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My mom is in an excellent care home with hospice support. She’s very gradually been declining for months, and comfortable, but this week, seems to have taken a turn for the worse. I had thought she’d been withdrawn for months - my last visit, last month, it took her a day and a half to warm up to me, and when she did, she became distressed about having to say goodbye again (I live long distance). I just told her that I was going to be sad to leave her too, but I was there for a week, and shouldn’t we just enjoy the next several days together. And we did, we had a lovely visit. She didn’t seem traumatized by my departure, either.


But this week, she didn’t want to see my sister, and she didn’t want to speak to me by phone. She does interact with her primary caregiver, but she literally turned her face to wall to avoid my call.


I’ve read and reread everything I can find regarding the dying experience. Most recently, the original Kubler-Ross description of Acceptance, and how the dying need to detach from everything and everyone they love in order to most peacefully move on. I can imagine this and I respect this. And I don’t want to make her passing any more emotionally difficult.


On the other hand, it is really difficult to decide not to fly to her again. Not because I need to see her, more that I can’t bear the thought that she could feel abandoned without family. No matter how clear she’s made it that she wants me to move on.


I’ve never been one to believe that everyone wants to die with their hand held, and I don’t think either she or I need to be together during the final moment. But given that hospice is estimating “weeks,” do I go or not go? Could it only burden her? Prolong her suffering?


Any thoughts or related experiences/ reflections would be super appreciated.

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As people near the end of life their focus can turn inward and they don't welcome being drawn back into engaging with people and events that they are leaving behind. I think if you are willing to just sit quietly with her, perhaps holding her hand or offering physical supports rather than conversation she may find comfort in your presence.
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I thought I would offer an update, in case anyone were interested. Thank you for all your responses.

My mother has rallied, with hospice rescinding their “weeks” prognosis. She is back to being comfortable, eating again, in good spirits, and seems willing to engage now. A friend of hers visited yesterday, and enabled a facetime chat. She was happy to see me and talk to me.

So, I am boosted, I have booked a flight, and I am on my way to see her next week! I am very much looking forward to spending some time with her, and beyond relieved to have this dilemma behind me for the time being.
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Katefalc Dec 9, 2021
Happy for you 💜💜
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I'm with Sendhelp. You should go. You don't know for sure why she's acting the way she is. Even if she doesn't engage with you, you can just be there in the room and know she wasn't by herself. Go, because you will never regret being there.
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It is important for the well being and memories of both of you to be with your Mother near the end. She is not thinking straight, be understanding.
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bundleofjoy Nov 30, 2021
dear daughterfromCA,

huge hugs to you and your mother in this extremely difficult moment.

i agree with spadrvr: be with your mother.

one thing is what one says ("i don't want to see you, talk to you...move on")...another thing is what one really thinks/feels.

i do think her heart would be deeply warmed, having you there.
i don't think anyone really wants to die alone.

hugs!!
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Thoughts on this related experience is that Spouse, who died yesterday evening, withdrew his hand forcefully from mine when I had been holding it off and on; it was a strong movement from one who had been gurgling his breath to varying degrees for the 4 hours I stayed with him before he passed. It did seem to me that he wanted to do this dying thing alone so I didn't reinsert my hand again. I hope this helps your decision from your caring and aching heart.
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DaughterfromCA Dec 7, 2021
I’m so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for taking the time to share such a recent grief experience.

My FIL passed in March. My MIL said that in the last few days, she was gently patting his arm, and he asked her to please stop. She was devastated. He’d also sometimes stopped responding verbally, which was also so very hurtful to her.

But we all know how deeply he loved her, there is zero doubt among anyone that knew him. And from what I’ve been learning, this withdrawal might be what must happen for us in order to let go - we must detach from everyone and everything we love, the world. It can be harder for us, the loved ones, than the dying, if we don’t consider or understand this. And for the dying, if our loved ones can’t let us go, it has the potential to be traumatic, and so much more difficult to let go.

I think it was incredibly loving for you to be there for him and not reinsert your hand. Hugs.
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Your heart is that you don't want her to feel abandoned.
Talk to her primary caregiver and ask when would be a good time to see your Mom.

Use your heart, your mind, and your intelligence to make your decision.

This time in your Mom's life, being at the end, cannot be figured out by reading EKR, it just can't.

You go.
Because if you don't, we will have to use EKR's advice about death and dying to help you get through your grief and guilt. And that will not work. imo.
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I appreciate the responses. I’d like to clarify - I’m most concerned about *her* potential experience of having me visit. As in, while it’s so very kind to consider what my visiting or not visiting would do for me, I’m concerned that it could make passing more difficult for *her.*

Also, I’m not viewing EKR as some infallible authority on the dying experience. I’m generally skeptical of the stages of grief. But Withdrawal seems to be a commonly recognized and near universal aspect of the dying process.
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Yes, people withdraw. I remember my aunt did it and refused to see anyone, including my mother, her only sister and last relative.

My cousins gently tried to explain that to my mom, and she said too bad -- this was her sister, and she wanted to see her one more time, and she did. My mom didn't bother my aunt, nor did she stay with her more than a few minutes, but it was important for both of them. My aunt died two days later.

Not everyone withdraws the same way. My dad didn't withdraw from people, but when he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he simply let go of all the stress of caring for my mom and focused on his own self-care. He actually reached out to as many people as he could to say how much he appreciated them until he couldn't any longer. His decline was very fast, but he never pulled away from me, my mom, or my brother.

I say go to your mom, sit with her for a bit, and just be in the same place with her.
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No one can predict the time of your Mom's passing at this point, nor her reaction to your being there. If I were in your shoes, and the need to go was there, I would go because I would not want to wonder for the rest of my life if my mom was feeling abandoned. Is that a feeling driven by guilt? Maybe. But we're all human and that's would I would do.
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I would go. Most people don't want to be a burden, so maybe she wants to make it easier for you. It's hard to tell when they flip back and forth on how they feel at the moment. A lot of times they are afraid of the hereafter. The unknowing. Reflecting on one's life. Also depends on how visitors behave when they are there. Being comforting is key. Knowing something of their character, bring something small and pretty to gaze at when there're alone. Read to them, spiritual or favorite uplifting story. Talk about funny family antics and the wonderful accomplishments she has made in her life. Bring pictures. Remembering the good times. Soon she will be joining other love one's. Remember it's a celebration of life and she is loved. Visiting should give her a chance to get out her head. Tell her what you love about her. I am not sure why people wait to say heart felt feelings during a eulogy when you can express it now. Think about it. You'll come up with something good. Take care.
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