Returning to work

Hello everyone
I lost my wife 13 weeks ago to a very aggressive brain cancer, I was off work for a year looking after her because she ring fenced the house and didn’t want to see anyone, and that I fully understood.
This is by far the hardest thing life has ever thrown at us and coping with the loss is even harder, I’ve shut myself away in the house because that’s were I feel closer to my wife and to be honest can’t bring myself to move forward, I feel guilt wherever something else changes, I’m now getting phased return to work 3 days a week but feeling the pressure and stress from my employer to move things forward, I’ve been back 2 weeks and struggle with sleeping and anxiety, not to mention the depression that I never experienced in life before. I need to work to keep a routine and I think it will be good for me in the long run but the pressure I find myself under right now is overwhelming, trying to deal with the loss of my wife and cope with work I’m finding difficult to strike a balance. My employer has been very patient but I wondering whether to just pack it in. Any thoughts would be appropriated

I’m a self employed accountant, and for the past 4 years my husband, Alan, tried to get me to retire, I streamlined my client base to reduce my work over those past 4 years with the intention of retiring completely last year, but with Alan’s sudden passing in May, any thoughts of anything was blocked from my mind. Each time I tried to start working on clients accounts but just stared at the monitor. When I finally got to grips with what needed to be done by the 31st Jan deadline, it was 5th Jan, thankfully, our daughter was able to help me, and I ended up working up to 38 hours at a time to get them completed. Had countless anxiety attacks, sometimes felt I was about to have a heart attack or a stroke. The pressures were overwhelming and I never want to have those feelings again. I have now finally realised Alan wasright 4 years ago in wanting me to retire. Having clients screaming down the phone at me because they couldn’t pay the tax is calculatedas due, yet that wasn’t my problem. Certainly brought hometo me that it wasn’t worth any upset, stress or anxiety.

I’ve made an appointment to see my doctor a week on Monday and I’m hoping I can sort out my anxiety attacks.

Suppose what in trying to say is, if you’re in a position to give up work that is causing undue stress and anxiety then do so. Since I made the decision.the other day, last.jifhy was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in the 8 months since Alan’s passing. Even today, my plans were disrupted but the day didn’t generate any anxiety attacks, another first in quite a few months.

Why should we place ourselves in environment that only serves to cause us distress and anxiety. I’ve lots of things I’d rather be doing, lots of things thank that will help in my grief.

Hope I’ve explained this properly, apologies if I’ve only succeeded in confusing you even more.


I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It’s good that you say that your employer has been patient, but there is no time scale for grieving and 13 weeks is very early IMHO to be going back to work. From what you say this phased return is still too much for you to cope with and you should be getting support not feeling pressure. I guess it depends on the type of work you do, but struggling is not what should be happening. You sound like you don’t want to pack it in and that in the long run getting back to life and work will be right for you, but this interim period is proving too hard so you need more help and consideration.

My wife died 25 weeks ago and she was diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumour four years ago. I took a very early retirement over 16 years ago and that was a good move as things worked out. Now I’m on my own and have a lot of time on my hands I could quite fancy working again, although maybe that’s just the winter blues.
It may be that in another three months you feel differently and value work for the interaction it can give with others. It’s so difficult to anticipate how different things can feel as time passes. Work can be functional for some people and if you feel it could be for you then it may be a mistake to turn your back on it.

Hello Highlandjock.
I am in a similar position to you. I lost my partner of 13 years to cancer in September . It had spread very aggressively to his brain. I went off sick from work in May when he was diagnosed to look after him. We spent every minute together. The pain of losing him is like nothing I’ve ever known. I’ve recently started back to work on a phased return but my manager who has been so supportive has agreed this can be from home but shortly I need to start a phased return back to the office. I am dreading this as we worked together . I too have shut myself away and feel more comfortable being in my own home. I could easily hand my notice in and never go back to work and just stay at home but I’m only 47 and my finances will not allow this. Eventually the routine and ‘normality’ of work will be what get us through the week . I suppose my advice to you is not to make any major decisions just yet. Experts say don’t make any major decisions within the first year of grieving. But if you are finding the phased return difficult discuss with your manager . A good manager will listen and want the best for you . Take care

My wife’s cancer was also a glioblastoma brain tumour and she was given 3 months, she battled a hard 10 months, with lots of complications

I like you all have never been through anything like this and it’s a rollercoaster of emotions, I like many have been running on adrenaline for the past year, and it’s now like I have brain fog, I struggle remembering stuff and write everything down, life on a daily basis is difficult and I’m finding that throwing work into the mix just sets in sheer panick.
I’m still dealing with lawyers, banks and arranging a headstone.
To be brutally honest I just want to be left alone, does that make sense can anyone relate to what other people expect from you can be a bit much

Hello Highlandjock. I am so sorry for your loss and I’m sorry too that you are struggling with work. It’s now more than 19 months since I lost my husband from a sudden heart attack. He was a very fit and healthy man who rarely had even a common cold. I returned to work after only one month simply because I knew that the longer I was off the harder I would find it to return. However, going back to work has been my saviour. A few hours a day of distraction from my grief, something else to think about otherwise we become engulfed in our grief. Being around people helps me but that’s not to say I don’t relish quiet moments - I think we need those too so it’s finding a balance which works for us as individuals. Even at work, my husband is never far away, he comes with me. In fact he comes everywhere with me. Please don’t turn your back on your job just yet, you may need it if only for your sanity. Take time to think and don’t be hasty, it’s still very early days. Sending love xx

Thanks Kate I hear what your saying and totally see the benifits for some. I not only dealing with the loss I’m also struggling to find my self confidence again, a brain tumour turned my wife of 26 years into someone totally different both mentally and physical, and without going into detail I found dealing with each day extremely hard, and still have nightmares and flashbacks. I still struggle to remember how my wife was before her illness

I have avoided going into details about my own experience, however I have empathy with how you are feeling. You are clearly still very traumatised by what happened and the changes in your wife. It is very hard to deal with these thoughts and memories and so I feel you need support, be that friends, or be that having more time to work through these issues. I hesistate to recommend counsellors etc, as I was let down by the professionals and so devastated by grief I wanted to deal with it by myself with the support of my friends. This might assist you, as you have post traumatic stress disorder. I may be wrong but I think it’s just too early to re engage, you have a lot to work through, but in time work will be right, just not now.

You are probably at a similar place to where I was 3 months ago. After four years of living under a cloud, 2 brain ops, chemotherapy, radiotherapy it took its toll on both of us but I was still able to care for her at home for the last 20 days. It is terrible to witness a person crumble physically and mentally. I’ve decided that could be me next week, next month or hopefully much later. My wife told me I had everything I needed to get on and live life. That’s “needed” as different to"desired".
I know how much she wanted to live, how hard she tried, and I almost feel compelled to make the best hand of it, living forward for both of us. I know I will grieve for ever for my wife, for our shared future, and for the life we had, including the past four years, but I will try to build a different life around that grief.
I can’t change anything that is in the past, and there’s lots I would have liked to have changed, so I need to concentrate on now, and maybe tomorrow.
Hopefully, if you can hang on in there, things will soften around the edges and, like me, be able to identify moments of interest and enthusiasm

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