Pearlrose Asked November 2014

How can I support my husband whose Dad's dying from cancer?

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I am also a caregiver of my Mom who is 86 with dementia, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. My husband and I live in my Mom's home. My husband works a very physical job six days a week. I take care of Mom, our 2 households, us and the pets. My father-in-law's cancer has returned and he has chosen no treatment this time. He is going to let it take it's course. Denny is his name. Trying to put this story in a nut shell is difficult. My husband and I have been together for 4 yrs now. My husband and his Dad have had a rocky relationship forever. They reunited 3 yrs ago and have got along well. To me, Denny is not a warm fuzzy guy. He has a negative personality. He is very opinionated and always right. We hear from him more now and I saw him about a month ago. He's open about his dying with comments about death. We both only heard about his cancer returning about 2 months ago. He's never been really family oriented the whole 3 yrs I've known him. He has invited us to his brother's Thanksgiving dinner which we will be going to. His invitation to me on the phone was very harsh. I asked him what day they would be celebrating because I wasn't sure we would be able to make it on Thanksgiving day. No caregiver coverage. He started yelling at me "loud" proclaiming that this will be his last Thanksgiving and went on demanding us to be there no matter what. Of course, I stopped talking and let him know we would figure it out. And we will all be there, including my Mom.
So, I need some advice on how I can be a support for my husband thru this time. I do believe that it is important for us to be able to talk about his Dad's condition. To be honest with you all, we have not talked about it yet. I do know that this has to be bothering my husband. Outward signs, he's self medicating himself. This is actually the first time I've reached out about Denny dying. I believe I need to start talking about it more too.

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Nov 2014
As everyone here has said, just being there, listening when he wants to talk and showing physical affection through hugs and other gestures may be all you can do. I'd let him know that you are open to talking more about his dad whenever he wants to, but for some men, especially, opening up is very difficult.

Please keep us posted on how you are doing. Considering that you care for your mother and are now trying to help your husband, you are carrying a heavy load. We are here to listen to you and make suggestions when we can.
Blessings,
Carol
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kathyt1 Nov 2014
This is a very hard question. How do you support a spouse whose parent is dying. I would listen, not talk, follow his lead. If he wants to talk, talk, if he doesn't don't push him. I would show a lot of affection, casual physical contact, hugs, cooking his favorites, whatever he wants in bed, more often. I would let him know verbal and non verbal that you are there for him, whatever he decides however he wants to play it.

Getting a man to talk is tricky. They must feel safe; that you will accept them no matter what. I would go out of my way to honestly appreciate what he does for the family, working 6 days a week, taking care of your Mom. I would admire his strength and courage. Then after making love when you lie in his arms, I would ask what he wants and needs.

I am a blunt opionated person with very little social graces. Just speak your mind, we appreciate it. As smart as I am, when it comes to people's feelings I am an idiot. I may not be able to appreciate you, but I know when you help someone I love, you can do no wrong. Good luck I hope this helps.
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Pearlrose Nov 2014
Thank you Kathy for your advice. It is perfect. I do a lot of what you suggest, which is good because hearing it from someone else validates that I'm doing the right thing. Verbal confirmation of someone's strength and courage is so very important. Better to praise someone more than less. I believe your answer is right on the money. About listening, very important, and not pushing him to talk about it until he is ready. But to also be attuned to what comforts him which I naturally love to do things for him that he enjoys like cooking good food, a simple back scratch or massage, etc. I'm super big on hugs n kisses! And thank you for reminding me about just asking him what he wants and what he needs.
Thank you again Kathy for writing back to me. Just reaching out and writing my feelings and concerns down helped me that day to just be open with my husband about his Dad's cancer. So, it was a first step for both of us. Have a beautiful Thanksgiving!!! We sure will.
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Larida Nov 2014
Great advice and I just want to add one thing... Let your husband know how much he supports YOU and helps YOU. It can be as simple as "I'm so glad you're home. Your hug gets me back up to speed." Also "help2day"s "go sit in the car" was a GREAT idea. Men typically talk much more easily side-by-side than face-to-face. It's also a traditionally "safe" spot for a guy... HIS territory.
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Lizann Nov 2014
I found when my mother was dying of cancer at a rather young age, just being there for her was what she wanted. My mother received excellent care from her husband and my dad and me. We visited every day she was in hospital which unfortunately was 155 days in one calendar year. At the home, she loved to read and while she knew her medical condition, she did not want to talk about it often.
It is nice that your husband and his father were able to reestablish a relationship just 3 years ago. I would just give your husband time and space to reach out to his dad in the last days of his life. For really it is your husband who needs to lead on visiting or caring for his father. You seem to have your hands full caring for your 86 year old mother.
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Gigi11 Nov 2014
Your best service might be in taking as much of the pressure off your husband as possible. First, don't repeat to him what his father says to you, unless on the off chance it's something nice. And if you can find another placement for your mother, maybe this would be the time to make that move.

