Follow
Share

My mom just died this past November 20. I was with her my whole life. She was the best friend imaginable - the friend of a lifetime. She greeted the world with a smile and treated everyone with kindness and generosity. I benefited from this my whole life. We went out to eat a lot and went different places to see flowers and other interesting sites - for years. We both loved it. Mom sometimes said, "If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be here." It made me feel proud because to me it meant she could feel my love.
In the last three years, it was clear she was dying. A couple cancer operations left things fairly under control. In time, they found out she had stage 4 kidney failure, congestive heart disease and other problems. Because we lived together, I automatically took on the caregiver role for what turned out to be her last three years. Mom was still, with effort, able to get around and be fairly independent. However, when things started to get worse and her mobility suffered, I had to help more. Nothing major. But I found myself getting angry quite often. And then I started to say angry things. I felt wholly resentful. I had blow-up several times a week, which my mom attributed to inheriting my father's temper. I often made her cry - the person I loved most in the world! We talked about it after it happened. Mom said it was water under the bridge, but my temper felt like it was an over-tightened guitar string, just waiting to snap. I sure didn't improve. My sister in the meantime came from Indiana twice a week so I could work my two days, and right after I stepped in the door, she'd leave, and I felt back in the pressure cooker - even though I didn't have to do anything major. Just feeling put-upon and ever resentful. Mom said she could see I wished her dead every time I looked at her. That's how it felt to me when I looked, sadly. I always tried to talk about this with her, to let her know I still loved her, but the situation was killing me. I would have done anything for her, but I felt so empty with her dying slowly in front of me, I had nothing left and only reacted with anger. Why? Why? Why? Always unreasonable anger. Never kindness and compassion. I know I was blaming her for dying and leaving me. To my eternal shame, one day when I had her by the transfer belt and she was walking so slowly in front of me, I took a spanking swing at her butt and caught it with my fingertips. I think about this, the anger, and the hair-trigger response to this person who treated me only with kindness, and I wish I were dead.
In Mom's last days, before she was medicated into unconsciousness, I talked to her about how much I loved her, how she was my life, how she was everything to me. I apologized for the anger, repeated so heartlessly and so often. She said, "Water under the bridge, Joe. I know how much you love me." I told my dear cousin about all this, and she said I had too much on my plate for any one person. She said my mom knew this. I don't know. Nothing excuses me, though.
Mom had a beautiful, peaceful death. In the hospital room before she went, I was able to rest my head next to hers with my arm across her and softly, gently tell her how she was my life, how I would love her forever, how it was okay to leave and be happy with everyone she loved in heaven."It's okay, Mom. It's all okay, Sweetheart." I did that for maybe 5-10 minutes, and then she left - seconds after I walked into the bathroom, my sister said. She just let go....


How could I love her so much yet feel so much disgust and rage toward the sweet, helpless, gentle soul? Such rejection after she loved me every single day of my life? Mom was truly the love of my life. My best friend forever. The friend of a lifetime. Now, here I am feeling like after such callous ingratitude when she needed everything I had for support and I behaved the way I did, Hell is the only place left for me.

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Joe - reading your post I just want to cry. I feel so bad for what you're going through now. I think that maybe because you were so close to your mother and you loved her so much, you expected too much of yourself and promised too much to her. That put a lot of pressure on you - pressure to do more than you were able to do with love and compassion all the time.

The promise to always take care of one's parent at home is a trap - you can't really know what it will end up taking, and taking out of you. I would never advise anyone to make that promise - only promise to do as much as you can reasonably do. If you read the posts on this site you will encounter many resentful caregivers, and quite a few who will admit to wishing their parent would die. Taking care of a helpless person alone is just so difficult. Your whole life ends up revolving around their needs, and it's impossible to predict or control or schedule anything.

