Monday, December 15, 2008

Does Grief Ever End?

On this day, about this exact time, three years ago I was literally watching my Mom die. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Sept 1st, 2005. On Dec 15th, 2005 she seemed fine at 8:00am, happy and laughing, but two hours later while my sister was helping her get up, she collapsed and had what I think might have been a stroke, or something similar. From that moment on she could not talk and her breathing became laboured.

The next few hours are stuck like a horrific, yet perfect tape playing in my head. She wanted to die at home. No doctors were to be called. My sisters and I were to experience her death with no idea about what it would be like. I would never wish this experience on anyone, but it was important to my Mom and my family that we support her wishes.

We all carried her into the room where the hospital bed had been delivered just the previous night, but people underestimate how hard it is to lift a person when they are semi-conscious. My mom was small, 5'2" and weighed maybe 100 lbs at her death, but three of us could not lift her high enough onto the bed. We were all freaking out, because we wanted to be delicate and treat her with respect love and kindness, but instead we were flaying around and failing at every turn.

We placed her on the floor and cried and cried, unsure how to proceed. My four little nieces aged 2 - 7 at the time were staring at Grandma, and kept asking what was wrong. We wanted to protect them to and told them to go play in the kitchen. They were all crying, scared of something they did not understand.

We decided to get her onto her own bed and get her under the covers. She was breathing strangely; slower than normal, but gasping loudly. Every breath sounded like both agony and a determination to survive. Should we call a nurse? What were we supposed to do? Was she dying? Or did she need medical attention?

Over and over again she had told us she wanted to die at home. I recognized the laboured breathing from the agonizingly slow way my Grandma had died. I was praying it would not be that painful for both my Mom and for all of us.

Mom could not talk, but after an hour and a half of shallow and frightening breathing we somehow understood she wanted to sit up. All of us lifted her up. I sat behind her, my sister's hugged her from both sides. Mom kept trying to say something. Over and over she tried to make words come out of her mouth, but it was impossible. She was exhausted with the attempts to speak. I told her to lean back into me. I would hold her. She relaxed and leaned into me. She could hear us, but could not communicate.

My sisters and I told her how much we loved her. We told her we would see her again. We all let her know we would take care of each other. "Mom, it is okay to let go. We know you love us. We know you will always be there for us. We will always care for and love each other. It is okay to go". She took two shallow breaths and passed away.

It was , and still is, the worst day of my life. I hate this day. I hate that she was taken away from us so young. I hate that evil people live forever and a person as good as my Mom had to die. I hate that the world makes no sense, that if there is a God how could he let this happen? I hate everything about this month. I hate it that my Mom is gone. My Mom WAS Christmas. She epitomized the holiday spirit. Without her this whole month just feels like hell.


Anonymous said...

I'm so so sorry for your loss and your grief. I don't think grief ever does end, but somehow we find a way to move on. Not get over it, just move on.

My father died 11 years ago in January, and the whole month of December before he died was horrible. Needless to say this time of year is not my favorite either. I loved my dad and we had such a great relationship. He didn't deserve to die in the way he did, just like your mom didn't deserve to die like she did.

It just sucks, and there isn't anything we can do about it really. I guess we can learn coping skills, but the pain will always be there.

I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

Oh Aqua, I have tears running down my face for you. Really cannot think of anything to say, because that is so terrible, there are no words, are there? No one should have to go through that, and you are so strong for doing so.

Thinking of you, and wishing things could be a little easier.

Lola x

Polar Bear said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Aqua. It sounds like such a horrible thing to go through. I can't imagine how hard it would have been for you to watch her go.

I'm thinking of you at this time. I hope you will find some comfort in knowing that you did what your mom wanted.

michelle said...

What a powerful account of your last hours with your mom. I can't image that grief that comes with the loss one's mom ever gets easier. I was holding my nana's hand when she passed and it was one of the hardest and most emotionally moving experiences of my life. To have the strength to be there and hold your mom is an amazing display of your self-sacrifice and utter love for her.

I will keep you in my prayers this week and hope that somehow you can find a moment of peace to hold onto.

Border Life said...

Aqua, this sounds like such a difficult experience. To quote William Styron, it sounds like "It was a moment that was depthless and inexpressible." With what your mother means to you, it makes sense that you have such feelings of loss and grief. I hope you do find comfort that she was surrounded in her bed, in her home, with family, and well loved.

Does grief ever end? For me, I grieved for many years at a loss. Resistance was misery. It took a level of acceptance to diminish the painful feelings and make come to a peace. I don't know how to "turn the mind", as I can't generalize this acceptance and apply it to other situations.

I am so so sorry you are in this pain. My heart goes out to you. I wish I believed in God if only to be able to pray for you. Please accept my empathy, I hear you.

Anonymous said...

Aqua, I am saddened by the loss of my own Mother at Christmas time and feel such pain for your experience. I think grief changes and as part of that change it can become less traumatic. I hope this is the case for you.

Aqua said...

Thank you for the support. It means so much to me. I'm in a daze right now, like my life has become a surreal and horrific experience I am meant to somehow survive, when all I want is to disappear forever. I miss my Mom so much.

Anonymous said...

still thinking of you A


Lola xx

jcat said...

Oh A, I am so sorry that it is still so hard for you, and I admire you even more for having the strength to be with your mom and let her go the way she wanted to go.

Lots of love,

Anonymous said...

hey, my mother passed last year on 7th july 2011. my experience was totally different. My mother pushed us all away including my dad. She passed away from kidney and heart failure as well as diabetes. during her time in hospital she was extremely difficult, she would physically attack me and make me out to be the bad guy when ever any one visited when i was there. I know she wasn't herself but that is my last memories of her. I miss her soo much and because i have young children iv cried near enough every day since where they can not see me like the shower or when ive gone outside for a cigarette. I hate feeling this way and i want it to end, but it won't go. I seriously don't know what to do. my biggest regret is that i wasn't there when she passed, despite wanting to be. Due to my caribbean culture my aunts uncles and my dad told me not to go to the hospital because my mum would stay if i was there. To this day I have regretted that and i wish id have gone just to say good bye.