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effects of losing a parent to cancer on relationships

Posts: 1
Joined: Apr 2007

If anyone can advise me in any way, I would sure appreciate it. My boyfriend of the past 8 months lost his mother to breast cancer 6 years ago (he was 21), and while outwardly he appears to cope very well, I am finding out he has some deep-seated perceptions that I, never having lost a parent, find difficult to understand.
It has taken 8 months for him to really open up to me to a point where I do not constantly feel like he's holding back, but he recently told me that he is uncertain that he will ever allow himself to consider a future together because he is afraid to be as close to someone as his parents were to eachother. He says this is because he saw the pain his father went through when his mother dies, and he still percieves his father as being in pain every day (though this is possibly true, it appears to be mostly a projection of his own inability to cope). He says that he is afraid that if he really loves someone they will leave or die and he will not be able to get past it, so he's not able to risk it, even though he knows this is not the healthiest way to react.
Not being in any rush, I am perfectly willing to be as patient as I need to be, which thus far seems to be the right way to deal with his fears. I simply wondered if this is a common effect of losing a parent to cancer, and if I am doing best by him to just listen, or should I be encouraging him to see a bereavement counselor?

Posts: 1560
Joined: May 2006


I encourage you to contact the American Cancer Society's National Cancer Information Center. Cancer Information Specialists are available 24 hours a day and can assist you with your questions. They can be reached at 1-800-227-2345 or by clicking on the "Contact ACS" link at the top of this page.

Take care and be well,

CSN Dana

Posts: 5
Joined: Mar 2005

Hi -
I agree with Dana that contacting the American Cancer Society is a great start. What your boyfriend is going through is the real life version of some of the old sayings like "grief is the price we pay for love" and "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all". They're old sayings and some feel they're trite, but they've been around for a long time because they're true. When you love somebody so much that you can't imagine a day without them, or love them so long that you've never known a day without them, life becomes quite difficult when they're gone. But having said that, he needs to work through his feelings with a counselor and recognize that it's ok to let go of some of the grief (he may feel that if he lets go of the grief that it means he'll stop loving his mother and he needs to know that's not true) and that he can (and probably should) let himself love somebody again.

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