It’s never easy losing a loved one. The heart goes through so much pain that you feel you cannot breathe at times. You find yourself wishing that you could bring them back and the reality of knowing there’s nothing you can do, worsens the ordeal. Losing a parent is as painful as anything can ever be. Words can’t console you, and only time can lessen the pain, or so I am told.
If you simply cannot understand why someone is grieving so much for so long, then consider yourself fortunate that you do not understand.
I know I have written about my mother’s 4 1/2 year journey in the past. And I am certain I will again as my plan is to write a book about coping with dying, something nobody teaches us. There is so much to tell about those years of not only being her eldest daughter, but her advocate. This just touches upon the surface of how painful it truly is. I think the biggest part of the story is my denial of her painstakingly numbered days and I was helpless to stop the inevitable.
A dying parent is excruciating
I cannot even explain the physical gnawing pain watching my beloved mom go through so much suffering. On several occasions, I felt physically ill from the torture of watching her suffer so greatly. On what would be her final day, when her breathing changed, so did mine. I immediately went into a four hour, full-blown, panic attack. Something so frightening, I would not wish upon anyone.
I’d lay awake at night and wonder if tomorrow was the day her health would go from bad to worse. When your parent is dying, you die inside right alongside them.
A dying parent is exhausting
Shuttling between holding my home together, going to work, taking care of my dogs, attempting to have somewhat of a social life and checking up on my mother and keeping tabs on her condition, literally drained me at times. There were days that everything became overwhelming for me. I was also exhausted from worrying about what each day would bring. From the very onset, I would not sleep very well, constantly checking my phone several times per night to make certain I did not miss a call from her or her facility.
I forced myself to try to focus on other things. I longed for the days when our lives didn’t center on the ups and downs of illness and when I could selfishly call or see my mom and just enjoy her company and talk about life as we once knew it.
A dying parent makes you realize you’re selfish
Sometimes, I would find myself wishing mom would make just another holiday or birthday. At times, I think I willed her to live because I could not bear the thought of being without her. This train of thought can leave you feeling inconsiderate and self-centered.
I would secretly will her to hold on because I had made travel plans and was terrified something would happen while I was away. I’d find myself irrationally angry because the illness will eventually steal your hero and you can’t bear the thought of life without them.
A dying parent makes you worry about your own death
Death suddenly becomes very real, raw and you’ll be struck heavily by the inevitability. Thanatophobia is commonly referred to as the fear of death. I have struggled with this disorder since my mom initially became ill. It can be crippling causing psychological and emotional symptoms.
I have I prayed that I can face death with the grace my mother showed near the end. A dying parent means realizing that you, too, will someday be the one dying.
You’ll find yourself trying to absorb every detail about them
I recall watching my mother’s hands and trying to etch the lines of her palms into my memory. I would even stare at her frail veins which were more pronounced as her weight dropped. I would often try to absorb everything about her, dispositions and mannerisms into my consciousness. I wanted to remember everything.
It means breathing in their scent and praying that you’ll always remember how your hand fit perfectly in theirs. A dying parent means realizing that the earthly body you’ve loved fiercely will soon be one with the earth.
My story is one of unconditional love between a mother and a daughter. I shared in my mother’s pain, a situation I never expected to deal with. There are no rules for dealing with grief. You just have to get through it. Your friends will try to console you, but the words won’t really soothe the gnawing ache. Only time will heal it, but I have not quite experienced that yet. I still feel a suffocating void, some weird kind of numb. An unsettling mix of being lost and overwhelmed. I am a work in progress.
“A dying parent will teach you that there’s nothing a parent won’t do to make it easier for their child in the end. You will hear your dying parent say, ‘I’m ready,’ and even though you aren’t, you’ll let go of the hand that you’ve held since you were small. When your parent finally finds peace, you realize that your parent is still teaching you about life.”