Letting go

Discussion in 'Life After Caregiving' started by edj9, Jul 17, 2020.

  1. edj9

    edj9 Well-Known Member

    I lost my husband of 28 years Dec 2019 after a protracted struggle with multiple comorbidities. Towards the end, his mobility was severely hampered, his kidneys had failed, and he was in constant pain and discomfort. But his mind was lucid. One day, quite out of character, he said urgently that he wanted to go to the hospital. So I bundled him into the wheelchair van that we had bought just a couple of months before, and drove him to Marin General. The next day he had a massive coronary and was wheeled into the operating room. I thought that I would not see him again. But the doctor emerged and said that even though what they just tried didn’t work, they could try again later when he was stronger. So I thought that I would have a little more time with him.

    When I reached the recovery room, the doctor pulled me aside and told me that they didn’t think he would last the next 4 hours, and that I had to decide whether to put him on a ventilator. For the first time in my life, I nearly passed out. But in 5 minutes I weighed the outcomes: subject a clostrophobic Vietnam Vet to torturous intubation with the slim hope of keeping him alive for a few more days just so he could keep me company a bit longer, or to allow him to die peacefully, hopped up on morphine, thinking that he was coming home soon.

    Kind of a no-brainer.

    So I decided in that moment to let him go. So I told the doctor and nurses, and then went into spend my last moments with my one and only love, and put on a mask of cheer and optimism even though I had already died inside, and accompanied him on the last leg of his journey.

    Those moments will haunt me for the rest of my life. On the one hand, I feel blessed that I could give him a relatively trauma-free death. On the other, I feel like I killed him with my own two hands.

    If anyone has had a similar experience, I’d really appreciate your sharing.
    TinyMamalava likes this.
  2. Sheila512

    Sheila512 Well-Known Member

    I did not have a similar experience, but, I can relate to having to stop fighting and let it happen. You did what he wanted you yo do and you did what he would have done for you. Erase the guilt...you did him a favor and sacrificed a few more days for his eternal rest. Stop beating yourself up. Look at his pictures, talk to him, talk about him and remember how he influenced your life . You were blesses with a true love. Savor that he never suffered more than necessary and that you did your best for him Peace and be Safe
    TinyMamalava and edj9 like this.
  3. edj9

    edj9 Well-Known Member

    Thank you,Sheila, for your kind an compassionate reply. It’s so hard to reconcile the rational with the emotional. He had expressed to me several times a desire to commit suicide, but he was holding, powering through the suffering because he knew I would be devastated. The least I could do was swallow my own selfishness and give him the gift of peace. But I miss him so much. I just wish I could have protected him from all the suffering.
    TinyMamalava likes this.
  4. JMD

    JMD Well-Known Member

    Thank you for these posts. My husband passed away in July from a side effect of one of the medications used to treat his lung cancer. He had pneumonitis, severe inflammation in his lungs and over a couple of weeks, lost his ability to get oxygen to his body. He was only 59. Watching him decline was like trying to hold water in my hands, He was also lucid and able to make his own decisions, right up until the last night of his life. The conversations that were had around the end of his life lacked compassion and kindness for some reason, One of his doctors said that he would not put him on a ventilator because he would very likely not be able to come off of it. ‘If you want him intubated, you’re going to have to find someone else to do it’. Didn’t feel like our choice. Michael wanted to fight. There were times I felt pressured to go against that. I held firm that we would follow what Michael wanted as long as he was able to make his own decisions. I am grateful for that. We agreed not to put him on a ventilator because Michael understood that asleep on a ventilator was not living. I’ll never be absolutely sure that this was the right decision - hard to know which way he would have suffered more - but it’s the one we agreed to and I’m trying to come to terms with it. What I do know is that I was devoted to him in sickness and in health and I gave him every bit of my best effort always. I advocated for him every step of the way, and I believe in my heart he knew that. He felt safer with me present so I never left his side. Hoping for peace with time.
    TinyMamalava likes this.
  5. Ranvaering

    Ranvaering Member

    I also want to say thank you for these posts. I didn't have to make the decision - my mom had signed a Do Not Resuscitate order - but I got to find out that, once they determined after the stroke that she was unable to swallow anything, that meant no IV fluids or anything . Despite COVID (this was in June), I was able to stay with her in a separate room in the nursing home for her last 54 hours. Toward the end she refused to open her mouth to let me or one of the aides swab out the accumulating mucus. I feel like I should have been able to do more for her.
  6. Suntracker