Right now I'm having an experience that reminds me just a bit of what it was like when I was caring for my mother. I have a friend staying with me, and she is somewhat disabled due to arthritis and cardiac issues. It's hard enough doing all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc., plus having no privacy, and having to compromise on everything from scheduling mealtimes to the room temperature to what's playing on TV. Then little requests keep popping up: a different pillow, a new toilet seat, a spot to plug in her cellphone, a different chair or table for her use. It wears your patience very thin. And this is only a visit - not a lifetime commitment.

Caregiving is really really hard. It requires more sacrifice than many of us can willingly make over the long term. And it feels endless, and like there's no escape. And I think many of us, after our parent has died, feel badly that we didn't do better and wish we could do at least some of it over again, no matter what we did or didn't do. It's easy to feel that way when you're no longer in the pressure cooker.

You will eventually learn to forgive yourself and move on from these painful memories. A therapist would probably help, if you can manage that. But at least be comforted by the fact that you did stay with your mother until the end and you did express your love to her when she was dying. I had that gift with my mother too, and I hold those memories close to my heart and try to put aside everything else.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report
joecichjr Jan 2020
Carla, what a beautiful letter! Thank you for sharing your feelings, a lot of which we seem to have had in common during our caregiving. It helps me to know that I am not alone and that the feelings I experienced are sometimes common in that situation. Thank you.
(2)
Report
Joe,
My parents had been living together in a nursing home for almost two years when my father died this past October. They had been married 67 years. Realizing that nights would be the hardest, my siblings and I rotated staying with our mother in the evenings until she went to sleep. On one of those nights, while brushing her teeth, my mother looked in the mirror and started to cry. I asked her what she was thinking just then. She looked around to make sure none of the CNA’s were around, and tearfully responded, “I was so mean to your daddy.” I told her that married couples are sometimes mean to each other, and that he could be mean too. I also reminded her of all the good things she had done for him, including the loving words and caresses the night he died.

I think those posters who have suggested that you write down the good and loving things that you did for your mother gave you good advice. We tend to get stuck in just the negative thoughts of how we failed the one we loved.

I just looked up, again, the stages of grief:

1) Denial, numbness, and shock
2) Bargaining (I’m going to quote here) “Some people become obsessed with thinking about specific ways things could have been done differently..........”
3) Depression
4) Anger
5) Acceptance

These stages are not exactly linear - we can skip around and even revisit any stage.

Lately, I think I have been in both bargaining and depression.
Not that you could tell by looking at me. I went through the holidays as I normally do - decorating, cooking, visiting, performing, exchanging presents, but I felt as if I were wading through quicksand. Everything was so exhausting! This was our first Christmas without our father.

Look back at what I quoted in the bargaining stage - obsessively thinking about how things could have been done differently. You are tearing yourself apart doing this. I have been there also. I at times have been tormented by thoughts of what I could have done better to improve my father’s care in the month before he died. “Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I ask that? Why didn’t I demand .....? Would he still be alive today, if I had.........if they had......? As if I were the only one in power of when or how my father died!

It does bring some comfort to know that these thoughts and emotions are typical in the grief process. It helps to know that others have had similar feelings of regret and self-recrimination, but in the small hours of the night when you are attacked by memories of what you did or should have done, this knowledge is comfortless. Where I have found peace is to acknowledge my wrongs and ask for forgiveness. Yes, it is true that we do the best we can, and caregiving is overwhelming, but as humans we let each other down all the time. There WERE things I could or should have done. Yes, there were many things I did right in the care of my father, but for what I didn’t do right, (that come back to haunt me), I admit I am guilty, and I ask God’s forgiveness for any word, action, or lack of action that was unloving, and ask Him to teach me how to love better.

