To Block, or not to Block – that is the question…

My darling sweetest Sharon and I have been soul mates and regarded as “one unit” since we met in our teens and married 2 years later – but in July 19 she was diagnosed out of the blue with incurable inoperable stage 4 pancreatic and liver cancer and given a maximum of 3 months to live. However, Sharon refused to accept this, and over the following 2 years and 10 months I did everything as a full time carer (no problem I love her) while she endured 40 chemo cycles (unheard of), 12 emergency A&E and hospital admissions, kidney failure, the local county hospital putting her on a pathway (telling no one what they were doing) whilst not treating nor hydrating her – and my poor girl being given 3-4 days to live on last Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day I had her transferred to a hospice, and I stayed at her bedside 24/7 never leaving for the following 5 months until she passed in May this year.

Unfortunately the doctors were aware that I was not going to continue without my girl, so given that there is nothing available on the NHS at all, I was obliged to see a psychiatrist privately who is not a bereavement specialist. He explained that the reason that I haven’t broken and that everything is unreal to me is that my brain wont let me understand what has happened, in order to protect me from me – and that I should just sit quietly, wait, let the grief come and deal with it when it does.

However, it seems to me now that 11 weeks later I am getting flashing glimpses that this is real, that this is permanent, that my gorgeous Sharon is gone and will never come back – accompanied by massive panic attacks, diarrhoea, sickness etc and the only way I can even slightly start to deal with this is to try to block the thoughts, get out of the house, divert attention; i.e. the exact opposite of what the psychiatrist had told me. BUT – he hasn’t lost a soul mate, so he simply CAN’T understand what this torture is like.

I come here every morning to read these posts, try to understand from others in the same situation, occasionally comment, so…. From the question to those who have also lost a partner: - Is it better to block all thoughts as much as possible, suppress everything, and try to grind out another day…. or to try to sit quietly and try to let the crushing grief take over and just see what happens? Any ideas, thoughts, please?

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Sorry for such a long post…too long I think…

Hi Dennis, your post isn’t too long, I put part of this on another thread.

I live on my own and had many of the thoughts you were taking about in the early months. I didn’t control them and cried relentlessly the first few months.

This is going to sound weird, it actually made me feel better in a way as this was what I though I was supposed feel, wretched and so lost, just yearning and wanting my husband back so desperately.

I used to constantly go over events and the what’s if’s I had done this or that, I know now nothing would have changed what happened, but I think you have to go through that stage to reach acceptance.

I didn’t find this forum until eleven months had past, I never seeked help from agencies or my GP, I though they would think I was being ridiculous. Even my line manager at work kept asking me to use the employee assistance programme they have, but I just couldn’t do it.

You are right about your psychiatrist, you need to have lost someone to really understand.

What I have learned this grief journey is not easy, it’s different for all of us and what works for one person does not necessarily work for others, in the end we all have to find our own way, whether it’s on your own or using the help that’s out there

Debbie X

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@debbie57 Thanks for that. Everyone knew I’d been holding on for so long that I’d break when Sharon passed, but I didn’t - not externally anyway. I wanted to cry to maybe release the tension, and apart from Sharon’s funeral where I cried like a baby throughout the service, I’m not crying.
I thought I wanted to in order to release the pressure, but my brain prevented me from realising what had happened as it protected me from me - but now it’s starting to allow me to understand in fleeting glimpses, I can’t handle it… crying wouldn’t help.
So I think I’m just going to keep blocking it, keep it bottled up, but I don’t know if thats the right thing to do or not…

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Dear Dennis,
I am sorry for your loss. I don’t think the psychiatrist necessarily has the right answer for you. I don’t think anyone has the right to prescribe what you ‘should’ do - they can make suggestions but as a retired person-centred counsellor, I think everyone has their own path through grief and if you need to get out of the house and distract yourself from the intensity of your feelings, then that may be your path for the moment. I find it helps me a lot to go out to a local cafe and to have at least one outing a day, otherwise I can get very introspective, ruminative and sad. I don’t lose track of my feelings but at least I have a life outside of myself. Take care of yourself - its a long process, been 3 years in my case, but slowly I am feeling a bit stronger.

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@Susy thanks for that, I suspect sound advice. I can’t cope when the reality hits me, and the approach to just sit back and soak it up is, I suspect very very dangerous. I’ll try to find specialist counselling, but to be frank, I find the advice from others on this forum - who have walked in my shoes and understand the physical and mental torture of losing the love of your life - more valuable than anything.
.

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Thanks for your reply, Dennis - Just wanted to add something. I talk a lot to my late partner, which may sound balmy but I find it helps. I have a lovely smiley photo of him and address my thoughts and feelings to his photo, say ‘hi’ to him when I come back from shopping, and share my feelings with him, whatever they are. It feels companiable and friendly somehow, as though his presence is still accessible to me. Just a suggestion, but you could try that.

