoughts help you just a little.

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they do help, thank you. I agree with most of what you say except that I know now that the nurse was trying to tell me…my daughter says she understood so thought I didn’t want to be there. But I know you are right, he wouldn’t have known, and everything else you say is true. I really need to get a handle on this.

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Don’t be hard on yourself, I’m coming up too 2 years & have only just come to terms with this part.

The nurse didn’t make it clear to you, we are not mind readers, if she had said it in clear words you would have stayed, at times like this our brains are like mush we cannot be expected to guess a meaning in words, also the nurse may have just been asking you if you wanted to stay? And may have been surprised by his passing.

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Hi Poppi. First and foremost you did not know he was going to go that night. You said that you were asked if you wanted to stay but not explained to why they were asking you so how could you have known. Tiredness and worry will have had you not thinking too straight at that time anyway. Please there is no guilt here. You were not to know. Grief is awful and all encompassing so be kind to yourself and just accept what kind of day it is when it happens. I nursed my Mum for several years and wasn’t aware she was going to go that day and was dealing with all my own paperwork instead of being in bed with her as I would have been if I had known but I didn’t know so I try to keep remembering that I didn’t know. 46 years is a very long time to be with someone so you are bound to be seeing him everywhere but hopefully in time that will bring comfort instead of this awful pain you are feeling now. Big hugs and lots of compassion being sent to you right now RedPoppy

Hello Poppi
I also feel guilty that I was not with my husband when he passed away. I had been with him for 4 days because he was considered end of life but then there was a change in his condition and he improved and I was no longer allowed to stay. I received a telephone call 48 hours later in the early hours of the morning to say there had been a change in his breathing and to go in, but my husband passed away whilst I was on the phone.
It really haunts me that he was alone and that he may have been frightened but for my own sanity I have decided that I have to let those feelings go and not go to that place. My husband knew how deeply I loved and cared for him and part of me thinks he would have chosen to pass away like that so I wouldn’t be put through the added trauma of being there.
These are the things we cannot change and I am sure your husband was aware how much you cared for him.
Take care


Thank you both for your kind words, I know intellectually that nothing would have changed the outcome - I appreciate everything you say. Its been over a year now, I think because I miss seeing my daughters and my new grandbaby that my feelings of loneliness are made worse, which of course makes me miss him even more. So many people in the same boat, I never thought I would be able to voice my feelings. I don’t like to burden the kids with all this so its a welcome outlet to just write it down. I can relate to your saying your husband knew you loved him and I know that is true of us too and he would have hated to see me like this. this has helped a lot.

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I also have huge regrets and guilt. My husband had a cardiac arrest in my arms. As he collapsed he took me with him, my daughter saw everything and called 999 , wihat did I do - just cradled him in my arms telling him to hold on abs that the paramedics were on their way. The 999 caller asked us to get him on his back , he wasn’t overweight but I could not move him no matter how we both tried , we were lucky in that the paramedics only took 4 minutes to reach us but I knew he’d gone already. The paramedics did get him back briefly but she told me his heart was just too damaged to sustain life but I think had I been firmer over the previous 12 days with 111, our local doctor could he have been saved ? On that night if I’d have been able to move him and do cpr would I still have him here. I’ll never know and that eats away at me at me constantly. It’s been 7 weeks now since we lost him. When the 111 nurse came out she left saying he was brewing something. I stupidly thought uti or maybe chest infection - was she dropping me a hint at what was to cone and I didn’t understand? If she’d have suspected heart failure I wish she would have been honest as it would have made so much difference to his last 12 days. I wouldn’t have kept on at him to take his meds and to try and eat and drink. I feel so so guilty for hounding him those last 12 days when I could have been telling him how much he was loved instead I think he felt we didn’t live him as we kept on.
Having said all that when he had a triple A 11 years ago he was in a coma for 8 days and we thought we were going to lose him then. That first night I sat constantly by his bedside in icu. The next morning the nurse asked me to go home abs rage care if my daughter and myself for a few hours. I W as my happy to do that as I thought he might due whilst we were gone but she persuaded me that I needed to have a break. I told her I was very worried he would die while I wasn’t there and she told me some people chose to go when loved ones have left - on that occasion I was lucky and against the odds he made a full recovery. But what I’m trying to say is maybe your husband wanted it that way. So please try not focus on that bit and think of happier times. I know it’s pot kettle and black as I can’t do that yet either but I totally understand your distress and you are not alone. As I’m discovering sudden death is all consuming and absolutely too much to process. Please be kind to yourself , that’s what everyone is telling me , abs I am trying but it so so hard. X

Heartbroken1 my heart goes out to you as it does everyone on here. None of us wanted to be here but we all are and all struggling to understand this terrible thing called grief. My Mum died in my arms I think her heart just stopped she needed the commode and you have no idea how I blame myself for getting her out of bed to get on the damned thing. However along with grief I understand we also have blame and it’s pretty normal for each and every one of us to blame ourselves whether we were there with them at the end or if we were with them could we have done it differently. My doctor calls it the blame game. Acceptance of something we have no wish to accept is really really hard and accepting that they were there with us one minute and gone the next is just awful to bear. Our minds protect us yet they plague us also with doubts and fears and why’s and maybe’s. All useless because we now know that is the way they were gonna go and so we have to try really hard to accept what is and let it be. Shed those tears, share your concerns here, nurture yourself you have nothing to blame yourself for none of us have hindsight until after the event and be kind to yourself hun, especially now…Hugs and lots of compassion being sent to you and know you are defo not alone :hugs::hugs:

