Belatedly Thankful

After my mother suffered her stroke, I subscribed to all kinds of forums and discussion boards aimed at caregivers.  It was definitely helpful to hear other people’s perspectives on the issues I was encountering.  I learned some valuable, practical information.  Knowing that other people struggled with the same feelings helped me tolerate the conflicting emotions I had misfiring all throughout my sympathetic nervous system.  

There was one recurring theme that kept coming up in different posts that I just couldn’t get behind, however.  So often a participant would write to encourage someone in the throes of caregiving by saying that the day would come when the caregiver would be grateful for the experience.  While I was living it, I don’t know that I could ever really say I was grateful for the experience.  It wasn’t that I thought the well-intentioned commenters on the discussion boards were lying.  The term “Pollyanna” might have come to mind.  On the whole, I accepted that those people were being honest about their own experiences and their feelings of gratitude, but their experiences just didn’t seem to apply to me.  

People said that caregivers end up triumphing over the drudgery, exhaustion, and sadness.  They said that it is common to transcend the difficulties of the long struggle so that providing care becomes easier.  I didn’t see how that could happen with me, as inept as I was.  They said that the difficulties of caregiving take a backseat to the benefits the caregiver receives, like the satisfaction of providing for a parent’s comfort.  I didn’t see myself really providing for my mother’s comfort, just witnessing her decline.  They said that a caregiver can consider any additional time with the dying parent to be a gift.  I often felt like this gift came at too high a cost to both my mother and me. They said that, no matter how painful and difficult it is to walk with a parent on this final journey, the caregiver is rewarded by a closer, more intimate and loving relationship with the parent.  I didn’t see how this could be possible with my mother and me.  Our relationship has always been closer than that of any other mother and daughter I know.   

So, all in all, I could not find much for which to be grateful while slogging through the tragedy of my mother’s last thirteen months of life.  I admit that I found the folks who posted about the “gift” of being a caregiver to be somewhat suspect.  When I read those posts, I remembered the saying, “If you can keep your head while everyone around you is losing theirs, perhaps you don’t understand the situation.”  In other words, if the posters who were touting the joys and benefits of being a caregiver were sincere, perhaps they didn’t really understand the situation.  I admit that this was probably a bit of misplaced anger on my part.  Still, I also knew that I was not finding caregiving to be a gift.  I felt that I was somehow fundamentally flawed because I couldn’t get past the pain to grasp the joy. 

Now that my mother is gone, I am beginning to understand a little better. I can look back and be grateful for the time we had together at the end of her life.  I was not a very talented caregiver, but I did learn a lot of the skills necessary.  I see that my mother did derive substantial comfort from my presence.  Yes, it was very difficult for me to observe my mother’s decline, but I do now appreciate the time I had with her in the last months.  Even though we have always been exceptionally close and our ability to communicate verbally all but disappeared in my mother’s last months, I feel our intimacy grew richer and stronger and more honest as we took this journey.  No, I never did get completely past the drudgery and exhaustion and sadness, but I do now see the gift.  The gift was loving my mother through it all and letting her love me.  Now I am thankful for it. 

Gratitude deferred is not gratitude denied.  Gratitude deferred is growth.

Have you ever had an experience that you hated while going through it, but came to appreciate it after it was over? Please join the conversation and tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a thankful day!

Terri 🙂

P.S. Special programming announcement…. I am going to be on a trip around the world (Disneyworld, that is) for a few days next week.  I’ll be posting on Thursday evening instead of Wednesday morning.  

Thanks To You

This Thanksgiving, I wanted to post a special shout-out to all of you readers and cyberfriends.  Friendship in any form should be cherished and I cherish you all.  You have helped me realize a lifelong dream.  I always wanted to write, but was always too scared of failing to translate the dream into reality.  Thanks in large part to your energy and validation, I have found the courage.  I have been writing this blog for nearly two years now.  

When I was teaching leadership classes, I used to tell my students, “Leaders have followers.  If you turn around and no one is following you, you aren’t leading.  You are just taking a walk.”  I think it might be kind of similar for writing.  I can write, but I’m kind of missing a key component of the process if no one is reading. I’m not communicating; I’m just recording my mutterings to myself.  I’m just memorializing the voices inside my head for my own posterity.   

I thank you for listening to my mutterings. I thank you for the confidence you gave me when I saw that people truly seemed to be reading.  I thank you for not thinking I was ridiculous for believing anything I have to say could possibly be meaningful to anyone else.   I thank you for helping me grow my little circle of blog besties by sharing my writing with others.  I thank you for your thoughtful comments. I thank you for your suggestions.  I thank you for the kind words of encouragement.  I thank you for turning my one-sided blogging into a rich, interesting conversation.  I thank you for the support and sympathy you showered on me while I was my mother’s traveling companion on her journey towards the end of life.  I thank you for your understanding and empathy when the blog became grief-heavy as I watched my mother struggle and die.   

All too often in life, we get caught up in our day-to-day existence and forget the miracles that bring joy to our lives. We are inclined to bemoan our struggles because they demand our attention.   It is hard to ignore the difficulties.  They always seem to be in our faces, commanding us to do something to halt the pain they cause us.  Even when we try to push them into the darkest corner of our minds and hope they stay there, the effort is time and energy consuming.  And, by the way, “hope” is not a strategy.  Those difficulties rarely stay put when we push them into the darkest corner of our minds, so we have to spend even more time and energy on them.   

On Thanksgiving, at least, we get the chance to stop and smell the miracles.  We take one beautiful day to be honestly, truly, deeply grateful for our blessings.   

As you enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations, please know I am thinking of you and thanking you for the joy you have brought me.  Happy Thanksgiving!  You are a blessing in my life. 

What is your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirment@gmail.com.  

Have a blessed day!

Terri 🙂