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Anticipatory Grief? Husband's mother dying, he's having hard time


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Hello all. Newbie to the forum here, but not to the awfulness of having a parent die.

My husband's 91 year old mother is dying of breast cancer, and he is very clearly having a really hard time with it. When I say "hard time with it" I don't mean "quiet and withdrawn" or "keeping to himself" kind of thing..... I mean outwardly angry and saying unwarranted hateful things to me.... which he has never, ever done in our 30+ years of marriage

His mother, and her best friend, kept her "problem under there" (meaning, under her bra) a total secret until it became painful and she couldn't ignore it any longer. She said she was "too scared to go to a doctor", so her idiot friend, knowing all along for years what was going on, never said a word. Finally, his mother made an appointment with her family doctor, who, upon lifting her gown for examination, was utterly horrified to find that there was no longer a breast at all on this rather large woman. In its place was what appeared to be something like a shrunken in, shriveled up small tangerine. It was very hard, and upon following a visual line toward her armpits, there were numerous protruding bulb-like blisters as well. After examining them they were found to be hard, not blisters at all, and were in fact bulging lymph nodes. Clusters of them, even.

The outcome of all of this was, of course, she had incredibly advanced breast cancer. In fact, stage 4, as it had reached her lymph nodes, and it had already spread to multiple parts of her body including spine and liver. Chemo therapy was not being done, but radiation and hormone therapy was chosen. Amount of time given was around a year. However, four years later she was still doing quite well. But now, it's been five years, and the cancer has metastasized to form two tumors in her brain. Again, no chemo, just radiation only.

It's not going so well this time though. She’s lost almost all her hair, she’s losing what teeth she still has, her eyesight is getting worse, and she’s falling. These are things she thinks she can “fix” by getting a wig, a new pair of eye glasses, and pulling all the rest of her teeth to get dentures - which is horribly painful.

The part about my husband is this: Throughout over 25 years of marriage he has never spoken much about his mother. Nor about his entire family, actually. We have maybe 5 photos total of his entire childhood, whereas we have a couple hundred of mine. When our family is sitting around sharing “remember when” stories, he never chips in with a his-side-of-the-family one, including his mother. So I don’t get it. He has always called her though. They do stay in touch by phone regularly.

All that is to say, as close as we have always been I have suddenly, and utterly without warning, been thrown off the bus. He doesn’t want anything to do with me, and everything to do with some people he previously couldn’t stand, who are now keeping an eye on the nurses taking care of his mother. It’s like they’ve been the best of best of best friends his entire life, and I don’t even exist. I don’t understand that, but I’ve had to push past it. The fact that the three of them call him, individually, to report every little thing that was said or done? Again. Don’t understand why there isn’t one person put in charge of communication, but that’s just me. Trying to push past it.

What I cannot push past is him turning on me and being hateful and nasty to me. I have done nothing to deserve this. I have been supportive, told him to go visit her as often as he can leave his job (we are way too far apart to drive), that I understand if he uses up all his vacation time and savings on flights back and forth, I’ll listen when he wants, talk when he wants, just sit there when he wants. I call her, write her, make her laugh... Good Lord…. Everything! What else can I do??? I'm lost and scared. For him and our marriage.

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