Coping with Loss/Sick/Dying mother


I'm currently a college student and we recently discovered my mother has been having some lung trouble. Shes had four collapsed lungs over the course of the past few months and has had extensive lung surgery which included removing a damaged part of her left lung. Due to the uncertainty of her current condition (the specialists don't know what's wrong with her all they know is it's NOT cancer) they gave her a life expectancy of five years. My mother has taken this as her death sentence, even though her condition is unconfirmed and she is not taking care of her health at all. She was told to stop smoking all together if she even hoped of living or prolonging her life yet she is still smoking over a pack of cigarettes a day. She is also supposed to use oxygen but refuses to wear it. 

I have four younger siblings (whom are all minors) and we all have tried expressing to her how it hurts us she won't take care of herself. None of us want to lose her, but even though we eventually must we wish she would at least try to prolong her life. 

On top of this tragic news a lot of responsibility has been thrust upon me. While my mother was in and out of the hospital I had to care for my younger siblings, which included failing two of my classes due to scheduling conflicts. We have no other family and no extra money to hire someone to take care of them. What bothers me most though is that my mother is insistent on me taking custody of my four younger siblings when she does pass. This bothers me because she is not doing anything she could to try prolong her life significantly and instead seems determined to get to her grave quicker. 

I'm only twenty and am currently engaged and I feel like my whole future life is being ripped away because of this. I'm afraid that when my mother does die I won't be able to deny her final wishes and I will end up giving up on all I ever wanted to take care of my siblings. If I'm forced to raise them (their ages are 2,6,8 and 16) I won't want a family of my own and that scares me because I want to start a life with my fiancé. 

It's not like I haven't paid my due; I've always took care of my younger siblings as my mother has struggled with alcohol addiction, abusive relationships, and a teenager complex (going out partying on kids school nights multiple days in a row, preferring to do own nails and makeup instead of feeding kids dinner, ect)

I'm so conflicted with my feelings and I don't know how to get though to my mom to keep on trying and not give up hope especially when the doctors aren't certain what's going on with her. I feel so selfish for being scared of this but I can't help it. How can I get through to my mom? Or atleast deal with what will be the end of my personal life? 

Dear Emily:

This certainly is a tough situation and has really put you on the spot.

First of all, you should not feel guilty for the feelings you have.  It sounds as though, in spite of such a conflicted situation at home, you have been making strides to go forward with making a better life for yourself.  It doesn't sound like your mom has put a lot of thought to what she is doing to herself, her young children who aren't old enough to care for themselves or to you.  Nothing about this is fair to you or your siblings.  I praise you for your strength to seek advice but you might want to consider professional counseling as this problem involves so many people.

I resolved a lot of my problems by just considering the pro's and con's.  If you decide to continue college and pursue the life you have been planning, and your mom passes away, your younger siblings will be placed in the Social Services system.  You may be able to stay in touch with them, but there is a chance that you won't, depending on where the homes are located that would receive them.   That is, if the Authorities are unable to contact family members who would be willing to accept the children.

If your mom passes and you decide to take the children to keep the family together, it is a possibility that your college plans might have to be 'put on hold' for awhile.  I'm sure you would be eligible for some kind of assistance if you plan to raise the children and an option would be to enroll on  a part-time basis in College and work toward your goals by taking some needed courses toward your intended degree.   Another point would be that the child you mentioned, which is age 16, would be willing to work after graduation to help raise the other three.  It might be possible that after the smaller children are in school, you could go to college on a full time basis.

I know these are a lot of 'if's' and would take a great deal of dedication on everyone's part but this is all assuming that your mom might die and leave these children.  She might be with you and actually live to raise her children.    I pray she does.

From your stand-point, the choices are not easy, but they never are, my friend.  With God's help, your mom will realize what she is doing to herself and her children and things will work out for everyone.  I'm sorry I can't provide a better answer for you.  I feel that you are very strong willed and that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.  I wish you well and I will pray for you and your family.  I would like to call your attention to one thing; these younger children are looking to you and admiring you.  Your ability to show your strength will influence them greatly.

Please feel free to contact me anytime.  Yours is a complicated situation and I would love to hear from you and how things work out for you.


Coping with Loss

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Joanne Flint


Dealing with the death of close family members and loss of a friend. Dealing with betrayal; how to accept it, deal with it and move on.


I lost my parents, who died less than eight months apart and a newborn son three months following the death of my mother. A year following this, my brother died suddenly and a 19 year old cousin was crushed to death in a car accident on his birthday. Now I am facing the impending death of a very good friend. I have also dealt with the death of a husband. I have found that talking with people with similiar experiences has helped me and I have been told that it has also helped them greatly.

A licensed nurse for twenty four years with several years working on a Psych ward as well as being the Executive Director and Director of Nursing Services for a Group Home for mentally ill and mentally retarded.

Awards and Honors
Awarded top clinical and top academic grade at my nursing graduation. Also was a member of the English Honors' Class while attending a local college.

Past/Present Clients
I don't share information about people with whom I talk, unless given permission. I am not a doctor, but I have given insight and hope to people just like myself.

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