“Where is My Dead Husband?”


I’ve just had the conversation in which you have to tell your mum that her husband is ‘no longer with us’ hoping she won’t ask, ‘Where is he?’ She asked. She kept asking.

Why am I sharing this? Two reasons. Firstly and most selfishly because it just happened and I am devastated and I want someone to tell me that I’m not reacting badly.

I am devastated at having to have told my mum that her second husband had ‘passed away’ in 2006. More devastated that she disbelieved me but appeared to take it on board only to ask me again two minutes later and to be just as shocked, so shocked in fact that she called me a liar but she asked again.

All this happened by phone from hospital in the south of England. She got the nurse to call me. Mum wants to go home. She is refusing help. She has turned down treatment. She is obviously suffering from a form of dementia, it is a vascular dementia that came on quickly. It was brought on by badly dealt with diabetes – she would lie about her insulin because she couldn’t remember if she’d administered it; she didn’t want to look stupid or frail or weak. She is proud.

She also has a broken spine: T12 vertebrae. The medicos have dosed her with opiates many weeks ago. That will mash your brain. Coming off those will also put you into withdrawal. Imagine that when you don’t know where you are, the one person you want to speak to is dead and the other person you thought loved you is telling you over the phone that you are in the best place possible even when it scares you. I’ve been imagining it for weeks.

I feel mad in the sense of not sane. I feel scared that I am making bad decisions. I feel weak and poor in all possible ways. I feel alone. But I don’t feel as shocked, scared and abandoned as my 80 year old mother. Every time I wake up, I am prepared for what is happening. Every time she wakes up, it hits again and in her lucid moments… she is aware of where she will be returning. That’s not a journey you’d make anybody travel.

The second reason I am sharing this is that if you’re going through this common set of circumstances, well, you’re not alone. If you’re not feeling heroic and capable; if your work or family or fear or lack of funds or need for work or need for certainty is keeping your from saving your loved one from their own decrepitude; if you are having to review everything about the person you are and they are, you’re not alone.

If, on the other hand, you’re handling this brilliantly and you do have the solutions and resources, the common sense to make your version of my situation work then I am sharing these few pars of dread to get you to share your answers.

You don’t need to do that here, but do it somewhere.

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