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Hello,Dennis - I am so sorry you have lost your love. Your post struck a chord in me as I have also been a carer for my husband for the last 3 years.
We were married for almost 30 years in total but 4 years ago he had a brain haemorrhage type stroke and ended up on a ventilator in icu. The powers that be wanted to turn it off but I fought and fought and he came round in time. But with serious disabilities which meant he couldn’t eat in the usual,way and had to have a peg feeding tube fitted and other complex issues also. So I fought and fought again and got everything set up to care for him at home - which I did for three years and we were so very happy. Like you I was privileged to care for the person I loved.
He was getting better and better in leaps and bounds and he was always strong and fighting for himself too, he was a joy to be with and found pleasure from simpler things at home.
Out of the blue he got an infection and I took him to hospital, the powers that be would not treat him in icu this time, they refused to do that although I argued to,the end that they should respect our wishes and treat him to give him every chance. Heartbreakingly he died within a few days .
Dennis, sorry for,all,the information I hope it’s not too much but I could see some similarities in the way we cared for and lost our loved ones and just wanted to let you know.
Please message me or reply if you would like to chat more

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Hi Susy, it’s not balmy, I talk to my husband all the time.

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@Susy I talk to Sharon all the time I’m alone. What’s more, she talks to me all the time: "put your socks IN the clothes basket not on the floor… no eat properly not cheeses on toast again today… stop faffing just get on with it… etc etc. I guess Sharon is so much part of me, that I know what she would have said. I kiss one of her pictures every day, tall her I love her every day - and you are right, it is MY way of trying to cope… not a psychiatrists way (I haven’t told him that Sharon and I talk)…

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@Sandra7 very similar… so I totally understand. I stopped work the day Sharon was diagnosed, learned to cook (apparently I’m quite good at it) to fatten Sharon up and get loads of iron into her while she was on chemo, took her for a walk every day, put her down to doze every afternoon, did the other “stuff” not for mentioning on here - and never left her side unless essential. People say how good I was, but they don’t understand that Sharon is my soul mate and love of my life so it was never any effort and I only wanted to be by her side.
She went into hospital on 20th December with kidney failure due to dehydration (needed a duodenal stent fitted which was done ok) and the A&E doctor was certain they would recover - but on Christmas Eve the ward doctor said they were stopping treatment as her kidneys were irrecoverable, and walked out leaving Sharon alone in the room. I went straight in there within 30 minutes, having warned the oncologist to tell the hospital to let me in or I’d start killing anyone who got in my way. Stayed with Sharon, refused to leave, and had her transferred to a hospice on Christmas Morning - they hydrated her, and her kidneys recovered and she lasted 5 months more, which is medically impossible unless the hospital hadn’t hydrated her (later found out they had doubled Sharon’s morphine and put her on a pathway G which I will deal with later).
So I understand your issues, and the suppressed feelings which need somehow to come out, but which for me, I simply can’t deal with.

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@DennisS, I have the same habit as you, blocking my thoughts and suppressing my grief. I say to myself:"No, I don’t accept this, my husband is still here, it’s all a big fake, we’re all acting, I’m vliving a different parallel life to the real one where my loved one is. Then I stop and think that I must be going crazy. Then I realise that I am just simply refusing to grieve, I run away from it, my mind blocks out my thoughts, my desperation, my crying, it’s too painful to bear. I feel like a pressure cooker with a broken valve, the steam can’t come out so what will happen? It will explode, that’s me. I’ve always been one to bottle up emotions, but I still don’t know what’s worse, either that or sobbing my heart out 24 hours a day. I do let myself go often while I’m driving, alone, screaming and crying out, taking it out on the steering wheel. (no, don’t worry, I only just give it a couple of thumps).
@Debbie57, just like you, it took me a while (a year and a half) before looking for an online grief support community, I wouldn’t have been able to say anything before than. I was completely lost, numb, in a trance, an understatement of the old “cat got your tongue” syndrome.

I appreciate so much al the comments here, comforting to know everyone understands and relates,my thoughts are with you all.

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@Solost, I know what you mean, the early months felt like I was in some terrible dream and I would wake up and it would all be back to normal. Doug spent so much time in hospital it was easy to think he was there and would be coming home. Of course he never did.
Even now I sometimes wake up and just for a split second forget he’s not next to me. X

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Hi Dennis, not too long a post, it’s what you needed to say. My husband dies 2 months ago, I was his carer for 2 1/2 years while he lived with lung cancer. I talk to him every day, I even send him texts. I thought I would go mad with grief. For me, I couldn’t bear to block him, for him not to be part of my life, even now that he isn’t here. Already I think my grief is very slightly less raw, though still unbearable. Do what is right for you, it is the hardest possible journey to be on, and only someone who has suffered a similar loss can begin to understand the grief.
Sending love and strength xx

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Dennis,
I have been distracting myself for well over a year with things that I need to do.

