My husband is dying, please don’t visit us

When you hear that a friend who is terminally ill is not doing too well, it’s hard to not want to

When you hear that a friend who is terminally ill is not doing too well, it’s hard to not want to visit them and offer your moral support. After all, you want them to know that you’re thinking of them and that they are constantly in your prayers.

If you just send a text message and don’t take time out of your busy schedule to visit them, what would they think of you? Does that friendship mean nothing that you can’t even stop by to say hi to a dying friend?

Apparently, a really good friend will never visit dying friend and only those who are selfish would visit someone who is nearing the end.

Michele Christie, who lost her husband Dick Mason to cancer two years ago, wrote a provocative and heartfelt open letter to those who visited her husband in his final moments.

It read: “Dear family, friends and acquaintances, you will all know by now that in the early hours of August 22, my beloved husband Dick finally died. You will not be surprised by this because during the final precious months of his life, as he suffered the unspeakable pain and awful indignities of terminal cancer, you visited him at our home in your droves.

“I counted the days between his diagnosis and his death. There were 150 of them. I wish I could say I’m grateful for your prolonged and constant visits to Dick as he was dying. But actually I’m not. On the contrary, I feel compelled to tell you now, as I wrestle with the raw grief of losing him, I feel only deep and abiding anger.

“I’m angry because you robbed us of our final days together. You stole from us five irretrievable months we had hoped to savour together, just the two of us. We had wanted to sit, to soothe each other, to talk, sometimes to cuddle. Instead we endured an invasion. More than 100 of you called and your visits were an intrusion,” Michele wrote.

“You may by now be feeling indignant. Doubtless you’ve convinced yourselves that your visits were prompted by a selfless desire to cheer up a desperately ill man. After all, you’d given up time from your busy schedules to sit with him and entertain him with stories of your own happy and fulfilled lives.

“And of course I know you grieve for him. I’m certain you feel his absence acutely. But I also believe that by monopolising him and draining him of the last dregs of his energy you were being insensitive and self-serving. You were encroaching on time that should have been ours alone — and for that I am finding it hard to forgive you.


“Our home, a Victorian lodge near Chulmleigh, set in 12 rural acres, in which our animals — alpacas, geese, ducks and chickens — roamed freely, was our haven. Dick ran his landscape gardening and fencing business and during his leisure hours he kept our house and grounds immaculate. I worked as a self-employed private nurse — I still do — and we asked for little from life, other than the joy we derived from being together.

“But when Dick became ill, it seemed as if he became public property. A grief which we had hoped to share privately suddenly became your business,” wrote Michele.

“We had no time to acclimatise, to talk, to hug, to cry. Because you, his well-wishers, had started to arrive. You came with solemn faces and empty words, or with brittle cheerfulness and idle chit-chat. Either way, you infuriated us.

“We wanted to be alone with our thoughts. Instead we were forced to be gracious hosts: me procuring endless cups of tea; Dick wearing a mask of bravery although pain often threatened to engulf him.

“Dick was, you all know, a generous, kind man. He would never publicly ask you to leave, but privately he would beg me: ‘Please, can’t you tell them all to go away?’ And I tried to, but you were too thick-skinned to take my hints. ‘He’s terribly tired today,’ I’d say, apologetic. ‘Would you mind making it a brief visit?’ And when, three hours later, you — and sometimes your exuberant children, too — were still crammed into our sitting room, I would look at Dick’s dear, brave, stoic face and want to weep.

“Then when you finally left, he would collapse. So there was no time for us to do as we wished; to hold hands, to cuddle, to quietly reflect on shared memories. And I bitterly regret the loss of those days we could have spent together, in our own self-contained world. When Dick was diagnosed, he was given between four and six months to live. That’s 120 to 180 days. He struck the middle course exactly. And during the 150 days he lived we had just eight days on our own.

“So I’m writing this letter to you all now, not only as catharsis, but also as a plea. I beg you all: please pause to consider, when next you have a friend, a colleague, a relative, a neighbour who is dying, what would they want? And I think you’ll find the answer is a little privacy; a modicum of normality; some peace to be alone with their nearest and dearest.”

