Talking About Dying

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 his dying was 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.

Dying is a frightening time because we fear death. We have a sense of anxiety and panic because life is out of our control.  For Donnie and I, it seemed that silence was more appropriate than conversation. We could always talk about it later – but later never came.  Questions went unanswered, feelings of love were not expressed and fears were 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 told us that we could talk about it and 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.

7 Responses

  1. Marilyn
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    Thank you for your insight. I found this site by chance and can relate to each section. My husband died from a rare cancer 22 months ago at age 64. We were blind sighted and it was a terrifying 6 months. I was the caregiver and the feeling of no control is devistating. I have been “hiding in my house”, only relating to my sons and grandchildren. Yet in the past 2 weeks feeling in the need to somehow re-enter a productive life. We had just retired, built our dream home in a new area. Other than family all my ties are gone. I appreciated relating to these sections as only another widow can, I have some support but they have not experienced the loss of a spouse. Marilyn

  2. Mary Francis
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    Dear Marilyn. It’s always a positive sign that your healing when you start wanting to be productive. Please know that the world is out there waiting for your next step – what will it be? Mary Francis

  3. Marilyn
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    I’m not sure. My husband and I did everything together, I think about trying to volunteer but that’s all I do. I have finished the projects on the house we were building and it is a beautiful home I find comfort in. I really had no outside interests we both worked hard and put all our time into completing our dream home. I am fortunate and grateful that I am able to live in our dream home that we planned on for so long but not sure how to take the next step.

  4. Mrs T
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    I remember the day we were told by the Dr that my husband had cancer. On the one hand hand we were relieved they were finally able to put a name to what was wrong so they could treat him, on the other, I just could not believe what I was hearing! Cancer? At my door step! Nonetheless we never discussed the possibility of him dying over this, after all the Dr had a plan armed with chemo so he was gonna be fine. Five months later, he was gone. I know he was scared but he wanted to be strong for me. I never told him, but I felt exactly the same. I would not have wanted him to give up and I was there till the very last moment. I wish we would have discussed it, then again, how could we? Death is scary enough and the though is paralyzing.

  5. Mary Francis
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    Mrs. T – thank you for sharing your thoughts. Death is scary and I agree with you that it’s hard to talk about it. Mary Francis

  6. Hazel
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    I have just discovered this site. I became a widow on the 9th July 2017, my husband was diagnosed at the beginning of February this year with cancer in three parts of his body, with a heart condition also to which he and I was unaware of and therefore could not have chemo and was put on tablets for three months which did not work. I suppose we were both clutching at straws, never discussed the dreaded cancer, we both had our heads in the sand and I know he wanted to be strong for me. We had been together for 40 years and there was basically only him and I and seeing his sisters occasionally, but once he was diagnosed they did not want to leave us alone in the time we had left together. We lived our lives each day it was given to us but I could never come to terms with the fact that I would lose him and we both never wanted to know time scales, how long is a piece of string. We also never discussed the possibility of him dying. I am now going through a bad stage, I miss my husband terribly and where he was concerned I was very selfish as all I wanted to do was to have him to myself. I do not honestly know if my husband knew he was going to die so soon and when the hospital bed arrived in the house, which he was only in for seven days, I would not allow anyone to nurse him only me we only had a District Nurse come into the house in the morning to change his dressing and he was not on proper morphine when he passed. I am now completely full of doubts, did he love me as much as I loved him, was my care of him not sufficient enough to keep him with me, I also feel guilty as during the last month of his life I lied to him about what he wanted to do in the future knowing deep down I was going to lose him. I cannot even bear to be apart from him and have brought his ashes home. I have questions that only he can answer and it hurts to know that he cannot answer them, there has not been a day since he was diagnosed that I have not cried secretly and after his death every morning and evening. Is this a normal reaction, I do not know.

  7. Mary Francis
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    Dear Hazel.

    “my care of him not sufficient enough to keep him with me,” – if our love and care could keep our husbands alive, there would be no widows. Believe me when I say that his time was not within your control.

    ” I also feel guilty as during the last month of his life I lied to him about what he wanted to do in the future knowing deep down I was going to lose him.” We often lie to our loved ones to ease their worry about the future or about how we will be without them.

    “I have questions that only he can answer”. Write the questions out in a letter addressed to him. Then write a letter addressed back to you as if it was from your husband – what would he say to you in answer to your questions.

    After all those years together you know him as well as you know yourself. Writing it all out will help you get your answers. Mary Francis

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