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ps I also have the fact that when Mum passed she just collapsed in my arms and I was there on my own and I couldn’t get her to the bed to then leave her to get to my phone and I just sobbed and sobbed instead of getting help. It took me 10 minutes as I was numb before I summoned up the strength to drag my mobile closer to me without letting her go and call my daughter and an interminable time waiting for someone to come and help me. They tell me she was already gone but but but thoughts they just don’t stop and keep plaguing me with whats ifs and maybes, Heart is a little more broken and tears never far away. Much strength and courage to us all for what we are all going through. :hugs::hugs:

My husband was unresponsive when he was taken into the hospice, everyone says he wouldn’t have known whether I was there or not, but how do they know that? The point is that I know. Your expression of ’ it haunts me’ is so real, I feel that I let him down, I abandoned him when he most needed me there. Nothing really helps, its just words. I have to keep repeating that nothing I did or didn’t do would have changed the outcome so I suppose it really comes down to the fact that I want to blame myself for something. That doesn’t make any sense as I know he wouldn’t want me to. I look at our photos but they just make me cry, I can’t listen to hardly any music because it all reminds me of times together. I don’t think being cooped up in the house on my own helps either, perhaps when I can get out and see some friends I will have something and someone else to think about . My close friend also hasn’t seen her new grandchild. How awful it would all be without these lifelines - phones, internet, etc otherwise I would never have found this space. Its amazing how cathartic it is to say it ‘out loud’. We all say ‘fine’ when we’re asked how are you? It doesn’t seem right to burden my girls or friends with this outpouring a year after losing him, so this space is very welcome, even if nobody reads it!


Hi poppi
My husband passed away in November last year, I always considered myself quite a strong person but the depth of my grief has floored me. My husbands health had been poor for the last few years and I took early retirement to spend time and care for him. We had been shielding since March last year and had been together 24/7 during that time and there had been so many times in the few years when he was taken seriously ill but he had always recovered. I could see that his health was deteriorating and had tried to prepare our daughter for the inevitable but his passing for me was such a shock and I know now you can never be prepared.
I thought I was getting stronger but the past week I have been crying most days. You are right being stuck in the house alone makes our situation so much worse as there are no distractions from the grief and our thoughts.
At the moment I am really feeling sorry for myself as I have started with some health issues myself and the thought of facing the future without my husband by my side to offer his support and love really frightens me.
I also don’t want to burden my daughter with the way I am really feeling. I used to really look forward to meeting her and my grandson outside in the park to go for a walk but at present I can’t do that as my mobility is affected.
Covid has made the reality of grieving so much worse and heightens the feelings of loneliness.

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Hi Christy,
it sounds trite to say I know exactly how you are feeling but I think I do. I was so busy with complicated paperwork after I lost him that I pushed my grief to the back of my mind as I had so much to do. My lovely man was American so I had to deal with the embassy and the military and endless forms. It was only when I came back from London one day and walked into the house, I remember thinking that I can’t wait to tell him what I had got done, that it hit me full force that he wasn’t here, he would never be here waiting for me to walk in ever again, it was if I had been punched in the stomach. That was a year ago, just before we went into lockdown, I understand you’re feeling scared of the future , I worry too. We can be honest here, my daughter suggested I get counselling but this forum seems a good way to let it out. We can support each other. take care of yourself.

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I feel guilty about many things…but I try to tell myself not to go there, because there is absolutely nothing I can do to change the past…nothing. I feel a profound sadness that parts of our lives played out the way they did, and always will.
I was with my husband - he was in the emergency for 24 hours. The last time he spoke or was awake, was about 7 hours after he was admitted. The kept giving him drugs for pain and fever. I truly don’t know if he was aware I was with him. Much of that is a blur now, unless I really try to recall.
Learn to forgive yourself & to let the guilt go- you were doing the best that you could. And yes, perhaps you could have done something different, but the bottom line is that you didn’t…You did what you felt best at that particular moment…Of course if you had realized what was to come, you would have stayed…
It’s a very hard road we are on. Be gentle with yourself.

I did try counselling, I had 3 sessions but it wasn’t really helpful to me, the counsellor did listen to me but didn’t really give me any answers ( but I suppose there weren’t any answers to give). Like many people have said this site helps because in my case it emphasises that the feelings and thoughts I have are perfectly normal. I think what would really help would be to meet people who understand what we are going through because they have gone/going through the same thing, unfortunately Covid has put paid to that at the present time.

I guess there aren’t any right answers, what helps one person may not mean anything to another. That is why this site is so helpful as you hear different situations but we are all pretty much having the same experiences with coping with the aftermath. I agree that an in-person support group would be a good thing but we are where we are for the moment, unfortunately…

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