Recovering from grief…or do we?

I’ve been away from posting for a long time. I take this as a positive sign of my recovery from grieving. But, do we ever fully recover?

Sure, I know grief is personal and subjective and everyone handles it differently; there is no right or wrong way. Everyone has their own timetable and needs to find their new normal.

But now and then those triggers pop up. Just when you think you have things under control – BOOM! – you see or read something that sets you back. This has happened to me a couple of times post-recovery. I try to avoid articles on dementia and Alzheimer’s because an uneasiness comes over me but at the same time, they draw me in; they’re so compelling. So, I’ll scan over them. Some are upsetting to me because I find myself second-guessing my care, reflecting on “should I have done this or that”, “why was I impatient at times….she couldn’t help it”, and the like.

Such an article, and a beautiful one, written by Dan Gasby set off that trigger recently. He is the husband and care partner to supermodel, restaurateur, magazine publisher, celebrity chef, and nationally known lifestyle expert  B. Smith, who has younger-onset Alzheimer’s,

The loss of my mother is still relatively new. In February it will be four years. I was depressed for the first 2 1/2 of those years during which I had a daughter and a son get married and welcomed two beautiful grandsons into our family; I now have a third due in a couple of months. Most days are good. When I think of my mother now I think of happy and fun times. I’m not bogged down by those deepest feelings of loss. That is a sign of recovery. I believe I have found my new normal.

Still, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of her or miss her.


Three years and coping

It seems a little surreal and hard to believe that today marks three years since mom’s been gone; seems just like yesterday and an eternity at the same time. I received sweet texts this morning from my daughter-in-law and friend, and phone calls from my daughters. I’ll visit mom later today and go to minyan tonight even though I went last week for her yahrzeit, the anniversary of the day of death in the Jewish calendar.

I went back into my email correspondence with Ted, trying to find something. I often referred to Ted as “T.” in my writing, and came across L’s exquisite eulogy that so embodied the essence of mom.

During the heavy grieving period we all cope differently. For me, it was wearing mom’s clothes and using her nail polish on my toes so when I looked down at my feet it was like looking at hers. And today, I’m wearing one of her sweaters and a pair of sandals that I bought with her.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of mom or tell her how much I love her. As Ted so poignantly and elegantly told me as only he could, “nothing dies that is remembered.”

In that case, mom is very much alive in me … and always will be.

Stumbling and Recovery

Something very strange happened to me last month. Or maybe it’s not so strange. For all the positive steps moving forward in grieving the loss of a loved one, you can stumble. And that happened to me last month.

I still get the shakes when I see the word “Alzheimer’s” in a heading or within text. Still, I read a review of “Still Alice” in The New York Times last month. But it was the readers’ comments that hit me hard.

As I read some of them, I started crying. They brought me back to my care-giving experiences. Not only did I share many of the readers’ experiences but it caused me, again, to question my care: Did I do everything I could? I knew mom had dementia but did my denial of Alzheimer’s hamper my care-giving? Should I have quit my job to be with her all the time? I still see her big smile and eyes light up when I would stop by for breakfast on my way to work. Could I or should I have done things differently? My friends and brother will give an emphatic “No!”

I think care-givers always have these doubts, especially after losing their loved one. But these comments hit such a nerve in me and set a trigger off so much so that I contacted my local Alzheimer’s Association to look into a support group. And as I’m on the phone with the rep, I just started bawling. My emotions were just so raw – something not experienced for a long time as I was doing so well.

Well, after calling the group’s facilitator and finding out she was no longer there, I guess I got over “it” because I chose not to follow through and lost interest. I’m still thinking of contacting them to find a group. In the grieving process one thing I have found, at least for me, is the need to talk. I’m sure it’s the same for most.

PS I have not yet seen the film … but I will.

PSS Gratefully and thankfully my daugher is fine. Her brain lesion is gone, and one month after her second MRI in December, she went on to run the Houston Marathon and a PR – 4:20:07!

Hitting Milestones

It is now 15 1/2 months since mom’s passing. Along the way I have made progress and have had some setbacks in the grief process. This is expected.

Thoughts of mom still flood my mind while I’m driving. Perhaps because it’s alone and quiet time for me. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, I go over choices made and not made. This Monday morning quarterbacking always enters the picture and plagues me but not to the extent it has in the past. That’s progress.

