Deal With It

It has been less than thirty days since my mother died. She followed my father by a little over four months. The odd thing is that I wrote about the differences in their deaths several months before they happened and was strangely prophetic. In my post Death After Life I wrote about my fathers impending death from Parkinson’s Disease. Four months later he died just the way I thought and hoped he would.

Several months ago I wrote one titled Que Sera about the fear I had over how my mother would probably die. Those fears were realized when she passed away last month.

You would think that by knowing these events were looming that I would be prepared for the aftermath. In writing this I hope that I can help others know what to expect when faced with similar circumstances.

With my father it wasn’t the way he died that I had trouble dealing with. It was the fact that it was my decision to let him go. Although he had a living will that specified what was to be done, for months I wrestled with the guilt that it was I, his caregiver, that made the decision to stop feeding him and let him go.

This was what was stipulated in his living will. This was what he wanted and I knew that the guilt I was carrying from the irrational thought of I “killed” him was ridiculous yet it was there. As time crawled by rational thought returned.

We knew when Daddy was going to die almost to the day. It was a peaceful and glorious event to witness and I thank God that I was able to be a part of it. In turn we knew that Mom was going to die soon. My siblings and I actually spoke about it just days before to the extent that hospice was the topic.

We had worried that Mom was going to be a stroke victim and languish for months in a vegetative state. All the ingredients were there. Even Mom had told us that she wanted to die suddenly…” dead before I hit the floor” was the way she wanted to go.

Both my parents were devoted Christians and neither had any fear of death. Well she wasn’t dead before she hit the floor but it was close to it. For about fifteen minutes I struggled frantically to keep  Mom alive and when she lost consciousness I just held her and prayed out loud…”Father THY will be done”…because it was then out of my hands.

Hear is the dilemma I now face. When we were at Mom’s doctor several months prior I had asked for every tool possible to keep Mom alive when the next attack occurred. One of those tools were Epi-Pens, an injection of epinephrine into the thigh as a last resort. The doctor told me then that the use of the Pen would either save her life or kill her.

Mom died just a few minutes after I gave her the injection.

So here I sit again. The same feelings of guilt. I know that rationally it was a situation wherein death was inevitable. I also know that if I had chose not to use the pen I would constantly believe that I failed to do everything in my power to save her. I even know that she was prepared and ready, maybe even wanted, to die.

But I was not prepared for the aftershocks. I was not prepared for the fact that since I had been their sole caregiver for seven years that in fifteen minutes my entire life would change. It’s not just mourning the loss of my parents. It is the loss of my way of life.

Every minute of every day was structured around their care and then immediately your purpose and function in life are gone. Again I knew that was going to be a problem. I had written before that being an end of life care giver was a temporary position.

When you are familial care giver you are never prepared for the day that comes when you realize you are done. The only thing you can do is deal with it and apparently that takes time.

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18 Responses to Deal With It

  1. Mom has been gone 2 1/2 years now and I still think about the process every day. What could/should I have done differently? Really we have to let it go. It was in God’s hands right from the start. I am sorry for your loss. Savor the memories.

  2. Marie Taylor says:

    When there are big changes in life there is often nothing ‘to do’. It’s hard to give up being needed, to be without a center or focus. Patience without anxiety is needed until the next chapter is ready to unfold.

  3. kayga48 says:

    No one could have done as good a job taking care of them as you did Ed. They were blessed indeed to have you there and too have all of you there. Love you lots. Thank you.

  4. Zen Doe says:

    You already know what I’m about to say, but sometimes it helps to hear it from outside your own head. Both of your parents were incredibly blessed to have your love and care. So many people have neither, from anyone. God acted with you and through you in both cases at every moment and every step. There’s absolutely no doubt of that.
    In your struggle to process what has happened (and it’s a LOT to process) it’s absolutely normal to not only feel the tremendous loss, but to question how it happened. It’s also a given that you’ll be overwhelmed by the stillness in the house and your abrupt change of roles in your life. This is a hard time for anyone. Keep the faith. It will take time, as you say. Love and support coming your way from here.

