In talking to people about grief and in my readings on grief, one of the main issues is connected to TIME. If people are really honest with you they will tell you that it is the not knowing how long a loved one will continue to live and how long they will have to go on caring for their loved one that brings them a lot of stress, anxiety and yes, grief.
This has definitely been true in my own case of looking after my Mom. Being autistic only adds to this dilemma as we like to have things down to a science. We want to know when, where, how long, what and a myriad of other answers to the questions that press in on us so that we can be certain of as many variables as we can. That brings relief, less stress and anxiety and gives us a sense of security.
Unfortunately, dealing with a loved one in palliative care has no answers to give except “don’t know”, not sure how long, wait, I can’t answer that. There have been times in the last 3 years of looking after my Mom when not knowing has just about drove me crazy. I became so anxious that I became close to suicidal. I would spiral down, down, down, as I frantically tried to somehow pin a time on when – when this would all end.
BUT….through this maniacal journey, I have ( I think) found something that helps deal with the unknowns. When we deal with unknowns we are dealing with the future. The future is unattainable, uncharted territory. But TODAY is much more manageable. If I can stay in the present and not allow my brain to fast forward into the future I can stay somewhat sane. TODAY has a lot of predictability in it that I like very much. It agrees with me. Like….
…. I get up, I get my tea, when Mom gets up I get her breakfast. I dole out her pills and other medical applications. I might visit for awhile. Then I can go do my own stuff. Certain days I have appointments, respite, work at the library. Evenings are usually the same. I get Mom her usual Egg McMuffin (homemade), glass of milk and a cookie, then she watches “Murder She Wrote” and I do my thing until 9:30 when I get Mom ready for bed – pills, ice water, etc etc. Lots of predictability. I like that.
Of course, there are always new adventures thrown in that are not expected like a bat in the house or me getting a concussion or Mom falling and getting a goose egg on her head. But at least they are in amongst the predictability of that day. I can manage much better with these random adventures when I am not thinking beyond that particular day.
Taking one day at a time has really helped me to lower my anxiety, my stress level and my time with my Mom is happier and calmer.
The bible has a wise verse in Matthew about this. It says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is it’s own trouble.” It really is true. Focusing on the present is like a present to myself. I am so much calmer and able to handle things. I can do this job for as long as Mom is with me. I can enjoy my time with Mom much more. The rest is up to God.