Another bit of progress is that M. and I finally hooked up mom’s big flat screen TV – the TV she asked for shortly after Thanksgiving 2011, saying she needed a bigger screen. It is a very nice TV but it was too personal for me at the time to use it. Maybe because she barely got to enjoy it herself and I didn’t feel right about “enjoying” it. Whatever the reason, I’m OK now about it now.

Along the way my daughters have quietly been observing my progress or lack thereof.Case in point: A couple of weeks ago one of them asked if I had lost weight because the walking shorts I was wearing looked a little large. I replied, “No, they’re are nana’s.”

Well, that sent them rolling with laughter. “Mom!” D. declared. “You were doing so well. I think you’re regressing.” I countered that they just have to be taken in a little at the waist and was wearing a belt. I thought they looked fine.

Yes, I like to keep mom close to me be it with her clothes, her jewelry, pieces of her furniture, her paintings, and most importantly, thoughts of her.

That can never be taken from me.

One year ago today

Recently, I’ve been reading posts relating to mom’s rapid decline from last year that correspond to the current day’s date in 2013. I’m not sure why I’ve been doing this. Maybe to see where I was emotionally at that time.

According to the Jewish calendar, Feb. 10, 2012 – the day we lost mom – corresponds to 17 Shevat. This past Jan. 28 marked her yahrzeit  – the anniversary of her passing (still can’t say the “D” word) – which corresponds to 17 Shevat. –

At any rate, in reading last year’s post, I so vividly remember today, last year.


Grieving and Timetables

There is no set timetable for grieving the loss of a loved one. Some are able to compartmentalize better than others and able to “move on” at a quicker pace.

I’m not sure where I fit. Hard to believe yesterday marked two weeks since mom’s funeral. I definitely feel a voided space out there. I look at her picture and it is still hard to wrap my brain around it.

I spoke with Dr. K a couple of days ago to try to get a grasp about what just happened.

Mom was definitely in a free-fall decline for a good two months probably longer. There was definitely something going on cognitively and physically. I read the notes I kept and the notes recorded by her aides/companions. But I didn’t think it would end in death, at least not as fast as it did. The point is, dementing disorders shorten life.

Mom’s blood pressure issues accelerated the problem. And in the midst of all this, she was not eating as well and didn’t have much in reserves. Put it all together, these patients lose their drive to survive, says Dr. K; they have no sense of purpose of reason to be.

This is really hard for me to swallow and to accept but I did see a voided look in mom’s eyes and changes in her body language. And of course I’m now second-guessing – could I have been more proactive in addressing  these new behaviors? Did I become complacent to her condition? And yes, coming back to her fall in September – was that the start of her decline? But I did. I called Dr. K, I spoke to her twice during the week that mom went into the hospital and mom even saw her earlier that week.

Still, I can’t help but think I could’ve done more.

Mental Fatigue

I’m mentally exhausted.

I’ve been concerned about mom since her return to Assisted Living and her ability to do certain things on her own from what I’ve seen. There has definitely been some cognitive decline and this naturally concerns me.

Mom has had episodes of low oxygen levels that naturally cause her to get a little dizzy but to also lose leg strength, where her legs just buckle under her. This happened to her last week during PT and on Saturday when we were out, and required her to be on O2 for the rest of the day and night. She was better on Sunday.

I had a lengthy talk with Dr. K. this morning about these things and other concerns. She’s requested her current meds since the hospital changed doses on some of her BP meds to get her pressure under control. And any change in meds or the introduction of new ones can definitely have an effect on someone’s fragile physiological state like mom’s. She’s also ordering more regular breathing treatments.

Dr. K. agreed that it’s still too early to tell anything definitely since mom is still undergoing a recovery phase from her most recent hosp/rehab stay, but there has definitely been a cognitive decline in her functioning. In fact, for mom, every three days back in her normal environment is the equivalent of one day for a “normal” person, so this is going to be a long recovery phase. Dr. K. also agreed and recommended that mom get some assistance during this period. It might even be indefinite, which wouldn’t surprise me.

Thankfully, Dr. K walks on water for mom and she can do or say no wrong. When I told mom about getting a companion to help assist her in the morning and at bedtime, she kind of grunted. But when I said that Dr. K. strongly recommended it, mom said, “OK.”

I also spoke to AL’s activities director to talk about encouraging mom to get involved in some of their programs and as a relatively new resident, to just do a little more hand holding while she acclimates to yet another new environment. She was sympathetic and receptive.

We’ll see how things go and hope for the best.