    Suntracker Active Member

    I had a similar experience with my Mom. Reading these has also helped me to know others went through the same. My mom was intubated in the ER. I was there with her when the doctor asked her about being rescucitated and all she said was "I'm 83" then she stopped and didn't say anything else. I myself was horrified this question even arose so quickly but I guess the ER doctors have to ask that and I was naive to how sick my Mom actually was. I left the ER to go home for a bit and then I was going to return to visit after she was admitted. I wasnt home but a half an hour and the ER doctor called to say she had a turn for the worse. To this day I really do not know what happened after I left. But of course I feel like if I didn't leave then the intubation and ICU wouldn't have happened. I don't really think I could continually prevent my Mom from going home to be with God as she was already in this process. She had stage 4 breast cancer and it had metastised to her scalp and I did not know that. She also had been asking me for more and more breathing inhalers and I didn't know why. Something was happening and no matter what I did or didn't do I know now I couldn't prevent it. She was the one that called 911 because she was hallucinating and I think it was due to lack of oxygen. Unsure but it seems like what was happening. What happened in the following 20 days was surreal, everyday I had no idea what was going to be. One good day one bad. An unsuccessful attempt at extubation led to her being on heavy antibiotics due to an infection. I was so sad. Praying so hard. We then had a day where she was strong enough for a second extubation and it was successful. I coached her through it and breathed next to her and she was tube free. I thought this meant she was going to recover but the infection was too much and she had respiratiory failure again which kept her in ICU. She had a few hours out of ICU but she had to go back. Always so close and I didn't know if she was going to come through to stay on this planet with me as her caretaker or go the other way to God.. It always feels like I am competing with God. I felt this with my cats that have passed also. I am not mad at God though at this moment. I watched my Mom be mad a God when my brother passed 4 months ago. I think God knows better what the person needs and being in Gods hands has to be better than all the health issues that the doctors just could not stop or mend. So many tests everyday. Finally I talked to a very compassionate doctor that shared with me about his Mom and how she was 83 also. He said she did not want any heroics on her and that she wanted to go peacefully without tubes and bone crushing rescucitation. I knew at this time that my Mom was too frail and I changed the FULL CODE to DNR/DNI. They kept the tests part though until the next day I got the call that she was going and asked if I wanted to switch to comfort care so I said yes and they asked me if I wanted to be there and I said yes. I somehow got ready and my boyfriend drove me and she passed a few moments after they removed the feeding tube and nose oxygen. I now know that if she could not make it on her own without those things at that time to keep her would be selfish and pretty much cruel. I knew in my soul it was the right choice and I know God presented it to me this way so I would know it was right. Before that it was fight but when it is time to let go it was time. I still want to call her and I have disbelief at times, it has only been 2 weeks tomorrow. I cannot really fathom my Mom not being there for me to call andvice versa she has been there my whole life. Who can you say has been there your WHOLE LIFE??? She was a really good Mom. Honest to God it really is beyond my comprehension and I cannot seem to go to her apartment yet to gather what I would like to keep. To step in her place without her there is just beyond me. I know I will get the Grace to do it eventually. Prayers to all xoxo ~Heather
    MICHAEL2023 likes this.
  7. MICHAEL2023

    MICHAEL2023 Well-Known Member

    Hi Heather, I know that your words lay bare the pain and suffering of both you and your mom. This is a story we all know too well. The maze of navigating the health system just bolsters everyone's suffering and fear of the unknown (even threatens our mental health). Like so many here at GIC say "it just sucks". I hope your sharing here at GIC has been cathartic for you. Thank you for opening up and sharing the larger story for us. We always help more people than we know when we share out inner landscape.

    Your mom and brother are still with you, if you take a few deep breaths and be still/mindful, you will feel them. It's like learning a new language.
    God's love and creation is so strong, mysterious, and promises Life Everlasting. One day we will reunite with our loved ones.

    Keep your strength up, grief is a long ride.
    ~ Michael
    Suntracker likes this.
  8. Suntracker

    Suntracker Active Member

    Thank you Michael so much. Yes it has been cathartic for me. I was afraid I shared too much details so thank you for responding. I like how you say inner landscape that describes it so well. I did cross the threshold of the first grief therapy appointment. It went well I think. I did most of the talking and felt it freed me up after. I liked the therapist also. I signed up for a group therapy session on Thursday night. A bit nervous but trying to stay positive. Today was tuff going back to work but I made it through even when everything in me was resisting. They gave me a beautiful card. One of the supervisors gave me a hug and I busted crying. She said her door is open if I want to talk as her Mom and Dad just passed in the last 2 years. She shared with me about it some so that was really nice. I do feel my Mom amd bro from time to time and my Dad. Ive had dreams my Dad is alive in them before. I saw a white bird fly by my cubicle window today which made me wonder. How often do you see an all white bird? Not a seagull either LOL. Also I sit just like my mom have her smile and same hands! Hope for healing xoxo ~Heather
    MICHAEL2023 likes this.
  9. Ceee

    Ceee Well-Known Member