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I was a caregiver for three years for my father who has since passed away. Its been alittle over a year now. I have been able to move on and start living my life again but at night I'm having a terrible time going over all the things I "should have" done or my behavior during this time. Most of these thoughts I can talk myself out of but the one thing I can't work through is holding him in my arms as he died. I see the panic in his eyes and fear and all I could do was hold him. There is a lot more to this story but this is the issue I am having the most problems with. Any suggestions on how to let these images go?

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Yeah, I can give you a suggestion. My youngest son died from head injuries at the age of 23 after being assaulted. Following the funeral and memorial service comes the living with it from day to day. That's the hard part. I had visuals of him in hospital, in a coma, and also from his viewing. They were distressing me. So I put my favourite picture of him up on the wall opposite where I usually sit, and every time I got one of the distressing visuals, I would look up at, and concentrate on the picture of him - healthy, whole and handsome, smiling that wonderful smile that lit up the room. So I literally worked at replacing the distressing images with one that made me feel good. It was like retraining my brain and it worked. In time. the distressing images and the feelings they evoked faded. I think if you try it, it will help. There is almost always guilt after a death and you have to let the "if only's", the "should have's" and "what if's" go They just torment you, You did all that you humanely could. No one can "fix" dying and death.
I know it is hard. Big (((((((((((((((hugs))))))))))))) Joan
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I, too, am sometimes bothered that I didn't do a better job taking care of my father in his last months. But I didn't do a bad job, and kept him in my home until 8 days before his death. I understand what you are feeling.

But we caregivers don't have magical powers. We can't make a depressed person happy. We can't get a dying person to eat and recover and be as good as new. We can't control our own fatigue and frustration, and we are sometimes unkind. But we are faithful, and keep coming back for more. That's about all you can ask.

All you could do was hold him. That's all, and I say it's enough. He was not alone.
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Emjo........Your son's passing was so similar to mine that it sent shivers down my spine. My son was 20 and was beaten to death,in the head, with a pipe. I never had to see him that way.I didn't have to ID his body. He was cremated. I was told what happened, by the D.A. but left the courtroom when pictures were shown. But I STILL see it! Everyday. In my mind. I start saying to myself....take it away, take it away, take it away......and God does. The phone will ring, or Mom will call out for me.......distraction always seems to come and save me from that horror. People will say....."try to remember the fun times".....I can't......I'm afraid, if I thought of him taking his first steps, or blowing out Birthday candles... I would finally just crumble into a ball of dust on the floor. I know this post isn't helpful advice, but it's something I could never say before, needed to, and now have people I can trust, to say it to. Thank you all for all you do, for so many.
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Emjo and BoniChak, I'm glad you were able to share something with others that has to be so painful to think about, much less talk about. I know it can't be easy to share such an emotionally painful ordeal but I hope it helps you to share your stories with others, You know at the same time you are helping someone else who has been through a similar painful and life-changing event. I can only imagine probably in some small way the magnitude of grief you both have experienced. I hope you both have the comfort of knowing you will meet your precious sons again one day. God Bless you both for sharing.
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@ jinx,
you said that so well. i believe much of the guilt comes from our helplessness to make the ill person feel better both physically and emotionally.
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I lost my husband last year to cancer. He died in our bedroom, nearly the same situation, he was reaching at the ceiling. I found myself obsessing on that, as well as mistakes I made (the should haves), and when I realized what I was doing to myself by obsessing over these things, I started focusing on seeing his face while he was smiling, focusing on memories of us doing the things we loved, because that is what he wanted for me, he told me he wanted me to be happy, hated it when I cried, of course I still do, I will grieve for that man the rest of my life. I recommend you keep photo albums handy, and when you start to go there, look at photos. They can be of your Dad, other family members. The visualization of other things (loved ones, or maybe his favorite place) will eventually be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the moment your Dad passed. You will never be rid of that memory completely, but you can soften it this way. You can use the same visualization for other issues as well.

Just want to say; Holding someone you love as they are passing shows your love for them more than anything, most people can't do it and some even choose not to. Everyone who has done that for a loved one, please know that no matter what your loved one may have been doing at that moment, your loved one knew you were holding them, and by that one action over everything else you did for them, they knew that you truly loved them from the heart. Don't beat yourself up for not being perfect, for making mistakes in care giving, we all have made mistakes, no one is perfect. We are not trained for this, some of us just end up here, some of us have bigger hearts I think. Big hugs to everyone.
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Thank you to everyone for the responses, it is so nice to have validation. So many of these things I know in my head but my heart feels the pain. I do alright in the day time, its just at night when the images creep in. I like the idea of exchanging the good things when I start seeing his eyes. I think I will write down a list of "good" things and can pull from them when I feel this way. I know my Dad appreciated me being there. He has since come back and hugged me and he does visit me in my dreams sometimes.
@captain - I too think my Dad was overdosed on morphine and that is also one of the things I have had to work through. Your comments helped me see a different side of the situation.
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I try to remind myself that its over, they aren't in pain anymore. I just think it over and over until the bad thoughts go away.

My FIL was in such pain the days before he finally slipped into a morphined state, I had trouble getting those feelings to go away. I planned a trip with a friend and told myself that the trip was the turning point, no more dwelling. Took up some new interests to occupy my mind.
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the last images i have of my mom were her clamoring to get out of the hospice comfort bed but with nowhere to go really. looking back now i believe she was trying to climb out of a body that was rapidly dying. she wasnt excessively agitated but clearly in mortal distress. then we dropped the liquid meds under her tongue and she went into an induced coma and felt no more distress or pain for the last couple of days. in hindsight the ativan and morphine slowed her breathing until it stopped. her breathing wasnt hindered until the morphine. its clear to me she od'd on morphine BUT , she was well into the dying process and it was senseless to let it play out. what hurt me was a day earlier when she could feel herself dying asked me what she could do to get out of this. i told her its something none of us could get out of and tried to calm and reassure her.
i cant answer your question very well. if your dad passed away with minimal pain and non violently then it was the peaceful end of a life.
i did save myself a lot of unnecessary trauma by not attending moms funeral. at what point does one find closure? tossing dirt on a casket? the drive home? i dont believe in silly ritual and mom and i were good even before she passed.
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What you perceived as "panic" and "fear" may very well not have been what he was feeling at the time. I believe the body sort of "takes over" at the very end, and reacts involuntarily during the final moments. You held him in your arms, and I'm sure he knew you were there for him to help him cross over into the next phase of his "life", whatever that may be. How many people are able to do that for their loved one? I suspect quite a lot can't handle it, but you gave your father a gift that he was unable to thank you for with his words at the time. Perhaps he saw his parents/wife/ other loved ones on the other side waiting for him and he was reacting with excitement and not fear? When those thoughts haunt you at night, try to turn them around to something good instead. Sorry for your loss.
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