Thoughts from a Caregiver...
So here we are in May. In our family we have much to celebrate, yet this year much to mourn.
I am thankful our wonderful lead hospice nurse warned me in advance of the fact grief does not follow any preset path, nor does everyone follow the so called ‘steps of grieving’ so many books and articles tout. If she hadn’t, I have no doubt I’d be even more depressed than I am now. Grief has taken me up, down, sideways, and a bit too frequently, caddywhompus. I owe our nurse a ton of thanks for the many aspects of her wisdom — and caring!
But now, back to May.
Our two children both have their birthdays this month. My wife and I struggled mightily to get pregnant. Then when it looked like both our children would have the same birth date (albeit three years apart) my best half fought like a banshee with her obstetrician to put off her C-section for four days just so they would each have their own birthday! So as you can imagine it’s hard to have these days coming with her not being a part of them for the first time ever. Plus this year one is a milestone birthday with our eldest turning the big 4-0.
Then right after those days we get to experience our first Mother’s Day with our children being without their mom. I lost my mother years ago, but this year, whenever I see one of the omnipresent TV advertisements for Mother’s Day I turn into a weeping sap!
So it is I find myself more at sixes and sevens than I have been since her passing.
I know full well, in my head, I should simply focus on the celebratory aspects of this month. Spring has arrived (even if it is only 41o here right now). I will be lucky to celebrate our son’s birthday with him, our daughter-in-law, and our grandsons. I will then scurry home to do some laundry and make a quick turnaround to head to our daughter’s for her birthday.
Gifts have been bought, wrapped, and cards written. Extra care has been taken to be certain they will not be alone on their birthdays nor on Mother’s Day. I work hard to think happy and keep busy. But grief comes from the heart, not the head.
When one has been a fulltime caregiver for their spouse for the preceding many years, there is a hole in your soul that just sits there, gaping like the maw of some insatiable beast. No matter what you try and fill it with, the void remains. In my life I have had several jobs and I was always careful to define myself as the person I was and not by the job I had. But that all changed with being a caregiver. Caregiving becomes ingrained in you, changes your internal structures somehow, and, and we each know, is not simply a job. Every caregiver senses how it alters you in more ways than others can ever begin to imagine or comprehend. So while our patient may be gone from our lives, the caregiving-altered aspects of our very being remain changed within us.
I have arrived at the belief my grief is simply a new dimension of my love for my wife. One did not end when the other began. One did not take the place of the other. Rather like my favorite sandwich, peanut butter and jelly, they simply were made to be mushed together. After all, once you slap those two sides together it is too messy to ever try to separate them! So you accept the combo as one of the more peculiar aspects of life. So it will be with me this May. Joy and grief comingling. Besides, not everyone thinks of a PB and J as fine dining, but I do. Just as I now find my grief as the very definition of the love I still hold for the best half of me that is now missing.
After all my wife’s favorite saying was “Forever My Love” and as usual she knew exactly what she was talking about!
Peace and strength to caregivers everywhere.