Denial comes in many forms.....anyone and everyone can live in some form of denial. I have recently been dealing with several families who have been in deep denial about their elderly family member. I am finding it a challenge to be patient with the denial. I want to cut to the chase! Lets do what needs to be done....but I can't. I have to walk slowly, wait, let them process, let them come to conclusions on their own so it becomes something that they are truly on board with and not just doing what they are told without any real conviction behind their action. They need to be able to be at peace as their family leaves this earth....just as much as the family member.
One son, about my age, has repeatedly told me his mom is fine. She is in Hospice with an invasive form of cancer that is in several of her major organs. She is not fine. She is on pain medications every couple hours, her body is not eliminating toxins so they build up and cause great confusion and forgetfulness for her. She works hard at managing her own affairs but is really unable to manage any longer without help. When I bring this up to him he assures me she is ok. He has noticed some forgetfulness but she is getting older and thats to be expected. I have to tread gently...but time is of the essence. Eventually, after a particularly grueling day for his mom, we have an emotional break through, I sit by and listen as he shares with his mom that he is seeing her need for more care, and how he would like her to stay at home and be cared for there..."but mom, that is what I see through my eyes. I can't see it through your eyes. What would you like?"
Such compassion, such courage as he faces the reality that plays itself out in the little granny apt next door.
Another woman is losing her mom to "old age." "Isn't there anything else we can do?" The mom is an adorable Southern woman who is 90 years old with a great sense of humor. Her body is slowing down, breaking down, hurting, she is so weak these days. I encourage the daughter to bring in Hospice to help her care for her sweet mama. The daughter cries and feels as if she is betraying her mom. "Isn't this telling her there is no hope and we are just waiting for her to die?" I want to say, that "Yes, she is 90. There is no hope. She is not going to get younger, she is not going to get any better. Her body is wearing out. 90 years is a good run!"
Instead I say, "We are allowing your mom to leave this earth on her terms, in comfort (no pain) and with her dignity in tact. Present her options to her and see what feels right to her."
One would think I would have more compassion and patience with those in denial....but I find myself wanting to hurry the process along. Lets get the job done, lets all get on the same page. I have to choose to be loving and kind and not say things like, "WTH are you thinking?"
Denial comes in all forms. The terrified parent who denies their child is using as they nod off on the couch...."they're just tired." The terrified son whose watching his mom waste away....."She's fine!" The terrified daughter whose aged mom is quickly losing her stamina to keep going...."There has to be something else we can do!"
The common denominator here is that we are all afraid to lose something precious to us so we lie to ourselves. We create the picture we want life to be. We frantically grab at whatever illusions of hope we can find or create in our minds. But its like standing on air. It won't support or sustain us.
Loss is painful. Loss of the lives we expected to have, loss of the hopes and dreams we are forced to relinquish, loss of those we love in all of the forms that that can take... and the only way we can survive it in tact is to look at it, to walk through it, to feel it, to deal honestly with what is happening and what we feel about it all. Not a journey for those who are faint in spirit.
My experience has shown me that living in acceptance of what 'is' will still be painful, but it will be real and solid and something I can deal with and navigate. I still find myself occasionally waffling that line of denial...but its not the comfort it used to be.
Anyway...just stuff I'm thinking about this morning. To be honest, I am frustrated with my own lack of patience and compassion with the people I am encountering who are afraid to let go, who are afraid to face the reality of their potential loss. And I wonder, "Who the hell do I think I am?!"