I remember standing in Michael’s craft store looking at my Mom, unsure of what feelings I was having. Michaels was a place that we both enjoyed visiting and investigating things we might enjoy doing or thinking about Christmas time and crafts we might do as gifts. My Mom had some pretty amazing talents in addition to the beautiful rose garden that she had created in the backyard, so it was fun to be able to create with her.
That day, I realized as I looked at her pained while walking and tiring so quickly, and hearing her say she wasn’t sure she wouldn’t be able to do things as she used to that my Mom (then 78 years old) was looking at the other end of her life. My Mom was one of the strongest women that I knew, but time/age was taking its toll and surely the years before caring for my Dad before he passed away. Bit by bit she was doing less gardening, she stopped doing as many things around the house, and somehow I had my blinders on.
In a flash I was seized with thoughts; losing Dad was the toughest thing I had experienced in my life, Mom surely wasn’t going anywhere because I was not about to give up her, too. Then reality hit, like a ton of bricks. What I had been experiencing, was experiencing was a form of grief, for the loss of who my Mom used to be. We weren’t going to be able to run over to the coast like we used to, she couldn’t sit that long. We weren’t going to be in the garden together trimming roses; she wasn’t stable like she used to be.
I stood there in Michael’s craft store with tears streaming down my face. My stomach ached as if I was punched. Reality hit so unexpectedly I had to turn and go down another aisle to let myself breath. Until I heard my Mom’s voice, “Cyndi? Hun where are you?” I wiped my eyes, took a few deep breaths and turned back…”hey Ma; I’m right here. Whatcha’ doing?”.
I’m crying as I write, the moment etched in my memory like it was happening right now.
This line from Tom Ellis in the article; How to Cope with Anticipatory Grief and Ambiguous Loss is so true: “The only expert on grief is the person experiencing a particular loss at a particular time. You.”
Grief comes in many forms and at many times during your caregiving journey. It is of utmost importance to give yourself the time and space to come to an awareness of what’s happening and not shut yourself down. Your feelings are valid, and it is essential to acknowledge and know, that it is quite ok to experience them. Sometimes it's being with yourself, sitting quietly and letting the feelings happen. But don’t hesitate to reach out to someone if you need to.
Be kind, be gentle, to you.