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My 87 y/o mom was on hospice with CHF, and died at home less than 24 hours ago. We were afraid to give morphine at first, feeling like we were going to kill her if given too soon/fast. She started to labor in her breathing, so we asked for morphine. She was constantly sleeping before this. Her breathing became more labored, and her care giver of 3 years, who loved my mom as her own, said if we turn down her O2, it would hasten her death and end the suffering. Well, we turned it down to 1 liter, and she went all night laboring and given morphine every 4 hours. The caregiver and friend is a nurse. She begged us to remove her O2, and end the suffering. She said she would just drift to sleep. She pulled it from her nose, after being given by mouth morphine which she chocked on and couldn’t swallow. My friend removed the O2, and my mom started to show signs she was suffering and threw up, and was gasping and tensing as in pain. I panicked and begged to have her O2 be given back, but then she died. I will never forgive myself that I allowed my friend/nurse to convince me it was the humane thing to do, and that she wouldn’t suffer. My mother feared death, and she didn’t die peacefully. My sister and I are riddled with guilt and the image of our mother suffering through that before dying. I don’t know if we will ever get over this. We are not grieving because of just the loss, we are grieving because of how she died, and suffered, and we feel tremendous pain that we let her die this way.

Purple 25 - I am so sorry for what you and your mother went through. My own experience is actually quite similar. Watching Mom suffer through those last few days was agonizing for my sister and me and is haunting still, 9 months later.

I agree with what cwillie said. I doubt there's really any such thing as a peaceful death, unless the person is in a coma. The gradual shutting down of all the bodily systems causes great discomfort it seems. Morphine seems to be the only real help. We gave our mother morphine well beyond the prescribed dosages because it wasn't keeping her comfortable. She still wasn't comfortable and there was nothing we could do but be there and tend to any needs we could address. It was wrenching beyond words. I do understand. And I think it is almost universal to see the suffering at the end and feel that we, the caregivers, did something wrong or should have been able to do something to change it. We believe if we had done something differently the passing would have been more peaceful, comfortable, calmer. I think everyone who believes that is likely wrong, but it's natural to feel that way.

I can only tell you that talking about it helps, and the passage of time helps. Your experience is so fresh -of course you're devastated. My sister and I were both basket cases for weeks afterwards and we did talk often to commiserate with each other. Gradually other life events will take space in your consciousness more and more, and you will be able to heal the trauma for the most part and rejoin the flow of life. Give yourself time.

Wishing you healing and peace.
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Purple25 Mar 5, 2019
Thank you so much CarlaCB. Just hearing other people’s experiences and understanding helps.
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Hi, Purple

Your story brought tears to my eyes and a flood of memories.

My brother took off his oxygen before he died. He was heavily drugged. For him that probably felt most normal. He was a heroin addict. He knew the time was near. He wasn’t afraid to die. He was so complex, long story. Life was a burden for him. He became more afraid to live than die.

My brother finally went into a coma in hospice and just hung on for days. I even questioned the hospice nurse if he was really ready to die. He left hospice once before.

He had many health issues. His breathing showed he was ready to leave this world.

Your mom KNEW you loved her and that is what matters the most. So hard to second guess what should have been done or not done. I have driven myself crazy with what if’s before. You will heal. Your mom would want you to heal. Take time to grieve.

I have heard from hospice nurses that those who have one foot in this world and one foot in the other, there is no pain in that state. I asked them how do they know that and the reply was when people came back from near death experiences, they clearly reported that there was no pain. I found that truly comforting to hear.

I wish I could help you feel better. Your grief is normal and part of life. I know you wish it would have been different. I wish it had been too. I’m so sorry that you experienced that. I’m so sorry that you lost your mom. Hugs! We are here to listen if and when you need to vent.
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Purple25 Mar 5, 2019
Thank you for caring so much and understanding how painful this is. My mom didn’t get the morphine in time. She had it 4 hours before, and we were trying to give it again but she choked and threw it up. When you have hospice at home and not a hospital, they only allowed the med aides to give her oral liquid morphine. It seems crazy to me that they have you give oral pain medication to a dying person who cannot swallow. The hospital is for getting people well, not to aide in their death, is what we were told when she was sent home on hospice. So the reason this is so hard, is because I feel she suffered from suffocating, clenching and gasping, instead of drifting away, as we were told would happen. It hurts so much to think she suffered. She opened her eyes and I felt she was looking at me, though her eyes were glassy. I want to believe it was her body reacting, and not consciously, because she had been sleeping, and didn’t really wake, but her morphine had been 4 hours before, so I feel she suffered. Just so painful to watch, and I regret allowing her care giver to pull away her O2. I wish she had drifted away as we were told she would, not die a suffering painful death.
Thank you for reaching out to me and trying to help my sister and me through this very hard time.
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I'm so sorry, Purple25. It's hard enough to observe your mother's death, but it's even worse when we watch her possibly suffer when they do pass.