Can you really provide support for your husband when your own emotions are all over the place? Did you promise in your wedding vows to love, comfort, honor and keep him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and FORSAKING ALL OTHERS?

Amen and blessings for a quick resolution to this problem, all parties blessed.
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irishboy Nov 2014
Gigi11 you gave excellent advice, especially the part about only repeating what the father said to the husband if he says something nice(which seems to not be the norm). No need to bring his harsh attitude on the phone, only if he says something kind.

Absolutely not Ferris. Asking that question is a great way to bring more angst and stress into the picture.

OP, let your husband talk and you listen. But don't do as Ferris suggested. Besides that question being a moot point(you're dealing with a stubborn man who is always right and he has already made up his mind) will do no one any good.

You're plate is very full, God Bless you.
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Midkid58 Nov 2014
PearlRose,
Went through this with my hubby and his father when I was also caring for my own terminally ill father. My hubby had a really hard time communicating with his father--so he's always bring me along for a buffer. When the dx came that dad really only had a few months left, I let my hubby grieve in his own way. He was never close to his dad, so I had to be supper supportive, SO patient (which by nature I am NOT), ran to his dad's 3xs a day for 3 months to provide what care he needed. Hubby came with me at night if he was in town. His Dad finally did wind up passing in the hospital, which was not what he wanted, but was for the best. Poor hubby, he was in denial to the moment I said to him "Honey, he's gone". I think that men process emotion and grief so differently that do women. They weren't estranged and his dad was a gentle man (in his later years, as a younger man, he was pretty abusive to his kids--I never saw that but saw the damage it did--) my hubs was so confused about how to "feel". It's been almost 11 years, he still hasn't really processed his death. We see this over and over--people have little to no relationship to a parent, parent gets old and sick and then suddenly all the issues that were never worked out come to force and we either a: deal with them head on, or b: continue to act like it's all 'ok'. You can't force relationships. You can only be kind& endlessly loving. Your hubby may not "make up" with his dad before he dies. That's OK. Just be there for him. Love him. Take care of your still young marriage as a first priority, then the people who depend on you next. God Bless you--so much on your shoulders!
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Pearlrose Nov 2014
Thank-you everyone for your helpful advice. Ironically, we did not make it for Thanksgiving dinner. My husband had an accident at work the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It was serious but he is alive and very fine. A bolt went thru his neck leaving a good sized hole and breaking a molar. He was transported to a trauma hospital due to the hole being so close to his carotid artery and esophagus. I managed to get to the hospital that night. Our caregiver who helps us came to be with Mom. No veins, arteries, or esophagus was injured. We are very blessed. Very thankful to God and Jesus!
At first, his Dad was not understanding at all. Making light of what had happened to my husband. But he did come around to being nice a few days later. My husband and I did have a good discussion in the car on the way to retrieving his car from work on Thanksgiving Day. We discussed his father's attitude about things and how he's made his own decision about his life. And we agreed together that we weren't going to let him make us feel guilty about the decisions we need to make in our life. And we will still get together with him as much as we can. It doesn't necessarily have to be on a "holiday".
I agree with ferris1, in that my husband and father-in-law have their own special relationship. I do not try to fix anything there and I do keep my nose out of their business. We will celebrate times together now. Thank-you.
I do have 2 close girlfriends that I can talk to and a very loving sister I can talk to over the phone due to distance. My husband and I have a strong faith in God and Jesus which also helps us tremendously. Thank-you everyone. Your advice has been comforting and very helpful. Thanks too for caring and writing to me! God bless you all!!!
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terryjack1 Dec 2014
I'm glad your husband will be ok after his accident and I'm glad you were able to talk. Everyone approaches death differently and every family has different dynamics. As I have said before, I believe in the circle of life; all things are born, they live and they die. Death is not always easy and I think most people have experienced a loss of some kind It's natural for our parents to pass before us and each person has their beliefs as to what kind of medical care and treatment they want in any given circumstance. We have to support our loved ones in their decisions. Make sure your hubby knows you are there for him, he can talk or not, you can ease the burden just by being supportive. While he may not be the touchy feely kind of guy, encourage him to talk about his father's pending death, how he feels about that and how to move on afterwards. As a caregiver myself, I know it's important that you care for yourself first for if you become ill you won't be able to care for anyone else. Time passes and life goes on, we all will experience the loss of a parent but having family and making family time more meaningful helps to ease the transition.
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