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 Tuesday

Some days, I feel I can make it through this. Some days, I can fight the kick in the stomach I feel when I wake up and remember my mother is dead.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on Tuesday

Spoke with my doctor. Social worker, than psychiatrist, then, possibly, psychotherapist, being arranged.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on Saturday

Sometimes, it hurts less. Sometimes...

But waking up is always the worst.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on July 30, 2020 at 10:40am

I talked to a grief hotline on the telephone the other day. Nice person on the other end, just listened to what I had to say.

But I wonder if I did the right thing. Professional and volunteer carers are at high risk for something called Vicarious/Secondary Traumatisation.

I will carry the pain of my mother's loss the rest of my life. But do I have the right to infect others with that pain?

Comment by Joe von Anjou on July 29, 2020 at 4:04pm

Every time I wake up, either from sleep or from having dozed off, I realise she is gone, It is like a kick to the stomach.

Called a local grief hotline today. Sometimes I am worried what effect what I have to say will have on them. Vicarious traumatisation/secondary traumatisation is something for which professional carers are at high risk.

I had thought that the fact that I accomplished the burial would bring me relief. Well, I no longer have to worry about not being able to do it before a second lockdown, and she is finally with her better son.

But I feel no relief. I only feel worse.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on July 27, 2020 at 3:58pm

Plus, every time I watch the video of the funeral, I feel crushed again anew.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on July 27, 2020 at 3:47pm

My mother died during the shutdown, so I knew a lot of people would not be able to attend her funeral. I arranged to have the funeral videotaped in an Internet-shareable format for that reason.

Now, a lot of those who could not attend who I sent the video to cannot play it.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on July 25, 2020 at 10:47am

Sometimes music helps.

When my brother was killed, the music that appealed to me the most was the last lines of Black Sabbath's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," covered by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden.

"Where can you run to?

 What more can you do?

 There's no tomorrow,

 Life is killing you.

 Dream's turn to nightmares,

 Heaven turns to hell.

 Burn of confusion,

 Nothing more to tell.

 Everything around you,

 What's it coming to?

 God knows as sure as God knows

 Bombast all of you.

 Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath,

 Nothing more to do!

 Living just for dying,

 Dying just for you!"

"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: came back to me the night my Mother died.

Then, there was the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black,"

"I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes.

 I have to turn my head until my darkness goes.

 I see a line of cars , and they're all painted black,

 With flowers and my love, both never to come back.

 Maybe then, I'll fade away and not have to face the fact.

 It's not easy facing up when your whole world is black.

 No more will my green sea go churn a deeper blue.

 I could not foresee this thing happening to you.

 If I look hard enough into the setting sun,

 My love will laugh with me before the morning comes."

I buried my mother a week ago yesterday. I thought I would feel relief that she was reunited with her better son, and before the second wave of the pandemic hit. I am happy that that was accomplished, but I feel no relief. Strangely enough, besides the short relief of endorphins from exercise, one thing that helps me again is music.

This time, for some strange reason it was this collaboration, "The Largest Band in the Netherlands" singing Neil Young's "Keep On Rockin' In the Free World" in a town square in Haarlem. At first, I thought that this was another sign that there was something pathological with me. The verses of "Keep On Rockin' in the Free World" as extremely sad and depressing. So, I contacted a friend who is a professional musician. He told me that the whole point of "Keep On Rocki8n' In The Free World," is perseverance, as reflected in the title, which is also the chorus. Now, I understood why all those Dutch people were happy and smiling while they sang this song. Seeing happy people kind of helps.

There is also Dokken's "In My Dreams," whose chorus more healthily explains what I am going through than do either "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" or "Paint It Black." That chorus goes

"In my dreams, it's still the same.

 Your love is strong and still remains.

 In my dreams you're still by me,

 Just the way it used to be.

 In my dreams, you'll always be,

 In my heart and in my dreams.

 What can I say?

 In my dreams, you'll always be!

 In my dreams, you'll always be!

 In my dreams, your love is strong!"

Comment by Joe von Anjou on July 23, 2020 at 5:41pm

I got the call from the care home my mother was in around 9.30 at night.

The nurse said "There is no easy way to tell you this. Your mother is deceased."

I let out a cry.

The nurse calmed me down. The nurse was gentle. But she told me that, due to the pandemic, they could not keep my mother's remains longer than the next day. Also due to the pandemic, I could not see my mother's remains.

There is a funeral home near the care home. I called them, then I called the nurse back to give her the funeral home's information.

Then I called my best friend and his family.

Then I started calling my mother's family.

The nurse told me it was better this way, because my mother was no longer suffering. For about a month afterwards, I was able to tell myself that. I was able to tell myself that my mother is in a better place, and finally reunited with her better son.

I had not seen my mother in over a month because the care home banned visitors due to the pandemic. But I talked to her over the phone just days before she died. The care home's recreational technician was allowed back on the job, and she set up the call. My mother was combative as ever. Even in her state of weakened faculties, she was combative. That part of her personality was intact. She went out fighting.

Then, a month after, another nurse from the care home called me to tell me that I could pick up my mother's things. That nurse broke down and cried over the telephone. She had recognised my voice (I had called the home every day after they banned visitors. I always got through to someone.) I tried to be as professional as I could with that nurse, telling her it was not her fault and telling her it was better for her to cry than to have secondary/vicarious traumatisation, something health care workers are at high risk for.

But after that, I melted inside.

I am a destroyed man.

I try to exercise every day. I try. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you feel good.

The funeral was last Friday. I was on pins and needles the whole week. The funeral was in another town. My mother had pre-paid that. Then, I buried her, in the same grave as my brother. Everybody was crying...except me. I was shaking and looking all over the place every other minute.

When, early in July, they contacted me to let me know I could have the funeral, I was happy. I was happy when they gave me a date. I thought I would have been happy last Friday evening, happy at the fact that I was able to bury my mother before the second wave, that I was able to carry out her last wish before the second wave, before another shut down.

I just feel hollow inside. Hole in my heart.

Over and over and over, I repeat "I love you Mom. I'll always love you."

I have been hit on the head, I have fallen on my head, I have had multiple surgeries in my lifetime, as well as any kind of stone you care to name. But I never knew pain until my mother died.

Comment by Joe von Anjou on July 23, 2020 at 2:47pm

I saw, approved and sent out the video of my mother's funeral to her sisters who could not attend.

It was like I was there for the first time, even though I was physically present at the funeral. I was the only one not crying. I was not crying because I was too jittery, looking in every direction every other minute. The video company did the editing well. They cut out the parts where I was twisting and turning every other minute.

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