I walked into my in-law’s suite last evening to find her lying in bed babbling and waving her arms to something only she could hear. And he, with his hearing loss, was leaning towards her from his seat on the couch for a sip of connection, another drop of the love that has taken them through their 60+ years together but is now slipping away forever.
Dissolved in tears am I as I feel their deep weariness. Her congestive heart failure and the Alzheimer’s has permanently erased the connection between food and drink and her hunger. And he is the exhausted caregiver, caring for her for the last 5 years with his impressive cognitive capabilities steadily being eroded and his ability to support the love of his life failing him now as a stream of ladies in waiting take turns with her, leaving him more and more in his own shrinking world.
In my tears are my healing… Letting them flow freely as I write. In this house we are all suffering loss… Isolated in our pain yet together in holding each other when we can… A lonely, hard journey together in this house of mounting losses. Perhaps I am most affected as the 24/7 caregiver who keenly feels everyone else’s pain, but my wife was here quite a bit over the holidays and has been confronted with the reality of her parent’s life now, as her Mom slips away and her Dad is increasingly confused and lonely.
She is also very worried about me, but since I finally let go and we got on the Palliative Care Train I have recovered somewhat. I have gained insight into my own personal dynamics that were causing me to feel so tortured. I am wired to take care of Moms and being overwhelmed by HRH’s growing care requirements, my wife’s increasing exhaustion and stress, and unable to make things better, I have reconnected with that younger self that I am, who was overwhelmed by how unavailable and struggling his Mom was when he was only a toddler. So now I am taking better care of myself and exercising self-compassion when I feel that primitive anxiety rising up to take over again.
My wife was working on making herself more available at home when her boss out of the blue offered her a promotion and raise, increasing her responsibilities and the demands that she would have to manage at work. But I am not falling apart, I am just continuing to build the care team and she is working on getting the flexibility she needs from work to be here more often. We are on a difficult path as we are all stressed, each in our own way, all grieving more and more. But nonetheless we are keeping HRH’s passage on this train a peaceful one, all things considered!
Originally written January 5, 2019