The following is a guest post written by Jeannine O’Neil on 2/27/19.
My mom has been gone for 9 days. She passed away peacefully in her sleep after a 7-year battle with Vascular Dementia. I am sharing my story of healing to hopefully shed light on the other side to those who are currently suffering, as they watch their loved ones battle some form of Dementia.
I got the call at 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning that my mother had passed. We spent all day with her the day before and the nurses told us to go home and come back in the morning. They said she had a strong heart and it could be awhile. They told us they would call if anything progressed. I am not angry we weren’t there when she passed because she had many opportunities the day before, surrounded by her whole family and at times, just my father and me. If she hadn’t gone then, I knew she wanted to do this on her own.
After the call came through and I told my father, I went back to bed and just sat with the news. It was a super full moon and it had snowed the day before. I looked out the window and everything was glowing white. It was quiet and peaceful, as the moon shimmered through the pine trees in our backyard and the snow glistened back, and I thought, “She is finally at peace.” I literally felt it throughout my whole body.
This thought and feeling has resided with me and around me every single day since she has passed. I believe it is her gift to us for taking such good care of her.
I did not expect the immediate feeling of peace to reside deep within my bones right after her passing. I didn’t anticipate that overwhelming sense of relief that the battle is finally over. But that is exactly what happened. We can rest. Mom is back to her true self, painless and in Heaven, watching over us. Our family is finally free of the stifling caregiver vortex that we found ourselves in for so long. You know the one I am talking about, where you second guess everything, feel guilty for attempting to live a normal life, get angry when people want to talk – or not talk – about your loved one and are constantly living in a state of perpetual grief and sadness. I cannot promise this will be your outcome when your loved one goes, but I can share my experience is not what I expected – at all. I expected to feel the void more, to have more hurt and pain added onto what I had already been carrying for these 7 years. Instead, there is nothing but relief and no guilt. We did everything we could for her, keeping her home until 10 weeks before when it just became too much on us.
About a week before she passed, I had an epiphany. I was so afraid to “lose” her. I realized I am not losing her. I am gaining her in a new form, and that spiritual/energetic connection is a hell of a lot better than me holding her hand in some dry and musty nursing home, wondering if she will even notice if I leave a little early since she has been sleeping the entire time I was there.
Granted, other emotions came fleeting in this past week. I did have a pang of sadness after the funeral service thinking that I will never see her in physical form again. I can’t just drive to the nursing home to give her a hug, beg for kisses or to hold her hand. But, since I did all of that whenever I had the urge, I have no regrets. I gave it my all when I could. We are now in the phase of grieving the loss of the body, and I can tell you it is nothing compared to the 7 years of perpetual grief that we have been through. The constant worry and fear for her safety and well-being, wondering how much longer this will go on, the many losses along the way and how much of ourselves we felt we were losing in the process. I can tell you, being on this side is much easier for her and us.
Now it is as if a huge weight has been lifted. We fought the fight and we didn’t let it destroy our family. We pulled closer together and leaned on one another. We came out stronger and we have no regrets.
I share this because what you are going through, caring for or watching a loved one battle this horrendous disease, is admirable. Not many can stand up and do this. The pain that is around you is temporary. This is a season of your life. Be forgiving on yourself, show up and do the best you can do so you don’t have regrets. When your loved one passes, you and they will know that you gave it your all. I hope that this peace and relief will reside in your being as you transition into a new normal.