How did this story make you feel?

  1. Lorraibe  

    Very hard to tell somebody not to visit

    • sue  

      My cousins wife was dying from cancer. I didn’t visit as I felt it would be intrusive as she had children and grandchildren visiting. After she died I enquired about the funeral only to be told I was not wanted. If I couldn’t be bothered to visit when she was alive I wasn’t wanted at the funeral. Damned if you do damned if you dont

    • Sarah Munn  

      Bless you for sharing.
      May we all find the will
      to uncover that which we must.

    • Sarah Munn  

      Bless you for sharing.
      May we all find the will
      to uncover that which we must.

  2. caros  

    All this woman had to say was that her husband was too ill and had requested no visitors. It’s sad that she has been left with these feelings of resentment. There’s nothing wrong with being assertive. People accept it and if they don’t … too bad.

    • Sandra Savill  

      As a nurse i would think it was part of her training to tell people that the (client) her husband was not up to visitors that day. And maybe make just one day a week for visitors. I know my father past away with cancer and it made him happy to have visitors.

    • Paula  

      I too nursed a terminally ill husband but I cherished friends and neighbours coming and visiting him.

  3. Bob BEVERIDGE  

    After reading that open letter, I now know, why I don’t WANT/ LIKE ” visitors ” !

    • cee  

      I am the same… I am happy with the company of my husband and son, and when I was diagnosed with breast cancer I just wanted them….

  4. gill  

    people come to pay their respects to you both. you should have said that you preffered to be alone. i understand your feeling as i was widowed 5 years ago. but many of your family and friends are probably feeling guilty and invasive and im sure when you need a friend they will hardly dare to visit after seeing this.

  5. Alison  

    After having a girlfriend who was on her own live with us in her final weeks, its easy to get the guard dog mentality. Just say no visiting between x and x and NO visitors after x – too late for this lady. If it does offend anyone they have to deal with it – dont take it on to your shoulders to feel for others. Harsh heck no, just ask anyone who does get offended – did you visit her/him so often for so long before you knew they were sick?

    • Elizabeth  

      It’s almost as bad as going to the funeral of someone you have not kept contact with in years. If you can’t visit occasionally when life is good, then stay away in the private sad times. I agree that this lady could have tried to have restricted hours, but some people are too nice and cannot bring themselves to be what they would think of as “rude”. I personally find it hard enough to go to see a family member in this situation, and shy away from funerals where I have not seen the people for a long time, or they are acquaintances only. A lovely letter or flowers or baking could assuage the feeling of guilt or obligation. Just my thoughts.

  6. Myrtle Abel  

    When I was in this same situation I just said to visitors no visits today or you can only stay a few minutes, everyone was very understanding.

  7. Teena Swinburne  

    I’m sure you’ll be left alone now. So sad you are so resentful now when you could have silly been a little more assertive at the time and spared your husband. I hope you find some peace.

  8. Bev  

    A brave lady. This does make me think of my beloved sister when she was dying and the extended family some I knew she didn’t want around her. This lovely lady has put into words for all of us to take heed. Visit while we are happy and well. Stay away when the end is near and leave those precious days to the immediate family. Support can still be given in a card or letter or perhaps a drop off of food on the doorstep without even disturbing the family. I wish this lovely lady precious memories and the strength to continue in the love of her family.

    • Glennis  

      I didn’t know how I felt when reading this letter. You have nailed it perfectly, I’m sure I will now be more considerate with friends who are not well. I also hope I can be strong if ever in this situation. Thank you.

      • Irene  

        I really appreciate what this letter holds. I believe if you can’t visit them when they are well you don’t intrude when things are looking grim. It’s only immediate family until told otherwise.

