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Feeling confused and guilty after mum’s death

9 Jun 2021 23:09

My mum died on 3 April this year. I am feeling so confused and guilty about how I'm feeling, I just feel like I want to write it all down somewhere and see if anyone can relate to any of this or offer any words of wisdom. Sorry if this ends up being a long post!

My mum died of cancer - she was diagnosed with mesothelioma only a couple of months before the end. However she was in her late 70's and had been frail and unwell for a number of years before- now we know why. 

I am feeling confused and guilty because I don't understand why I am not more upset. Yes I have been upset but feel like life is pushing me along..... I always thought I'd be so devastated I'd struggle to cope when I lost a parent but it hasn't been like that and I feel so guilty I'm not more upset.

We always had a reasonably good relationship- not super close and more traditional mother-daughter but positive. I'm from Northern Ireland but have ended up settling in England so we didn't see each other all the time - every 4-6 weeks over the last few years as she became frail, apart from when Covid wouldn't allow. 

When she got really sick in January I had some tough decisions to make. It was still lockdown, I was on maternity leave and had a 9 month old baby. I decided to go to Northern Ireland for a long term stay with my baby leaving my husband in England because of work. I had to self isolate on my own with my baby for 10 days before going to stay with my dad.  My mum declined fairly quickly at the end but I feel we did what we could to support her.

I travelled back to England about 2 weeks after her death. I went back to work about 4 weeks after that, it was quite overwhelming adjusting to my daughter starting nursery and getting back to work but I have a supportive employer and am working part time so feel better for me in the longer run.  
But since coming back to England I feel I've been so preoccupied with practical thoughts of getting back to work, looking after my daughter, and settling back into home life with my husband, I've not had time to think properly about my loss. I've only been upset a few times and it's been a couple of months now. 

i travelled back to Northern Ireland yesterday, we are having a ceremony for the burial of my mum's ashes on Friday. I'm in the spare room at my dads, he has been sorting all my mum's clothes, jewellery etc they are in piles all round the room and I have to sort through and see if I want to keep any....but I'm still not crying. I feel like I really should be more upset, I don't understand why I'm not..... am I still in shock? Bottling it all up? I don't know! I do feel quite numb about it all still. I wonder if I've developed coping mechanisms that mean I don't let myself get upset about loss, before I gave birth to my daughter I had 4 miscarriages which was so hard and I coped by just trying to get on with my life.... I wonder if I'm doing the same now but therefore not letting myself grieve.

I'm so confused. Can anyone relate to any of this?! Guess I'm just looking for a listening ear and reassurance that I'm not a cold hearted b****!

Feeling confused and guilty after mum’s death

10 Jun 2021 06:48 in response to ClareP

I have been a lurker on these forums for a while and your post is the one that made me want to write. I'm sorry for your loss and your confused feelings. You are not cold hearted at all. I think what you are experiencing is v normal. Even with all the challenges of having a new baby you travelled to support your mum. You did your best. Perhaps part of you feel relieved that she's passed? 
You have so much to juggle with new baby and bring back at work that might just be forcing you to "get on with it" 

I will share my own story and I can tell you I relate a lot to you. 
My mum started feeling ill in March. We have never really had a good relationship. She was a cold and at times a pretty neglectful mother. We saw each other infrequently but as she's got older and has few friends I called every day to check on her to be quite honest out of duty and the sense it is the right thing to do rather than any feelings of love. When she started feeling ill I broke lockdown to help and take her to hospital. She was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. Since March I have been up and down to see once and sometimes twice a week. In the last 2 months I spend part of my week up in her city, leaving my young family 3 hours away. I'm still working full time remotely. I  am exhausted. 
Like you I have been upset a few times. My mother has deteriorated v badly in the last few weeks and I have been told she won't see through the month. As awful as it sounds I sometimes find myself wishing she will let out - both to end her suffering and because I am just emotionally and physically exhausted from supporting her. I read these forums and see how devastated most are when their parents are dying and I just don't feel it. I think maybe because we don't have a close relationship and i struggle to think of any good memories of us from our past. I'm also sorry to hear about your miscarriages. I have had 3 and ectopic pregnancy. Life can be ****. 
You are doing brilliantly being back at work and living your life with your family. Do you get support from your husband ? It might be worth finding someone professional you can talk to about how you feel. Or share more here? 
Take care! And know that you did your best by travelling to her to support her at the end. 

Feeling confused and guilty after mum’s death

10 Jun 2021 10:02 in response to ClareP

Hi ClareP,

I just wanted to send a reply to welcome you to Cancer Chat and to send our condolences for your loss.

I can see you've had a helpful reply already and I hope that this forum can provide some support to you. We're always here if you need it, even if it's simply to write things down and know that there are others here who understand and that will have experienced something similar.

Everyone reacts differently to loss and nothing is right or wrong. Certainly don't beat yourself up for the way you're dealing with it at the moment. You may find you experience more obvious sadness at times, or perhaps not, but either way this doesn't change you or your feelings towards your mum.

If you're feeling worried about the lack of emotion, perhaps you can do things like dedicating a bit of time each day to thinking about her, perhaps looking at photos and remembering certain things. Not in an attempt to generate a particular emotion, but just as a kind of dedication.

And of course speaking to others tends to be helpful too. Either friends or family around you, us on here, or perhaps an organisation such as Cruse, who have heplful resources and a helpline too.

Wishing you all the best,

Cancer Chat Moderator

Feeling confused and guilty after mum’s death

10 Jun 2021 22:49 in response to sleeplessfaraway

Hello Sleepless, thank you for your message. I do have lots of happy memories of times with my mum.  But the last few years have been very difficult, she developed severe anxiety and her physical health deteriorated.... I am glad she isn't suffering any more, what is harder to admit is how difficult it sometimes was to deal with her in the couple of years before her cancer diagnosis because she became so negative about everything.... of course it was the anxiety but not easy to deal with. 

My husband is great but he hasn't lost a parent or close loved one so his understanding only goes so far.

I can't help compare my grief to my sister, who has been much more openly upset than me. But... she is more emotional than me generally, and I have to accept that she also had a closer relationship with my mum. They were closer emotionally, and she also lives a 20 minute drive away, compared to me living in a different country. She saw my mum every week. I think I'm quite an emotionally guarded person so that's probably not helping.

I think I might be able to get some telephone counselling via my work so I think I'm going to look into it. I think I need to talk more about how I'm feeling and that might help me work things out in my own head. 

I am sorry to hear your mum has deteriorated. I hope you are getting support yourself from family and friends. It's such a stressful and upsetting time. Even if you didn't have a good relationship with your mum, it's always going to be very upsetting seeing her get very sick. Take care xx