We all have regrets in life and we all struggle sometimes, which is why I’m sharing this with you. In my solitude I was spending more and more time on my mobile phone, scrolling through Facebook, but it wasn’t inspiring me. As we counted down to Mam’s 2nd year anniversary, memories popping up were difficult to relive and I was becoming more and more irritated by Facebook.
Aggravated by those who were happy. Envious of those who were succeeding in life. Annoyed with those who were hiding behind walls of bullshit. Bothered by the lack of authentic truths. Desperate for something honest, real and raw because no one was sharing anything close to how I was thinking and feeling, which only made me feel even more agitated.
Facebook, like most other social media platforms is full of people sharing the highlights of their lives, or how to get there. Not many people openly share the lows and even fewer are sharing the uglier truths as they flow. So, knowing that things were only gonna get rougher for me, I decided to log off Facebook for a while. To focus a little more attention on my own life, and a little less on what every fucker else was or wasn’t doing. Yup, I had a bad attitude and I knew it, so I wasn’t in any mood to be told “be positive” or “stay fucking strong.”
Being a woman of extremes, a few days before Halloween I was detoxing from the substance abuse of sugar highs and comforting carbs. I suppose part of me had decided she was ready to sit with her trauma. But I was already starting to struggle with the memories surfacing. So, I hydrated and made sure there wasn’t any booze in the van, because I needed a clear mind to deal with what was coming. Having acknowledged I’m riding waves of Post Traumatic Stress, I’ve been confronting each experience as they flow. Consciously choosing to relive the difficult moments, to determine what I’m still holding onto. So I can release myself from the past and move more confidently into the future, with more love and less fear. But I was anxious about Halloween because last year I focused on spirit, and this year I’m feeling the heaviness of multiple losses and regrets.
October 31st 2017 I wrote …
Caring for Mam at Yam, during her final stage of life, is challenging us all, as we each confront our own individual fears and anxieties. I’m so proud of how well my Dad and sisters are handling this, but I’ve been disappointed in myself. Since bringing Mam home from the hospice, I’ve been struggling with inner conflicts and anxiety. I’ll be honest, ever since Mam expressed her wish to die at home, the anxiety in my heart has been constant. As visions of every confronting and challenging death I’ve experienced have flashed into my mind. So, I asked myself …
What are you most afraid of ?
I’m afraid that Mams lungs will fill up with fluid and she will feel like she’s drowning
I’m afraid we wont have what we need to maintain her comfort at Yam
I’m afraid that Mam will fight death right to the end
I’m afraid that Mam will become agitated and anxious
I’m afraid that Mam will suffer instead of passing away peacefully
The truth is, the nurse in me is seeing things the daughter doesn’t want to see. The nurse knows things the daughter doesn’t want to know. The daughter is somewhere she doesn’t really want to be, doing something she doesn’t want to do. Although I want to fulfill Mam’s dying wishes, she was supposed to be much older. Although I’ve assisted with many deaths, I’m struggling to care for my Mam because this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. For weeks I’ve been battling with myself, then a few days ago a familiar aroma tickled my senses, bringing my intuition to full attention. A knowing that death is near was a prompt from Universe to be fully present with what IS. To get out of my head and BE in the moments, however difficult they are. Tonight I sense deaths presence as my parents sleep. It dances around our beloved Mother and taunts our beloved Father. But instead of fearing it, I invite it to come sit with me awhile, as if it were an old friend. I imagine death taking form and giving me its full attention.
I have a few things to say to you, so listen carefully …
Truth is, I don’t fear you as I once did because sometimes life scares me more than you do. I’ve become more grateful for life and less afraid of you, but I’m troubled about you coming to take my parents away so soon. Although I believe in spirit, I’m not ready to let them go. Ironic, how I’m sitting here with you today of all days. On All Hallows Eve. The day when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest. When the boundary between this world and Other Worldly dimensions can be crossed. A time when we’re more able to connect with our ancestors and the energy of spirit. A time when the air is full of death, rebirth and magic, but its a familiar feeling I’ve felt on other days too. Every time a life comes to an end in the nursing home, the veil thins so their spirit can cross over. Something that isn’t seen but its an energy I can feel. But I also sense your presence when ever loss has touched my life in some way. Abortion, miscarriage, divorce, heart breaks and shattered dreams. I know you are’t the frightening Grim Reaper that people fear. I now know you as an energy that’s always present and you take various forms. I know you as the Dark Goddess who comes to burn away what no longer serves me. And I know you as the guide who supports my spiritual growth on my souls journey. So, instead of focusing on my beloved Mothers death, perhaps it will be easier for me to focus on her transition? So, I’ll confront the unknown, trusting that we are supported by spirit, as we prepare our beloved Mother for her journey. Death, I’m not angry with you because I know your presence is spirit. And in the deepest core of my being, I believe her journey isn’t over, so I ask you to please carry her gently and help us to support the transition of her spirit.
