It appears my Dad is in the process of dying - I'm mostly okay with that, but really struggling with the rest of my family. Could use some words of wisdom.
posted by anonymous to human relations (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
(Forgive me the length in advance) So, around this time last year, my Dad was hospitalised with a possible heart attack. He has been in and out of hospital ever since, and was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, he has a lot of fluid on his lungs, and he's getting worse and worse in terms of quality of life. He is in the process of dying, it's pretty clear. The medication is not particularly helpful, his breathing sounds like cellophane, and he's unable to sleep very much, and when he does apparently he stops breathing altogether for periods.
I live a 90 minute plane ride away.
I am - so far as one can be - okay with my Dad dying. He (and I!) are relatively young, 68 and 32 respectively. But I grew up in the country; I saw a lot of non-negative death as a youngster and whilst saddened I understand that when you gotta go, you gotta go. Dad and I are talking (not about him dying), and all's pretty good there.
The problem is my family. I am one of four kids, and I am really struggling in my interactions with my eldest sister, who lives in the same town as my Dad now. This is hitting her really hard, I think. We talk a lot by the phone in my family, and I'm used to talking to her once or twice a week. The problem is, every time we talk, sooner or later (usually sooner), she ends up saying, "I want to talk to you about Dad."
What follows is her crying, insisting that he is dying, and on death's door, and a sometimes-direct-sometimes-indirect implication that I should go home as soon as possible. There are a few problems with this, from my perspective.
1) I feel like a huge bastard for this. Her grief makes me feel uncomfortable. My Dad is not dead; he may be dead tomorrow, but he may be dead in a year's time, or more. Most likely it's somewhere in-between those points, but it's killing me (metaphorically). All she wants to talk about is him dying, like I don't understand or something. I fucking understand. Just because I am not there, I understand. Also, I feel like, weirdly, she is ruining him not being dead for me. He's still okay, can talk, and walk, and think, and read. I don't want to worry about how upset I'm gonna be when dies, before he dies.
2) I feel guilty, or that she is accusing me of not caring, or doing the right thing. I feel judged. I do not know if this is in my head. It's probably 50-50. My sister doesn't earn very much, as a result she thinks everyone else is rich. But our mortgage is 3 times the size of hers, as we live in the city and she lives in the country. I have an infant child. I received a promotion at a reasonably demanding corporate job literally two weeks ago. I need to perform, as a parent, partner, and worker. I am not putting my father and our relationship over these things, but nor can I ignore these things over the probably several months (it has been a year already, after all) he will be in the course of dying. I can't do it. (We are going there at easter).
My sister - I love her - but she is not very understanding/empathetic of other modes of thought/living. There has always been one right way, and all the other wrong ways for her. This bias to judgmentalism is unfortunately at its worst when she is stressed, and it's starting to colour her interactions with the rest of the family. I am somewhat of a peace-maker in the family. She will need me for this, but I don't know how I good I can be at it, I'm getting so stressed out talking to her myself, I don't know how well I can smooth things for everyone else. Also, I don't know why she keeps having this conversation from me, if she expects me to mirror her attitude, or change what I'm doing or how I'm feeling. She wants something from me and I can't give it to her.
I know everyone needs to grieve their own way, and prepare their own way. I guess I feel stymied in attempting to do that for myself at the moment. It makes me not want to talk to my sister - it makes me nervous at the prospect of her coming to visit us for a week soon. If she spends the whole time talking about Dad I am gonna lose my shit.
It's making me feel anxious and unpleasant about what happens when he does die. This is not what I want to feel about my father's death. The thought of having to go there, endure loads of people projecting their grief and needs on to me, and ideally I just want to go somewhere quiet and think about my dad and cherish our memories and all that's he's given me - I'm not being able to do that already, I feel. And I certainly won't be able to do that with all the theatre of a funeral (theatre is fine, and very helpful for some people, but not for me. I'm somewhat introverted, I need to spend lots of time with myself to sort out myself in general, and definitely now. When you have an infant, that kind of time is in short supply, and it's selfish to take too much).
I feel like I'm being more upset about the imposition of his dying on me, than his actual dying - which is like, selfish, and sick. I'm not just a parent, partner, worker; I'm a brother and son, and I don't want to let my family down.
I need, I don't know. Something. Some strategies, or context, or advice or something. All I want to do now is keep talking to my dad several times a week as I'm doing, not talk to my sister at all, and try to play with my kid and not flame out in my new role at work. Instead, I'm getting more and more tense.