Can I forgive myself for leaving my dying mother's side?
November 9, 2009 10:40 AM   Subscribe

My mother is dying. How can I forgive myself for the guilt of leaving her bedside?

She was moved to hospice a week ago and at the time, was given "2-10 days" from two different doctors. I stayed with her for a week and then flew back home. Part of the reason I flew back is because I have a toddler and part of the reason is that it was extremely distressing for me. She has pneumonia, in addition to complications from several small strokes and the underlying issue is non-small cell lung cancer that metastasized to her bones. Her dying process is anything but "peaceful" - the noises, smells and deterioration of her body was making me physically ill. I had some "quiet time" with her to say my goodbyes and try to let her know it was time for her to be at peace (like everyone told me she might need to hear), but as time wore on, I couldn't stomach it anymore. I feel like I would be altered forever if I continued to witness this. However, I also feel extremely guilty for "abandoning" her during her last days. Well-meaning family and friends have told me it's "ok" and that it's a personal choice, etc. I switch between being comfortable with my decision to thinking she is "hanging on" because I'm not physically present with her.

More background: my mom was diagnosed last Christmas and immediately made legal documents putting me in charge. She went through treatment up to a few days before she fell and was admitted to a hospital. After a month, she was moved to hospice once we finally realized she was dying. This last step has been a blow to us because she was so "normal" up until her fall, so although we knew we would eventually be in this place, we didn't expect it NOW (who does, right?). I am the youngest of 3 kids, but she is mostly estranged from the other 2, plus my mom and I have always had a very close relationship, although we live 2000 miles away from each other. I have made 6-8 trips to see her this year and during her hospital stay, was there for more than half that time.

The problem I have is that I hear so many people say that there is "no way" they would leave their mother's side on her deathbed and I thought I would be the same way, but I just lost it and instead of extending my flight, came home instead. I feel like I am justifying coming back, even though nobody is judging me! I have contemplated flying back to her, just so I can be there ... but in reality, I'm torn. I want to be there, but I don't want to see/hear her death.

Please ... help me figure out a way to comes to terms with my guilt.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
First, I am so sorry for your loss, and I wish I knew what to advise you in this situation. One thing - please be careful that you do not say - to yourself or others - that you came home because of your child. Years from now, if you regret your decision to leave her bedside, your child might catch wind of it and feel guilty, or you might project your guilt as resentment.
posted by tizzie at 10:49 AM on November 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

I'm willing to bet that most people who have said there was "no way" they would leave their mother's side have not actually experienced what you've experienced. But it also sounds like everyone who matters understands your choice, and someone will be with your mother.


How do you personally feel about it? Will you be okay with it once she passes? Would your mother want you to be there? That's all that matters. Everyone handles their grief differently. For what it's worth, I thought I couldn't handle seeing my grandmother slip away, but at the last second I changed my mind and spent her final minutes with her. It was extremely hard for me at the time, but I'm now very glad that I did.
posted by katillathehun at 10:52 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

You have a toddler who does not and can not understand your absences, that should be reason enough for not going back to your mother's bedside.

Can she still talk on the phone? If so, call her as often as you can. Ask her about your idea that she's hanging on until you get back there.

Don't listen to people who try to make you feel like you're not doing enough. Everyone is different.

Take care of yourself.
posted by mareli at 10:52 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

My mother died of metastasized breast cancer when I was 14. It took her two years to die, rather than the couple of months that had been predicted. During this time I saw her go through suffering and humiliation that no human being should have to endure. By the end I wanted it to be over. It had clearly gone on long enough.

Now, I was a kid and there were limits to my empathy. It didn't occur to me that she might not want to die.

I was away at boarding school the last year of her life, and then at summer camp when she passed away. I didn't have a chance to say goodbye and I don't remember the last time I saw her.

I do have regrets about that. They will always be there. But that's just part of life. It's unavoidable. We make our choices to the best of our abilities and we live with the repercussions. No one is perfect in their judgement, compassion, or strength. And that's all right. You'll be all right. You can start forgiving yourself now, but also accept the fact that it will never be over, it will never be okay. But you can still live with it.

