Monday, May 12, 2008

Losing one's mother

A post entitled, Mother as Place, makes such sense to me.
Our mothers provide unconditional love, in a healthy relationship. This is why the death of our mothers has such a profound effect upon us. Mothers are our spiritual home and hearth. Mothers are there, even if only at the end of the phone, to listen to our woes, our travails, and soothe our troubled souls in the time of many of the normal and traumatic life passages we face as adults. I changed jobs and moved from city to a small town, to care for my ailing mother and father. It was no wonder that I entered into a depression. I was living in a foreign country, as it were. Not only that, but my new school board operated under a different culture than I was used to. I was swamped with change. However, after a lifetime of listening and providing only sought for advice, my mother and my relationship changed profoundly.

After a lifetime as a beloved “chosen” adoptee, and living a life of unconditional love, things changed. My mother supported me in the past in getting an education, in dealing with an unhappy marriage, raising three children. She saw me through a divorce, buying a small house on my own, and a joyful second marriage. There was no question that she was behind me. Once my mother had bravely fought her 5th cancerous lump, our relationship began to deteriorate. I knew we had to come to terms with this stage of life and read all I could. Mom wanted no part of research or literature. She followed physician and oncologist’s recommendations to the letter. She found a lump just before my 2nd wedding and put off surgery until our wedding was done. She had surgeries again in 2004, 2005, including removal of her lymph nodes, which led to lymphedema in 2006. She had radiation in 2005, chemotherapy in 2006 all the while suffering from colitis, poor hearing even with a hearing aid, wheat allergies (celiac disease), agoraphobia and a husband who had a brain tumour.

Living 430 km away was difficult and I insanely believed that we would both be able to participate in the dying process honoured so well by Elizabeth Kübler–Ross. We fought over her care regime, the condition of her house, my life path, and it was a shock to me. She was so ill, yet sentient, and seemed afraid that I had moved here to get her out of her house. The choices I made in moving closer to be of help to her were conscious ones, but she wanted no help. It makes sense to me now, having written and thought long and hard over it. We could not agree on having her accept home support. She refused such help until her last month of life (May, 2006).

Mom was in charge of my father’s care by long-distance and phone. She made decisions about his care that were contra-indicated with all of his comorbidities. On the phone she spoke to the oncologist and they decided that dad was to be swept up, taken to Toronto, given radiation, then, when the radiation didn’t take, being sent home to die with little in the way of home support.

I went into a depression and had no hope of getting myself help, since I was too depressed to reach out. I was isolated from friends and immediate family, and it ended up that my extended family seemed not to understand, for the most part. I was scolded, lectured and ostracized by various branches of my family tree. I gained weight, overate, became solitary and threw myself into solitude by the lake. At the same time, I was working in a job that was stressing me beyond all reason.

I look back now and I can honour my mother’s choices, and feel no guilt that I was not there when she died. She sent me from the room the day before she died – perhaps to protect me, I am not really sure. I felt anger once that she did not think me strong enough to handle this. Our views were different on death and dying. We both embraced a belief in the afterlife. We had strong beliefs that we would meet our loved ones in the afterlife. Mom was psychic to a certain extent and foresaw the passing of my uncle. Our faith in God was strong and family life included regular attendance at church. But when she was so ill, in pain and denial of her situation, things fell apart. I know I did the best I could at the time, with the information I had on hand. I will never regret the choices I made. I hope that in writing about them it will help others.

Recommended readings:

Kübler–Ross, E. 1997. Death: The final stage of growth. Carmichael, CA: Touchstone Books.

———. (1998). The wheel of life: A memoir of living and dying. Carmichael, CA: Touchstone Books.

Kübler–Ross, E., & Kessler, D. 2005. On grief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. New York: Scribner.

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