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What the Hospice Grief Pamphlet Didn't Prepare Me For...

...is the anger. I'm so angry. At myself. At everyone. 

My fiance, Philip, died on 2/10/15 from terminal colon cancer. We only found he was sick on 12/20/14. He was sick and dying for six weeks...well that we knew about. I'm 31 and he was 35. We weren't prepared and I certainly was not prepared for the speed at which things happened. We had been together for seven years and only just gotten engaged. Overnight we went from planning our October 2015 wedding to learning about hospice, disability, life insurance, FMLA. We weren't prepared. I wasn't prepared. We didn't have enough time. During those six weeks, I talked about "good days" and how we could have months, even years. I pleaded for "good days" where he felt well enough to be up and about. After he died, I went through his phone looking for numbers of people to notify. I found texts where he told people he knew he didn't have much time, how much pain he was in...but he always tried to have the best possible days for me. It breaks my heart. I wish I had been more prepared to be a caregiver, I wish I had understood how sick he was, and how much he hurt. I would have never fought for good days if I'd had a clue. I would have just tried to keep him comfortable and happy. 

We had a few fights those last few weeks. I was and am so angry about the way his family handled and responded to his illness. They didn't step up. He told me to stop being so angry, that it hurt him. I tried, but I never felt like they gave him the respect he deserved. I never felt like they treated him like a brother or a son. He made peace with them, but I did not. I'm still angry at them. Anytime his mother texts me it is like we are in a grief competition. Who is hurting more? Who lost more? I hate that. We should be supporting one another. Because I wasn't his wife and only his fiance, I couldn't even legally make arrangements with the funeral home. His brother had to. Philip wanted to be cremated; but his brother didn't even buy an urn. He wanted me to pick up the ashes in a black, plastic box. I was and am horrified. I had to pick one out myself. His mother, at the memorial service, said "I know you won't mind, but I want some of the ashes to wear in a necklace." I do mind because I'm not separating them and Philip would have hated that. He would have been mad at her for even asking. She even said to me before he passed, "I wish you two had had children. But when you do have a child, I'll be the third grandmother." As if I could imagine having a child at all, let alone with someone else, while her son was two rooms away dying of cancer. I'm so freaking angry at her. I understand that they are suffering a loss too and I get that. I get that people say inappropriate things at inappropriate times, but some of this is unforgivable. I feel like they didn't even know their son/brother. They'll say things like "it's what Phil would have wanted." I want to scream at them, "you didn't even know him." They never once came to visit us when he was alive and healthy. 

I'm angry at some of my friends though they have been nothing but supportive. One friend said to me yesterday, "I'm in a slump. All I do is work, eat, exercise. I have nothing to look forward too." I wanted to scream at her, "Are you kidding, me?" I realize everything is relative. But seriously? You have nothing to look forward to? You are healthy, your husband is healthy, you have a job, family close by...She then apologized and said, "You must be in a slump too." A slump? Is that what losing the love of my life, my best friend, the only person I felt 100% myself with is, a slump? My god. 

I'm angry at my family though they have done everything they possibly can to help me. As a couple just out of graduate school and in our early 30s, we weren't prepared for this. My parents came and moved us to their still being built home so we wouldn't have to pay rent. They came to appointments with us. They did everything they could to help us. I live with them now for free. I'm lucky beyond words, but I'm still angry at them. I'm angry they didn't prepare me better; I'm angry that they hover; I'm angry that, even though I know they truly are devastated because they loved Phil like a son, their lives have gone on. 

I'm angry at people who tell stories about him or say things that don't quite resemble the Philip I knew. What I've learned through this process is that everyone knew him in a different way--partly by his design and partly by theirs--and that these ways won't always correspond to how I knew him. And that makes me a little angry because I want everyone to have known him like I did because to me he was perfect. 

I'm angry that people don't know what to say to me or look at me like I'm a sad Lifetime movie, even though I feel like I am in a sad Lifetime movie. I'm angry that Philip didn't want to get married right away when we found out he was sick. I wanted to be his wife, I wanted his last name despite the circumstances. He wanted to protect me. I understand and am grateful because his way has made the most sense for us. But I'm still angry that I didn't get to make that commitment to him. I'm angry that our future was stolen from us. I'm angry that we din't get to have the baby we always talked about; and that there wasn't more time to say all that I wanted to say; I'm angry that I didn't get to apologize for all the stupid fights and issues. I'm just so damn angry. 

There is nothing about anger in my hospice grief pamphlets. I feel like a giant angry monster about 75% of the time. I am not angry with Philip, just at everything else. I pray each night for God to help me deal with this anger, to soften my heart. Some days are better than others, but I just never expected anger to be my go-to emotion. I know it has only been nine weeks and that the anger will probably (hopefully) subside. And maybe the anger is better than not being able to get out of bed each morning...I don't know. 

What I do know is that all Philip wanted for me was to be happy. He'd want me to do whatever however I needed to in order to be happy. So I don't want to be angry anymore, but I'm thinking that maybe the anger is part of my way to get to the happy. We will see. 