Of course, you could fly back to her bedside and hope you make it there in time. If that would make you feel better, it's what you should do.
posted by alms at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

Would you forgive your own (future) child for acting like you have done? For them to not be able to stand the pain of watching you suffer and having their own child to take care of?

If so (and I suspect you would), there's a path to coping - there's no reason your mother wouldn't have the same feelings.
posted by Dali Atomicus at 11:05 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

The above poster makes an excellent point.

I had a very similar situation, anon, with my father. I struggled with it for years, but I have come to realize that my father loved me, he knew I loved him, and he'd want me to handle life as best I can.

If this means that I couldn't make myself be present while he suffered, then so be it. I wouldn't make my own son go through that.

This is somewhat the same reason that people choose to have closed-casket sometimes - they'd rather remember the happy, healthy times.
posted by unixrat at 11:08 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

[I have tried to write something to post three times now...]
Please do not let the comments ("there was "no way" they would leave their mother's side") influence how you think about yourself.
I have been through this three times recently and it does not get easier.
You did what you did because you had to keep your health.
If you need a shoulder or other help, please do not hesitate to email me.
posted by Drasher at 11:19 AM on November 9, 2009

My sympathies in your situation. I had a similar situation several years ago, with my mother being in the UK and me being in the US. I did (and still do) feel guilt about not being there at the end, but we talked about it while she was still well and she was very forthright in not wanting me to hang around at the end. Her attitude was that I had a life in the US that I should not be putting on hold, and that she would not have been comfortable with me being there right at the end. It didn't make it any easier for me, but I at least felt we had discussed it. That's obviously not an option for you, but you did at least get to spend some quality time with her before she became too ill.

In the end, the decision is yours, and you need to accept that and move on. The other people are not you, and they are not the ones who were there watching your mother get worse. You made a decision, and you had the absolute right to do so. The people telling you that they would never leave her side have probably never been through it, and they have no right to criticize your choices. If they ever face a similar situation, they will understand how hard that is. So, don't focus on them; focus on you and yours, and what is best for you and them.
posted by baggers at 11:21 AM on November 9, 2009

I switch between being comfortable with my decision to thinking she is "hanging on" because I'm not physically present with her.

One thing on the matter of your mother "hanging on" until you are present. My father died two months ago. At one point we were talking to the hospice nurse about this. Although there are tons of stories of people "hanging on" until a loved one gets to their side, the nurse related there are just as many stories when someone will be with the ill person 24 hours a day, and the one time they step out for five minutes, the person dies. The nurse suggested maybe people don't want their loved ones there when they die because they don't want their family to see it.

My dad ended up dying when I was sitting in a chair next to his bed reading a magazine and my mom was in the kitchen fixing dinner.

Something the hospice nurses and workers kept telling us was that everybody has their own of dealing with events like this and it is really not anyone's place to dictate to you how you handle the death of a parent.

I would like to think if I was dying, and it was causing my family undue pain to watch me, I'd be fine with them going to the next room or the next state. I had an issue about people "dying alone" and did not what that to happen to my Dad (or me). After watching my Dad die, I realized even if there are a bunch of people in the room, we do die alone. That may sound kind of grim, but I got some kind of peace or something from that realization.

Sounds like you had some time to let your Mom know you love her. Don't be hard on yourself.
posted by marxchivist at 11:24 AM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]

I've been struggling with some similar feelings. My mom died just over a month ago. I have some guilt about a variety of things that I won't go into here. But when I begin feeling guilty, I remind myself that the most important thing was that my mom knew I loved her, and she supported my choices and was proud of me, and she was well cared for when she died. I am sure that similarly your mom does not judge you for your choice. It's unclear from your post whether she was able to communicate at all prior to your leaving town. But I would bet that if she could she would have given you her blessing.

I am so sorry you have to go through this. I know how hard it is. Please memail me if you would like to talk.
posted by miss tea at 11:24 AM on November 9, 2009

"the noises, smells and deterioration of her body was making me physically ill"

If you do decide to go back, and need help to deal with the smells, get some Vicks VapoRub and rub it on your upper lip, right under your nose. You won't be able to smell anything except that. That might help you be around your mother without retching.

