A few weeks ago, I posted a blog piece called Loosening My Grip. In that post, I discussed my need to find a way to let go of my mother’s situation long enough to allow me to take a trip to California. Lately, I’ve been thinking that the concept is much broader than just leaving my mom to take a vacation.
I need to figure out a way to let go of my mom’s journey. Everything I read tells me that this time before death is very important to the person who is dying. The person has internal work to do to feel complete in this life and to be open to whatever God has ready for her in the next, everlasting, life. The journey belongs to the dying person and it must be whatever is must be for her. As much as I would like to intervene and make the process “better,” I cannot. Truthfully, it is better that I don’t try because my idea of “better” may not be what my mother needs or wants at all. I’ve always been inclined, when given the option, to shoulder the hard job instead of asking someone else to do it. I think part of me is trying to do that for my mother now. I want to take on some of the difficulty, the pain, and the work for her. However, I’m learning that, on some level, death is something that we each have to do on our own. Besides, the fact that I suffer pain and grief does not alleviate any of her pain and grief.
I also wonder if my mother needs me to let go so that she can feel confident that it is safe for her to let go. I think neither of us wants to be the one to turn away from the other first. I’ve had the conversations with her that all the books recommend- the ones in which you assure the loved one that you will be okay when the loved one passes from this life. I’ve tried to think of all the things she might worry about and I’ve talked to her about how they will be okay. I’ve shared memories with her and continue to look for things in her current life that I can connect back to our history together. I can’t think of anything else I can do to help her feel content that it is safe to let go. Except to let go of her.
I don’t know if I can let go of her. I don’t want to. Traveling this path with her has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but it would have been unimaginably harder to know she was walking this path without me. I know that, someday soon, my mother will pass and I will have to let go.
The same books that tell me it is important for the dying person to understand that the family will be okay after the death also tell me that the most important things to a person who is dying is for the person to know that she is loved and that her life has had value. That is really what I have been doing for my mother for the past year. As long as my mother still understands the concepts of love and value, which she clearly still does, I feel like my attachment is that validation of love and value. I don’t want her to go a single second of her life without feeling that she is loved and valued.
At the same time, I can see that my mother is just starting to slip slowly away from me as she continues on her path. She still recognizes me and seems pleased to see me, but she doesn’t feel as attached in some vague, almost intangible way. It is hard to explain or describe. It is just something I feel. I think the time is coming when we are going to reach a fork in the road on this journey. She will go one way and I won’t be able to follow her anymore. I will have to stay at the fork in the road. I won’t be journeying with her anymore, but will only be watching her. It will be the part she will have to do by herself.
In the meantime, I, too, have to start taking baby steps towards letting go. The balance between allowing my mother the autonomy she needs to complete this journey and making sure she understands how much she is loved and valued every single minute is going to be difficult. I think I have to stop trying to think so much about what the right thing to do is and what the right amount of time to spend is. I have to start trusting my gut to tell me what feels right.
What do you think? It is hard to let a loved one go. Have any of you had an experience that might help me release her? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and traveling with me virtually!