Posts Tagged grief
I can hardly believe it’s been two months since Tarzan’s funeral. The last thing I wrote about him was our discovering his alcoholism. His stay at rehab was followed by a blackout drinking binge after just four short days of sobriety. Tarzan returned to rehab again. I don’t believe he went back because he wanted to, I believe he went because we all begged him to try again.
When he returned home he was clearly not the Tarzan we all seemed to know. I think we just never knew him sober. He was not the kind of drinker who smelled of booze. He was always upbeat, and busy. No one in our little circle ever once had even a single clue that he had an issue prior to the incident before his first rehab stay.
Tarzan committed suicide two weeks after his return from his second rehab stay. It’s been two months since his funeral, and it still does not seem real.
He was staring at the rain as it pounded down onto the glass. It wasn’t as though he’d never seen rain before, but more that he understood it might be the last time that he would. I watched him from the doorway of his room. I was familiar with the deafening sound of the silence that takes over when a person has reached the acceptance of the end of their journey in this life. The difference for me this time was that I had not accepted his end.
He turned slowly to look at me. His face was drawn, and pale. His presence in the room was so large even as his life force diminished. I could not even force my everything is okay smile. We knew each other much to well to even make the attempt. My throat ached from trying to hold back my tears. He walked towards me holding out his arms, and like a little girl I fell into them weeping uncontrollably.
I wept because I could not take away his fears. I wept because I knew we had reached an ending point, and although he had accepted his journey’s end he was not ready to leave. I wept because I was making him be strong for me, when I should have been being strong for him. Mostly I wept because I didn’t want to let him go.
Love pours through tears. It is so powerful that there is no longer a need for words. It takes over every aspect of your being, and in the moments in between you know that you have been a part of something more beautiful than anything you have the capability to imagine. You have loved unconditionally, and you have been loved equally back. I think the secret to life is the moments in between.
Dealing with the family members of dying clients is like walking a circus tightrope. One has to be very careful with their choice of wording. Families are under extreme pressure trying to maintain their daily lives while dealing with a dying loved one. Yesterday was Betty Davis’s 6 month evaluation with Hospice. Her daughter came home from work early to be there with mom.
Betty’s daughter is like a blonde Liza Minnelli in appearance so we will call her Liza. I don’t deal with her very often in person. We mostly communicate through notes to each other. She is usually at work when I arrive so I meet every morning with her husband. This is Liza’s third marriage (her husband’s too), but they have been married now for 13 years. I’m not sure who the drinker is in this house, but based on the amount of Captain Morgan on hand I’m guessing both.
Both Betty, and Liza were worried that Betty would be removed from Hospice’s care. They were both equally anxious about the possibility. I tried to reassure them both that this would not be the case as gently as possible, but Liza persisted until I had to explain in the most honest way I could. The problem here is that the truth is quite brutal, and I don’t know Liza well enough to know the best way to deal with her. So I began with “Mom’s condition continues to decline, and Hospice will view this as reason enough to keep Mom under their care.”
Liza snapped back “What do you mean? Mom is not declining, have you noticed a decline since you started working here?” Now in my line of work every alarm in my head is sounding off “DANGER G-uno Danger!” So I pulled out two bar stools motioning for us both to sit (somehow sitting seems less harsh) then I softly say “Yes Liza Mom is declining.” She is still on defense mode, and says “How do you know this, why are you saying this?” So I softly say ” There are physical signs that begin to occur when someone with Mom’s illness begins to decline.”
At this point I am silently begging “The Universe” to let this be enough for Liza to let this subject rest, and of course no such luck. Liza grabs my hand, and pleads with me to just tell her what I see. Then I could feel the tears welling in my eyes, and I’m pretty sure she could hear the sound of my heart cracking. I place my other hand on top of her’s, and I say “Mom’s breathing is becoming increasingly more labored. I ask her if she noticed that Mom’s hands were changing in any ways that she may have noticed.” She said “No!” ( I want to kick “The Universe”in the balls now!) So I softly say Mom’s hands are darkening now because her lungs & heart are having a more difficult time delivering oxygen to them.”
I can see at this point that she is breakable. I hug Liza, and I tell her that she is an amazing daughter. I tell her that I am overwhelmed by her love for Mom. She began to cry she is bothered by the fact that her Mom tells me more regarding her thoughts, and health concerns. She wants to share this with her mother. She feels like my bond with her mother is becoming stronger than theirs.
I am in agony at this point, but then I know what needs to be said (Sorry “Universe” lost my faith there for a moment) so I place both hands on the sides of Liza’s face. Then looking her directly in the eyes I tell her “Your Mom is still your Mom, and she will try to protect you no matter what. She does not share these things with me out of love, I am her caregiver. She is not concerned about my feelings in this capacity. You are her world! She loves you more than life itself, and this is momma bear’s way of shielding the one she does love, and trust more than anyone else in the world.”
I saw both heartbreak, and relief in Liza’s eyes. Sometimes the truth is the only way to go. 😉
By the time I got to her house she had already opened her first bottle of wine, and as she poured her next glass she asked me “Why?” I stood there frozen in time. I could literally feel the pain flowing from her body. I didn’t know why. I only knew that if in that moment If I could erase what she must have been feeling I would have moved Heaven, and Earth to do so.
