I originally posted this during my mom’s battle with cancer 4 years ago but I was taken back to this place watching my sister-in-law care for her mother, my mother-in-law. We lost her this past Sunday. This post is to all of the daughters and sons who become caregivers for their parents.
I used to read this book and cry. It was so sad and lovely and scary.
Have you ever read this book? Love You Forever by Robert Munsch? You know, the one where the mommy takes care of her son, nurturing him through childhood and supporting him through the transition to adulthood? And then he has his own family and loves his child as she loved him? And then his mom gets old and she gets weak and she needs him in the same ways he needed her for so long? Remember? Well, it occurred to me today that this is my life now. Me and my sisters and my mom.
I used to read this book and cry. It was so sad and lovely and scary. My sisters and I actually bought it for our mom years ago for Mother’s Day to show her how much we loved her and how we would always, no matter what, be there for her just as she had always, no matter what, been there for us. But I never thought I would be living it. Especially now. Now as we raise our own babies who still need us. Now as we plan a wedding that should be nothing but joyous but is, understandably, bittersweet.
Just as she held us, we hold her. Just as she soothed us, we soothe her.
When you read the book, as I did, it is sad but it is still someone else’s story. But now it is my story and it is not nearly as simple as the book makes it seem. It starts with the physical. Just as she held us, we hold her. Just as she soothed us, we soothe her. However, these changes do not occur overnight. They can not be predicted or assumed. One day is different than the next and what she needs changes from day to day and moment to moment. I’m scared. Scared because I’m losing her but also scared because I don’t always know what to do. And scared too because if I think too hard about this reversal of roles, my mom – strong and independent and pragmatic – needing us the way she does, I am overwhelmed by grief.
It is not as simple as surrendering to the natural progression of things. I can’t just accept it and switch to being her caregiver because I have spent a lifetime with her caring for me. It is too sad to think this is gone forever. I will take this on willingly and lovingly and do everything I can but it is not simple. It is not straightforward. It is not like it was in the book.
Have you been the caregiver for you parent?
Kat Clarke Murray says
It is, I think, so much a mourning for the loss of the person that was before, and it hurts and confuses because we don’t think we are mourning when the person is right. there. But not.
I’m sorry it’s hard, Jen. I think it’s something most of us will have to get to one day, and sharing is good. I hope you have all the support you need, too, because the person who is being the support… well, they need some, too.
it took me about 5 years before i could read that book without crying. i hope i’m never a caregiver to my parents. i mean that i think that seeing them sick would be worse for me than seeing them just die quick and “happy”. i’d like final memories to be living memories and not “keeping alive” ones like the ones i have of my grandfather.
change is never easy and knowing that this is a final, permanent change certainly doesn’t help. it’s always weird that when we lose someone we feel like we’re the only one in the world who feels like that even tho’ it happens all day every day to everyone. i’m sorry you lost your mother in law…hugs to you and the family.
Grumble Girl says
I’m so, SO sorry for your loss, Jen… I know how it goes. It’s a tough place to be. Le sigh. We all get out turn here eventually, I suppose. Sending you all love and hugs at this sad time. xoxox
Her Bad Mother says
Oh, Jen. I am so, so sorry.
Jen, I can’t imagine how tough it is to be going through this. And, relating the situation – even though it is not exactly the same – to the book made it feel even more real for me because of how emotional I get reading that book also.
Thanks for sharing your feelings with us. It really puts things into perspective. It also shows how thoughtful you are and how much you care for your mom.
Life is not easy but nature as a process of life
Jen – sorry to hear about your ordeals. Your Mum is lucky to have such a caring family.
Oh Jen, your post made me cry. that book always has an emotional effect on me, and I really relate to what you’re going through. I know it is not straightforward or natural in any way to reverse these roles, but you are your mother’s daughter and it is so obvious that you are so empathetic, loving, pragmatic and caring – like the wonderful role model who raised you.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I lost my father quite quickly over the course of a year – and though what is to come will be extermely difficult your memories will always help you through the hard days. Please know there are people thinking of you and your family.
I’m sitting here, reading your post (and Kath’s) and I’m remembering when the three of you gave me the forever pendant the night before Maddy’s funeral. I wear it everyday. So does my mother, Susan and Christine. Ella has one too which she wears sometimes when she’s visiting. Our love for our mothers, and sisters, is forever. Annabelle writes more eloquently than I about how she will be with you forever (it seems emotion makes me tongue tied).
I love all of you, forever.
You say it so well; it is such a difficult adjustment, and yet we do it. Of course we do it.
annabelle DeGouveia says
Oh, the tears come again– phew!. Great writing Jen. That book was banned at my house for a while but now it is back and still makes me cry. Your mother will still take care of you. Years down the road when she is gone, you will do something a certain way, love your children deeply, and you will know it is your mom still taking care of you , still showing you how to be “you”. Thinking of you
Very powerful writing, Jen. On some completely irrational level I think we all expect to always be taken care of by our mothers, and you’ve put a voice to the horrible rationalization that it’s not the case. I’m so sorry for you and your sisters.