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Caregivers Who Have Lost Someone
One year has gone by
A year ago, Mother's Day fell on May 13. That was the day my mom left dementia behind. My sister and I told her it was okay to leave. A year later, I still find myself letting her go, taking her back, letting go again, and on it goes.
In the past year, I have lived my life without Mom, adjusting to not needing to be her care manager. It seems odd, but I feel like I've been slowly healing as if from surgery. Years ago I had chronic, severe, unexplained pain. Scans and minor surgical procedures became a way of life for about five years, until finally a complete hysterectomy solved the problem. In the midst of searching for the cause of the pain, a small tumor was discovered on my kidney. It was too small to risk another surgery, but regular ultrasounds tracked it until enlarged to the size of a small marble.
The hysterectomy was preceded by tremendous pain, and of course the recovery was lengthy (a complication kept me in the hospital for three days and prolonged recovery). I understood why I had pain. Months later the surgical scar and surrounding area was still numb, but at times would itch like crazy. There's no stranger feeling than that of nerves knitting back together! When I had the tumor removed a few years later, I had no preceding symptoms. The tumor was painless and silent, and I would never have been aware of its presence if it hadn't been discovered by accident. The recovery, though, was rough. I remember thinking, "How stupid is this! I can't even feel relief from pain, because I had none, but now here I am suffering!" I tried to compare my second surgery to my first one, and there was no comparison.
This is how I feel about the year that's passed since my mom's death. It feels like the surgical incision that is healing from the inside out, alternating between numb and sore. It also feels like the second surgery, where the pain afterward was such a shock. The anticipatory grief I felt for years while caring for my mom is different than the grief of losing her, but it's still painful. Any sense of relief , if it exists, is swallowed up by the pain. Healing comes later, in stages, but there is always the scar as evidence.
Maybe that sounds silly, or maybe it sounds familiar. Anyway, thanks for reading this far.
Your description of your surgeries and comparison to healing from your loss makes a lot of sense. And, definitely not silly. It's actually a very good example of what happens to your body when you have surgery and how healing from the death of a loved one feels so much like the trauma your body went through followed by healing.
I thought that after a year it some how would be easier. Maybe that's the wrong word. I don't know. I just know that the void is with me everyday and I don't feel complete. I do my best to put one foot in front of the other and to enjoy my loved ones that are with me. It's still one day at a time.
Thanks, Wendy! It is difficult to describe what this first "anniversary" feels like.
A few weeks ago I finally closed out the last of Mom's bank accounts. Her estate totaled $40.00, and my state "graciously" let me keep the money. As I was sitting in the bank going through the process of closing everything, I had that all-too-familiar sense of finality. It's so odd to me that several years ago I set up Mom's final arrangements and purchased a pre-paid funeral plan with a matter-of-fact, business-like attitude, feeling nothing but a sense of relief that it was taken care of, but a year after Mom's death I cried like a baby after closing her bank account.
I thought about what to do with that $40. It seemed so important that I spend it "right", and honor Mom with it. I realized that if she were there and we'd gone through that together, we would have gone for coffee. Every time we went out, especially if we did something momentous or challenging, we got coffee. Even in the late stages when she did little more than hold the cup because she had forgotten how to drink from it, getting coffee brought a big smile to her face. I often took her a small one just for that reason. When we had to visit the hospital for an appointment, we always stopped at the coffee shop for something to drink and a snack while we waited for the valet parking service to bring the car. Here in the Northwest there is a coffee drive-thru on every corner, and we were regulars at a few of them. So, I went through the Dutch Bros. drive-thru and sobbed my way through a coffee order, went home, drank a caffeinated toast to Mom, had another good cry, and felt much better.
Now as I emerge from the fog I feel like I've been in and out of, I'm finding things to do that I enjoy. It's like I have to give myself permission, but I'm doing it. My garden is bigger than ever and I'm excited about what we're planting (even though my husband has gone overboard, due to his decreasing abilities...another story!). I finished my degree and have taken on more responsibility at work. We took a vacation last fall and are going again in July. I agree that enjoying the loved ones we have with us is important! Thanks for the reminder!
First, my condolences. I'm so sorry for the loss of your mom and the hell that went before. The visible and invisible scars. I'm glad you're here on this forum: you are not alone, and there are many wise and comforting voices here.
Your post resonated powerfully with me: my mom passed November 27 (so we're not quite to the half way mark), and for months it has felt almost exactly like the post-surgical pain I had after a colon resection two years ago. I am grateful you shared because I understand exactly what you mean. There are times I double over and there are times I just feel empty and tired. And I'm writing now just to let you know I hear you and I understand, and I offer a hug through virtual space.
Thank you for sharing. I just want to say I understand.
Amy, thank you for your kind words. I'm glad I was able to be of some encouragement. The six-month mark was very difficult, and I'll be thinking of you as yours approaches.
MPSunshine, I've been thinking about you and wondering how you are as your one-year anniversary approaches. For me, there was a week, about three weeks before the one-year date of my mom's passing, where I was a basket case. I'm not really sure why that was.
Thank you for your encouragement, Tink. Outside of caregiving, working on that degree was one of the most challenging things I've done! Toward the end I felt like I would never get to the finish line. I was so glad to be done, especially with the math portion, which took me a while to get through. On one of my last classes, I realized that one of the other students was the aide who had taken such wonderful care of my mom during her final days. This class was a lab, with no interaction between the students; we went in, sat in front of our computers, did our math work, and the instructor moved from one to the other providing assistance. I heard this woman's voice from across the room, and thought it sounded familiar, but couldn't place it. One day I heard her name and as I left got a good look, and I realized who it was. I can't believe I didn't notice this until the end of the term!
Debbie, what a great analagy and a great way to honor your mom with her $40. I am so sorry about your pain. I can't take it from you, but I can include you in a meditation of peace today and hold space for you. May you feel a sense of peace and a sense of community in this difficult time.