Has anyone had a similar experience with guilt over their spouse's death while taking care of a parent?

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I have written quite a few times before and have received many thoughtful, warm and knowledgeable replies - I thank all of you. Right now I am dealing with a great deal of guilt over the sudden death of my husband who passed away from a massive heart attack leading to cardiac arrest due to coronary artery disease. My 94 year old mother who lives with us and has been for a very long time has dementia, which put emotional stress on both of us. Right before he passed, we were looking into a facility for her. I finally made up my mind to do this as it was a hard decision to make as I am an only child and she clings to me. I feel this stress contributed to my husband's death. I can't seem to get this out of my mind. I miss him so much; he was only 73 years old. He did have other issues as well; peripheal artery disease, which stents were put in 13 years ago. He had two tia's which resulted in the loss of vision in one eye and a 100% occluded left carotid artery in 1998. He also had a silent heart attack at that time. He was supposed to have bypass surgery then, but because of his closed carotid artery he was afraid of a stroke during the operation. He opted for chelation therapy for a few years. If anyone has had a similar experience with guilt over their spouse's death while taking care of a parent, I would appreciate hearing from you. Thank you.

Answers 1 to 10 of 11
Top Answer
I am very sorry to hear about your husband and the guilt you are feeling. The fact is you were trying to do the best you could for everyone. Maybe your mom should have been living elsewhere but you really don't have any way of knowing if that would have made a difference in your husband's life span.
You did what you thought was best at the time. Give yourself credit for that and trying to be a good wife and daughter.
Sincere condolences on the loss of your dear husband.

It sounds like he was living on borrowed time. A generation ago, without advances in medical intervention, he might not have made it into his seventies. I am glad you had him with you as long as you did. I wish it had been longer.

Having your mother live with you no doubt added stress to your life and his. Placing your mother and needing to advocate for her and see that she got good care and dealing with her feelings of abandonment would have been a different kind of stress. I think that having a loved one with dementia is stressful, no matter what decisions you make. It is not a stress you asked for or caused. You dealt with it in love, making the best decisions you could. I hope that you can make peace with that, and let the guilt go. You deserve to remember your husband with warmth and pleasure -- and he deserves to be remembered that way. Feeling guilty every time you think of him is just not appropriate. Please try to let it go.

If this troubling feeling persists, consider discussing it with a counselor.

Best wishes to you as you struggle with this.
Please accept my sincerest condolences. You no doubt are going thru a very difficult time, but time will heal. In the mean time, you probably should strongly consider following thru with your plans for your Mom.
It may not be easier or may be, but you need time to mourn the loss of your husband and to reflect on the goodness of his life. And you you must take care of yourself, you deserve time for you don't cheat your life out from what seems like un-necessary guilt.
Use your resources, be that your higher power, counselors, etc. but don't beat yourself up for being a good person. Pat yourself on the back, you've done a great job...don't let yourself down by taking care of everyone except yourself.
Stay on this site and know that loving arms surround you.
I am so sorry for your loss. I sometimes think that caregiving puts us in a place where we think we are responsible/accountable for everything but honestly, from someone on the outside looking in, there is absolutely nothing you did that contributed to your husband's passing and nothing you could have done to prevent it. We cannot control death and it comes too early sometimes as was the case with your husband. I know two other men who passed in similar circumstances with similar health conditions, both of whom were younger than your husband so I think you must have been doing a very good job taking care of him as well as your mom. Take some time to think about what your next steps should be. If you do not go forward with another living arrangement for your mom, please get some in home help that gives you time for yourself. Start a journal, see a counselor, see friends, get out of the house and try to engage in something. If it is your nature to lose yourself in the needs of other people, you might find that you are throwing yourself into the care of your mother now which is probably not the best thing for you. You need to find a happy, healthy place for you, too. Please make sure that you are taking care of yourself - that is what your husband would want and that is what your mom would want if she had all her faculties. My thoughts are with you.
I have terrible guilt about the death of my husband (age 48) who died a few months ago from an out-of-the-blue massive coronary. He worked out on the treadmill - went upstairs to get cleaned up and was gone in minutes.
I blame myself for not being aware of what was going on... not even having CPR. There were many stressors in our lives at the time among them - marital spats, finances, work, in-laws and grown and dependent children. I miss my partner terribly - and do resent my choices over our 28-year marriage. I wish I had made him more of a priority... and carved out more time for us. BUT my husband also had responsibility in his life, marriage and health.
Your story of course is unique - but I do suspect that this guilt is a natural outcome. Just know that you DID do the best that you could. He stuck it out with you for better-or-worse - and that is something to celebrate. I know I do.
I too and sorry to hear of your loss and for halom's loss. My friend lost her husband from a massive heart attack driving home from work at age 48. Her Mom with dementia is still with her in her home, and althou she cannot talk, or walk, they are holding onto eachother tight as they are all thats left now, both her sisters came down with cancer and her brother died, so sad. I understand someone feeling guilty but we caregivers are special people and at least in my case, my family and husband are proud of me. I certainly do not think its was anyones fault at all, and I do feel that your husbands died very proud of their wives . Big Hugs to you Both!
Caregivers are very special people, making a huge commitment. There are 'costs' and implications to everything in life, and the Carer is not spared from difficulties. Who You Are is Who Your Partner Chose, and Loved, and was proud of - even if this was never stated.
I too am sad for your loss, and in awe of your Caregiving to date, and extend every trust and encouragement that you will make a good choice now in how to go forward. Most important of all IS to give yourself space and care too. Hugs x x
since my husband died of alzheimer's just recently i am beside myself with guilt that i should have been more understanding and patient, the incontinance got me down the sleepless nights caused me to be quite ratty at times but he was such a lovely man i miss and love him so much and none of it was his fault he couldn't help his condition, i was his carer for 6 years i just feel so guilty that i should have cared for him with more ubderstanding.
Della
Yes, Della, you should have been more patient; you should have been a saint, or at the very least superwoman. Alas, caregivers, even caregivers who love the person they are caring for unconditionally, are just human. We fall short of perfection. Or maybe I should just speak for myself -- I was certainly not perfect in caring for my husband. But I wasn't a perfect wife before he got sick. He wasn't a perfect husband. And yet we had a wonderful marriage. Fortunately we don't have to be perfect to have a perfectly loving relationship.

What was the alternative for your husband's care? Would he have been better off in a nursing home? Probably he was better off with you, doing the best you could do under trying circumstances, even if that was not always perfect.

Please forgive yourself for being human. Celebrate the good things. Celebrate that you had such a lovely mate ... and that he did, too.

Give yourself plenty of time to heal. If you have a hard time getting past the guilt, see a counsellor. You deserve help coping with your great loss.
I too am racked with guilt over my husband. I wish I had put him first instead of my mother or my job. He was in hospital, albeit nothing life threatening, for two weeks. As I was my mother's 'fifth carer' so to speak, to make sure she got to bed ok, I went straight to her after work, instead of visiting my husband during the week. I only visited him at the weekend. They wanted to discharge him, but he still couldn't walk properly, so thinking it was best, I thought this was wrong as hospitals always want people sent home too soon. I had no idea he was in danger. If only I had taken him home, if only he had insisted on being discharged. Suddenly the hospital phoned to say he had a chest infection. It turned out to be a hospital infection, pneumonia. They didn't even try different antibiotics as the first one was not working. He passed away on the Monday 17/9/12. I blame the hospital and I blame myself. I will never forgive myself.

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