You are in the early stages of grieving. Give yourself time. Take some life affirming actions. Eat well, exercise, take photos of flowers. Join a grief group. Realize that your guilty thoughts are part of the grieving process. Some of the guilt is misplaced (I doubt your mother would have lived to such a ripe old age without you), but some of it is not. Like me, you are a flawed, sinful human being. Though understandable, of course you would feel guilty about the instances you related in your post. Under stress, you behaved toward the mother you loved and cared for in a way you now regret. You apologized and were forgiven by your mother. You also admitted it to us, and I’m glad you did. I hope you have found some relief, but don’t stop there. Admit it to God and know that you will find lasting forgiveness and peace. No, “Hell is NOT the only place for you! I will be praying for you.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report
joecichjr Jan 2020
Thank you for your kindness to me and the obvious effort you put into your response to me. It was both informative and uplifting while offering some wonderful food for thought.
(1)
Report
Please feel no guilt. I have two parents in assisted living within 1/2 mile of me. I get help with the bathing etc because they do that but everything else is on me. I make all the appointments, pick up prescriptions, order all their supplies, go to all the appointments which can average 2-4 a week between the two. I get the mail, open the mail, deal with the insurance. I write all this out to let you know that I can totally understand your feelings of anger and frustration.

I think it is normal when one is overwhelmed. Those moments were fleeting and forgiven. You took care of your Mother and she appreciated it. Caregivers give up their life. I don’t know how people cope who give up jobs and have to do all the physical work themselves.

instead of feeling guilt which implies you did something wrong, be proud of yourself. You did a wonderful job
Helpful Answer (0)
Report
joecichjr Jan 2020
Thank you for sharing and helping so thoughtfully. Your kind words have given me comfort and some ideas.
(1)
Report
Thank you for your kindness, Willie. I appreciate your taking the time to write a few words to help me.
Helpful Answer (0)
Report

Your post has me in tears. Totally different circumstances & no caregiving involved, but I had a son that died in 2014. Trust me, if your mom said it was “water under the bridge” she truly forgave you. Moms are like that, we forgive our children. It’s what we do. Most of us don’t even require an apology, we understand stress & breaking points. Like she said, it’s just water under the bridge. Your Mom knew you loved her, else you wouldn’t have been caring for her.

It can be difficult to forgive oneself and then to add the grieving process to it and oh, boy! That makes it even more of a struggle. Look at your Mom’s forgiveness as permission to forgive yourself. I know how hard that is & it takes time. Your mom certainly doesn’t want you to go to hell. Take a pen & write out EVERYTHING, big & small, that you did for your mom. When you feel the guilt drowning you, read your list. Try writing her a letter explaining everything you feel. If you’re angry, find a punching bag. Throw eggs at a tree. Exercise if possible. Find a grief counselor. Some churches offer this for free. Griefshare sends supportive emails daily for one year, but they are from a Christian perspective. Some will be relevant & some may not be, but overall they are helpful.

I’m very sorry you’re struggling with this and hope that you find it possible to forgive yourself very soon.
Helpful Answer (5)
Report
joecichjr Jan 2020
Thank you for your kindness, Molly. I appreciate your taking the time to console me and offer your point of view. Very valuable to me. I hope you yourself are feeling better. I am always here if YOU need an ear.

Joe
(1)
Report
Joe, you are human, like all of us humans. We are not perfect. We have flaws. Tragic, but all too true.  Have you considered that your mom understood that perfectly well? I believe she forgave you and meant what she said about "water under the bridge."  Honor her wisdom and love for you and let it pass "under the bridge" and fill your heart with all the wonderful times you had together.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report
joecichjr Jan 2020
Thank You, Dear Friend. I wrote a little Kindle book for her about three years ago for her 95th. A dear friend told me that I wouldn't have been able to write what I did had I not loved her. I know she knew. I always tried to tell her and show her. My mom always forgave. My dad, never. I am about half of each of them, and I often am full of struggle just to live with myself let alone with someone else. Thank you again.
(0)
Report
In this chit-show known as caregiving, I think we all do the best we can under the circumstances. To expect perfection of yourself is impossible......an unattainable goal. Accept your humanity and the attached imperfections and forgive yourself. If 90% of you was wonderful and 10% of you was terrible, then focus on the 90% while excusing the 10%.
You did your best for beloved mom who's enjoying eternal peace now. I'm quite sure she doesn't want you to be beating yourself up over this 10% nonsense but rather, to start a new life at 66 that's vibrant with adventure and fun which is well deserved. If you need some therapy to help you feel worthy to live that new lifestyle, then by God get some! Don't waste your retirement years on the woulda beens, shoulda beens and coulda beens. Enjoy them, instead, on living in the NOW.

