I made a promise to myself to write every week. This was for me to explore my creativity and share it in a safe place. I came to realize Saturday mornings were the best for me to reflect and write. Today, the only thing I have on my mind is my mom. She passed away March 30 2017. I am not sure I am able to reflect and come to any insight really, because I am feeling quite lost, despite having been prepared for her passing. Last week I was able to reflect on the feelings of sadness and anger. That was so therapeutic for me and if it helped one person, I am thankful. Today, all I can think of is my mom and how to grieve in such a way that would honour her memory. To allow all the feelings that well up to come out and be released.
Stages of grief
I looked up the stages of grief. The article states that we do not necessarily go through these stages in order, so it is not a checklist. There seem to five stages and they are as follows:
- Denial and Isolation – Denial is how I dealt with the knowledge that my mom was diagnosed with bone cancer and then dementia/Alzheimer’s (I still believe that doctor’s do their very best but they have no real clue as to what the fuck it was, but that is not the point, and better related to anger). I actually wrote about that week. I was an expert at denial. Why feel sadness when my mom was so tough and strong. Look at the positive, blah blah blah. I think I made it through the denial stage. Rationalize and deny the reality of the situation – i.e. focusing only on my mom’s ability to smile, wink and kiss her loving husband back, despite her conditions. As for isolation, I am also starting to see that perhaps I may have isolated myself from many people. I am comfortable being alone so I may be isolating, but with family and work I do not feel isolated for the moment. What I feel is lost because I can no longer see my mother. I cannot visit her anymore. I became accustomed to her not speaking, because she stopped a while ago. But I was able to communicate by looking into her eyes, I saw her eyes speak, she would smile and wink on purpose. Her beautiful eyes could talk in health and sickness. I took it for granted my whole life until it was all I had left. Her expressions of displeasure annoyed me when I was younger. Honestly, I feel like a little girl and would give everything just to see her level me with one of her looks that she would give me when she was not thrilled, or one more wink. The last time I saw that was 8 days ago, she gave me such a beautiful smile and her eyes were so expressive.
- Anger – I also wrote about anger last week. I am comfortable with anger now. I may have gone through anger, but it comes back. Likes waves in an ocean, some are calm but there are times when I feel tidal waves of anger. This morning was one of those times. So I punched the hell out of my sofa cushion. It does feel good. It feels like release. I hope my sofa does not take it personally. I do love my blue couch. I really do, it brings me comfort, but it is also a great punching bag at the moment and makes the perfect amount of noise when I punch it. As the article mentions, some people get angry at the doctors, other people, inanimate objects (me). Apparently there is no time limit on grief and no right or wrong way to do it. My anger is my responsibility and I do my best to do no harm (except to my sofa cushion). I am thinking maybe I will contact a friend of mine who is a personal trainer. It has been in the back of my mind now for a while. Maybe I can vent this anger into a workout and release it in a way that will benefit me. I still believe in the breaking plates plan. The pieces will make a great collage to. It appears I have an adequate plan for anger.
- Bargaining – Also closely related and can lead to guilt. I witnessed my Mom’s loving husband go through this. If only he had done this, if only he had done that. Why did he place her in a home? In her mental state she believed things that were so painful for her and they were untrue. Alzheimer’s, what an evil disease. The whole family, and there are a boatload of us, have all tried to explain to him that guilt is futile and he has nothing to feel guilty about. The love I saw between my mom and him has literally shown me what unconditional love truly is. There is a price for that. Extreme pain and sadness when you lose that person. It was absolutely beautiful, but also heart wrenching to watch him with her. He has lost the love of his life. My daughter feels guilty about not visiting more, not expressing her love and appreciation more. However she did go visit with her 6 month old son, William. My mother did get to see him before she passed. The timing was perfect. My mother was aware they were there. There is nothing worse than feeling guilt about something that you cannot change but in addition, my mom now is in a place where she knows the truth.
On Thursday, I tried to bargain with the Universe. It was clear that my mom did not have much time left. My brother came back from his vacation early and I knew the signs were there. At work, I had proposed that I work at the office on Thursday morning and then leave to be with my mom. They accepted that. Thursday morning I was a mess. I was crying and needed to keep myself together to be as professional as possible. Until noon. I begged the Universe for help in this regard and to allow me to be there with her when she passed. She brought me into this world so I really wanted to see her through this. Then I talked to my mom. I recalled how she would tell me, I am there with you today, and I dedicate my day to you. We did that back then, through phone calls and conversations. So I said, I will get through this morning with you in mind, I am strong, I can do this and then to the Universe, please help me do this. It went exactly as planned.
I got the afternoon off and went to visit my mom. I discovered that we were allowed to spend the night. So I said, “I am not leaving here until she does.”
