I remember standing in Michael's Craft store looking at my mom, unsure of my feelings. Michaels was a place that we both enjoyed visiting and investigating things we might enjoy doing or thinking about Christmas time and crafts we might do as gifts. Mom had some amazing talents - it was fun to create with her.
That day, I realized as I looked at her pained while walking and tired so quickly, hearing her say she wasn't sure she wouldn't be able to do things as she used to, that my mom (then 78 years old) was looking at the other end of her life. My Mom was one of the strongest women I knew emotionally and physically, but time and age were taking their toll. Surely the years of caring for my dad before he passed away added to all of that. Bit by bit, she was doing less gardening, she stopped doing as many things as possible around the house, and somehow, I had my blinders on.
In a flash, I was seized with thoughts; losing Dad was the most challenging time I had experienced. Mom surely wasn't going anywhere because I was not about to give her up, too. Then reality hit like a ton of bricks. What I had been experiencing was a form of grief for the loss of who my mom used to be. We wouldn't be able to run over to the coast as we used to. She couldn't sit that long. We wouldn't be in the garden together trimming roses; she wasn't stable like she used to be.
I stood in Michael's craft store with tears streaming down my face. My stomach ached as if I had been punched. Reality hit so unexpectedly that I had to turn and go down another aisle to let myself breathe. Until I heard my mom’s voice, "Cyndi? Hun, where are you?" I wiped my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and turned back…" Hey Ma, I'm right here. Whatcha' doing?".
I'm crying as I write, the moment etched in my memory like it was happening this minute.
Grief comes in many forms and at many times during your caregiving journey. It is of utmost importance to give yourself the time and space to be aware of what's happening and not shut yourself down. Your feelings are valid, and it is essential to acknowledge and know that it is quite ok to experience them.
Be kind and gentle to yourself.