I didn’t share these words because within moments my experience suddenly changed, and those words were no longer my truth. Death had double crossed me and my faith was once again shaken.
I recall the details of that night vividly, as if it was only yesterday …
My sisters and I were taking it in turns to sit at Mam’s bedside throughout the night. We were monitoring her pain to ensure comfort. Dad never left Mam’s side, he slept on a single bed that was pushed up against the hospital bed, so he could hold her hand as she slept. Such moments were bitter sweet to witness, because it was both beautiful and painful to see. We had brought Mam home from the hospice because it was her wish to die at Yam, surrounded by family. She was sleeping most of the time, becoming a little more agitated during her wakeful moments, but we held off on sedation because Mam wanted to hang onto as many wakeful moments as she could, as did we. Those moments were so very precious and we wanted as much time with her as we could, no matter how difficult it was to watch her fading away before our very eyes.
It was Halloween night 2017 and I was sitting in the chair beside Mam’s bed. I had lit a candle for our ancestors who were in spirit, and I wrote about how I was thinking and feeling. I took a photo of my parents as they slept because as morbid as it may sound to some, it was an image I wanted to remember and a moment I needed to capture. Perhaps it was for these words and for this blog?
My thoughts and writing were interrupted when Dad woke up. He made a cuppa and we sat on his bed eating mince pies, talking about what was happening. Like many others, it was a difficult conversation to be having because we didn’t want this to be our reality, but it was. Mam began to stir and woke up, but her eyes were glazed and she looked tired. I felt the need to tell her it was OK to let go, so I did. Dad and I told her that none of us wanted her to go, but we would be OK because we would look after each other. I told her how much she was loved and thanked her for being such a wonderful Mam. It was a conversation that distressed us all because Mam became agitated. She was unable to communicate with us and no matter what we did we couldn’t comfort her. I often wonder what she was trying to say. I wonder if she was angry with me because she didn’t want us to let go, or if she was upset because she couldn’t tell us something important.
I recall the details of that night vividly because it was one of those moments of impact. The kind of experience that lingers long after its gone. It was 2am and I was in a state of panic, so I woke my sister so she could support our parents, while I tried to hold it together and call the nurse on call, to discuss the best course of action. But I didn’t want to be the nurse, I wanted to be the daughter sitting beside my Mam, but the daughter had fucked up. I didn’t want the responsibility of medications, I wanted a medical team to take over because I knew we were nearing the end, and I didn’t want this to be the end. Not like this, but truth is, I didn’t want any of this. And I couldn‘t help but think, we were going to be doing it all again for Dad, and I wasn‘t sure if I could do it.
I was having the conversation on the phone, while standing in the garden. I could hear my Dad sobbing in the bedroom, as he offered words of comfort to Mam. I heard my sister doing her best to reassure them both, but I felt the ache in her heart. I tried to focus on what the nurse was saying, who was telling me it was time to give the sedation. But I didn’t want to sedate my Mam because she didn’t need it until I opened my big mouth. I felt responsible and guilty for having upset her. It was all my fault and I had failed everyone again. I felt my knees weaken and I wanted to fall down. I wanted to scream and shout and cry. I wanted to feel the unbearable pain in my heart, but instead I wrapped it all up in regret and suppressed it. Telling myself, that what I was feeling wasn’t important. Reminding myself, that Mam and Dad were the ones who mattered most right now, but my thoughts tormented me.
“What were you thinking you fucking fool?”
“Why the fuck did you have to say that?”
“She wants you to fight for her, not let her go”
“Why aren’t you fighting for her life?”
“Why are you accepting her death?”
