I feel guilty

by Mary

My brother John had advanced cancer and we knew that the outcome was not good. I have lived outside the US for 30 years
and he lived in the US. We only had one other brother who lived in the same town in the US as John but who was extremely busy with family and professional obligations. I was retired but with residence and my life since 30 years outside of the US and thus the obligations that entailed. Since his diagnosis of late stage IV cancer in September I alternated about one month in my residence and 3 to 4 weeks with my brother in the hospital where he has been the whole time due to his condition. He was in a very good long-term care situation, as a Viet Nam veteran,
and received not only good medical care but also good care emotionally and psychologically and was happy to be there as he was unable to eat or speak very much due to his type of cancer. I came to the US a few weeks before his death on 30 March 2011 and was with him on 29 March when he was in step down Intensive Care due to an infection from a low white cell blood count. This had happened before and although he told me he was dying and I accepted that, I didn´t think he meant immediately. We talked about stopping chemo and hospice and I swore I would help him in anyway possible, but I did not realize he really meant he was dying. At about 7 pm after being with him most of that day, I kissed him goodbye and said my other brother and I would be back the next day to talk to all concerned about his wishes to be "let go" no more suffering, no more treatment. I went to the place I was staying to have supper and sleep. At 6.20 the next morning the doctor called me to say that after a brief period of respiratory distress, he had stopped breathing and they had let him go as we all had wished. But now I feel so guilty for not really realizing that when he said he was dying I didn´t take him literally. When I left he seemed tranquil. I left him some water and a magazine as well as his new glasses which we had gone out and gotten only a week before. Since he died I feel so horrible at not being at his side when he died. I really feel that my life now has no sense and cannot stop crying even two weeks later.

A lost sister.

Comments for I feel guilty

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Apr 18, 2011
by: Anonymous

Thanks so much to the two of you. I am still crying and missing him so much and working through the guilt of not holding his hand as he died, but then again maybe he didn´t want that either.

I appreciate your care and empathy.

Apr 12, 2011
by: Tony

Mary, I would not worry or feel guilty at all, when a loved one is dying the reality is hard to fathom. My mom was told she was dying by a hospice doctor and I couldn`t believe it, she started sobbing, too. Death is a harsh reality everyone has to deal with at some time, don`t feel guilty at all, you did all you could. hugs, Tony

Apr 12, 2011
A Sister's Guilt
by: TrishJ

Let me share with you the guilt I carried with me for many years. My brother was my best friend in the whole world. I was his big sister and he loved me unconditionally.
He was diagnosed with juvenile onset diabetes at the age of 8. When he turned 30 his kidneys began to fail. He was on dialysis. Talk of a transplant started. My mother and I were tested and both found to be compatible. One of the doctors I worked for at the time called me into his office one day. He had been in conference with my brother's nephrologist (across the hall from our office). I was told by my employer that my brother's doctor informed him that a transplant would only prolong his suffering. His other organs were in the beginning stages of failure and the diabetes would only continue to ravage his body. It was his advice that we didn't continue with the transplant. My children were 10 and 6 at the time. I would be risking my own health if I gave my brother my kidney. What if my other kidney failed on me?
The decision was made not to go through with the transplant. My mother chose at that time to tell my brother we weren't a match. He knew the truth after he passed.
I stood at the funeral home looking at my beautiful wonderful brother with all the guilt of the world on me. I felt if I had chosen differently he would still be here. The next few years were horrible. Depression, weight gain, hating myself, blaming myself. It all took a toll on me. I kept thinking if I had given my brother the kidney he needed he would still be with us. The doctors said, NO, it wouldn't have helped. His heart and liver were failing. I wouldn't let anyone or anything comfort me. My marriage and my children suffered because of my grief.
That was 20 years ago. As a nurse I can now realize that there have not been any major accomplishments to advance the treatment of diabetes. My brother would've died within a year anyway and suffered needlessly through that year. At the time I was inconsolable. I thought it was my fault that he died.
With your brother telling you he was dying ~ that's not something we as sisters want to hear. It's called denial. Don't blame yourself for that. You are only human.
Your tears will stop when you are ready for them to stop. Not until then. Your brother would want you to be happy and go on. He knew his life was ending. It's all part of God's plan for us.
Don't beat yourself up ~ you did the best you knew how to do at the time. That's all anyone can expect. Peace.

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