- Depression – According to the article, there are two types of depression, a reaction to the loss and feelings of sadness and regret. The second is more subtle as we prepare to say goodbye. Well, I am not sure I want to be depressed, so I may resist that. But I do feel sadness. As for regret, I will venture to say that I may regret many things about not appreciating my mother more, and not spending more time with her, but I did have a chance to talk to her about all that while she was healthy. I made amends to my mother to the best of my ability. We had a loving relationship in my older adult years. However, I did get to talk to her, alone, on Thursday evening. I told her that I should have gone to visit her in that home more often. We learn the lesson after it is too late, despite seeing everyone go through it for themselves. It seems to be a lesson learned the hard way. I told her I was sorry. I am at peace with that. I reminded her that she showed me unconditional love and I learned that from her. She was unconditional love at her core.
In preparing to say goodbye, we all gathered with her on Thursday. Her husband was there, as I was. At one point we thought she was leaving us. I watched him say the words “It is time to rest, you can go. Go see your parents, my parents and the angels. I wish I could go on this voyage with you, but save a place for me by your side. When I get there we can watch over all our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.” It was a beautiful thing to watch. He laid with her and I caressed her forehead as she did for me when I was little. We kissed her and showered her with as much love as we could. But she appeared to be fighting it. So we called my brother’s and they came, as did my step sister and her three daughters. We were all there, and thought that she was waiting for her family to be there. We were ready to say goodbye. She was not. Not yet.
The night before, my brother had spent the night with her. Since I was also spending the night, the whole family advised him to get some rest. That she would not be alone, I would be there. I promised I would call if anything happened. We all believed she would make it through the night and they left. I stayed with my mom. I told her we would have a sleepover. She always wanted me to sleep at their place. She often offered me to take a nap so she could cuddle me with blankets. I always refused. But on this day, I would stay and sleep with her. You would think that this lead to acceptance. But like the article says, these stages are not in order, nor a checklist.
- Acceptance- This stage is more difficult for people who must deal with sudden death. That is not our situation and for that I am thankful. I realize today that acceptance was also her own acceptance and is ours to deal with now. Terminally ill, I sense that she had some power in when she was going to leave. She resisted the whole afternoon and evening. They gave her what they do to try and calm her down. She seemed to be resisting. In her state, I am amazed she stayed with us for the time she did with those substances given to help with pain and to help calm her.
After everyone left, I laid with her and told her everything I had to say. I cuddled up to her. I massaged her hands and feet and put cream on her skin because the nurses said she liked that. I sang her the lullaby she sang to me as a child. I told her when she was ready, all would be well. I was with her and would not leave her. I thanked her for being the best mom for me. Then I started to realize she was in pain. The nurses came and moved her. It helped. But I did not like her breathing. I mentioned this to them and one nurse came to say goodnight to my mom. She loved her too. Then she explained to me how this breathing (more like gasping) was part of the process. Because I had promised to alert my family about any changes, I asked what signs I should look for. She explained that when there are long pauses between breathes, this is usually a sign. I thanked her for being so nice. I counted my mom’s breathe per minute. I was relieved when they were less intense. 33, 24, 17, then came the first pause. Then the realization that I was being given the sign. I contacted everyone, but in those final moments, her eyes were open and she was breathing calm breathes with longer pauses between them. I witnessed her final breathe, like a long sigh. My mom had passed. I was with her when she did, just as I had prayed for. She was released from here and is at peace where she is. I need to believe that. I need to believe that her spirit/soul is with us, around us. It is not too scientific but I need that to be true.
Leaving that room was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. While I was very much aware that she was going to pass and I am relieved she is no longer suffering and is in a better place, I did not plan on how to deal with never seeing her again. Ironically, accepting my feelings, her conditions and imminent passing took all the focus off this step. Praying for her well-being and release, I forgot to plan for dealing with this reality, no more visits, no more eyes, no more smiles, and no more mommy to see.
My mother was a woman with grace. She poured her heart and soul into everything. She gave her loved ones everything she had. She has taught me many things in life. She will live on in our hearts and I hope to be able to feel her around me. As for today, right now, I feel a bit calmer after writing this. There is a delicate balance between remembering the good times and breaking down crying as a result. Sometimes I can smile, while at other times, I feel completely lost. I will ask for grace. The Universe gave us beautiful moments this week and for that I am grateful.
Hopefully I will be able to write about happier, or funnier subjects in the weeks to come. Today, this is what I am capable of. So on that, appreciate loved ones while they are here. If they are no longer here, I feel for you. After writing all of this, I have come to the conclusion that there is no magic insight on losing a loved one. It is part of life. The greatest love will bring the greatest pain. The greatest life will end in death. The most beautiful ocean can be the fiercest, and can knock the life right out of you. But I still choose to love my mom, life and the ocean. To experience the one means you must accept to experience the other.
Seashells come to mind; they are a memory of life once lived. To me seashells are treasures as the memories of mom will be, even if they cause waves of tears to come. I love waves too.