Losing the Mom I knew
I think one of the hardest things I had to do in my life was let go of my image of my Mom. Once I became her caregiver because she was diagnosed with dementia, she slipped further and further away from me into someone I didn’t know. I had no choice but to try and accept the fact that my Mom was changing drastically but acceptance kept slipping away from me too.
I was used to the Mom I grew up with.
In the beginning, my failure to understand and accept her as she was rather than the Mom I always knew, prevented me from moving forward in my new role. I was so confused and unconsciously expected her to react in familiar and relatable ways. She had always been so independent and in charge. I was used to the Mom I grew up with, not the new person who needed my help. I stumbled trying to interact and communicate. I fought to understand what she needed and how to give it to her. She too had an extremely hard time adjusting and I felt so helpless watching her try to hold on to the world she knew.
I struggled with the changes in my Mom.
My mind struggled to understand and remember that things were different and my heart broke with my helplessness. I prayed for guidance. Slowly we began to find a rhythm and I learned to surrender to things the way they were and not the way I wanted them to be.
I remember one day when I found her staring at the big calendar I had on the refrigerator door. She was so lost and confused, with her finger poised on a date. I knew then she had absolutely no idea what she was looking at and was panicking because she knew it was something she used to understand. She looked so scared and little. I saw her as someone I didn’t know, a stranger who desperately needed help love and ultimate compassion. I knew my Mom was gone forever. I would fluctuate back and forth between hope and denial but from that day on I knew everything was changed forever.
My Mom needed me to be open and loving.
The funny thing is that day helped me, actually, as painful as it was. It made me realize that like a child, my Mom needed me to be open, soft, patient and loving to her no matter what her behavior was or who she appeared to be. Accepting who she was at the present moment allowed us to have more precious time together without the cruel expectations we always have of each other. It taught me to become a new person too, forcing me to let go of old baggage, history, and resentment. It taught me that even though I could no longer recognize everything my Mom said or did, I could easily recognize the love between us. I no longer had the Mom my mind understood but I will always have the Mom my heart knows. And that Mom is with me forever.