I wish you peace whatever you decide to do.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:32 AM on November 9, 2009

When my mother was dying of cancer, I had made plans to visit her the day after the semester ended. She passed a week before I was to visit. And to be absolutely honest, I've never felt regret. Mainly, I think this is because I said to myself: I loved her, she loved me, we both knew how we felt, and in the end, that's all that mattered to me.

Whatever decision you make, it's worthwhile to ask yourself whether you'll regret it in 10 or 20 years, and whether it would help your mom for you to be there. As long as the answer is "no", then you should do what you need to do.

I agree with katillathehun about the people who say "no way" they'd leave. People who've been through it know that everyone grieves differently, and that there's no right way. Personally, I feel that the "no way" comment is incredibly insensitive, but well-meaning people can easily say the wrong thing in this situation, especially if they haven't been there themselves.

I'm so very sorry. Please take care of yourself, and your family.
posted by sesquipedalian at 12:29 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

My mother died of lung cancer 4 years ago. My kids are older and my mother did not want them present so I felt very torn between her needs and their grief and need for me. It was an enormously painful experience and there were many times I wanted nothing more than to get away from the situation, especially since everyone deferred to me on decision making. My mother died at night while we were all home asleep. I believe she chose to do so from things she said while she could still speak - it was clear she didn't want any of us to witness her passing.

Be gentle with yourself - you're going through something incredibly difficult and overwhelming. Everyone copes differently. You might talk to someone at your local hospice about this - there are grief support groups and counselors who can help you come to terms with it. No matter what you do your mother clearly knows you love her and care for her - and she's in a situation where she is being cared for - remind yourself of that when you feel guilty. I'm sorry for your pain - I know all too well how challenging that situation is.
posted by leslies at 12:33 PM on November 9, 2009

Are you able to talk to her on the phone? If so, talk to her as much as you're able to.
posted by essexjan at 12:44 PM on November 9, 2009

First, I'm very, very sorry you're going through this.

Second, I am too. My mom was just given "make arrangements" news. She won't live for 6 months due to metastatic breast cancer now in her liver.

Third, I honestly have no answers for you because I have zero clue what I'm going to do. I'm already falling apart and the process hasn't even begun. I too am in charge of everything.

I know my mom will be scared through all of this. But so am I. Perhaps if you have a good relationship, maybe you can tell her your fears (not the smell part) about not wanting to see her like this but keep a good memory?

This sucks.
posted by stormpooper at 1:02 PM on November 9, 2009

You want to be with your child. You do not want to be with your mother.
I am not a mother myself, but if I were I would want my daughter to be with her child, not with me. Grandmotherly love is just as fierce as motherly love, in my experience.

And my heart is with you. I am sorry for your mother's suffering, and for the loss you are experiencing right now, and for the loss that lies ahead.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:03 PM on November 9, 2009

I'm so sorry for what is happening. Last year, right around this time, my partner's mother was dying. She had been getting progressively sicker and was in the hospital for a couple months. About six months prior to her being hospitalized, we finalized plans for a much anticipated trip. This trip wasn't anything special but a lot of time and money had gone into the plans. Four days before we were to leave, the doctors predicted she would die within the next couple hours. She was in and out, mostly out, of consciousness. The entire family made it to the hospital and we said our goodbyes, prayed with the chaplain, the whole deal. It was extremely emotional. And then she didn't die. She didn't regain consciousness either. She just held on. We said our goodbyes over and over, told her she could let go, everything we thought we were supposed to do. But she didn't die. Suddenly it was the day before we were to leave and we didn't know what to do. We could have canceled our trip but we decided she wouldn't want us to do that and so we went. She died the day we left.

I don't think my partner regrets leaving. I know I don't. We said our goodbyes. She wouldn't have wanted us to hurt any more than we already were. Our trip was bittersweet but I'm so glad we went. There were many moments of beauty on our trip and they always reminded us of her.

Only you know what is right for you during this time. People are assholes and say completely horrible things that they don't even realize they are saying. Death is messy, smelly, and painful. It's okay to not want to be around it. Please don't feel guilty for taking care of yourself.
posted by catsoup at 1:04 PM on November 9, 2009

If someone is with your mother through this, then you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I left my mother in her last few hours, I was very sick (admitted to the same hospital at the same time) and my two sisters were being........ 'difficult'.

