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Help with my fatthers overwhelming grief


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Hi there, this is my first post and may be a long one! My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about 6 weeks ago and has gone down hill very quickly. She is currently in a hospice having collapsed at home a week ago.

All very sad and very hard for us all.

However my sister and I are managing to cope and trying to spend some decent time with her. The problem is my father. At first he was in denial and now he has accepted it he is trying to control everything in a very aggressive and angry way.

We understand how distraught he is at losing 'the love of his life' but he is completely dismissing our feelings now saying we will get over it in a couple of weeks like he did with his mother. He was 65 and she was 90 when she died 8 years ago so not at all the same situation. I am 38 and my sister 40 and my mother 75. I also have 2 2 1/2 yr olds who are losing a wonderful granny and I am utterly sad. He is now not even refering to her as mother but calling her by her first name when/if he speaks to us.

He is excluding us from all discussions about her care saying it is none of our business and has now started to arrange for her to come home to die dispite the fact that neither he nor my disabled sister who lives with them are physically capable to do anything. This is probably a moot point as she is to have a catherter in and is now eating minimal food.

He has previously said to me that if mother comes home then my family would not be welcome as it would be too much for my mother so I am having a panic now that I won't get to see her again if this happens. He tried to stop us from going to the hospice but they obviously said that they couldn't do this as all the patients family are welcome.

The worst thing is that he has now started imagining that he also has pancreatic cancer which I tried to explain was unlikely but he is convinced despite showing no symptoms.

Can anyone please give us some advice as he is making a very sad time even more distressing in the last few days/weeks we all have with mother. He has outrgiht refused counselling as he thinks its all mumbo jumbo :-( Very sad.

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I am so very sorry to hear of your sad situation. My first reaction on reading it was to suggest that you call and ask to speak to your father's GP. I know that the GP cannot discuss your father (or mother) with you but s/he can listen to you and all your concerns which, I am sure, no-one else is telling him/her. Then the GP may be able to help your father more.

Is the MacMillan or MarieCurie service involved? You could also speak to them - essentially no-one is breaking any confidence by listening to you - and all this information will help them to help your father.

In all of this how is your mother? Is she aware? Please also share all of this with the hospice. they want to help ALL of you. Please let us know how you are getting on, our thoughts are with you

with love


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So sorry to hear of your mum's diagnosis and the awful and distressing situation you and your family now find themselves in. It sounds very much like your Dad is going through the stages of grief that, although very hurtful to everyone around him, is totally normally in the situation. The problem is that you may not have the time it takes to wait for your Dad to work through this angry and unreasonable stage to become more accepting, calm and logical. You didn't say, but if his wishes are not shared by your mum, he then may very well regret his actions later with guilt adding to his grief. It is so unfortunate that he will not accept any help as he may only need some reassurance that what he is feeling is not unusual. The hospice staff will be trained to help in this situation, I am sure - perhaps you can ask them to have a quiet word with him? I think it is important that he feels he has some power left as he will be absolutely overwhelmed with the feeling of powerlessness and fear and want to hold onto every ounce of control he can. Is there any way a compromise can be reached so he can feel he has some control over events whilst making sure your mum's care and emotional well-being is given priority - again get the hospice staff involved - they will appear neutral to him and he may be more inclined to listen. In some strange way his not wanting you involved may be his way of protecting you. Our Dads just want to protect us from everything don't they? Even things that cannot and should not be avoided. Reassure him that you appreciate that and love him for it but you need to, and can, face what's ahead and that it is the time to pull together as a family to support each other. I do feel for you and so wish this is resolved and you all are able to share your Mum's last days together as a family.

Sending you love and strength



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I am so very sorry to hear of this distressing situation. In all of this, you must make sure that you also seek help for yourself. I went through a similar situation when my mother died and my father had a very strong reaction, treated me very insensitively. I got a lot of help at that time from Samaritans (call 08457 909090 or email jo@samaritans.org). And of course the suggestions you have already received about communicating with the hospice staff and your mother's GP are also very important. Thinking of you and wishing you much courage, Sue F

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