Grieving before Death
“I lost my mom years ago.”
When I read that line in an article some time ago it occurred to be how accurate that is. And that I feel the same way. My mother is still alive and still very lovable. Our family is blessed that she is as sweet as ever, still full of laughter and kindness.
But my ‘mother’ isn’t there. The mother who comforted, kissed our wounds, hugged us to make us feel better, left somewhere along the line. It’s one of the hardest parts of the disease in my mind. It’s when I started grieving.
The realization struck me was when my husband died at age 65. Usually Mom would have been right there, holding me, comforting me, cooking, doing anything and everything she could to help. When I called though, I spoke with Dad, not Mom. When I saw her soon after that she was as friendly and cheery as ever, but some part was missing. It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s best to say that the look in her eye that a mother has for her children wasn’t there anymore.
There, but not there
I don’t mean for this to sound like it’s all about me. The disease takes a greater toll on its recipient. However it is a blow in the midst of the Alzheimers or dementia disease. It’s just so striking and painful to realize that the one who first loved and cared for you isn’t there anymore, even while your mother is still living.
In a way, it’s similar to the feeling you get when a loved one goes through a long illness that is terminal. You often have months, even years, to watch that person gradually become someone else, whether it’s weaker, more dependent, less able to cope. Mentally and physically the change that occurs during that time is dramatic and obvious. Whether it’s your mother, father, or spouse, it will impact your ability to cope. And it is often draining to the point of exhaustion, no matter how good your intentions.
You grieve. Actually, you should. Much as when you lose a loved one to death, you go through the stages of denial, of anger that it’s happening, and so on. Eventually you reach acceptance. It softens then and you learn to appreciate what you have. You are grateful for the moments you still connect, you are glad for the times she know who you are, and you are glad she is content wherever she is in her mind.
I miss Mom. I miss the mom that raised us, that loved us so easily and so constantly. I miss the Mom that was always there. I miss the memories and traditions we shared. Even though I see her nearly every day. Now it’s my turn to be there for her.