To this day I have no regrets that I wasn't there at the exact moment of her death. BUT I did ensure that she had loving and kind people with her to keep her company as she died.

Your gift to your mother is to make sure she's not alone (and that someone there can advocate suitable paliation for her) and take care of yourself.

Death can be an assault on the senses and not every body copes with it the same way.

Don't be hard on yourself. Get on the phone, ensure everything is being done, and then cuddle your little one. The part after she dies, and when you're dealing with wills and belongings and grief..... that's a very long and difficult road. Pace yourself for this whole process.

Best of luck witih this possum, we're all thinking of you. I truly felt like a grown up, in a bad way, when my mother died. My commiserations.
posted by taff at 2:30 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

When my daughter was dying earlier this year, I felt a profound sense of guilt for not holding her every single second, for even leaving the room. I still think about that sometimes - we are so programmed into retrospective feelings like "I wish I could just give her one more kiss." Now, I look back and think about time where she was sleeping in the last week or so before her death, and I watched TV or whatever. I have no idea what I watched - or read - or who I talked to on the phone - but sometimes I wish (so strongly) I had that one more moment of holding her and singing "Raindrops Are Falling on My Head" to her - whether she was aware of it or not.

BUT (and here is the point) - no moment more of time would have changed that. On the other hand, the time I spent sleeping and giving my brain a rest by zoning out, working, running, just living my life - that time was (I truly believe) immensely important to my well-being after her loss. This even so much more important for you, as you have a child depending on you and who needs you. I hope it doesn't sound callous because it's not meant that way at all, but stepping away from the bedside and being ALIVE (for yourself, and your child) is loving, strong and positive.

My two cents about the guilt, is that when we lose a loved one (in my case, I have lost a child but no parents) we are full of sadness, of regret, of a profound sense of loss. What I felt so strongly as guilt for not holding my daughter 24/7 wasn't (isn't) "true guilt," but just sadness. You don't want to lose your mother - you want more time with her, a longer life. It is hard to both "want more time" and to "walk away" from the bedside. I am not sure that cognitive dissonance is the applicable term, but it does create a feeling that translates as guilt. But, being at the bedside 24/7 won't change the whole book on your mother's life and your love for her. It might change the book on how you and your child cope, and grow in the future, and heal from the loss. It is equally as important to look to that.

You might experience the feeling of guilt no matter what you do - it has been almost 9 months to the day since my daughter died, and I still feel it. But I focus more on the good times, and the importance of being strong so that I can honor her with love and positivity. It's a long, slow process. And as to other people's comments - no one knows what they would do in those situations. If you'd asked me 2 years ago what I would do if my baby got cancer and died, the answer I'd have given would be nowhere near what I actually did. Ignore other people, and focus on what is right for YOU, as best you can.

Final thought: in my experience, which is admittedly different, really thinking about and carefully considering decisions (as you are doing) is the single most helpful thing I did. Regardless of the outcome of the decision, the fact that it was carefully made has gone a long way toward helping me avoid regretting decisions I made, or wishing I had asked one more question of the docs, and so forth.

Sending love.
posted by bunnycup at 2:37 PM on November 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

Nothing to add but wanted to say how sorry I am for what you are going through.

Take care of yourself.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 4:29 PM on November 9, 2009

What an amazing number of thoughtful and loving answers in this thread.

My 2 cents:
Don't feel bad.
I lost my mother almost 13 years ago, and was not at her bedside the last 3 or 4 days. Was at home about 120 miles away. Work constraints did not give me the time off to be with her, but honestly it was a relief to leave and go back to work sometimes. My family and I took care of her in a rotation, because that was what we had to do. So my sisters and dad were with her then, and I do not feel at all guilty about it.

And I was even somewhat relieved. I did what I needed to, and was spared those last hours. Today I am able to remember her as she was in life. And I still miss her.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:17 PM on November 9, 2009

I'm going to be contrarian. My mother died of lung cancer in 2001, so I know what that kind of cancer is like. It's ugly. The end was wretched and painful and there were some genuinely ooky things that went on with her body that I won't type about here.