  5. You’ve had to deal with so much in such a small amount of time, I can’t imagine the shock to your system in every way. My heart goes out to you.

  6. e1aine says:

    It does take time. Lots of it I’m afraid. I now no longer think about Dad every day (though I wish I did really) but when I do I tend to think of his life, not death.

    15 years so far and I only feel that the hurt has scabbed over not healed. But then my Dad was the absolute best Dad ever (as I’m sure your parents were), so I guess we don’t recover from their loss easily.

    I’m thinking of you.

  7. sally1137 says:

    Please take solace in the fact that you did what you could do and that you let the Lord’s will be done. You carried out your mother’s wishes and did what you could. It is terrible to lose a loved one. God Bless.

  8. Terry says:

    My dearest friend, your parents were the luckiest in the world to have you as their caregivers. I can relate to some of what you said as I laid and held my dad in my arms while he passed a way. Now I am dealing with my brother since Hospice has become involved. I am so busy with caring for him I am forgetting all the memories I want to build. When this is over, I pray God will give me a good deed to help another soul, as that is yours and my gift to others here on earth. Big hugs my friend, you did a wonderful job. It was not you that did anything, God said, it is time…………bless you my friend

  9. sandrabranum says:

    I think you’re a veteran; so you may want to think about opening your house to other vets, especially since it’s such a big house and you’re now alone in it. My son & I never had that option since all Mom’s property had to be sold due to the Medicare spend down for the nursing home care. If we’d been living in the house instead of renting one of her apartments this would not have happened and we could have kept the family home. Of course that would mean that I’d still be living in Cahokia, IL — with increasing vision loss — instead of Ozark, AL, and who knows where my son would be. My point is: God knows what He’s doing and backwards blessings come in the strangest ways. Yours will too, my blogging friend. Sending blessings your way

  10. Brother, I don’t know what you’re going through, but we are praying for you!!!

  11. Judy Kitchens says:

    Though your mind is being attacked with thoughts that you made the final decisions for both of your parents, actually you did not; they did. You were merely following their wishes. Any other choices would have resulted in prolonging the dying process while implementing their requests released them from failing earthly bodies into rest and eternal health.
    I was the one alone with mother when she went into congestive heart failure at the hospital. She had lung, liver, and pancreatic cancer; she refused any treatment and died within a month of her diagnosis. She was ready to go and we all knew it. So when the nurses said do you want to put her on life support I knew mother wanted no measures to prolong her life, if she was going then let her go. So that’s what I told the nurse and within hours she was gone. And yes, I had similar thoughts as you; should I have done something else, was that the wrong choice? Did I kill my mother? And they didn’t go away quickly by any means. But ultimately I reconciled myself to the knowledge that was what she had requested; she was FREE from her struggle on earth and full of joy in heaven. Eddie, you did what your parents wanted done, plain and simple. I never spoke with anyone for a long time about my feelings of guilt and actually you are the first person I have personally known to have had the same struggle. I hope you know you did what was best for them. I’m praying for you.
    Love to you all.

  12. I don’t ever think feelings are irrational. I’ve been told forever that my emotions are irrational… but they aren’t. They are just magnified a millionfold when I’m faced with a situation that is too big, too overwhelming for my tiny little brain and my far too large heart, to contain or process.

    Don’t beat yourself up for the way you feel because given the circumstances and the enormous responsibility that you had in caring for your parents, it was always going to feel this way… your job has been to keep them alive… and then your job changed, without your permission or even time for you to prepare for it, to assisting your parents on their journey to God.

    Deep inside, you know that you did everything you could – for them, not for you. You gave them their final years in a peaceful and comfortable, safe environment. They adored you, beyond words, for what you have given them, and I think every one of us who reads your blog considers you to be one of our own personal heroes.

    Building a new life takes time. As does grief. I think it must be a little like getting to know yourself all over again. That’s a scary prospect, but right in the middle of it is a shiny little diamond made up of all those things you always wanted to do, but never did because you didn’t have time. Your shiny diamond will start sparkling soon, and you’ll find new meaning again. This time, just for you.

    Big love, Ed x

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