Are You Afraid To Talk About Death?

Talking about dying is very difficult.  I remember when Donnie and I found out that he had cancer.  We didn’t talk about his possible death; it was as if we could delay or even elude it if we didn’t talk about it.

I certainly didn’t know how to talk about dying and I’m sure Donnie was just trying to take it all in.  When he died (one week later) sitting at the kitchen table we still hadn’t come to terms with what the doctors where saying to us.

I’ve come to the understanding that dying is hard emotionally – there is that part inside of me that wonders about who I am, who I was as a wife and who I will be in the future.

Donnie’s dying presents a challenge I would ignore if I could.  It’s a challenge because I’m faced with knowing about dying first hand and I’m no longer innocent about death.

There are no medications for loneliness, grief, fear and despair.  How do you address it when you don’t even understand it?  I had to learn to listen, not only with my ears but with my heart as well.

I’ve learned to respect that whatever the Widows are saying is their truth, their reality, their experience of having lived with a spouse with a terminal illness.

Dying is a frightening time because we fear death.  We have a sense of anxiety and panic because life is out of our control.  While our husbands were alive we may have found it awkward to speak to each other about the dying process.

For Donnie and me, it seemed that silence was more appropriate than conversation.  We could always talk about it later – but later never came.

Questions go unanswered, feelings of love are not expressed and fears are not shared.  The missed opportunity is so final, so sad and so irreversible.

I wish I had known then what I know now about the process of dying.  I wish someone had talked to us about dying and yet how we could still take in every moment while Donnie was still alive.

If you have a loved one with a terminal illnesses don’t wait to talk about death.  People who are dying are still living and they need to share their feelings and fears while they still can.

8 Responses

  1. Eldon Smith

    I trust this message finds you and your family well.
    This article hits the nail on the head as I am finding out myself.
    My father in law is living with us and has terminal cancer and getting progressively worse each day. I am trying to get his kids to talk about dying and death with him. I dont think its my place. I have bought it up to him and was surprised by his response. He seems at peace with it. He thanked me for the conversation and it made him feel better about passing. I suggested to surround himself with pictures, friends and objects that have made his life happy. I printed a bunch of family pictures and for the first time I watched him pick them up and actually smile. His response was I guess my life was complete all these years and I didnt even know it. ( He didn’t have a lot to do with his kids until recently. Long story) I seem to be the only one in the family he will discuss death with Mar. I guess he has always taken a shining to me. Not sure why yet. He may tell me someday. Just thought I would pass this along. I am retiring within the next year or so and I think I will take more grief counselling training. I still do a lot of it now. I guess I seem to find the right words that comfort people. Sometimes I’m not sure why I became a Mechanic lol. A very good post Mary. Keep it up. I can only imagine how much your site and outings has helped the women.

  2. Linda Barlotta

    I feel much the same way. When we found Joe’s cancer had returned with a vengence after 10 years, we immediately went into treatment mode outwardly. Yet, inwardly, we both new the end was coming. We didn’t speak of his impending death. . We merely went thru the motions of seeking treatment, and told each other of our love and held hands for hours. He settled issues with his children, I ached for him and what he carried in his mind and heart. I did not expect hime to die within 3 weeks of his diagnosis, I thought we would have more time to replay our life together. But, I think he knew long before the doctors that he was dying. It saddens me that he bore the burden alone.

  3. celeste bigonesse

    Before my husband died we had plans to write out our last will and testament, he was at that time, in perfect health(so I assumed) and when I brought up the subject of our end of life wishes, I found that he was a very sensitive and didn’t want to talk about it. It was a morbid and awful thing to discuss, and one of my friends wanted to talk to her husband about them having a plan when he dies. I told her that men are very hesitant and tries to avoid talking about dying because they are the ones in many marriages if not all making those decisions and it is a subject that they really don’t want to think about. The day Albert died I was planning to talk to him about OUR plan, what should I do? who should I call or talk to? When he collapsed on the floor of our bedroom it was too late and I wish now I had been more forward and getting that information.

  4. Kim St. Pierre

    Thanks for this newsletter Mary. I have been thinking and questioning what happened during the last weeks of my husband’s life. This makes me feel like I am not alone and that it seems normal to not know what to do while caring for a terminally ill loved one. We kind of talked about his dying but not really in depth. I keep thinking if I just did this differently or that differently, been more of a wife and less of a caregiver at the time but I did the best I knew at the time. It definitely was a hard time and I do not think neither of us knew how to deal with it. We did not like to talk about it much. We wanted to enjoy the time we had left together and where he beat it once, we thought he would again.

  5. Mary Francis

    Hi Kim – I didn’t talk to Donnie about his dying and I don’t think he really wanted to. How do you deal with death? It’s not like we are experienced grief counselors that understand it and so we all just do the best that we can. No regrets because life doesn’t come with a manual and we have to figure it out as we go. Our husbands knew that we loved them and that was the best gift that we could have given them. Take care of yourself, Mary Francis

  6. Mary Francis

    Hi Celeste – Your story is a big reminder to everyone that they should have a last will and testament because you just don’t know what the future holds. Donnie and I had done a will when the children were young so after he died I had it updated. It saved a lot of paperwork and problems having the will and I would recommend that all the wives out there take note of your story and have a talk with their husbands. Take care and thanks for sharing, Mary Francis

  7. Mary Francis

    Hi Linda – I’m sorry about Joe and even when we are told we still never really expect it to happen as fast as it does. It sounds like Joe had come to terms with it and just wanted your love and the holding of hands that you gave him. What more can we do but them love them? I believe that our love to what makes it possible for them to have some peace. Thank you for sharing and please take care of yourself. Mary Francis

  8. Mary Francis

    Thank you Eldon, I’m not surprised that your father in law finds it easy to talk to you about his life and death. You are right in helping him to find some peace with the family and I hope his children also find peace with him before it is too late. I hope you enjoy retirement and take more grief counselling training because you are a natural at it. Please keep in touch and take care of yourself, Mary Francis

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