stephenryan Asked February 2012

How do I stop living the life of my dead mum?

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My mum died 8 years ago and i wasn't there for her. I had a very hectic life and was trying to maintain a career as a manager. At the time of my mums death i was driving to work on the motorway and my dad phoned and said that my mum had just died. When he said it i had to swerve of the motorway, i was so distraught.

I remembered the day before that my niece had phoned to cancel me and my wife visiting my mum and dad because she sad that nanny was poorly. I thought nothing of it as my dad phoned up later and said that she was under the weather and best to leave it for that day. Well, that happened every so often, but mum at 67 was alright most of the time and alhough she did have breathing problems from time to time caused by her being a heavy smoker up to the age of 55, I didn't really think anything more it.

But i never realised that my mum was that ill. Even when they rang me to say that they had taken her into hospital for her breathing. I was under so much stress and working 100 miles away from my home and i knew they would take good care of her.

But then they rang to say she died. Well, i got to hospital and my legs gave out under me when i arrived there. We spoke to the doctor and he said did i want to see her. At first i said no and then when i walked past the door of the room she was in I had this awful feeling that i should check that she was actually dead.

When i saw her, it was like looking at a cardboard cut-out and the body didn't even really look like her. I said to my sister as soon as i saw her "that's not my mum" and then as i left kissed my mum on the forehead and then walked out.

At the funeral i didn't even cry and was laughing and joking with friends and family about things when we congregated after the funeral.

But i felt that after she died something inside me died and after 4 years of panic attacks and bad work relationships i finally had a nervous breakdown.

I've been off work with depression for nearly 5 years now and feel like my mind and body have died. It feels like when i kissed my mum on the forehead in the hospital that her dead spirit went inside me and with the guilt of not being there for her, i am now not able to live a happy life. In fact it is like i am now the living dead. I feel numb about death and i have closed my self down with my feelings of agoraphobia. Like i have cut off all avenues, to honour my dead mum.

Like i am living a life of hardship, because of my guilt.

I don't know if any of this makes sense, but if it does, can anyone share any advice of how I can change my life around, because although i planned suicide something else has been pulling me back from the brink.

I've only just realised that mums death is the core of my problems, because at 48 so much has happened to me in my life and i wasn't able to see what the real problem was.

Thank you for any advice
Stephen
England

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Feb 2012
Hi Stephen,
First of all, I'm assuming that you are still getting help for depression.

Somehow you need to realize that no matter what people do, their loved ones can die without them. I interviewed a woman for my book who said that her whole family sat by her dad's bed for three days, as he was dying. Then he rallied. They decided to go out to eat and come right back. He died during the half-hour they were gone.

This happens often, and it's very hard. But we can't control everything in life. Your mom had been ill before and come out of it just fine. You couldn't run away from your job every time she was ill, if she already had help. It's not your fault that she died and she doesn't "blame" you for not being there. Your mother loved you and wouldn't want you to suffer for this any more. Please continue to get help. You have nothing to feel guilty about, but only you can forgive yourself and move on. That's what your mother would want.
Take care of yourself,
Carol
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NancyH Feb 2012
Stephen, how in the world were you to know that your mother at age 67 was at death's door? Seems to me it should fall to those family members that were at her side constantly, to warn you. You did what you did with the information you got, so quit beating yourself up about it. You didn't kill your mother, cigarettes did. I wish I could get my own husband to stop smoking, so your story should be a warning to others that can't put the cancer sticks down. You need to give yourself a break, and make the most of your life for your family's sake.
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jeannegibbs Feb 2012
Stephen, I'm afriad that the truth is, you couldn't have rescued her even if you had been there. Death isn't under our control. If you'd been there you could have seen her alive one last time, you could have held her hand and kissed her. It is very sad that you didn't have that opportunity, but it did not cause your mother's death.

You wonder what your mum would want for you. I know nothing about your mum, but I do know what it feels like to be a mother, to have children, and to want things for them. I'm going to assume that your mother was a decent person, not perfect because no one is, but loving and caring and trying her best. If that assumption is true, then it is almost slander to wonder if she would think you should have a proper life. OF COURSE she would want the best for you. She would want you to be happy, and to live your life successfully. Believe me, she had been disappointed in you many times over the years (because that is part of parenting) but she never stopped loving you and hoping for the best for you.

If I'm right that she was a decent person, there is absolutely no doubt she'd want you to live life fully. And if I'm wrong and she was not a good person, if she didn't love her children with all her heart, then does it really make sense to let her memory hold you back?

