Dear Annie: My mother died after a long and painful illness, three months ago. It sounds terrible to say, but at times towards the end, I found myself wishing it was all over.
I feel so guilty about this, now. I loved Mum so very much. I couldn’t bear for her to die, but it was so hard, knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it happen. I wanted the illness to stop. I miss her so much – KS.
Annie says: I’m so sorry your mum has died, and that you have experienced what it’s like to watch a parent suffer. I can really hear the inner conflict in you – having wanted your mum to be out of pain and yet of course, missing her, and wanting her to be around.
Without diminishing the uniqueness of your own situation, you are on well-trodden territory right now, when it comes to losing someone to a terminal illness.
It’s an almost unbearable tension between wanting to do everything to keep your loved one alive, and yet also desperately wanting their – and your own – suffering to stop. This is totally natural and understandable. It was not your wishing that killed your mum.
The other thing that happens when one’s circumstances are such that you know your loved one is going to die, is that it can seem as though you have ‘time to prepare.’
Whilst there is significantly more time to prepare than there is in cases of sudden death, it is a misunderstanding to think that we can totally prepare for the reality of what it’s like when that person has died.
No matter how much reflecting, planning, imagining one might do, we can never truly know what it feels like for them to be gone, until they are gone. So I imagine that part of your guilt is linked to a sense of regret – as though you’ve now realised what it was that you were wishing for, and have changed your mind.
Once again, this is totally natural. Three months is not long at all, so all sorts of feelings are going to be emerging as you slowly begin to process the last few months, or maybe years, of your life. I really encourage you to take your time, keep asking for support when you need it, and be kind to yourself.
If you’ve lost someone close to you, or been affected by a bereavement, psychotherapist Annie Broadbent is here to help. If you have a question for her to answer in this column, write to her at DearAnnie@funeralguide.com
Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counsellor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.
She is the author of bestselling self-help book We Need to Talk About Grief, inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.