It was as though my throat was incapable of uttering a sound. The ache of what felt like a huge knot in my throat blocked every thought that ran through my head. Then to make matters worse, tears began to stream down my cheeks. Yep, I was a total rock. On my drive over to her house I practiced being strong, and positive. I carefully thought of all the things I could say that would bring her some kind of relief.
Then I saw her standing there waiting for me to say the words that might stop her pain, and every word that I had rehearsed inside my head disappeared. She knows me. She knows that when I am overwhelmed I cry. For a brief second she looked relieved by my tears, then she asked me if I thought he was having an affair.
This time my words pushed their way through the huge knot in my throat that seemed to be growing larger every second, and I told “Her absolutely not.” She searched my eyes, just to make sure that I wasn’t feeding her a line of crap. Then she began to cry uncontrollably asking me over, and over “Then why, why is he doing this?”
I looked into her pain filled eyes, and told her I didn’t know why. Maybe he’s going through something we don’t know about. Maybe he is depressed, or sick. We just need to take some time, and figure this out. The next few hours were brutal. She paced back, and forth questioning every conversation they’d had over the past few months.
She cried, and she questioned her every response to him. She was hurt, and angry. She kept saying” Who does this after 34 years?” “Who waits till 6 days before Thanksgiving to move out, and take a break?” After all the pacing she finally sat down on the couch next to me. Then she asked me “What do I tell the kids when they get here?”
The only thing more difficult than being supportive to someone you love who has a mental illness is actually being the the person with the mental illness.What makes this so difficult is the fact that you can not possibly understand what your loved one is actually going through. You can read all the amazingly written blogs by people who deal with mental illnesses in their daily lives, you can research as much information as possible, and you can speak with doctor after doctor, but simple truth is that illness is as individual as the people who have them.
My baby brother is 25 years younger than I am, and only a couple of weeks older than my daughter. In many ways he is more like another child to me than a brother. He has always been a little unique, we know now that was a great deal due to his undiagnosed Asperger’s Autism. Unfortunately for him very little was know about this diagnosis 26 years ago so he did not receive the early beneficial therapy that children today receive. So he was always a very sweet, but awkward social out cast.
At the age of 17 he suddenly became very dark, and emotionally out of control. He began to exhibit some very unusual behaviors. Uncontrollable fits of anger, and crying, he seemed to be having conversations with someone we could not see. He began to remove my face from family pictures (my sister’s too), and he was very paranoid whenever we were present. Our first thought sadly was that perhaps he was experimenting with drugs/alcohol so we had him physically examined. He passed all exams with no negative results, and the doctor suggested we seek a psychiatric evaluation.
He was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder as a primary diagnosis, and Asperger’s Autism as a secondary. It’s very similar to Schizophrenia, but our brother insists that he does not hear voices. This is still something we are not completely convinced of, but we have to take his word to heart. He suffers from extreme paranoia, and delusions when he is not properly medicated. Medications are not an exact science with this illness, and the body builds a tolerance to them after a period of time so then symptoms reoccur requiring a medication increase.
We have a wonderful psychiatrist who keeps our brother at the lowest doses possible especially since he will have to be medicated his entire life. I am not upset by my brother’s extreme anger towards me, because as difficult as that is for me it is also the only way I have of gauging if he is in need of medical attention. I know it is his mental illness that is angry with me not my brother. I just hate that he has to live with his illness, and all the difficult symptoms, his intense loneliness, delusional thoughts, and societal stigmas on a daily basis. I love my brother with all my heart, so every time we reach a point where we need to increase his medicine my heart breaks for him.
There are points in time where your love for another human being can actually break you. I am broken. Hospice is currently in the process of evaluating our loved one’s condition. Our family has spent the last week preparing ourselves for the heart breaking moment when we must actually let him go. It was excruciating watching my husband, my children. and all of the others walk around trying to find a way to deal with this most difficult process. I found myself watching each family member as they struggled to come to terms with their own grief. Broken spirits walking around in their physical bodies like empty ghosts.
Each one trying to find a way to love him, and be there for him. I just keep cleaning things, cooking, and in the moments when the others take a small break from his side I run to be with him. I keep bathing him, changing his linens, and sitting beside him as I have for the last four years of his life. When we are alone he looks at me almost as though he can see straight through me. I wonder if to him we all look like ghosts. I know he knows on some level that he is leaving us, but we never directly speak about this because it’s simply too hard.
People are a lot like a beautiful piece of crystal. We come in many unique forms, but we are all transparent, easily broken. Even though we can sometimes be mended back together you can never be the same way you were before you were broken. The Japanese revere imperfection. In tea ceremonies the bowl with the most cracks is considered to be the most beautiful bowl. It represents the beauty brought about by the passage of time. It also evokes the lonely sense of impermanence. We all change with each passing moment.
In our moments right now I can see each of us slowly breaking. Tender moments where your heart, and your mind become so filled with grief that it has to break in order to release the immense pain that overflows from inside of you. It’s the love that breaks you…