I was with her, as much as I could be, leaving my husband and job a nine-hour drive away, until she literally drew her last breath.

And I STILL feel guilty, wishing I'd done more for her, been kinder, gentler, more loving, forgiving, and giving, in the months before she went into hospice.

If I hadn't been there, I can't imagine how much deeper my guilt and regret would be.

As well, I had a fairly stormy relationship with my mother, so we weren't a lovey-dovey mother-daughter pair.

I would go and be with her. It's tough, it sucks, it's hard, but that's part of life and death. My mother was there for me, and it was the circle turning around and coming back. She needed my company and my comfort during the most horrific and terrifying time of her--anyone's--life. I was there when she had to die, and I am glad I was.
posted by Savannah at 6:28 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

I agree with Savannah. My family held my mother's hands as she died. We're a close family, so I could not imagine being anywhere but with my mom at that time. It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pleasant. We all die alone, as someone else mentioned upthread, but my family walked with her as far as we could down that path.

What was right for me may not be right for you. If you are firmly decided that you will not return to your mother, then that might be right for you. But if you are not firmly decided, the guilt you feel might be because you are not doing what your mind and emotions are telling you is the right thing for you.

Look back at the words you wrote. Strip away all the rationalizations -- what other people might think, your toddler, the number of other times you've visited, the unexpected nature of it, whether she's hanging on or not. With those things gone, you are left with one telling sentence: "I don't want to see/hear her death."

To me, that means the pain of watching her decaying body betray her, and watching as the person you love forever separates from that traitorous body. If that's what you mean, I understand that completely. But look directly at it, and away from the rationalizations and the fear and underlies them. Look in your heart instead of your mind. What does your heart want? If your heart wants you to stay in your home instead of at your mom's side, then answer the guilty feelings by remembering that you faced the real issue and did what your heart wanted. If your heart tells you to be with your mom, and it's just your fears that keep you away, get on the next flight back and don't feel guilty about that choice either.
posted by Houstonian at 7:10 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are many thoughtful comments above, but I did want to add my experience. When my mother died, the end of a two-year struggle with ovarian cancer, I was there with the rest of my immediate family, the end of a multiple-day and night vigil.

When my dad died, at the end of a fight with a brain tumor, I was not there. I was so emotionally exhausted, so utterly fed up with death and dying and hospice and hospitals and flying back and forth between the East Coast and the NW. I saw my dad one last time in hospice. He was not conscious, and it was only a matter of days. I realized that I did not have it in me to hold vigil. I wrestled with the decision to leave town. I talked it over with my father's wife, who said, "You have to make that decision." So I made it and got on the plane. It was supremely difficult, and I still ask myself if it was the right thing to do, but that's what I did. Thankfully, if my sister thought it was a bad decision, she's never said anything to the effect. In my mind, Dad was gone, and I had already started the long grieving process.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:28 PM on November 9, 2009

I've been staring at your post all day. Every time I think I have something to say, I end up giving my delete button 700 reasons to exist.

My dad was diagnosed with terminal stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (and what a mouthful that is) this summer. It's metastasized to both lungs, but so far hasn't spread to the rest of his body. We're lucky. He's handling treatment beautifully and the combination of chemo and radiation has stunted the cancer's growth - for now. He's as active and vibrant as ever. He's doing so well that the sheer, dumb, blunt shittyness of his prognosis is hard to reconcile with how beautifully he's doing.

As a family, we've mustered a few conversations about the fact that he will die. No one is willing to talk about how he will die - though I can't imagine that I'm the only one who has thought about it.

It terrifies me. I adore my father. I can barely get my head around the fact that I'll loose him, let alone the thought that he might wither slowly and painfully. I have no idea, right now, where I will find myself if that happens. I don't know where in the world I'll feel most at home if he ends up lying where your mother now does.

Anyhow. To your dilemma. I think the other posters are right - guilt will attend your thoughts for some time to come, no matter where you are when your mom dies. I don't think you should try to talk yourself into or out of feeling guilty. Just let it sit there. Don't give it air by trying to extinguish it. Don't feed the guilt by telling yourself you should be where you can not be. Let yourself feel conflicted because you are conflicted. And that's the basic truth of who and what your are right now.

