Although my mother had lived with us for twenty years, it was only the last two-three years that had such a profound impact on my life. As her health began failing, my job as a caretaker increased. The last year was the most difficult as our strong independent personalities begin to clash. Although 91, Mom was still "mom.". I loved that about her but also struggled with her. There were times I felt incredibly unkind, demanding, and uncaring. Never having a relationship that functioned in this manner, it felt disrespectful and even cruel. Fortunately, we discussed the pressure I was under: working and coming home to care for her. This helped us cope; but I felt I was losing myself, and there seemed no end to it.
However, it did end. Mom passed away in her sleep, and I was totally unprepared for her leaving. The week she passed away, I cried constantly. The tears were part sorrow but more regret. "I could have been more loving and patient.". "I should have talked to her and listened to her more.". "I should have been a better daughter.". I prayed, asking my mom and God to forgive me. It hurt so bad because Mom and I had always had a very special relationship.
Well, I did find relief and begin to remember the loving things that I was able to do and give my mom. Everyday something would come to mind and I was filled with incredible peace and joy. I felt as if I were her daughter once again and not the caretaker. (A friend who works as a caregiver told me that as a caregiver, it was almost impossible to function in the daughter role, and I really missed that.)
So as I kept busy, cleaning out her room, taking care of her financial business, I really felt a peace. I thought I was doing quite well with the loss. However, as I returned to the activities of life: free time with my husband and family, vacationing, attending church again, I seemed to have lost something. I wasn't enjoying these activities. Mom had died the week after school finished for the year, and I had had all summer to get back the life I had pushed aside to care for her. However, as I returned to work as a teacher, I also found the job I loved so dearly was a drudgery. That's when it dawned on me: I am still grieving. I often feel a lack of joy, energy, or interest in jumping into a new activity. And a sadness will at times overwhelm me. It is so subtle however, that I did not recognize what it was.
So I am giving myself time. Time to heal, grieve, and take baby steps to return to "normal". What I am beginning to feel, however, is that the loss of a mother may never allow me to return, and I may have to look for a new "normal"