This insight you have recently had may be a key to reclaiming your proper life. If you are seeing a therapist, discuss this fully. If you are not seeing a therapist now, I think it would be worth trying it -- you definitely have something important to discuss.
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marianne18 Feb 2012
Hi Stephen. Sometimes we look to others for the answers, and sometimes there are no answers and not even a glimpse of understanding. So we have to accept our strenghts and weakness' and work with them. You sound a strong person to me, who has experienced saddness and has allowed it to linger. You need to become active and learn to enjoy life. Are you suffering from depression? If so work with it, either get medication or take up a active healthy lifestyle. Even go to support groups, or do volunteer work. I am similar age to you and experienced loss and many problems, but after nearly 4 years of hell, the sun is shining again in my mind. I have learnt about myself, that I am sensitive, a worrier, caring and want to help everyone and protect them, but I can't perform miracles and neither can you. So please Stephen accept that you are a good strong person who was working and progressing in your career and then your Mother died. Her death may have brought all your others issues to the surface. Now it is time to heal! Accept who you are, like who you are and be active. I am not trying to make a recovery sound so simply, it is not, but it is possible. Therefore, take one step at a time and move forward, be proud and enjoy the memories of your Mum.
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ZOEY1ZULU2 Feb 2012
you never know when things are going to happen. None of this is your fault. My mom struggles with this over my brother











none of this is your fault. My mom struggles with this over my brothers death. He kept saying he was dick. She kept seeing him and never saw anything. One day he said this and she left for work. He did die that day. How was she to know. Her advice now is to see people in your life that say they are sick while they are still alive. You can't change this but it will make you feel better to just see other family members more . NO ONE blames you. Forgive yourself and when you have problems let your family know so they can HELP you. They are there for you and love you and do not blame you at all.
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3pinkroses Feb 2012
Stephen, my heart goes out to you. It seems you have been through quite a lot in your life; and then the passing of your mother. Carol gave you such a wonderful answer and great advice. You didn't do anything wrong. You should not feel guilty about anything. You seem to have been a kind and loving son; and your mother would want you to be happy.

Try to let it go; my parents had been to the hospital inumerable times and I wasn't always able to get there as I live almost 2 hours away. I feel certain your mother would want you to live a proper life. Take care and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
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JaneB Feb 2012
Stephen, sometimes the body holds on to emotional shock past the point of utility. If traditional therapists aren't able to help you shift, I would look for someone skilled in the area of energy psychology -- and there are plenty in the UK (I can't tell, but your language sounds like you might live there. The techniques they use are fast, effective, and pretty painless. You just...move on. You get out of the "stuck" place and can take next steps without a lot of angst and pain and resistance. You may be able to find a practitioner by going to
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There is a very profound and useful and humane and wonderful paradigm called Focusing, for dealing with the kinds of feelings you are talking about. And it is a skill you can learn, to apply for the rest of your life -- not to be dependent on a counselor. To find a Focusing Teacher, I know there is an equivalent in the UK
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Hi Stephen: I remember when my mom had an extremely critical health issue and could have easily died. She was helicoptered to a major University hospital for care and her recovery was touch and go. My dad didn't want to call my brother and alert him to the dire possibilities. He didn't want to see my brother take time off work or have to travel to the medical facility. I think my dad's reaction was probably more about his own feelings of not being able to accept that a crisis was at hand. Alerting my brother would have reinforced his own fears of losing my mom. Your family's situation may have been similar or not. It may have been that they just did not expect your mum's situation to be that serious. Whatever the reality, you are just one cog in the family wheel of decision making and not the driving force that can see all, anticipate all, and manage all. I hope you can let that burden go.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and offer a couple of thoughts. Maybe the underlying connection with all you have experienced is a deep rooted fear; one that spreads and gets harder to push down when disappointments mount. On top of all the trauma and difficulties you have experienced, your mum dies unexpectedly and at a relatively young age. That may have been one trauma too many for you to keep at bay. Eventually, it just feels safer to stay in your home and not go out into that world that you can't control.

I'm not sure if it's necessary to find one thing to unravel as a starting point. Maybe it is, I don't really know; but maybe you could take a look at the various issues that you can identify and see if they all have fear in common. If so, where did the fear start might be a better beginning. Get some help with that journey and don't push yourself too hard or put unnecessary pressure on yourself.

I am truly grateful that you have a wife and family that love and support you. You deserve to be loved, supported and protected.
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cmagnum Aug 2012
submitting, your experience of depression about your husband's death is one example of grief gone toxic. I know what depression feels like as a person with bipolar disorder. Mine is a chronic condition, yours is situational. I suggest finding a psychiatrist for an anti-depressant and a therapist for talk therapy to help you get past this impasse. I wish you well in your journey.
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