How can I balance my life and my fear of my mother passing away without me with her?

7 answers | Last updated: Sep 22, 2016
Jesuslovesyou asked...

I know I am experiencing "anticipatory grief" as my mom has been lingering for weeks. She no longer speaks, smiles and barely opens her eyes. She is on a thickened liquid diet and only takes about 35% of her calories. She has vascular dementia and severe spasticity due to her strokes. She is 92 years old. Finally my question: Is there any advice you could offer me regarding balancing my own need to start "letting go" with my other need, which is to continue to be close to her and provide as much comfort and love as possible? She is in a very good nursing home...yes, they exist, but I have trouble if I even miss one day of visiting. My husband has planned a week long vacation for us (something we haven't done for years) and I know it will be difficult for me to relax. We will be out of cell phone service for about four of those days. I am happy about going, but know I will feel anxiety and some guilt for leaving her. She could die while I'm gone and I hate the thought of her being alone as she passes.


Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

It often feels like an eternity while living with anticipatory grief and waiting for a loved one to die. We experience many of the stages of grief that have been written about for a very long time - most notable may be Elizabeth Kubla Ross's work which I encourage you to read to help make sense out of your inner turmoil and to realize that what you are currently experiencing is quite normal. Sorrow, confusion, despair, and guilt are all natural parts of anticipatory grief and are usually accompanied by moments of great happiness as you reflect on the love you have shared with your mom for many years. This emotional roller coaster however can seem overwhelming and sometimes keep the griever from functioning well. Do take the time to replenish your spirit. I can't think of a better way to do this than to take that much-needed vacation with your hubby who will still be there for you after your mom passes. While you are away, your mother will not be alone. She will be with the staff who has been lovingly caring for and about her in her new home. It will take a great deal of courage and emotional elasticity to get through your grief but based on the clarity of your note, I am sure you will do it heroically!
I would like to share a favorite A.A. Milne quote wth you: "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard". Please take care of YOU!


Community Answers

Ca-claire answered...

You are a wonderful daughter! Deep down, your Mother knows how much you care about her, and that you wish to spend as much time as possible with her. Talk with your Mother about the trip, especially the day before you leave on it.

Your mother may wish for you to be with your husband when she leaves this world. Her knowing that you are with someone that loves you enough to plan this trip is important.

There are statistics that relatives that are loved as much as you obviously love your Mother show that they choose to leave at a time when you are out of the room anyway - either in the bathroom, or during the night when you are home with the rest of your family.

Take a deep breath and go on your vacation. I thought that I would have time with my husband once my parent's finished their journey. Unfortunately, I had my priorities backwards. My husband passed away 2 years ago, and my parents are still alive.

Live laugh love with your husband, it's what your Mother would want.

Take care!


Barbhill answered...

My Mother died two weeks ago and I was by her side. A friend had told me, the dying will sometimes wait until we are not there to leave because they know their leaving will be so hard for some to bear. But I knew my Mother better. She went very few places later in life that either my sister or I were with her. A week before she died, in one of the few lucid moments she had at the end, she told me she wanted me with her. I knew what she meant. She did wait for me and I was able to be there with her when she made her passing. The last words I know she heard from me were a reminder of how when we went shopping, I would hold her hand until she could hold on to the grocery cart. I assured her, when she let go of my hand this time, God would be waiting to take it on the other side. And with that,she let go. I was and am thankful to her for waiting for me to be there. God bless you. Go on your vacation. Tell her before you leave that you will have so much to share with her when you come back. If she does wait, then wonderful. If not, then know she wanted to spare you what she felt might be too much for you.


Sanity answered...

my mom passed away 10 daysago. i was with her. she had severe alzheimers and fell, causing a brain bleed and stroke.she was my life, she lived with me for the last few years and i was her caregiver. its very hard for me but i find comfort just sitting in her room with her thins.god bless ou and your mom.


Kathleen in las vega answered...

MY MOM ALSO LIVES IN ANOTHER CITY AND I AM LONG DISTANCE CAREGIVER MY MOTHER WAS HOLDING HER MOTHERS HAND WHEN MY BELOVED GRANDMOTHER-HER MOTHER-MADE HER TRANSITION I WOULD LIKE ALSO TO BE THERE IF I CANNOT --THEN I WOULD LIKE TO PLAY MUSIC WITH THE ENDLESS LOOP EITHER CASSETTE OR CD AND THAT WOULD BE LIKE BEING THERE, FOR MY MOM I HAVE THE ROSARY ON CD YOU MAY STILL BE WITH HER AND IT MAY BE A WHILE THE CD AND MUSIC MIGHT MAKE A DIFFERENCE MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU KATHLEEN IN LAS VEGAS


Ssjones answered...

My father suffered from Dementia and we knew he was dying. They called us on Sunday and by Tuesday he was gone. I was one of his caregivers. For the last years of his life I prayed that he would not die alone. That was my biggest fear for him. I started praying about it and asking God if we could not be with him at the end please have his angels surround him. The night before he died, I read that sometimes the person would like to spare their loved the pain of being in the room when they passed. My dad was not very vocal but I knew that because he was a private person and a former nurse he would not want us to be with him at the end. He knew that we said everything we wanted to say to him and knew that he was loved.


Barbhill answered...

Dying is such a personal issue and some have knowledge in advance that the time is close. And we know our parents and what their true wishes are. I knew my Mother wouldn't want to be alone. You knew instinctively that your Dad would not want you there. But you are so right when you prayed for angels to be near him. As my Mother was dying and even in the week or so before she made her transition, I kept reminding her that my Dad was there waiting for her. I named her parents, her brothers, her sister, sister-in-laws and my brother, even my ex-husband who had loved her as if she were more than his mother-in-law. She died peacefully, painfree and surrounded by two of her grandchildren, me and my husband. There is no pat answer to this question. We just have to know in our own hearts and be at peace with their desires, not ours. Hope this has helped.