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Mum keeps wishing she was dead

Community Member

My mum survived bladder cancer the last few years. Now she has a bowel test (colonoscopy) coming up in a month and she is so down she keeps wishing she was dead. She's sick of the medical tests, the fears, the lack of support from family members that she keeps telling me she is just fed up with this world. How does one cope with this level of depression? She refuses all counseling, support from GP, etc. It just feels like she's spitting in my face considering how much I've supported her these last few years. It's very hard to cope with

7 Replies 7

Community Champion
Community Champion

hello and welcome.


Sorry to read what you are going through. I'm also sorry to hear about your mother's struggles with cancer and the toll it has taken on her mentally and on you. Depression after battling a serious illness is understandable and this being the second instance is likely bringing back painful memories?


I am unsure from your post how have to reacted to your mother's comments, or what you have said to her. Have you expressed to her how much you care and don't want to lose her? Remind her that you are there to support her through this difficult time.


Maybe you could suggest small activities that may lift her spirits.


Ultimately, her healing process is her own, but don't lose hope. With compassion and patience, you can gently encourage her to seek the help she needs. I hope so...

Yeah thanks. She has no symptoms but the trauma of past experiences with bowel and bladder cancer treatment is doing her head in, and mine. That's about the best suggestion. Let her acknowledge her fears. I've tried to persuade her to dismiss them, or to reason them away. But the only time I manage to say something right is when, like you said, I express how no matter what, I'll be there for her. She reads, watches the news (not such a good thing) and takes an interest in my life. I think her comments are made out of frustration, but gee it's hard some days. The fact she refuses all counselling doesn't help either.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi David


Was talking to someone just the other day about the idea of how our abilities tend to go toward defining who we are to a degree. Kind of like 'With my ability to find happiness, I am a happy person', 'With my ability to knit for charity, I am a knitter and I am a charitable person' etc etc. So, lose an ability and it changes how we define our self. 'I was once a well person, with the ability to take care of myself. Due to so much illness, I am now an unwell person and someone who's dependent' or 'I was once an adventurous person but due to a lack of physical ability now, I am no longer an adventurous person'. Combine all that and it becomes 'I am an unwell and dependent person who is no longer adventurous'. Redefine that through seriously depressing inner dialogue and it can go on to become 'I'm sick, a burden and housebound with nothing to look forward to other than sufferance'. This is a mindset my own mum struggles with, as her physical abilities diminish, based on a number of factors including an aging body.


I've found a part of what makes a difference to my mum involves bringing certain parts of her to life. Not easy to do and she'll be the first to admit that. Part can be based on fear or the inability to imagine a positive outcome. Part can be based on habitual ways of thinking (belief systems) or it can simply be about depressing inner dialogue that comes to mind, such as 'That's is not going to make any difference'. Part can be based on lack of faith in herself and her ability to manage something new. Part can also be based on self preservation, 'If I don't get my hopes up, I won't suffer so much if things go wrong'. The list goes on. Sometimes, bringing a part of our self to life or bringing a facet of someone else to life can involve seriously simple things. We could say 'For 2 hours today, between 12 and 2pm, your goal is to develop the persona of 'food critic'. We're going out for lunch to a place we've never been before (adventure), a place which is peaceful yet full of the most amazing food. You will consume the 2 courses you order and you will report to me on the texture, appearance, taste, smell and even how the food sounds to you as you eat it (crunchy, soft etc)'. So, for 2 hours, we or that person we challenge can become something or someone other than sad, fearful, hopeless (with no hope) etc.


Whenever I take one of my parents to a specialist appointment, based on their failing health, it always needs to be in conjunction with something else: Lunch before or after the appointment makes them 'lunch goers' or 'diners' who happen to be going to an appointment either side of lunch/dining out. If it's an appointment at a hospital, we'll be 'latte drinkers' at the hospital cafe, either side of the appointment . If the appointment's near a shopping centre, my mum's a 'shopper' either side of that appointment, buying herself something that leads her to feel happy. I no longer just take them to appointments because if that's what it's all about then the only thing they can identify with is 'I am sick and do nothing but see specialists when I'm not home'. I honestly think one of the greatest challenges in life involves developing the ability to manipulate our own brain. Becoming the master of it is one heck of a job, that's for sure. Personally, I've still got a long way to go. 🙂

Sounds familiar. The problem is mum is stuck in this mindset that she can't enjoy anything until all her uncertaintities have been dealt with, which at her age is not going to happen. We used to go out to lunch to break things up. Now the only time she goes out is to medical appointments or the hairdresser. The only outlet she has is reading novels.

Hi David


So very frustrating for you and understandably so. Can be so hard to lead others to feel anything other than fear, stress, anxiety and/or depression. Do you think leading your mum to become more conscious of feeling through her senses could makes some difference at all? The following sounds simplistic but I can't help but wonder. A few examples: When sitting outside in the sun, 'Do you feel a sense of peace and warmth when you lift your head toward the sun and feel the rays touch your face? Tell me how the sun leads you to feel'. When being in a garden, 'How do you feel the smell of the flowers? Does the smell of the roses lead you to feel a sense of calmness or quiet joy within yourself? Tell me how the flowers lead you to feel'. 'How do you feel the view of new and colourful flowers freshly planted in the garden? Do you feel a touch of satisfaction every time you see them? Tell me how those flowers make you feel'.


While such things may seem like no big deal, technically they can supply moments of anything other than stress, fear, depression etc. If it takes 10 seconds to feel the sun or 10 seconds to feel the smell or sight of the flowers, they're 10 second meditations, where 100% focus is on something other than what's stressful, fearful or depressing. Perhaps 30 seconds in total expands to being 1 whole minute the next day or 60 minutes for the following week in total, after daily practice in the lead up. Perhaps it expands to seeking to feel more things, such as the wind on our face, the smell of a new perfume/cologne we felt the sudden urge to buy or the sight of things outside of our property. We go looking for things to feel.


I think when something stressful or depressing consumes our entire focus, we can forget about all the things we once loved feeling, all the things we once loved the smell of, the sight of, the taste of, the touch of and the sound of. Btw, I think sometimes it pays to be pushy. For example, if we're walking with someone and we say to them 'Stop and smell the roses' and they say 'No, c'mon let's keep walking', 'I'm not walking another step until you come back and smell them' can make us a difficult, challenging stubborn person who gets results. Some people are willing to do anything to shut us up, including stopping to smell the roses.


Can you think of anything your mum used to love the smell, sight, sound, touch or taste of? Maybe a lot of those things won't work under current circumstances. Maybe a couple will, combined with some new sensory stimulants to help shift focus. No need to aim big. Ten seconds at a time is a start. Ten seconds a day and then gradually up the dosage (of meditation).

The nostalgia of looking after several cats we had provided a lot of joy and laughter. She likes reading books because it takes her out of herself.

Hi David


Cat's are amazing creatures. I was raised to be a cat lover and have always felt a strong connection to them. I had a cat once that I swear knew when I was deeply depressed. It would often come and sit on my lap when I was really down. That cat brought me so much joy and I gave it so much love. They can definitely be quirky and amusing creatures. I get such a laugh watching a cat on a windy day. They seem to become pretty hyper and skittish, darting around the yard like maniacs. 😅


Maybe the books could offer your mum a chance for meditation, with you asking her stuff like 'What do you imagine the main character/s to look like?' or 'How do you imagine each scene in the book appear through your imagination?' or 'How do you imagine their voices sound?'. Some authors are brilliant, the way they bring certain characters to life, while painting such vivid pictures throughout their books. I imagine she has some favourite authors.