“You’ve Got to Let Him Go.”

let-go-balloon

My purpose in discussing the subjects most people don’t talk about is to bring them into the light. In past times and still in many cultures traditions are passed down through families that guide people through all phases of life, including the dying process. Not in my family and maybe not in yours.

One of the best things that happened toward the end of my husband’s life was that my lovely friend, Cathy, called me. I’ve known her for thirty years. We’re in touch about once a year now, and it’s often because she has a feeling something is up. I swear, she has an ear to the earth like animals that know when an earthquake is about to happen. She asked how I was, and I said, “not so good.” I told her how ill my husband had been. She said, “I know, that’s why I’m calling. You’ve got to let him go.” I asked her what she meant and she said he was holding onto life because he didn’t want to leave me. He was suffering more because I was not telling him I would be OK when he goes. I needed to release him from his need to be there for me.

Now I felt guilty! He was so thin and weak. She was right, I was torturing him without knowing it. I felt awful. It had been five years of gradual diminishing health. I had wondered how it was possible to hang on so long. My mother had done the same thing five years earlier when she was dying of cancer. She didn’t want to leave the people who had needed her all her life. If only I had known then, I could have helped her pass more easily.

So, how do you let someone go? Someone you love that you don’t want to lose? For Cathy it seemed simple, “Just tell him you’ll be OK.” Not so simple for me. What if he thought I didn’t care enough anymore, or that I didn’t want to go on taking care of him any longer? That would be awful.

I decided to talk to him about each of his significant relationships. He had six children, a brother, grandchildren and me about whom he might have unresolved feelings. We sat on the sofa as we often did, holding hands, and I brought the subject up by telling him I was wondering if there was anything that needed to be talked about that he hadn’t mentioned but would like to get into the open. We went through the family one by one. He was comfortable with each, he said. I asked, as delicately as I could, how it was that he was surviving, with hardly any nourishment, no strength anymore and so much discomfort. He said, “I don’t want to leave you.” My heart sank. Cathy was right.

We talked a while longer. I hope I told him all the things he needed to hear. I’ll never know. I did my best to make sure he knew how much he was loved and appreciated. That I would miss him terribly, of course. But, that I would be OK. It would be hard, but I was a survivor, he knew that. We didn’t talk about it again. That was a few weeks before he passed. I’ll never know how much the conversation had to do with his finally letting go. I’m glad I had the opportunity to hear what was going on in his mind so near his death.

I am very grateful to Cathy for being the wonderful friend that she is to me and so many others. I hope my story resonates with Caregivers who are in a similar position. My husband’s passing was the third of five I witnessed over a span of eight years and with each time I learned a little more about how to ease the process for my loved one and myself. In my next blog, Thursday, I will talk about the dying process again. This time I had more knowledge and a better feeling myself about dying.

Until Thursday next, I wish you love.

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Responsibility and Dying

responsibility

Caregivers are constantly making decisions that effect another persons life; everything from what clothes they should wear, what they should eat, what medicines to give them at what time, when to call doctors and what financial and legal issues need attention, to name a few. They are often dealing with the emotional and mental health of their loved one as well as the physical. In my earliest posts I wrote about “Sundowning,” “Schizophrenia” and other trials by fire that I and many Caregivers march through along with the person for whom we’re caring. Caregivers take on tremendous responsibility including, often, helping a loved one, emotionally, through the process of dying.

If you’re like me, the care of another just fell to you. In my case, three times. Over the years I never really stopped to think about why I was in charge of different people’s lives, I just was. I didn’t think about the huge responsibility either. I imagine most of my readers who are Caregivers don’t stop to think much about their situation, they don’t even have time for that. They just do what needs to be done to the best of their ability on a daily basis. Their hands and minds are busy.

I did discover that there were some very important issues to deal with that I was not clear on in those early days and looking back, today I would do some things quite differently. Those are the things I would like to share with my readers in the days ahead. I want to talk about letting a loved one go when their time is near. About how to deal with the process of dying. There was no one who told me what I needed to know so I could be prepared to do my best for my loved one as well as for myself. The process of dying does not need to be frightening for either party. It can be a beautiful experience if you are prepared.

I’m going to tell stories of my own experiences and growth in hope that you will be more prepared than I when your time comes to deal with death. I wish I could be sitting around a campfire with you and we could share what we have learned. Until then, I’ll pretend that the campfire is glowing as I write and maybe you’ll send me your stories. There’s so much for us to learn from each other.

See you online next Monday.

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Bold and Stretch

Impossible-unattainable-

When does change happen? If you keep to your routine, life will remain pretty much the same. If you’re taking care of a chronically ill person, things may look different from year to year, but, daily, things don’t seem to change much. That’s where it’s hard for many caregivers. The routine can get you down. You can experience a glass half empty view of your life. It can create a downhill spiral into depression and we don’t want to go there. It’s extremely important to shake things up whenever you’re feeling down, from routine or anything else.

I am a self-proclaimed basket case when forced into routine. It’s been like that as long as I can remember. The thought of routine causes a negative physical reaction in my body. It took half my life to recognize the malady, but once aware, I started consciously devising ways to change things so routine wouldn’t feel like routine, if that makes any sense. I’m revealing this so you know that my suggestions come from a place of vast experience. I had to find solutions because the alternative was unthinkable.

If you’re feeling like things are monotonous, I suggest that you step out of your comfort zone. If you’re bold and stretch yourself a bit, you will cause a shift in momentum that will move you forward in your life. When you’re moving forward, you don’t feel depressed. You’ll feel invigorated. You become more loving and creative. Love and creativity are everything.

There’s always something that’s the prominent issue of the moment; something that’s on your mind more than other things. Think of at least three issues that have been popping into your consciousness lately. Write each on a piece of paper and study them with the intention of deciding which one you might do something about first. It can be a practical or emotional issue. Maybe you’ve postponed talking to someone about solving a problem. It can be something that you’ve been thinking of creating or been dreaming about.

It’s best if you choose something pleasant if you’re really down. You’ll know which issue to start with by how your body feels when ideas come to you. Think, how will I feel if I get that done? How will it feel to be doing something I enjoy? It’s your body telling you when you’re down, so let your body tell you how to feel up. So pick one, and without giving yourself time to back out, move physically to start action; make a phone call, decide what you need for the project by making a list, walk outside and think about your strategy or my favorite, take a shower and let the ideas come into your head as you create your new project. Then act, always act. The action, first with baby steps, will distract your conscious mind long enough to get it started in the right direction. Now, follow through to complete the task. Follow through!

Now don’t you feel better just knowing you have a solution? You’ll never have to worry about getting down for too long when you have a strategy for keeping your glass half full.

I wish you love and creativity.

 

 

P.S. You may think that you’ve read this post before and that’s because it’s one of the first to appear on my blog. As I revisit older posts, I hope that they will bring you comfort and insight.

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