Chronic Terminal Illness, When Do You Say Goodbye?
Dealing with a chronic illness is difficult on many levels. But how do you handle someone having a terminal illness that lingers on?
Let’s look at Judy
Judy’s mom has a medical illness that was diagnosed when Judy was a teenager. Her mom was in and out of the hospital for years then seemed to get better after she underwent a new procedure. Fast forward and Judy is 20; the affects of the procedure are wearing off. Mom is in and out of the hospital again, every visit seems it will be the last. Because of her illness, her mom missed key events like her college graduation, her bridal shower and almost missed her wedding. Mom always gets better, but it is still very stressful and sad to see her mom sick.
Another dimension to this is Mom demands a lot of attention when she is sick. So much so that Judy felt very little support from her mom during her pregnancy. Judy didn’t feel she could complain, because after all, Mom is sick. Judy gives birth and Mom is there, but takes a downturn shortly afterward.
Baby is 10 days old, Judy is exhausted and she gets the call that Dad is taking Mom to the hospital. Judy’s mother-in-law is helping with the baby, so Judy decides to take advantage of the help, get a good nights rest and go to the hospital in the morning. Judy knew the routine, she would spend a few days pampering her mom who would get better and be discharged. But this time Mom didn’t make it through the night.
Judy is racked with guilt and furious with herself for not being able to have the last loving goodbye conversation with her mom. But would Judy really have known this time was the last time and engaged in a goodbye talk? I don’t think Judy ever wanted to have a goodbye talk. How do you have that kind of talk?
No matter how much you anticipate someone’s death, you’re still not ready to concede that a person who is well enough to have a conversation with you is close enough to death to have a mutual goodbye discussion. You want to believe they can always get better until they don’t.
Judy had to let go of her focus on not saying goodbye. This was actually a diversion from the real issue which was the fact that Judy was angry and resentful toward her sick mother for not being there for her at milestone moments. Her Mom garnered so much attention over the years because of her illness, Judy felt lost in her shadow. Judy never discussed this with her mom and instead would put on a smile and give her mom all the attention she required, especially in the last months. Judy still has to deal with her resentment, but she realized her selfless attention to her mom was her goodbye that reaped much greater reward than a tearful goodbye speech.