I lost my mother in April. It hurts worse now than then

My mother died in April after a years-long battle with vascular dementia. I buried her last Friday.

It hurts worse now than then.

I knew my mother was going to die. When she was first diagnosed two years and change ago, I looked up the medical literature. It said that life expectancy was six to nine years post-diagnosis.

I knew my mother was going to die, but I thought I had four to seven more years with her.

When she was diagnosed, it was terrifying. She had packed her things and wanted to "go back home" from the home she had been living in for decades. I called 911, got her to the ER. She spent a week and change in the hospital while they assessed her. They asked me then if I wanted to place her. I did not. I wanted to give her a chance to spend her last years in "familiar" surroundings, although she recognised the place, and me, less and less.

Things were going until last November. She had a fall. I called 911. ER passed her to orthopedics (she had metal prostheses in her left arm from the car accident that took her better son decades ago.) Orthopedists saw the prostheses were out of place but did not want to operate. They released her back to the ER. ER doctor asked me if I was comfortable with discharge back home.

My mother had had her fall "while getting ready to go to work." She had not worked in several decades. I told that to the ER doc, who kept her for observation. My mother was upset.

I visited her in the hospital over the next month and change. Initially, the plan was temporary discharge home, eventual placement. Then, the physio pulled me aside one day and told me that my mother could not or would not use her walker safely and that discharge home would inevitably lead to another fall, while placement reduced the chance of a fall. I immediately responded that they should place her.

She was placed in early January. But, by then, she had lost even more of her faculties, and she was refusing to eat anything but Ensure. When she was transferred to a care home, she hardly made the distinction between the care home and the hospital.

I visited her every day I could at the care home, until visits were shut off in March because of the pandemic. After that, I called the care home every day. A week before she died, they got her to talk on the phone to me. Same combative spirit. They were even making plans to modify her diet.

Then, one night last April, a nurse called. My mother died. The nurse was as kind and understanding as she could be, but she told me that, due to the pandemic, they could not keep my mother's remains longer than a day. She asked me if there were pre-arrangements. There were not, but I knew there was a funeral home nearby. I got in contact with them, then called the care home to give them the funeral home's number. They picked up my mother's remains that night. Because of the pandemic, I could not even see her. I called most of her family. Most handled it well.

I called the home the next day. The agent told me there was only one option. I already knew. I authorised the cremation of my mother's remains, but I could not see her one last time. I had her ashes a week later.

In the first month or so after my mother died, I accepted the line that, with the pandemic, my mother was suffering no more, that my mother was no longer in the mental agony of vascular dementia.

Then, another nurse from the care home called me to tell me I could pick up my mother's belongings. This nurse had been on duty when my mother died. She broke down crying over the phone. I tried to be as professional as I could, I tried to tell the nurse it was not her fault, that it was OK for her to cry since crying is better than vicarious traumatisation, a major risk among health care professionals.

It was not that nurse's fault. It was entirely my fault that my mother died. I did not pick up on the early warning signs of her vascular dementia. Three years later, when it became inescapable, the only thing I could think of doing was what I was trained to do, preserve her life. I hardly thought about her quality of life.

My mother was an intelligent person. She knew there was something wrong, but she just could not say it out loud. She did not have to. The horror in her eyes when she could not understand said it all. Because I fell back on my training (preserve life about all else), I tried to divert her attention, I tried to keep her fed and clean and out of harm's way. I never thought about the horror she felt.

In my useless attempts to preserve her life, I completely ruined whatever quality of life she may have had in her last two years of life.

I see the horror in my mother's eyes whenever I am between deep sleep and waking up, just like I see my brother's face at that time. It is a horrible feeling, but it is karma, it is justice.

I have had multiple surgeries, I have had gallstones and kidney stones, I have been hit on the head and I have fallen on my head. But I never knew what pain was until my mother died.

I buried my mother Friday, months after she died. I could not even get her funeral right. I am in pain, but that pain is justice and karma. I will be in pain for the rest of my conscious life, but that is what I deserve for failing my mother.

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Comment by Joe von Anjou on September 3, 2020 at 2:53pm

Last weekend was different. No crashing devastation, no heart crashing through my sternum Friday night and Saturday at the memory of my mother.

Today was another story. I was tired of talking to myself. So I went to a local restaurant, not so much for the food but for company of strangers.

