Class 1: Your Regrets and Your Honor
I resolved a potential relationship ending resentment in the reality that my brothers lived on the opposite side of the country while I was a caregiver for our parents. In honor to honor the memory of our parents and their belief in the strength of family, I knew I needed to forgive their absence and accept that the past could never change. What I could change in the present was my future. I wanted my future to contain strong family bonds with my brothers, who now were my only family. If I were unable to forgive and accept the past and their roles in it, our future relationships would wither. With resolve and conviction, I made maintaining and strengthening our relationships my number one goal in all matters going forward with them. That mindset allowed me to now, two and a half years later, to be closer to them than I ever was previously. I know that our parents would be extremely proud that we are together in such healthy and supportive ways.
I feel honored to have cared for my parents because it allowed me to complete the circle of selfless giving that they extended to me. What they gave was received. And now, I can continue to honor their selfless giving by making a career out of helping others who are in need of emotional support during their caregiving journey. Around and around we all go.
I lost my husband a year ago to brain cancer and my mother two months ago after a bad fall, so my grief is all over the place.
I regret with my husband that I tried to make the last 10 months of his life about me, rather than about him. I wanted him to be focusing on me and helping to make memories that I could hold onto for the rest of my life. He had severe depression that he could never break through, despite the good things that were happening as far as his treatment went, so he couldn't really see past himself, although he knew what I was asking--he just couldn't offer it.
With my mom. I regret that I didn't acknowledge to her that sometimes my erratic behavior towards her was a manifestation of my grief over my husband, and not really about her. I never thanked her for her patience and love when I wasn't handling things very well.
These are amazing insights, Linda. You had so much to navigate in such a short amount of time. I can understand how the stress and the worry just took hold of you. So much was slipping away from you and there was no way to hold it. I hope you can hold yourself graciously and gently. You really and truly did the very best you could under the most difficult and trying circumstances.
Tell us a regret you resolved,
• I regret taking David to the hospital that last time. I should have honored his wish to stay home and die there. But I have to give it up because it is done and over.
• I regret having kept so much of my Mom’s illness from my brothers. She didn’t want them to know how sick she was, so I respected that. In the end two of my brothers felt that I allowed her to get so sick and didn’t advise them what was going on. They feel/felt that I was to blame for her death. I know in my heart that I did everything I could humanly do for her.
Tell us why you feel honored to have cared for your caree.
• I feel honored in each case to have been trusted to do what was right in regard to their care. Some of the people that I was a part time caregiver to were not family members or really close friends, but people I met in the nursing home where I worked or the housing projects that I managed. These were people that were alone and had little or no visitors and I was pleased to do little things for them.
I regret not moving my mom to hospice sooner. There were signs that her body was shutting down and the hospital staff was recommending rehab after a fall. They also insisted that she wear a very confining and painful head, neck and upper body brace to prevent my mom from moving her head. I regret not heaving that brace removed sooner when she obviously did not have the strength to move. I regret not being with her when she drew her last breath. My daughter and other family members stayed with her so I could take a break. Mom passed after I left her hospice room.
I resented that most close relatives in our very large family never came to visit mom during the five years that I cared for her and never even called to ask how she was...and she frequently asked me why no one came to visit her. It was very sad for a woman who extended herself to support everyone in our family in time of need. I do feel some comfort that most of them did come to visit her either in the hospital or in the hospice facility before she passed.
I felt a lot of emotions in caring for mom, and I am grateful that I got to know the woman behind the mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and cousin roles she played over her 87 years...a funny, witty Italian-born woman who experienced good times and bad, love and loss, health and illness, leaving her war-torn country and married at age 17 to start a new life in the U.S., and learning a new language and culture, and working several unskilled labor jobs to help support her family. Family was always most important, and as her other brothers and sisters and parent emigrated here, she helped them all get settled, sign up for night school to learn English, helped them look for employment and how to navigate the local transit system, and babysat their kids when she was needed. Mom was widowed at age 47 after my dad passed from cancer. I believe it was a blessing that my daughter was born just two months later; that gave mom a new role and purpose to transition into. My dad was difficult and abusive, so in a way mom was starting a new life of peace and joy. She spent seven weeks getting to know her new granddaughter and they established a bond that lasted for almost 40 years. Over the years, mom babysat and provided housekeeping and cooking services for families in her neighborhood. She was loved and considered part of their families.
Later, in her senior years, she cared for my disabled brother who suffered from the ravages of diabetes, helped care for her mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and her older brother Joe who also had Alzheimer's. She was always the one doing the caring, and it was difficult at first for her to accept that she now needed care. I was honored to be able to provide that care to a selfless woman who cared for so many in her lifetime. She never complained and was grateful for all I did for her. She taught me unconditional love, patience, and how to deeply care for others.
At the time that I stepped up to care for mom, I was depressed and worried about where I was headed with my life. I had financial problems, had gone through a divorce and bankruptcy, and did not feel a strong sense of purpose. Well, for the past five year I had a clear purpose...to keep my mom in her home as long as I could and to make sure she was comfortable and well cared for. T
he consummate Italian cook gave me pointers on how to make her favorite dishes, and tried to help as best she could. She offered the same when my cousin Beverly stayed with mom for a few days each month to give me a break. They really enjoyed their time together. Beverly helped out until she developed her own health issues.
I am proud of the way I researched and did what needed to be done, especially in coordinating paid caregivers to stay with mom when I needed time for appointments or family commitments. It would have been nice to have other family members step up to stay with mom but that rarely happened. We went through several agencies to find competent, caring providers, but, as my mom said, "They are not you." I did manage to find a lovely, caring woman who had been a live-in caregiver for a friend's mother. She was able to help most times over the course of three years, and mom enjoyed their time together.
The care giving experience showed me that I do have worth and am capable of many things I thought I could never do. I have knowledge, curiosity, and the desire to get things done. My old habit of procrastinating was non-existent in caring for my mom. I developed a schedule that worked for both of us and tweaked it when necessary. Now that I am no longer in that role, I cannot believe all that I did in a day. Mom passed in December 2018, and it took me a while to be able to relax and just be. As I am grieving and handling matters with her estate and probate, I am also anticipating what's next. Yes, I will spend more time with my daughter's family and my two granddaughters who are now 6 and 3, and I know there is more in store than just being a mother and grandmother.
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