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Grieving the living

The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster for my family. My mother is in kidney failure due to diabetes, and she has been on dialysis for 2.5 years. She’s also obese and has pulmonary hypertension and was recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. She’s a poster child for the damage obesity and stress does to the body. We’re very close, and she’s one of my biggest supporters. Seeing her decline has been excruciating.

11 years ago in June, my oldest brother was killed in a car accident. She was already diabetic and overweight but until that moment, everything was stable. But the stress caused her slow decline. I was pregnant at the time, and she was healthy enough to help us paint my daughter’s room. After Grace was born, Mom was a huge help in taking care of her those first weeks. Grace is almost 11 now, and Mom can barely get around.

Since she went on dialysis, I’ve felt as though I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, just waiting for her death to push me off. Her kidney doctor didn’t think she’d make it two years on dialysis because of her heart condition, but until the last couple of weeks, she’s done very well, and he admitted she surprised him. But she’s still very sick, and we could lose her any day. I try to take it one day at a time and be grateful she’s still here, but it’s a struggle.

I truly thought we were going to lose her this time. Shortly after she was admitted to the University of Iowa Hospital two weeks ago, it just seemed like all her systems were shutting down. I had a conference to go to, and it was too late to cancel the hotel or airline. We stood to loose thousands, and she insisted I go. She said she’d be hurt if I didn’t. Walking out of that room that night was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I really thought she’d die before we got on the plane the next morning.

But yet again, she rebounded and is out of the hospital. But she’s still sick, and the reality is we’ll be lucky to get another couple of years for someone her age on dialysis.

So much of my life is spent waiting for the worst to come and fighting against that. I know I should cherish every day, and I honestly try to. But every time the phone rings, my heart stops.

How do we continue to enjoy and live our own lives when someone we love so much is in such a perilous condition? I feel guilty when I’m not worrying about her, and then I feel bad because I’m not giving my husband and daughter my full attention.

And in the back of my mind, there’s always the single, terrible question: what will I do without my mom?

There aren’t any answers, and I know I’m not alone in going through something like this. Watching our parents age and suffer is an awful thing, and I’m lucky I’m close enough to her to help take care of her. But there’s another part of me that’s angry, at both her and life for putting such a good person through such terrible things. She’s only 74, and she deserves better. I think of all the time I spent with her that I took for granted, all the little memories that have evaporated over the years. I should have cherished those moments, stockpiled them, journaled about them.

But that won’t lessen the pain of losing her. So I’ll continue to take things a day at a time and be grateful for whatever time she has left. I’ll also use her health issues as a motivator for my own life, so that I continue to get healthy and avoid the issues she’s dealing with. I don’t want to put my own daughter through this some day.

And to anyone with diabetes, please take care. I know weight is usually a mental issue, so seek therapy if you possibly can. Don’t underestimate what it can do to your body, and don’t underestimate the power of stress. Find healthy ways to cope, seek therapy or other help as needed. We only have one life, and we need to cherish it!

5 comments on… “Grieving the living”

  1. Lori Hunt

    Sorry to hear! I have been on the health roller coaster with my Mom a couple of times. It never gets any easier. I know what ever happens, she’ll always be with me. Take care of yourself- that’s the best thing you can ever do.

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s health. It helps just to know other people understand what we’re going through. Good luck!

  2. V Jones

    After losing my mother 10 years ago, I can finally say that eventually the pain does get easier to bear. I too was close with my mother and her death was the most painful experience I have ever had to face. But, Stacy, when it happens, you get through it one minute at a time, then one hour, one day, one week, etc. Hold onto those precious memories even if they make you cry. Explain to your daughter that it is okay to cry and that it is okay to take about your mother and share memories together even if you both end up crying! Keep her memory alive for your daughter! Beware of you and/or daughter’s feelings and seek help for you and/or her with a good therapist if the grief becomes overwhelming.

  3. Tina Tierson

    Stacy, I’ve just “discovered” you through your books, and just now this blog. I’m so sorry for the pain you’re going through with your mom. I’m just two years younger than she and thankfully am in pretty good shape. But as a mom, I just want you to know that everything you’ve done and are doing in your life, including going to conferences, is making your mom so happy and satisfied. she’s so very proud of you now and will continue to be even as she continues the on the journey we must all make. Just be the you she knows and loves and the mother of the little girl I know your mom must be thrilled to have in both your lives. I’m sorry your mom didn’t take as good care of herself as she may have, but we all do the best we can at any given time. Also, at this age, at least going by myself and my friends of similar age, death isn’t as scary as it is to younger people. Relationships don’t end when death occurs. I know this because I my precious older son was killed 26 years ago in Desert Storm. I used to think I lost him, but no, he’s still my son, still in my life and always will be. Just love your mom as much as you do, create as many precious moments as you can and notice every one of them. This is hard stuff, but is something that comes to each of us. I’m sending you, your mom, and all your family the blessings of love and memories.

    • Tina,
      Thank you so much for your kind message. I can’t tell you how much it means to read it. And I am so sorry about your son. There are no words to adequately describe that loss. I’ve watched my mother lose two, and it’s just unfathomable. Thank you again for your message and blessings!

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