Grief Adjusting to a New Normal

Journal – Saturday, May 7, 2016

So here I am once again typing. Still fatigued. In bed. Nick is gathering laundry. I’m lucky to have a husband who will do laundry. Looking forward to a simple breakfast of Cheerios and banana and a strong cup of coffee. Nick’s going to make me breakfast and coffee and bring it up to me to enjoy it in bed. He does it every weekend, and I love him even more for it.
Visited my mom and dad yesterday for Silverado’s Mother’s Day lunch. When I arrived, I had been told that my parents had been walking around. I arrived a little late, for I stopped for flowers. I found my parents in their room, and my mother was crying. I reassured her that, of course, I was coming to visit her on Mother’s Day. I just ran late, for I picked up her some flowers. I joined them for lunch in their room, then we took a walk, and sat outside enjoying the day while we ate dessert. The dessert selection was wonderful. Miniature tiramisu, cheesecake topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream, cannoli, and cupcakes.
Wiped me out visiting. Hurts. Deep down. That keening. That slow long-term grieving. Grieving the parents I had, the mother I knew. Wishing I could talk with her. Wishing I could call. Wishing she could communicate with me. I do my best to decipher her emotions, her body language. I do my best to understand what she tries to say, to show, to write. Terribly painful. Fuck strokes. I’m pissed off that my mother can no longer speak or write. We must communicate non-verbally using movement and facial expressions.
Complaining too much. At one point last weekend, I fantasized about my own interests, not so much about mom & dad. That’s where I need to focus.

Mother’s Day – Sunday, May 8, 2016

Not sure I have anything to say or to write today. Will be a day of rest, and maybe a walk with Nick and the dogs. Would prefer a wilderness walk than a dog walk. Maybe I’ll ask Nick and Matthew to go on a hike with me. Maybe I’ll just spend the day in bed relaxing. Who knows? When I’ve walked with Nick and the dogs recently, it’s been only for very short walks. Don’t really like walking the dogs. Still associate walking them with them attacking other dogs. Still traumatized by the time they viciously attacked a grey hound.
Anyway, not so sure that thinking about that helps. Need to desensitize myself. Nick’s been working with the dogs by walking them regularly. Still don’t trust them. Always want to come back as soon as Thumper poops. Even though Nick carries the poop bag, not I.
Happy Mother’s Day, Kitt! Don’t feel so great. What do I need to do to feel better?
Comment thread on my Mother’s Day blog post earlier today:
LAURELWOLFELIVES: I hope you’re going to be able to spend time with your mama. I hope it’s a good day. Hugs.
KITT O’MALLEY: I spent time with her Friday when they had a Mother’s Day lunch at their memory care community. Today is my day, to enjoy at home with my husband and son. I must take care of myself, too, and at times be selfish. Today is one of those days.
LAURELWOLFELIVES: You are NOT being selfish, Kitt. You are a wonderful daughter and mother….don’t ever doubt or forget that. I hope your day is glorious. Hugs.
Friday I visited, had lunch with my parents in their room. My mother was crying when I found them in their room. I went up to my mother and reassured her that, of course, I was visiting her for Mother’s Day lunch, that I was delayed in arriving because I stopped to buy flowers. Honestly, I had trouble dragging myself out of bed. I hugged her, showed her the flowers I bought. We put them in a vase. Next time, I’ll buy an arrangement already in a vase and remove empty vases from her room.
While we were in their room, my mother opened her calendar, pointed to the day, and asked that I write. I wrote, “Kitt visited for Mother’s Day” (or something to that effect, probably with fewer words since her calendar is small). She pointed again. I wrote, “ate lunch.” She shook her head and tried writing numbers. I asked, “Do you want my phone number?” Yes, she nodded. So, I wrote my phone number, which she copied. I told her, “Good job copying the numbers.”
She let me know that she wasn’t pleased. I took her to the nurses’ station, conveniently next-door to their room. I asked her if she was happy with the 24/7 nursing. She nodded and smiled at the nurse. The nurse walked us to the front desk and brought out an administrator and assistant health director. My parents had already met them, but I wanted to let my mother know that these were the women they could speak to about concerns. My mother took their business cards, which she seemed to appreciate.
Forward to today, Mother’s Day. My mother went up to the front desk and adamantly pointed to my phone number. They called and put her on the phone. She seemed okay at first. I reminded her that I had visited Friday and that today I was celebrating Mother’s Day with my son. She started crying. I told her I loved her. I reminded her of the flowers I brought and the flowers my sister had sent. She hung up at some point.
I called back to speak to the social worker to ask for advice. The social worker had redirected my mother, reminding her that I had visited Friday. The social worker thinks that my mother becomes overwhelmed on these “special” days and feels isolated. My father doesn’t remember whether or not I’ve visited. The social worker said she’d write in my mother’s calendar that I spoke to my mother on the phone today, which is what I USED to do on Mother’s Day.
I’m a mother now, too. Yet, I feel guilty that I am not visiting my mother. Honestly, I feel guilty that she had a stroke. I mourn, as no doubt does she, the phone calls we used to share. I used to communicate with my mother almost daily, either on the phone or through Words with Friends. Now, we cannot really do that. We’ve lost our former way of relating. We grieve that loss. We have not yet found our new stasis.
Our new normal must begin with my mother and father becoming comfortable with their living arrangement. Every time that I visit, my father asks when they are leaving. At least he seems to have stopped asking my mother’s prognosis. At least he asks less often. When he does ask, I tell him that my mother had her stroke in November, that it is now May, six months later. He’s intelligent. His short-term memory is blown, but he understands that six months and little improvement does not promise a great prognosis. Yet, I tell him that there is no way I can predict the future. As time goes by… This will become our new normal.


9 responses to “Mother's Day Guilt”

  1. Thank you, Tone. I no longer respond to award nominations, but do appreciate it.

  2. I love your blog so, so much, that I nominated it for “The Smiley Thumb Award”.

  3. A belated happy Mother’s day, Kitt! Yes, care taking is the hardest thing other than loss and you have loss of your mother even before the big loss. Treat yourself well, Kitt, sending love, Ellen

  4. Thank you, Dy!

  5. This was heartbreaking…I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Although my father declined, it was a totally different situation.
    How I wish you never, ever had to go through any this (nor your parents, and other respective family members) — it’s sheer hell. You’re being such a loving, caring daughter, Kitt, doing more than most people could do for their parents. You wrote that at one point you, “fantasized about my own interests, not so much about mom & dad. That’s where I need to focus.” Please do that more; I’m glad you recognized that. My thoughts are with you, as is my love, Kitt!

  6. Oh my. So sorry Kitt

  7. Unfortunately, their cognitive skills have declined, and they cannot recall how to use their iPad. Dementia is a bitch.

  8. First – Happy Mother’s Day Kitt. You certainly deserve to revel in this day.
    Second – This is a very difficult place to be with your own parents. Do they have a computer? Something where you could actually dial into their machine and post greetings right on their screen for them? Or add to their calendar events such as “Kitt loves her Mom and Dad”? Or possibly send a card once a week in addition to your visits? Finding the new normal with them is going to take time and determination on everyone’s part. I wish you luck finding that place sooner rather than later.

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