Wishing you all the best
Helpful Answer (5)
Report
NoTryDoYoda Jan 2020
I love this to which I'd only add that living one's life in would, should and could is a passive life that lacks direction and active action. Try thinking, speaking about your life with active verbs that lead you to do what you say you will do, go where you say you will go, etc.
(1)
Report
See 1 more reply
We all suffer from human limitations, but clearly you are/were doing things at the time, knowing how hurtful they were to both your Mom and yourself, and without getting any help or relief of it. There is, I think, a need here for therapy. I don't know that this is a time for self-forgiveness so much as for insight and learning, as this is behavior that must not follow you through life as you deal with work situations, with family situations, and especially if you have children. This is time for a professional. The forum can tell you that each of us here understands we all have human limitations, but we cannot help you as you move forward from what has been done and cannot be undone to a life moving forward that depends on your not repeating such behavior when you are overwhelmed.
Very sorry for your grief and your sense of failure. Your Mom loved you; let that love move you forward to make a better life for yourself and for all you come in contact with in future.
Helpful Answer (2)
Report
joecichjr Jan 2020
Thank you for your clear, kind advice, Alva.
(0)
Report
I'm sorry about your mom. Don't hate yourself. She may have thought that she was a burden and that you could have a life after she was gone.

Therapy may be of help to you.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report
joecichjr Jan 2020
I know she thought that. We talked about it and I always assured her she would be taken care of at home, that I would do whatever necessary because I loved her.... in spite of my big mouth or dirty looks. Thank you for your kind words and advice.
(0)
Report
See 1 more reply
I know. I hated watching my Mom decline and get frail. I am that person who cries at sad movies. But I hardened myself to this. My Mom was a good Mom. Well liked and a smile for everyone. She was giving without complaint. But, I was the one of 4 who lived nearby. I was the one both my parents relied on. As they aged, did more and more. She brought my disabled nephew to live with her at 80. The responsibility of getting him SS and help was on me because it overwhelmed her. My Mom had Dementia and no I didn't deal with it well. By the time she came to live with me she needed help with everything. I could be working around the house and just sit down and she would call for me. I didn't like being the one she depended on 24/7. I had no patience and I didn't like that I was the only one out of my siblings doing anything. I kind of shut down. We were never huggers or hand holders in my family so doing it once she had Dementia was not comfortable for me. I had these feelings I could not and still can't describe and I disliked myself for having them. I was not a caregiver that's for sure. Do I feel guilty, yes but not to the point its wrecking my life. I tell myself with the dementia I hope she didn't notice or remember. My other consolation is I did more for her and my Dad than my siblings did.
Helpful Answer (1)
Report
joecichjr Jan 2020
Kind of like having your life and routines pulled out from under you like a rug. My sister helped, but she has MS and some other fairly big health issues. Yes, I felt resentment quite often. I think for both you and I, it was a struggle with emotions coming out of nowhere and from all directions. Thank you for sharing your feelings and ideas with me.
(0)
Report
You sound totally burned out plus some sense of abandonment. I too suggest getting a therapist to help you work through your emotions and find some balance instead of hating yourself.
Helpful Answer (5)
Report
joecichjr Jan 2020
Unfortunately I am totally unequipped to try do yoda, but that never stops me. I don't feel like I did anything to get burned out. But I think it was there because of the impending death and the greatest frustration I have ever felt in my life.
I was with Mom all my life and I knew losing her would obliterate me. Thank you for your words.
(0)
Report
Ah Joe, I'm sure even Mother Teresa had uncharitable thoughts and yelled some times, give yourself a break. Please consider grief counselling to help you get through this.
Helpful Answer (3)
Report

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter