Aging Parents · Cancer · Family · Grief

Can’t find the words

My hand on Mom’s arm as she fitfully slept

I have been trying for almost two months to find the words to express how I have been feeling about moving my mother into an assisted living facility. I’ve been failing.

I have not had to make any of the hard decisions in this process. I have not been responsible for anything, really. There are many parts of the process that I was so unhelpful that I am sure those involved could call me negligent. It hasn’t been intentional. I have no power and very little voice. I feel ineffectual and a waste. All I can do is watch and feel. I hate it.

The decision was made between Thanksgiving and Christmas to move my mother. She had become aggressive, violent even, and was threatening my sister, her housemate. She was threatening to kill others, to kill herself, and had made many “runs” to the outside. She was unsafe and the decision to move her was finally made when others became unsafe around her. I had no words to express my fear and deep sadness about how these words and actions were coming from my mother.

When she was officially moved into the facility, her behaviors became worse. She was, predictably, incredibly angry, defiant, and vocal about the move. The downward tragectory of her behaviors wasn’t predictable, to me at least, and has been extraordinarily diffiyto even fathom. The day of her worst and most violent outburst, I literally began to sob to one of my dearest friends and said to her, “Please don’t think this is who my mommy is. This isn’t her.” That was one of the only times I had even cried about all of this. I’m a very emotional person and it has repeatedly struck me how stoic I’ve been. Again, it is simply because I have no words.

The details of my mother’s behavior are not really important right now. She has been in a hospital for a while now and getting the care she needs. Those in charge of the process have found another facility to better meet my mother’s ever escalating needs. She will go there once she has maintained certain behaviors for a determined amount of time at the hospital. Daughter is terrified to see her and terrified to not see her. Husband feels the same way but will not say it. He wants to be my rock and, like me, has no words.

There is no comfort to be found here. There is no quiet and gentle passing for my mother. She is dying; that is clear. It is loud and angry and too slow for her. It is unfair and ugly and mean. She doesn’t deserve it. No one deserves it.

Today, I had what might be the worse thought I’ve ever had and it was about this, all of this. This horrid situation which is what consumes my “free” moments in my mind. I have a lump, you see. Daughter is terrified that the cancer is back. Husband is scared, too. Me? Not so much. That’s where the horrible thought comes in.

I actually thought, “I hope it is cancer. I hope I have cancer again and then I have to do a quick surgery and radiation and chemo. Because if it is cancer, then I have an excuse. I can stay home and be sick and then I don’t have to watch it. I don’t have to see her and I don’t have to feel it. And you know what? It’s so much easier to have cancer than to watch my mother go through this.” It is. It’s easier to keep myself alive when my own body is attacking me than it is to watch my mother have to live. I sort of hate myself for that.

That’s where I am. I have no words for how I feel. Sure, I have guilt and anger and fear. I have despair and hope and frustration. Yet I can’t quite put my finger on this emotion. It is all of that and so much more. Maybe I’d have a word for it if I knew German. As it is, I’ll just be here in bed, thinking about it all and hoping the Universe has a plan.

One thought on “Can’t find the words

  1. thank you for sharing this and giving me insight into the difficulties and your ability to manage those difficulties daughter. From the outside, but as one who has loved your mom as another for me, this brings incredible sadness but also greater understanding. This process of become frail and coming towards the end can indeed be sometime cruel. I love you.


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