How many sons are blessed to reach the age of 70 and still have an active, involved and loving mother? Only 19 years older than I, my mother and I grew up together. As long as I can remember, she has been my inspiration and a wise advisor. She knew how to generate guilt as well as any Jewish mother. "Thank God your father was not alive to see this," she said when I told her I would not travel the thousands of miles to South Africa to attend the Bar Mitzvah of one of my many nephews. To her nothing was more important than family.
She lived the fullest of lives. After losing my father at the tender age of 46, she remarried twice and finally lived for many years with a man 15 years her senior. She was very sociable and attracted men like flies to flypaper. She embraced life to the fullest, traveled and remained in close contact with her family. An avid bridge player, she was ranked nationally and had played competitively almost every day.
At 89, her active life effectively ended after she broke her hip, shoulder and nose from a fall. Soon after, she had two strokes and remained almost bed bound, unable to speak, requiring assistance to meet all of her needs. She remained like this for 10 months, being lovingly cared for by her one child remaining in South Africa. We saw her decline, lose weight and become weaker almost daily. Her children in London and America saw and tried to speak to her daily on FaceTime.
Two days ago, she died in her sleep. I immediately flew with my family to South Africa to grieve together and attend her funeral. My initial reaction was one of deep relief. For the final year of her life, my mother was alive but no longer with us. That sense of relief made me feel guilty. Why could I not cry, and why was I not grieving more? As a family, we are aware that our grieving began after my mother became so dependent. We knew the end would come soon and were traumatized and wounded by seeing her fade away and become so unresponsive. We prayed that God would be merciful and that she not suffer.
Grieving is personal and unique to the individual. The sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one can be paralyzing. And even an expected death can lead to overwhelming grief. For many, healing and integrating back into the community can be difficult.
I learned a great about grieving in an article written by Dr. Edward Creagan, an oncologist from the Mayo Clinic. He recommends the following.
1. Actively grieve and mourn. Ignoring the pain, immediately returning to work and hiding inner feelings are a recipe for disaster.
2. Acknowledge your pain and loss. Celebrating a wonderful life helps us remember the integral role our loved one played in making us who we are, but the pain persists. Only by understanding these feelings of pain can acceptance and healing occur.
3. Look to loved ones for support. Remaining close to and around those you love makes the loss less severe. Closely discussing feelings with family or a spiritual healer will help bring understanding and comfort.
4. Don't make decisions soon after a loss. At this time, decisions can be made that may be regretted in the future. Wait until life seems more balanced and centered before making decisions about staying, moving, taking a new job, changing investments or altering a will.
5. Take care of yourself. Make sure that you have regular medical checkups, eat right and exercise. Don't be lonely, and see to it that your emotional needs are met.
6. Time heals but may not cure. The extreme emotional and even physical pain may dull but persist for extended periods. If grief prolongs or worsens after six months seek comfort from someone trained in grief counseling.
My mother will always be remembered, and we as a family need time to mourn. But we take comfort in the fact that we shared a great life together and that she died in her own bed surrounded by family she loved. Her dignified death reflected a better life.
Dr. David Lipschitz is the author of the book "Breaking the Rules of Aging." To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. More information is available at: DrDavidHealth.com
(c)COPYRIGHT 2013 CREATORS.COM
16 Week Curriculum With Instructions, Lesson Plans & CNG Conversion Kit