Unfortunately, we had to sedate Mam that night and it was the last time she was awake, which is why that night still haunts me. If only I hadn’t said anything. If only I had just kept my big mouth shut. If only I hadn’t caused so much upset by saying what I thought needed to be said. I know I did what I thought was right, but it wasn’t the right time. I know I was doing the best I could, but my best wasn’t good enough. I know I can’t change anything, but oh my god I want to. I can only accept what was and learn from the experience, which I did. When confronting Dads final months, weeks and days, we couldn’t avoid the elephant in the room, so we talked more openly about death. We focused on his reunion with Mam, which offered us all comfort. We talked more honestly about how to best manage his symptoms, to ensure his struggle didn’t become suffering. And I ensured conversations were had before death made its presence known.
Since Mams passing my own spiritual journey has intensified, but the inner conflicts persist. I‘m still learning how to live in a world where my parents are no longer living, which is a challenging adjustment. But my greatest challenge is the regrets I have, which is why I reflect and write. I’ve come to realize that a woman like me will always have regrets because I dare to say what others don’t want to say, I dare to do what others don’t like to do and I dare to express and expose the flawed human being that I am.
“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.” (Henry David Thoreau)
I’ve been reflecting and writing about my regrets in life. Recently, most of my thoughts and feelings are linked to traumatic experiences from our parents end of life, like Halloween, but other past regrets and trauma began to flow into my mind too. Like a magnet I was attracting more and more regretful thoughts. I became so consumed by my own faults, flaws, failures and fuck ups that I got lost inside of my own mind. Stuck in distorted thinking that was dragging me deeper and deeper into despair. And as I looked at my life, it was easier to believe the negative self talk, which is probably why my thoughts began to turn suicidal. It was hard to sit with those darker thoughts and feel the emotions that flowed, especially when I was alone reliving some painful memories. But that’s where I was and obviously where I was meant to be.
I notice how suicide is a topic that keeps coming up in my life. First, I went to stay with a friend, who has lost mates to suicide. It’s November, which is the month when men’s mental health gets a platform. And in the midst of my own crisis, friends and family were disclosing their own battles with dark thoughts. I got off the phone after talking to someone who was worried about her son and my heart broke. I cried, as I thought about how many others are fighting battles no one sees. I cried, as I thought about my parents pain and suffering. I cried, for all of those people who are suffering from physical pain, mental illness, tormented thoughts, overwhelming emotions and/or anguish they just want to stop. It distresses me to think about how many people feel alone in their struggles. It upsets me to think about how many people don’t notice until its too late. It concerns me to think about how many people abuse substance to cope with pain. And it scares me to think about how many people believe the only way to end their suffering is to kill themselves, yet, I can’t help but think about these things.
Its time we all talk more openly and honestly about our inner dialogue. Because its not so easy to think positive thoughts when life is challenging us and our mental health isn’t OK. We don’t need people telling us to “stay positive” and “be strong.” We need people to listen without judgement nor opinion. For me, these people are my sisters because they know my struggles better than anyone. W’eve always been close and are even closer having gone through what we did together, but what about those who have no family or trusted friends? What about those who find it hard to reach out? Those are the people I think about.
Over the years, there’s been plenty of times when I’ve wanted the mental anguish and emotional pain to just stop. Lately, there’s been moments I’ve been scared and unsure if I could escape the grip of my own irrational thoughts. So, I keep doing what ever feels right for me, holding onto my faith and trusting myself. Focusing on keeping my stress levels low and being gentler with myself.
Truth is, I’m still riding waves because the past still haunts me, the present is challenging me and the future scares me. I neither want to deny nor ignore this truth because I know the regrets I have are the lessons I’m learning, the challenges I have are the changes I’m making and the future is full of possibility. So, I keep writing about my thoughts and feelings because it helps me to process the mess in my mind. And I keep reminding myself that I’m neither broken, nor a victim of my thoughts, but I am a woman of strength, who is becoming whole. Learning how to accept, embrace and love the parts of myself that others prefer not to see. Daring to have the conversations that matter, so others don’t feel so alone in their struggle. Offering hope to those who need it and trusting the process of my healing.
If you’re struggling with your thoughts, then please reach out to someone you trust. You’re not alone with your struggles because we all struggle sometimes. If you don’t have anyone to talk to then support is only a click away. Please don’t suffer in silence because whether you believe it or not, YOU matter. Someone you love needs YOU. Someone you haven’t even met yet is looking forward to meeting YOU one day. YOU make the world a better place just by being in it and YOU are loved and supported always ❤