Never Underestimate Grief

Last night I felt like such a fraud.   I’ve been on this blog saying how happy I am that my mom is in a better place, that she has told me she is ok, yada, yada.   Well as Easter has approached, a holiday that my mother LOVED, I find myself getting more and more depressed.

The last two days I have done something I haven’t done in months.  Cry uncontrollably in the shower.  The shower is a great place for crying, don’t you think?  I mean, you are already wet, you already look like junk, why not cry too.  Plus, you can’t be heard in there very well.  Perfect crying closet.

When my mom died, I had this crushing guilt over her final days.   My mom started having pain in her legs and all over her body, she began crying constantly, couldn’t stop.  She would call out all the time and pull at her legs.  Her swallowing became non-existent as well and she couldn’t hardly take her meds.  I found out later that this had been going on for several weeks, from my dad.     The only thing that would quiet her and give her some relief was drops of morphine, adminstered through a liquid in her mouth.   She was very sensitive to medicine, but hospice told us that the morphine was so light and such a small amount, that it would only make a person sleep.   Well, when they told us that the pain she was going through was the dying process, we relented in giving her more morphine.  This is common for people in their final days/hours, but I couldn’t get over the idea that maybe we were accelerating her death.   Hospice told me over and over that there was nothing that could be done and that if we took her to the hospital, they would try to use heroic measures such as feeding tubes (she couldn’t swallow), vents (for breathing) or intraveneous morphine (stronger than what we were giving her.)  My mom said many times she didn’t want a feeding tube, didn’t want to go to the hospital, didn’t want any of that.   She had a do not rescussitate on her living will.   She stopped swallowing, could not take her meds anymore, pills that, in essence, were keeping her alive.  So really, nothing could have been done more to help her at this point.

But I still feel like I didn’t do what she wanted.  I still have moments where I wish she could have told me what she wanted.  When her swallowing stopped, her ability to communicate stopped too.  She was crying as if she was trying to tell me something, but I never could get out of her what it was.   When I finally told her, after a couple of days, that they told us she was dying, she calmed down.  I think she just didn’t understand that this was the final fight.  She didn’t have to struggle anymore.   For someone who had lived through a terminal cancer diagnosis in her 20s, breast cancer in her 40s, heart disease in her 50s and 60s, just laying down the fight is hard to do.

My husband asked me the same questions I ask myself.  What if she had lived through this crisis?  She would have been in a nursing home the following week, and my mom didn’t want to go to a nursing home.   My wonderful husband also said, “God takes us in His own time.   You second guessing God?”  Sage advice from my hubby.

I guess my biggest issue is that I was unable to be at my mom’s side every minute that last 7 days.  I was there, don’t get me wrong, but for the most part my husband, my two uncles and my sister sat vigil.   My dad and I, after years of constant caregiving, and some of the hardest months in our lives,  just couldn’t watch it anymore.   I feel like I abandoned her when she needed me the most.  I still carry that with me, though I know, deep down, my mom has forgiven any weakness I might have shown in those last days, and knows that I did my best.

What I am saying is never underestimate grief.  It comes in lulls and bursts.  I have just had a burst.   My friend, who has lost both her parents, told me that the “firsts” are the worst.   First Easter, First Birthday, etc.

I discounted that early on, but not again.     I know somewhere my mom is trying to reach across the great divide between this world and the next and comfort me.   I will take all I can get right now, Mommy.  I’m sorry for my mistakes.   I did the best I could.

If I made some that I shouldn’t have, I guess she can admonish me in glory.  We’ll have eternity to commiserate about every detail.

Somehow I don’t think she plans to do that when I see her again.   Just not her style

Twitter, Short Attention Spans and Grieving.

I am standing up and saying for all to see, yes, I have a twitter account.  I am contributing to the glut of information we are already exposed to and the short sound byte’s of information that come through in an almost constant stream to the world.  People tweet about everything from important news events of the day to what color their child’s poo was that morning.  Sorry, I know that was nasty.  But it just shows you the craziness of our information age.    At least Facebook, though just as trivial, does have the ability to see a fuller picture of something.  Twitter is somehow an abbreviation of the already abbreviated way we communicate.    I find it difficult to sit through an actual 2 hour movie without messing with my IPAD or flipping to another channel during the commercials.  Was I always this way, or has the constant stream of information, tweets, texts, posts and blogs made me somehow ADHD?  To completely honest, I find it difficult to sit through a 1 hour tv show without doing the same.

I tried to think of all this in relation to my grieving process.  Grieving is a long, messy, drawn out process that takes years to totally work through.  Even at that you sometimes never truly get through it.  I know people, friends and family, that have grief come back on them decades after a loss.  So how does this fit in our twitter culture?  In many respects, it doesn’t.  People expect you to be over things quickly.  They expect that friend with the sunny personality or the quick wit to be there all the time for you and not be depressed or sick with grief.  What people don’t realize is that grieving isn’t a one-size-fits all situation.  Some people will move past things relatively quickly, while it takes far longer for others.

I am dealing with some of that right now.  I am on edge a great deal of the time and find myself physically and mentally exhausted more often than I ever remember.  I put it off to job stress, financial woes and a million other things that it could be.  But, to be perfectly honest, I think it stems back to grief.

Do I function day to day?  Yes.  Am I weeping in the corner every night?  No.   But grief is a subtle thing.  You put your trust and faith in God, and wade through the deep waters.  There are days you feel like your legs are mired in quicksand and you can’t move another inch.  You push and push until there is nothing left and then you push some more.  You mechanically move from task to task, appointment to appointment and make it through your day.

To Christians out there who think that people who grieve this nakedly are not relying on God enough for their strength, I have something to tell you.   This IS with me relying on God for all my strength.   I would be a frightening person otherwise.

Memory Lane-Good, Bad and Ugly

Last evening a good friend of mine from high school was here visiting his sick mother, so a few of us got together.  Some of these folks I haven’t seen in over 20 years.  Times like this are great while they are happening and its fun to reminisce about the old days and laugh about times gone by.  But for people like me, who think deeper thoughts than they really should sometimes, events like this bring up all sorts of feelings.

Though I am not what you call “old” by societal standards, you still realize how fast time goes.  Your parents always told you that time goes faster the older you get.  As teens you “poo-pooed” that and just wanted to be 21.  But, as with most things that they told me, they were right.    This morning I started thinking about how different a person I am from then, but then conversely, how little I actually have changed.    In some ways I don’t even remember the person I was in high school.  I was very outgoing, but down deep pretty insecure.  Aren’t most teenagers?  But then I thought, has that really changed?    Yes, I am more secure in myself now than I was then, but aren’t we all just nervous 13 year olds under the skin?

Grown women worry about what their friends will think of them and if they are too fat.  Grown men worry about whether the will be accepted by their peers or succeed.   The playing field may be different but the games we play with ourselves are the same.

My Mom was 65 years old and near the end of her life and she was still playing mind games with herself.  She said she was being punished because of how she took care of her Mother and Father in their failing years.  I thought she was nuts.  My Mom was the example of how to take care of your parents.  She did more for them than anyone else in her family and shaved years off her life doing it.  My Mom had a phobia about going to resturants and sitting alone because of something mean girls did to her in middle school.  She carried this into her late adult life.   Yesterday, as I got ready to go meet my friends, I worried if my thighs looked fat.

So when you chastise your young child or teen to not worry about what everyone else thinks, don’t be too hard on them.  Yes, its a good lesson, but remember before you teach it, “physician-heal thyself!”