Watching my brother die & breaking the news to mum

My brother had been in hospital for two weeks complaining of stomach problems. The doctors didn’t know what it was, and he had various tests. He had an enlarged liver and there was talk of some kind of possible blockage.

It was clear he was quite ill but we just assumed that the docs would get to the bottom of it, treat it and he’d be out of there. But he was also losing weight really quickly and didn’t look like himself anymore.

Finally, Monday evening we got a diagnosis - liver cancer. They had previously ruled out cancer. 32 hours later he was dead.

The speed of it seems insane. His deterioration within just the few days prior was drastic and on that final day he was unrecognisable as the strong man he’d always been.

The morning after the diagnosis I had to break the news to my Mum. The rest of the family already knew it was cancer and we’d been told he had weeks to live. Our mother is 88, lives alone and had to be told face to face.

Telling her that her son was going to die was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. She’s always been somewhat stoic but of course she just broke down. We went to the hospital to see him a couple of hours later and he looked like a withered green (caused by jaundice) alien. We both broke down as did the rest of the family.

She asked to home after a couple of hours as she couldn’t bear it but I went back to the hospital to be with him. It was clear to me that he didn’t have weeks, and it was more like days. It turned out to be just hours.

Those last few hours he had most of his family around him. We were all holding his hands, talking to him etc and we just watched his pain, and waited for him to die. I’m traumatised by his skeletal face, by his dead eyes that refused to close at the end, the grimaces due to the pain he was in, the way he was fighting for every breath, the way his hands started to feel cold.

I’m glad I was there until the end but it’s hard to get those images out of my head. I tell myself that it wasn’t him - it’s the disease.

At 3am, my other brother (his twin) and I, had to go back to Mums and break the even more devastating news that he’d actually died. Within just 14 hours she had to take in the fact that he had cancer, that he had ‘weeks’ to live, and then that he’d died that same day. It’s too much for a mother, for anyone.

Seeing her in so much pain was as bad as actually watching him die. We told her a white lie that he’d been in no pain and that he’d just gone to sleep peacefully and stopped breathing. That’s given her some tiny measure of comfort but I have to keep this kind of secret in a way - his pain.

I have a friend who’s mother has been suffering with cancer for about a year. I feel awkward around her, never knowing what to say other than a rather limp “how’s your mum?” and now here I am, sister of a cancer sufferer. It doesn’t seem real. At least my brother’s pain was over quickly.

I am sorry for the long post, I just need to get it out somehow.

My twin brother has gallbladder and liver cancer which was diagnosed in April. He now is laying in hospital bed non responsive and the shadow of the man he was. I have spina bifita and thought I would be the first to go due to complications due to my condition and I’m not well myself and felt I was dying. Seems it wasn’t me after all and he was the one dying. I have said my goodbyes and now await the dreaded call that I don’t want to answer to tell me he has passed away. I don’t want him to die. I don’t want him in a cold mortuary. I don’t want even go to his funeral as I don’t want to see him. My heart is broken and I feel broken. I’m not coping.

My goodness. Both of you! What emotional agony you must be going through. What can I say? This site was created for people like you and I and it’s really helpful. So many on here share your feelings and emotions. That’s what it’s about. There is nothing I can say at the moment to give you relief. I found to me time passes and sometimes, more often now, I see a ray of light in the gloom. But the process of grief is very much an individual business. No two people will react in the same way.
One thing you will realise is that you are far from alone. Not here you aren’t.
It’s not so much the dying, although that’s bad enough, it’s watching. I watched my wife sink into dementia and that is a real pain, for the loved one and the carer.
You will get more replies no doubt. Nothing may help at this moment, but take it as easy and gently as you can. Be kind to yourselves, it’s what they would want. Blessings.

At 4.50am whilst still awake I felt a huge sense of calm and peace come over me and it was out of nowhere. It was so unexpected as throughout the night into the early hours I had been having panic attacks and crying. It’s not until my family had visited later in the day and that I was told my twin brother had died in early hours. I fell to bits and I crumbled. I thought up until then that I had experience the worse form of heartache but I had no idea how much pain your feels once your love one passes. When I finally settled from crying I was told he passed at 4.50am. I felt my brothers peace and I felt at one with him. As twins he will always be part of me and I will always be part of him. I feel part of me is missing.
I’m thankful for sites like this as my family are already arguing over funeral arrangements etc. I’m finding it so disrespectful and hurtful. Why do families do that?

I‘m so sorry for you and this awful time you’ve been through. My son left us 4 weeks ago, he was 35 and last 10 months after diagnosis of stage 4 bowel cancer. Prior to this he was was healthy, cycling 50 miles plus, lifting weights, enjoying life with his lovely wife, who was then expecting their second baby (their daughter being just 2 years old.
I too was with him when he passed, thankfully not as traumatic as your experience but still can’t get those moments out of my mine. Life is so cruel. You seem kind and as a mum I know your mum would want you to be kind yourself as I wish for my other child, a daughter too who is also grieving and missing her best friend and brother too.
I send you a big virtual hug xx

I just noticed your post was 4 years old. Sorry I hadn’t realised but hope you have now found some peace in your life. I would be interested in knowing how you now are, if you’re still on this site and read this message, so I could hopefully pass something positive on to my daughter as we are only just weeks into this nightmare x

I’m so sorry to hear about your son. 35 is way, way, way too young. My brother was 59 when he died and he’d done a lot with his life in that time.

My mother became very ill after he died and for a time we thought we’d lose her as well but after a few months she bounced back and went on to live for another 4 years. She died a little over a year ago aged 92.

I am doing well now. It’s weird that I dream about them both a LOT. In my dreams they are with me more than they were in life! It’s comforting really. Often I know I am dreaming, and I’m like “oh hey bro, we’re in dreamland again” and we just kinda hang out! Same with mum.

To your daughter, and your son’s wife, I can talk about my sister in law. She and I had never had much of a relationship when my brother was alive but after he died we started to go for coffee together and found that we actually have so much in common. She struggled with his passing for a long time of course, but much of that was due to the legal and financial difficulties of his sudden passing - he had never got around to creating a will which made it difficult for her to keep the home they were living in.

But after the first year or so she found peace and since then she has been blossoming. She’s in a good place now even though her father also died around the same time as my mum did so she had that grief to go through as well.

But we are best of friends now, we enjoy coffee together and are both enjoying life.

And you know what? Getting through grief makes you realise that you can get through anything and that gives me a sense of peace. We never know what lies ahead, what’s around the next corner but I know that when life throws the next curve ball, I’ll be okay.

I wish you and your family peace and love at this difficult time x

Thank you for replying and I wish you every happiness for the future. I’m glad to hear your mum survived 4 more years and of your new formed friendship xx