Safety precautions were in place (everyone had masks when ambulating about), social distancing, but the staff were super-nice. There were also patrons enjoying a meal.

I began to cry. Luckily, I have learned how to cry in silence.

The waitress told me I could take off my mask if I was seated. I kept it on. I did not want to affect others, who looked happy, with my devastation.

I am skilled. Among a group of people, I find a way to be absolutely alone. Among happy people, I find a way to be devastated. I am skilled. Or, maybe, not so much skilled as that is now my instinct and reflex.

My mother LOVED music. Before she was symptomatic, she would go to concerts. There was a restaurant nearby. She once told me she saw an old man crying all by himself just before Christmas. She said she found that so sad.

Today, I realised that that old man is me.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on August 25, 2020 at 3:10pm

Saw the doctor yesterday about my grief. Doctor listened. Follow-ups forthcoming. Doctor agreed with me that grief is for life and that I have to find a way of living with it.

After the doctor, went out and accomplished three errands.

There are some days I think I can make it through this. Maybe it will be a question of willpower.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on August 23, 2020 at 2:18pm

Tomorrow, I see a doctor about my grief.

Friday night, yesterday and today have all been overwhelming.

It is not just that I miss my mother and it hurts. It is also her last five years, slowly losing her faculties, realising it, but never being able to verbalise it, speaking only through the horror in her eyes.

I failed her.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on August 22, 2020 at 3:20pm

Some days, the lyrics just make more sense. That is scary.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on August 19, 2020 at 3:10pm

Did laundry today.

Last year, when my mother was alive, I did laundry more days of the week than I did not. I had to wash her beddings and her cushions. I was always afraid the machines would break.

I would rather have that fear, and my mother alive, today, than the pain and emptiness I feel now.

I have been hit on the head, I have fallen on my head. I have had gallstones, I have had kidney stones. I have had multiple surgeries. But I never knew what pain was until my mother died.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on August 18, 2020 at 4:17pm

Two other people I know lost their mothers recently.

Unlike me, they have not been lucky enough to bury their mothers. I feel bad for those two people.

I am happy I was able to bury my mother before the second wave. That is completely different from feeling peace or even relief.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on August 17, 2020 at 3:26pm

Four calendar months ago today, my mother died.

One calendar month ago today, I buried my mother.

One calendar month ago today, I felt a lot worse than I did four calendar months ago today.

Today is better than yesterday, which was a LOT better than Friday night and Saturday. But it still hurts.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on August 15, 2020 at 2:28pm

"Closure" is a myth. It does not exist in real life.

Every Friday, every Saturday, it's the same.

Friday morning and afternoon can be as normal or eventful or tranquil as can be.

Come Friday night, no matter what the day was like, I feel it over and over and over again.

A nurse from the care home called me on a Friday night to tell me my mother had died.

That is my Fridays and Saturdays from now on, as long as my memory remains intact.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on August 12, 2020 at 3:05pm

I was on autopilot today. I got things done because I was on autopilot.

Seeing the picture of my mother's name and dates engraved on the stone below those of her better son set me off. I had arranged for that before the funeral. But I had a reaction to seeing the picture of it.

Here is the paradox, the contradiction, that I cannot understand but that I often feel.

I thought I would feel relief after the funeral. I was happy I was able to bruy my mother before the second wave hit.

But, I did not relief. I only felt worse.

I was happy when the engraving company called me last week to say the work had been done. I was happy they were able to do the job before the second wave. My mother was a wonderful woman, and she deserves to have her final resting place marked. She deserve to have her name and dates below that of her better son.

But I did not know I was going to see a picture of it so soon.

When I saw the picture, my heart stopped. I started hyperventilating. I had to get up and walk. Took a while for my heart, after it restarted, to stop pounding against my sternum like it was trying to smash its way out of my chest.

I am happy I was able to bury my mother and get her name and dates engraved on the tombstone below those of her better son. But that does not mean I feel good. That does not mean I feel peace. Quite the opposite is true.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on August 11, 2020 at 4:11pm

They finally engraved my mother's name and dates on the tombstone. Someone just sent me a picture of it.

I feel like I have been kicked in the stomach again.

I am happy it is done. She would have wanted that. Her name and dates are below those of her better son.

But, seeing it sinks me again into a sea of tears.


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