Last year, my mother had a "last fling" of a card game with me and my two sisters. I put her to bed that evening and she never woke up. Two days later she was grimacing. Earlier, hospice had prescribed morphine. I had to fight my sister to allow me to give her the morphine. Through her last night, with an oximeter on her finger, I observed her breathing and heart functions deteriorate. I knew this would be her last night. At about 4:30 a.m. she finally breathed her last. We all burst into tears. About 30 seconds later, she took this massive, open-mouthed breath. Terrified the stuffing out of us. For hours, she would take her "last breath" only a moment later she'd take another huge breath.

Like your mother, the only thing that helped us was we knew she wasn't in pain. Death might be a calm process for some people, but for others it's not calm and it's an agony to watch.

You've been through a terrible ordeal. Try to remind yourself that your mother's suffering is over. Be easy on yourself and be kind to yourself.

I don't know if you believe in the spirit world (I do), but mediums like the Long Island Medium state that family members will pass on to their loved ones not to focus on how they died, but to think about the positives of how they lived.
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Purple25 Mar 5, 2019
Thank you for caring so much and understanding how painful this is. My mom didn’t get the morphine in time. She had it 4 hours before, and we were trying to give it again but she choked and threw it up. When you have hospice at home and not a hospital, they only allowed the med aides to give her oral liquid morphine. It seems crazy to me that they have you give oral pain medication to a dying person who cannot swallow. The hospital is for getting people well, not to aide in their death, is what we were told when she was sent home on hospice. So the reason this is so hard, is because I feel she suffered from suffocating, clenching and gasping, instead of drifting away, as we were told would happen. It hurts so much to think she suffered. She opened her eyes and I felt she was looking at me, though her eyes were glassy. I want to believe it was her body reacting, and not consciously, because she had been sleeping, and didn’t really wake, but her morphine had been 4 hours before, so I feel she suffered. Just so painful to watch, and I regret allowing her care giver to pull away her O2. I wish she had drifted away as we were told she would, not die a suffering painful death.
Thank you for reaching out to me and trying to help my sister and me through this very hard time.
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I am so sorry. We have health pros on the forum, hope they can shed some light on this. My take is Oxygen or no Mom may have been the same way, fighting for ever breath. I think it may come to the point that oxygen doesn't help anymore. You just can't get the levels back to normal. CO starts taking over because the body can no longer get rid of it.
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Purple25 Mar 5, 2019
Thank you JoAnn29 for your response. This has been so heartbreaking and today having to plan funeral arrangements with so much pain. Thank you for caring and helping to ease our pain.
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I'm sorry for your loss. It is early days yet and you are still processing your deepest feelings of grief, hopefully time will soften the edges a little. It's impossible for the average person to know what to do or what to expect, the only images most of us have come from those unrealistic Hollywood death bed scenes, real life and death is seldom so peaceful and pretty. I really wished that the aides and nurses who were experienced had shared a little of their knowledge with us but they didn't. The important thing is that you were there with her sending her your love and support, I've no doubt that brought her much comfort.
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Purple25 Mar 5, 2019
Thank you cwillie for caring and trying to help us through so much pain.
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I am a respiratory therapist who worked with patients in hospital hospice situations. I hope that I can help you here in that you should not feel guilty. I researched this question. I read that when the end is near, people tend not to show signs that they are short of breath.
My brother just passed away a week ago. He was in hospice for cancer and on morphine drops. He was blue for 3 days and I could measure his oxygen saturations in the low 80s. This means that he could receive oxygen. He did not show breathing distress, but he was no in pain which was most important.
BTW morphine is a front line drug when treating CHF. So you were doing the right thing.
I knew when his end was near when his beathing changed.
I am focusing on my better moments with him when he was still talking a week before he passed. I am keeping it together by remembering that good time.
I hope my story helps you.
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Shane1124 Mar 6, 2019
So sorry to hear of your loss.
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I am so sorry for your loss and that you and your mom had to go through this horrific ordeal.

I feel that you are beating yourself up for something you did not know. You listen to a person that you trusted that she knew what she was doing. Perhaps in the past this hospice nurse/friend has had success by removing the O2 and the pts passing peacefully, however this was not the case for your mom. You simply did not know what was going to happen; therefore, you can not hold yourself responsible for something you didn't know.

The body will react to such things as your mom did but it doesn't mean your mom was in her body fully. I don't know if I can really explain it. The pt is somewhere between this world and the next world. I just have a feeling your mom was in between worlds and didn't feel the pain that her body was showing. I have read your OP about 4 times and each time I read it I come to the feeling your mom really wasn't fully there. I don't know why I feel this way...I just do! I think sometimes we are so hard on ourselves for things we don't know and/or the "should haves."

I have talk to people who were in horrible car accidents that have told me that they were not in their bodies at the time of the accident. I have also talk to people who have died and came back and most of them stating the samething "no pain." No one truly knows if this is the brain protecting the person by releasing chemicals into the body or if it is something else. But whatever it is the person doesn't always feel the way we see the body's reaction. Does this make sense?

When my dad died he was on hospice but he passed away at home by himself. No one was in the room with him and I use to feel so guilty about how he died alone. (We were in the house) Than one day it hit me. My Irish proud independent dad died alone because that is what he wanted. He didn't want us to see him that way, and again I don't know if I can really explain it. But I do know he is no longer in pain and he is happy where he is and that gives me comfort.

