I'm the ex-wife of a man who was diagnosed with melanoma about 6 years ago. We have three children together (a daughter, 18 and two sons aged 21 and 25) and we have both remarried. Last week we found out that he has multiple metastases (including brain) and so we're dealing with fear, shock, and all those other emotions.
I'm not sure of the best way to support my kids through this. The boys are living independently and seem to be doing okay (they have strong relationships and support) but I just don't know how to help my daughter, who lives with me and my husband but still sees her Dad. I am at a complete loss as to how to help. She is adamant that talking doesn't help (regardless of whether it's a family member or qualified counsellor) but she does not seem to be coping as she has had two episodes in the last couple of weeks (the last one requiring hospitalisation) where she melted down (anxiety/panic attack) but then refused to allow any conversation about it afterwards....
I am trying to maintain a very careful and sensitive balance between being 'emotionally available' to talk (or not), hug (or not), respecting her privacy (but still being able to guage whether she is not coping/suicidal), showing her that I care about her (without 'being in her face'), providing her with contact details of people/organsations that might help e,g CanTeen (while understanding her right to ignore those suggestions), accepting that her anger is understandable and that there is no 'right way' for her to grieve (yet feeling hurt and confused that she 'cries for help' then immediately rejects me) and dealing with my own fear and grief (which, as the ex-, I kind of feel 'ineligible for'....).
For example, she spent the weeked with her Dad (which was great since they hadn't spoken since his most recent diagnoses. She came home last night but sent a text beforehand saying that she didn't want to talk. So I respected that. After she went to her bedroom I waited a few minutes and then quietly knocked on the door and opened it slightly. She didn't even look up from her phone but said "I don't want to talk" and pushed the door shut. I was trying to say that I just wanted to give her a hug and was not trying to make her talk, but there was no point. So I felt sad but thought it would be best if I just left her alone. Then this morning I tried again about 10am (I work from home, and she is studying at uni). She did say hello (barely audibly) but then said she didn't want to talk and could I please leave. So I left. Several hours later I heard her in the kitchen so I thought she might find it comforting if I just went and sat near her with no pressure to talk. Again she said she didn't want to talk. I said "that's okay, we don't have to talk". Then she said "Well don't just sit there staring at me, then" and looked back at her phone. So I left, holding back the tears.
I find that I can't have conversations with her about anything at all. She appears to be actively pushing me away.
But previously when she's pushed me away and I've withdrawn, she comes back and angrily accuses me of 'not caring about her' and 'not taking an interest in her and what's going on in her life'.
You mentioned that you feel ineligible to feel grief for him given that you're the 'ex', but don't forget that you spent alot of time & love with this man, & just because things didn't work for you, doesn't mean you don't still have some feelings. He was a big part of your life for a long time, so you do have the right to feel fear & grief.
I feel for you being in this predicament, you've done everything you can for your daughter, but she is 18 & an adult, albeit a young one, so there is nothing you can make her do, even if it would be the right thing.
Talking always helps, but I think she is very scared that she will loose her dad & is looking to place the blame somewhere, & unfortunately, it looks like you're 'it'. Maybe you could get her father to talk to her about what's happening with him, and that even when he does die, (even if not in the near future), she will be alright. Life goes on.
At the end of the day there is nothing more you can do. You can't help those that don't want to be helped, but be there for her when she needs you the most, and she will need you - even if she doesn't want to admit it.
Please take care of yourself
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