Moving past anger to integrate loss

Moving past anger to integrate loss
The circumstances around my mother's cancer diagnosis, treatment and painful death 4 months later came on the heels of my first husband's sudden death and was very traumatic. Lingering anger and blame prolonged and deepened my grief. Mental images woke me up at night for weeks beyond her burial. This is my story and how I let go so that I could find joy in my life again without my mother present. The Diagnosis By the time my mother’s ovarian cancer was discovered, it was in operable because the tumors were throughout her body. They removed some that were by her digestive organs so that she could swallow and eat again, but there were too many and they stitched her right back up. She chose chemo and it took her for a ride several times, landing her in the hospital on life support, then to intensive care for a lengthy and painful stay until she was able to get shake off the deadly clostridium-difficile (C. Diff) bacterial infection. C. Diff is very common for Immunocompromised people. Especially those in the hospital who are exposed to every kind of germ, bacteria and virus. Rehab and Hope Four months into mom's cancer journey, she was finally transferred to a private room in a beautiful rehab facility. It looked more like a bedroom with a large sitting area and any kind of care facility I’ve been in before. They were going to get her walking and make her stronger, so she could return to her chemo regiment. I was blessed to be in Arizona with my family at the time as this was taking place. She was transferred on a Monday and I was to fly home on Saturday. My father was unable to visit her because his 8-year battle with bladder cancer was also being treated at the time. Rather than chemo, they treated his bladder with a “wash” that included live tuberculosis virus as an anti-tumor agent. There was no way he would be allowed into the facility. C. Diff Strikes again A few days after she was at the rehab facility, mom had problems swallowing pills. Sometimes she could get them down but then 15 minutes later they would come back up. On Thursday I noticed sores and called the nurses in. It was confirmed. Mom had C. Diff again. Mom begged me to make them stop treating her. She didn’t want to be on life-support ever again. Of course I agreed to do it. And I made a vow to cancel my plane home on Saturday and stay with her to the end. I called my brother and we made an appointment with the rehab doctor for Thursday afternoon. The doctor agreed with my mother’s desire, saying if it was his mother he would never have given her chemo in the first place. He agreed to palliative care. My brother and I took turns staying with her. Somewhere around midnight I left to get some sleep in a comfortable bed with instructions to staff call me if anything changed. The Final Morning The call came at 6:30 in the morning. I woke my brother and we were there in less than 30 minutes. She was lucid and in pain and said she hadn’t had any pain medication since she threw them up before I left the hospital night before. They only brought her pills and she couldn’t even swallow them anymore. The tumors were probably back around her stomach and esophagus. We asked the nurse to bring mom a shot of morphine. She had already called the doctor at home and he wouldn’t order it. Even though he hadn't personally seen her in 36 hours, he decided she was just refusing to take the pill. He said he would be in at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and he would talk to mom then. This infuriated me to no end! My niece had just arrived and my brother started making phone calls. My niece and I took turns putting a swab in mom‘s mouth so she could suck the water and we could wet her dry lips. Soon she was unable to close her mouth around the wet sponge. My brother finally was able to talk to someone from Jewish family services and they sent a hospice nurse with morphine. I stroked mom’s forehead and told her the nurse was on her way, bringing relief. I felt so helpless. We called my dad and held the phone up to her ear. As he whispered how much he will miss her in a broken voice, a tear fell down her own cheek. We let him know she heard him and she loved him too. At this point mom was clearly in organ failure and her face was twisted and frozen in pain, her mouth gaped open. Her eyes were unable to focus and she could only grunt when we asked a question. She took her final breath at the end of that call. It was bitter sweet and emotions were high. Help Arrives Moments after mom died the hospice nurse arrived with needed syringe of morphine. Being from hospice, she was just what we all needed in that moment of grief and loss. She stayed with us until mom’s body was finally removed by the funeral home. I really had a lot of anger toward that doctor. He never showed up before we left and we never heard from him that day or any other day. For weeks, every time I thought about her pain and suffering and his hand in it, I wanted to get some stuff off my chest with him! I let him stay in my head like an unwelcome guest. Over and over again I had to remind myself that calling him or writing a letter and giving him “a piece of my mind” was not helpful for either of us. His role was his role and it’s over and done with. Mom is gone, he had nothing to do with that and nothing could change what had already transpired. Healing Begins I had just buried my first husband six months earlier and I was still raw from that so it is no wonder that it took me a while to get out of my story and let go of my grief and regret about my mother’s suffering. In order to come to a place of peace, I first had to let that Dr. off the hook and take responsibility for my grief. I did the best I could and have no regrets. I focused on how grateful I was to have been present - to be her advocate and to let her know how much I cared for her up until the end. I knew she didn't blame me for anything. I knew she felt my love. When I allowed those truths to be my re-frame of those last hours, the horrible images of my mother's distorted face disappeared from my mind. I was able to let go and integrate my mother's death so that I no longer walked around with a heavy heart. To this day, whenever the memory of her passing arises, I immediately tap into that feeling of gratitude. Our stories about our experiences are what keep us stuck in grief. We relive the story over and over again either in our own minds or in the telling of it to others. We stay stuck in that sadness, unable to move past it. If you are ready to get unstuck and let go of your stories, let’s have a conversation. https://bit.ly/2qjZGzo" target="_blank">