Rearrange the space that guilt is taking up. If you haven't already, write your mom a letter. She knows you love her, but tell her anyhow. Write her a letter where you tell her why you love her, how you love her, what it is about her that you love. Be big, sloppy, sappy. And be specific. Tell her your favorite memories of her, tell her the things she did right. Tell her about her legacy to you.

She has guilt too. Most mothers do. Write a big hearted and generous letter that says 'I will remember the best of you.'

Do it soon, like now.

Get someone to watch your little one if you need the space and quiet to write. Email it to someone you can trust to pass it on - even if it has to be someone who works at the hospice. Find someone you trust (again, someone at the hospice will be happy to do this for you) to read it to her if she can't read it herself - even if it seems like she's too out of it to understand.

This may not erase your guilt, but you will never regret doing it.
posted by space_cookie at 7:59 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

You sounds like you've been a good daughter.

There's never, ever any way to know exactly how much time a terminally ill parent has left. Even if you fly back now, intending to stay for her last few days, she could miraculously hang on for another 2 or 3 weeks. Then you'd wind up in the same predicament and you'll feel just as guilty. There's always something to feel guilty about when your parent dies.

It sounds like you need to be with your baby and that's a good reason not to be sitting 2000 miles away, watching your mother die. If you suddenly feel like you need to go back, then go. Sometimes imagining the worst is more traumatic than facing it head on.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:01 PM on November 9, 2009

I completely understand how you feel...and I can relate. I didn't think I could handle watching my Mother die. I just wanted it to be over--if it had to be (and yes, it had to be..same as your Mom--my Mom had lung cancer). I didn't always get along with my Mother and I lived very far away from her. To say I was squeamish about the whole thing is a huge understatement. I knew she was in a very bad way and I finally got shamed into flying across the country by a Doctor who called me and said "well, you're coming here, RIGHT?" --For two weeks every day I went to the hospital and wondered when the heck is this going to be over with??? It was very confusing for me because one Doctor said she might make it and the other one said "no way"..(though he wouldn't give any estimation). Finally, a really wonderful nurse told me "I think your Mom won't last the night". Well, ok, I said...I'll be back tomorrow. "No", she said "you need to stay". Well, I did NOT WANT to STAY. She went on and said, You should stay--not so much for your Mom (she was very drugged up)---but for YOU. So, I took her advice. This nurse had seen a lot of people die..she had seen a lot of people who stayed..and a lot of people who hadn't stayed. Her considered opinion was that it was favorable for me to be there. I sat with my Mom all night and I was holding her hand when she drew her very final (gasping/rattling) breath.

Anonymous..I was exactly like you. I honestly could not see the value of my being there. All I knew was that it was going to upset me beyond all measure. didn't. When you want to turn from it..that is really akin to denying it. It is ideal to meet it square on. If you do...I promise, you will never be sorry that you did.

I have since learned why you and I feel the desperate urge to turn away. In the US we are taught to be so upset by death..but in other countries death is treated more "normally". It was sometime after the Victorian age that the US began wanting to shield people so much from reality...up until that time the relatives used to spend time with the body of their loved know, tending to them right before and after death. I bet people back then were much better than we are at "handling" the inevitable. You and I have really been taught that death is horrible..when in fact it is is nature.

Whatever you do, you know you love your Mom and she loves you. But..--you can handle this. You can more than handle this. When my Mom was dying she talked about the farm she grew up on. Lots of people think of "home" when they are actively dying. If you get the chance to see her could just imagine that she is in her favorite place (maybe where she grew up) and talk to her about that place if she can hear you...and even if she can't. Dying people are indeed going home. We will all go home one day.

No need to feel guilty no matter what your decision...but I hope you'll consider doing what you feel like doing.....going back. No matter how uncomfortable for you--she has to go through the transition and if you are there you'll feel great that you faced this "together". Like the nurse told be there will help you. You'll be surprised how much if you chose to return.

Hugs to you anonymous. I am sending up positive thoughts for you!
posted by naplesyellow at 8:38 PM on November 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

Naplesyellow's response made me cry - that is a beautiful post. I came on here to say the same, far less eloquently. Yes, you have the demands of a child and x,y,z. We all have a daily life that needs attending. Dying though transcends these things and tough, grotesque and fearful as it is, it needs attending to, now.