However The Universe (or whatever) had other plans and a few weeks ago sent crushing grief my way. So much so, I literally couldn’t cry sitting up and had to lie down for a couple of days with the most all consuming physical and mental pain as I recalled all sorts of things I had suppressed. Tears would not stop. All day, even when I wasn’t crying. Silent tears. Who knew they were a thing until now???

I think when it’s time to do the crushing grief, it will be unavoidable and you have no choice. I fully expect another dose of it, who knows where or when?

I hope this helps x

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Hi Dennis, I got together with my husband in my teens and so he has always been a part of my life (went to primary school together). He went out for his evening run, collapsed and died so that was different to your situation with your soulmate as for me it was so sudden - no goodbyes. My brain found it very hard to process. How could one day be so ordinary and then the next day my entire world be shattered forever? All I can say is that I am normally someone who is strong and gets on with things but in those first months as my brain started to work out what had happened, I could do nothing but be consumed by grief. I talked to any friends who would listen (and knew how to cope), I had counselling (one was pretty pointless although it let me get my feelings out when friends weren’t available) the second counsellor was better for me. I also read up a lot - on this forum and people like Megan Devine’s website (refugeingrief.com) and book - It’s OK to not be ok. I don’t know if any of these things would help as everyone is different but I mention them in case they are. What I do know, nearly 18 months on, is that I couldn’t have continued to function and be any good to my kids or in my job if I had not had time to grieve deeply but it also will never be ‘ok’. It can’t be - my world is still shattered and always will be. I guess it gave me the time to process certain things without having to worry about anything but me. Now, I can be busy and so thoughts are ‘blocked’ for a little while, but they are always there, just beneath the surface. I think they can only be blocked for so long. Take care

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I never would block Mandy out my mind , she’s on it to much .
On another thread I talk about MY need to stop the intense conversation I have with her when I’m alone , it’s working for me . I’ve done a tonne of crying these last 3 weeks , it’s hurting me and she didn’t want that for me . I say good morning MOO (pet name) and I tell her I love her . I still chat a bit through the day and likewise she chats back so I totally agree with why you do this .

Grief is a monster like no other in our heads , I don’t want it consuming me every day , Mandy wouldn’t want that for me so I’m trying , really trying to relax my mind and not have the intense conversations with her now , it’s worked for 2 days now in a row and I feel a very small turning point in my future . A small one

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Yes Dennis I totally understand with the caring side of things. People said to me too that I was so good to do it and I “had given him a wonderful few years of care” they don’t understand that I wanted to do it, it was no chore, I learned all the procedures and nursing/medical processes etc and did them - not out of some sense of duty - but because I loved him and was so grateful I was able to to do these things so we could be together and happy. It was a privilege to be able to help him every day.
When he was in hospital for 10 months after the brain haemorrhage I would go in at 8 am and leave at 10 pm - every day. I took absence of. Leave from my job for a year and thereafter worked a few days a week from home when he was allowed to leave hospital. It struck a chord also,when you said you stayed with your wife 24/7 in the hospice. I totally understand and would,have done the same
Being able to care for our partners was a very special,thing

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There is no easy way through this you just have to ride the storm out. It’s 9 months since Chris died and I although I have accepted he has gone there are days when I just want to run away and hide from the world and just be somewhere else rather than here. I didn’t cry and knew I was bottling things up so I chose counselling to help.me process my thoughts . It has helped but you still have to unpick all those pent up emotions and deal with the pain and hurt that goes with it. Tears do come now but I know that the floodgates haven’t burst yet and I like you Dennis don’t know how I will deal with them. I was asked was Chris’s death different to when my husband died 17 years ago as Chris 's death was inevitable and Da e’s was a sudden death. The answer I gave was No as the loss is the same whether you are prepared for it or not grief is grief is grief when you loose a husband ,wife or partner. Find a way that helps you in the best and safest way possible to just let those feelings out so that the good memories can flood in and sustain you over the coming months and years xx

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@Solost the way you describe it as a pressure cooker is spot on. I’m the same. I want to let go of some of the suppressed grief, but when it comes I don’t cry (I wish I could) but get massive panic attacks with all the symptoms and I just can’t handle it - and worry what I will do when I’m alone with it. So, despite what the psychiatrist said, I’ve decided not to see him again but instead try to get some support from a charity (nothing else available) and follow the advice from others on here who understand what this mental and physical torture is like.

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