    • Janette  

      Dear Bev, that was a beautiful reply to a very wonderful letter. I’m sure people mean to be kind, but sometimes it seems more that they feel they “should” visit, or they will be thought unsympathetic. This lovely sounding couple needed their own time, .. I do hope the wife had some peace, and time to just be “herself”, ..though,. I feel that she sometimes thinks, “if only. … “. Just to have a small bit of time, just for them, together. We are all So different, aren’t we💞

    • Kay B  

      Well said Bev, beautifully said. I would be the same as Michele and just want peace and privacy when I could well imagine being bombarded with well-meaning others. Hopefully my 2 children would be there to hold the hordes back. I know many people who think they are doing the right thing at such times and it never seems to occur to them to simple convey through cards, emails or a meal on the doorstep.
      I also think after childbirth is a time to leave the new mother in peace unless she specifically asks you to come in. My hormones raged and I was an emotional wreck, but still the well-meaning came, undeterred by my husband and I would collapse afterwards, having felt forced to amuse and entertain for the duration of visiting hours.
      Please people, think twice before you feel ‘you should go visit’.

    • Mim  

      After reading some of the comments, I believe that it took a lot of guts for that lady to write this letter. I really feel for her and I don’t think that there was any malice, meant in it. It appears that; as they were running a farm, what would have been appreciated more, was for some friends to put their shoulders to the wheel and ask if they could do something like take over the workings of the farm, bringing food and making sure that they had what they actually needed, a cup of tea…..anything. Doing things that she was unable to do because she was attending to the personal care of her hubby. To watch a person dying in excruciating pain, seeing the pain of those most close to him, is not a pretty sight and distressing for the person himself, who would just like people to remember him as he was before this illness emanciated him. Yes send a text or a card to let them know that your thoughts are with them. And after the person departs this life, then offer if there is anything that ypu can do to help. When my husband died, people flocked around for a little while, then I didn’t see them again. I appreciated the ones who did stay and offered to do things for me, that I didn’t feel like doing, nor had the heart to do. Put yourself in that person’s shoes and don’t knock the choices that she made when she wanted privacy. You never understand how you will react, until it happens to you. Just show respect and be kind.

  9. I feel very sad for you, but perhaps the visitors wanted to say goodbye to your husband.

  10. I personally would want family and friends to visit so I can have that short time to gather myself without feeling I am leaving my partner on their own. I can get all the little chores done and make myself a meal and then make myself presentable to my husband again without worrying if he is ok on his own.

    • I vividly recall, when my husband was terminally ill, his family arriving, laden with food items they had stopped off and bought on the way down – “Oh, will you keep these cool in your fridge for us, please?” And then expecting me to provide a meal for them all – no offers of help, food, anything. No way I could have any time to myself! And yes, I AM full of resentment!

  11. Yes she will be left alone now with huge resentment eating into her grieving time. I half understand as I had a similar experience but was able to filter out those whom my husband genuinely wanted to see and those who were just doing their duty. Most people were sensitive enough not to stay too long and I did treasure the precious time we had together. However I yearned for companionship after he died and never felt so alone in my life. It is wonderful three years later to be feeling normal again – but of course, like all of us who have lost a loved one, I would give anything to have even an hour with him again.

  12. Ann  

    When my husband died 9 years ago in the months before he died we had lots of visitors, prior to that we hardly had any, everyone used to think it was too far to travel, 1-2 hrs from Melbourne, he would say to me I’m obviously dying sooner than I thought with all the visitors. I would just tell people he was asleep and couldn’t be disturb. As for the lady saying it was her time to to spend the remaining time with him, what about his children didn’t they deserve those precious moments, also his siblings death can make you very resentful, but you can’t cut close family out of their remaining short time, I loved my husband dearly and we did have our special moments together but we would never have driven our children or his siblings away after all it is mainly those people that he shared his life with, a good friend would understand and ring up to see how he was. So there are no bitter feelings about who visited because those very people helped me through the emptiness after he was gone.

    • Catherine  

      Totally agree – i nursed people who were extremely sick and they complained that their friends had stopped ‘popping’ around – yes limit the time to 1 hr but never stop people visiting – they can make a drink if they want. They can bring food if they want, they can ask if something needs doing if they want but they all should respect the 1 hour max. And not make platitudes. My hubby is terminal right this very minute and i will never stop any of his friends or family visiting they need to make more memories as well. After all i get the evening to hold him close.

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