When my mother was dying I kept thinking of things I should be doing in my 'real life', and came up with rationalisations to mask the truth - how much I was afraid of being so close to nothing I had ever seen or felt before. And it was frightening, for her too. But it was a worthy journey to stay, be close, to deal. I am glad I did it. It's not just to absolve any guilt or shame to do so.

But, saying this, I wouldn't feel any blame or negativity about a decision to stay home - I hope she has someone with her. Anyone who has experienced what you are experiencing knows that people are, rightly, gonna do things the way they need to do them.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:45 PM on November 9, 2009

~ Shame is closely related to guilt, but there is a key qualitative difference. No audience is needed for feelings of guilt, no one else need know, for the guilty person is his own judge. Not so for shame. The humiliation of shame requires disapproval or ridicule by others. If no one ever learns of a misdeed there will be no shame, but there still might be guilt. Of course, there may be both. The distinction between shame and guilt is very important, since these two emotions may tear a person in opposite directions. The wish to relieve guilt may motivate a confession, but the wish to avoid the humiliation of shame may prevent it. ~Paul Ekman
I hope someday we all could just not care about what other people say or think!!!
YOUR GUILT IS YOUR OWN IF YOU FEEL YOU SHOULD OWN IT... I see you needing other people to tell you that you didn't do anything wrong. Let your own heart remind you of what you did "Right". I hope you get past these negative feelings as soon as possible. Remember the wonderful things that your mother taught and shared with you that developed you into the person you are now and share them with your family. What's "Right" for one individual isn't necessarily right for the next. Both my parents are gone now and the only thing I feel sorrow for is that I would have liked to know them as individuals instead of just parents. Your mother will always be with you, Please don't cloud your image of her with guilt. Live, Love and Laugh alot...LL
posted by LindaLou21356 at 1:35 AM on November 10, 2009

OK - You've had some excellent advice and I feel that my story / advice is just going to be a me too, but here it goes.

Two weeks ago my Dad died from small-cell lung cancer that had spread to his liver. He was coherent and without pain up to a week before he died. I am lucky in that he lives a mile away. We had discussed Hospice and he wanted to go to a Hospice house when he no longer was "aware" of where he was. We admitted him to a Hospice House four hours before he died. We had Hospice nurses visiting the last two weeks.

It is my experience that the Hospice nurses have a very good idea of when the patient is in the final stages. It may be worthwhile for you to talk with her nurse and ask her opinion of how much time you have left and make your decision based on that.

Also, even though I was with my Dad at the end, I know because of his love for me and his grandchildren, if I couldn't have been there he would have been absolutely fine with that. My Dad was very concerned about the strain of putting my family through this ordeal (crazy - but he realized he would be gone and we would still have to live our lives).

One other thing, you mentioned that she is not resting peacefully and I believe that is normal. Our Hospice House had a small book describing what a person goes through during their last months, week, days, and moments - both physically and mentally. You may want to call and ask them if they have something like that for you to read. It really helped our anxiety and agitation near the end.

I'm very sorry for what you are going through, but I believe (even though I don't know you) whatever you choose to do - you will honor your Mom.
posted by revan at 8:05 AM on November 10, 2009

I am Anonymous.

My mother passed away last night. She was not alone.

Thank you all for the thoughtful, heart-wrenching personal comments and stories. You don't know me and I don't know you, but the words on this page bring me greater comfort than I thought possible.

Rest in peace, Mom. I will always love you.
posted by cyniczny at 8:28 AM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

Very sorry for your loss.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 3:18 PM on November 10, 2009

Cyniczny, I am so terribly sorry for your loss and the sadness you and your family are feeling. I am glad words from MeFites here were able to bring you some comfort, and I hope you can continue in peace. Grief is a hard road, but you never have to walk it alone. Sending love and hugs your way.
posted by bunnycup at 9:04 AM on November 11, 2009

I, too, am very sorry for your loss.
posted by taff at 2:58 PM on November 11, 2009

I am very sorry for your loss.
posted by NikitaNikita at 7:47 AM on November 12, 2009

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