I pray that you and your sister find comfort in knowing that your mom was release from her pain and the troubles of this world. I am sure she would not want your sister and you beating yourselves up and holding regrets in your hearts.

Again I am sorry for your loss and I hope this helps you find some peace.

Hugs
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Purple25 Mar 6, 2019
Thank you so much for telling me all of this. The grief coupled with the pain that we let her down and she suffered so badly is tearing us up. We have replayed it again and again, trying to process it. I’ll never know if she was pleading for help from me, or her body was just going through the natural process of dying and she wasn’t really there. Your comforting words about people dying and coming back, not having any pain, does help me a lot. I know my mom would not want us to hurt like this, and I keep wanting to call her, as dumb as that sounds, to talk to her like I’ve always done when I needed comfort to get through something. I thank you for your caring, loving compassion, to help us through this process. I pray we will be able to let go of the guilt when we think about our mother, and remember all the wonderful memories we have.
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We must, MUST trust that those whom we love find their way Home in the way that is best for them.
I was frantically, horridly distressed about the morphine.
I’D approved it to be used, I’D known of her frequently terrifying episodes of anxiety......then the last day, I got to her room and found her nestled in a sweet robe of softest flannel, her skin gently bathed and oiled (anointed, I thought) by the hospice staff.

As I sat beside her bed, holding the small hand, soft and warm in mine, I was suddenly taken with an overpowering awareness that someone was standing behind me in the door of her room, and a moment later, the most profound assurance that my dad had come to take her home.

I was not there when she left us, and most absolutely her stony Irish will had decided that I shouldn’t be.

You have had many comments here. Please find your assurance in them. The loss is terrible, but we who remain must understand that for those who depart to their Reward, the experience is different than anything we can understand.

Release yourself from your anguish. She knew until the very last how much you loved her.
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MountainMoose Mar 6, 2019
Oh, Ann, such a beautiful remembrance that has me in tears. Thank you for sharing.
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Your pain is clear in your post. This is a fresh event and it will take time to recover.

You did not let your mother 'die this way.' You are not responsible for how she died in any way. Some people slip away like my stepdad and others fight to the end.

If you are religious, speak to your faith leader. Otherwise, seek out grief counseling. It will not change your mother's death, but it may help you to come to terms with how it happened.

These next few weeks will be very busy, but give yourself time to grieve in private moments. Mum kept herself so busy after step dad's death, that once all the business of death was over, she crashed. Luckily we had counseling in place for when she needed it.
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Purple25 Mar 5, 2019
Thank you for caring so much and understanding how painful this is. My mom didn’t get the morphine in time. She had it 4 hours before, and we were trying to give it again but she choked and threw it up. When you have hospice at home and not a hospital, they only allowed the med aides to give her oral liquid morphine. It seems crazy to me that they have you give oral pain medication to a dying person who cannot swallow. The hospital is for getting people well, not to aide in their death, is what we were told when she was sent home on hospice. So the reason this is so hard, is because I feel she suffered from suffocating, clenching and gasping, instead of drifting away, as we were told would happen. It hurts so much to think she suffered. She opened her eyes and I felt she was looking at me, though her eyes were glassy. I want to believe it was her body reacting, and not consciously, because she had been sleeping, and didn’t really wake, but her morphine had been 4 hours before, so I feel she suffered. Just so painful to watch, and I regret allowing her care giver to pull away her O2. I wish she had drifted away as we were told she would, not die a suffering painful death.
Thank you for reaching out to me and trying to help my sister and me through this very hard time.
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Dear Purple25,

My heart goes out to you and your sister. We are never ready to lose our mom and I know firsthand the pain of watching mom endure a slow and painful passing. Please don't feel any guilt. Everything you did was with the best of intentions. We all do the best we can with the knowledge that we have. You are a loving compassionate daughter. Throughout your mom's illness I'm sure she took great comfort in her two daughters being with her every step of the way.

My mom died 19 years ago from cancer. The last three weeks were the worst for her; seeing her suffering literally brought me to my knees and I prayed for God to please take her. The night she died she was in a lot of pain even with the morphine and under Hospice care in the hospital. As cwillie says Hollywood death bed scenes are unrealistic. To this day I second guess some of the decisions we made and wonder if I could have done more for her. It is human nature to do so. Then I remind myself like I just said to you that I did the best I could with all the love and compassion I had for her.

Please take comfort in knowing that your mom is no longer in pain. She is free! I sincerely believe this. My personal view of heaven is that each person is healthy again and able to do what they loved best in life. My mom was an artist so I picture her with her canvas and paints surrounded by vibrant colors and images that we can't even imagine!

Please accept my deepest condolences and please don't beat yourself up.
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Purple25 Mar 6, 2019
Thank you. Your response truly helps. We didn’t know she would suffer, and I keep trying to tell myself that we only did what we knew and were told. I want to be able to think about my mom, and all of the beautiful memories, without feeling this guilt about how she died. Thank you for helping me know that sometimes death isn’t just drifting away, and that regardless of what we did, it may have been the same outcome.
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