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Comment by RainSong on April 19, 2015 at 4:39pm

I am not a person who gets angry very often, but I had a few things strike me after my husband died of bladder cancer two years ago.   I had much longer than all of you to adjust to the concept...he lived almost three years after diagnosis, but it really accelerated in January of 2013 (he passed in Feb. 2013).

My sisters-in-law kept coming to me  to be consoled...how could I take care of them if I hadn't even had time to deal with my own grief?  Why weren't they consoling me?  In the rearview mirror of two years...they probably just wanted to grieve WITH me, and let me know they were there, but I felt I had to fix things for them.

I also was surprised to find myself a little proprietary about who got to recall memories of him...I was terribly put out (and I will admit childish ...now, I can admit)  when his colleagues at the elementary school he worked with made t-shirts with his likeness and name on it.  I don't know why I felt that I should have been notified/included in this...didn't really know any of them well.  But in those early months I was bitterly angry that people were trying to steal him (his memories) from me.  Doesn't make sense because more than just me loved him, but couldn't tell me that then

Comment by CandJ02 on April 19, 2015 at 4:28pm
Thank you all for your comments...you have no idea how comforting they have been to me! Though I hate it that's any of us have to be here in the first place, it is a relief to know I'm just not a crazy angry person. And hisgirl, I was the same way---I was willing to do anything to have more time that I feel like I overlooked so much of his pain. Ugh. But I also thing Choosing life is right...so many people have shown me extraordinary kindness throughout this whole experience (even here on this website!) that when I'm not angry, im overcome with gratitude and awe. I'm trying to pay it forward anyway I can.
But I am going to try this ice idea... :)
I wish you all a night peace and comfort. Thank you again for comments!
Comment by barbee on April 19, 2015 at 8:47am

CandJ02, anger is part of the process. It is one way to get rid of some of those awful feelings. Here is something I posted in the 2015 group and maybe it will help.

I found a helpful way to get rid of the anger. Do you have on your house an outside wall that's fairly private and doesn't have a window? Maybe even the garage. Make lots and lots of ice cubes. Hundreds even. Put them all into a large bowl and go to that wall. Throw. Smash. Yell. And get it out. There is something healing about hearing all that crashing and breaking, yet all the dishes are still intact in the kitchen and no windows got broken. It's just water so you don't even need to clean up the mess.

Another way to release anger is to grab an old pillow and a wooden spoon and just beat on it until you are spent.

Crying should be part of the process, too. There are some emotions held in a body that can only be released with tears. It is very OK to cry.

It is not healthy to bury that anger, so release it and get it out of your body. You might need to do these things more than once. Try it and see how you feel afterwards. 

Be forgiving and patient with yourself. "Getting over it" takes a very long time.

Comment by Choosing life on April 19, 2015 at 6:11am
hisgirl -- the last paragraph of your post is exactly how I was with my husband. I too wish I had concentrated more on him. It eats at me when I am having the bad days. I tell myself that it cannot be changed and strive to be kind and patient with others. I work on forgiving myself. Wishing us all peace in our lives.
Comment by bis4betsy on April 18, 2015 at 5:15pm

I am so sorry about losing your love. My husband died 5 weeks after diagnosis so I can really relate to how quickly your Phillip passed. I can remember the anger well as well as every stupid thing people said to me.  My mother-in-law acted like it was a contest, because she lost her son. His sister was angry with me because I didn't make him go to the doctor sooner, as if I knew he wasn't feeling well and ignored him.   

It's okay to be angry, really.  What you're going through is a horrible loss of the future with a man you loved.  

Anger is one of the stops on this journey, just don't camp out there too long!

Comment by hisgirl on April 18, 2015 at 8:10am

((((( CandJ02))))). It's Ok to be angry. I pray my anger subsides also. My husband lived 5 weeks after diagnosis. Had a friend complaining about her husband being sick (not life threatening at this point). She said she  had not planned on going into retirement with a sick husband. I told her I did not plan on going into retirement with a dead husband, a husband not being with me in retirement. She still had him, I could not understand why she could not look at the positive.

Wishing you Peace.

I refused to believe my husband was dying. He was invincible!  I tried to get him strong enough so we could get to the best cancer center. I wish I had concentrated more on him instead of trying to keep him from leaving me. 

Comment by CandJ02 on April 17, 2015 at 5:33pm

Thanks, Choosing Life for the kind comments. And I'm sorry for your loss and that we both are on this site in the first place. But it is nice to know there is a place to go where others understand. 

Comment by Choosing life on April 17, 2015 at 5:07am
CandJ02 --- I am so sorry for your loss and that you are on this terrible journey. Your post has struck a chord in me ---- such similar feelings. So many times during his illness I could not put a label on my feelings, but I now know after 22 months that it was overwhelming anger. I was his caregiver and so unprepared. The terrifying responsibilities seemed to never let up, until one day they did. He was gone.

Your feelings are as valid as anyone else's. You have come to a good site. Thank you for your post.

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