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It's almost 4 years since my mother passed from vascular dementia aged 106 on a cold afternoon in December. It was a great relief for me, and, I think, for her. She was ready to go and I last saw her with a small smile on her face. I had been caregiving in one sense or another most of my life due to my mother's mental illness - Borderline Personality Disorder and narcissism.



I find I am grieving a bit this year, probably because I am moving from my family home of the last 40+ years as well as remembering the years and years of difficult family relationships and very stressful caregiving. No more "crazy" phone calls, demanding emails, subtle and not so subtle put downs, rantings and ravings about my shortcomings. I know many of you get it.



My father died many years ago and that marked the end of any caring nuclear family. He was a nurturer. My mother died nearly 4 years ago. and once the estate was settled I cut contact with my sister. I recall very few kind words from my mother or my sister - ever. My sister smiled then stabbed me with a sharp remark. "What did you ever do to help mother!" This after several years of me being POA financial and medical, moving mother a number of times, dealing with problems at the facilities she was in and her progressing dementia. During one visit my sister made to a new facility she asked me if I had seen mother's room. I said, "Yes, who do you think moved the furniture and set it up?" She just looked blank. Never a thank you for what I did.



In some ways the slate has been wiped clean, although the traces of the past are still with me. I have worked hard to overcome and heal from the hurts, the dysfunctional ways of coping, the anxiety. The past is fading, slowly, but it is fading.



Can we really start again?

I think a lot of elderly care issues among family can be summed up by the old saying "you can forgive but never forget". I have forgiven my mother, my brothers and a couple other family members. I did for my own peace of mind, but I can't ever forget the things they said and did over the years.
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golden23 Nov 16, 2022
I have forgiven too, but some things seem to be hard to forget.
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Yes, but it will be different. Sometimes that's a good thing. No more pretense, no putting up with family members who backbite and lie. No more family dinners where we have to keep the peace with people who speak and act outrageously. Don't just wipe the old slate, get a new one and draw pretty flowers on it with colored chalk! Did you know that you can digitally crop mean family members out of old photos? It's really good therapy.
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golden23 Nov 16, 2022
No more family "occasions". What a relief!!!! Digitally cropping out certain family members. That might be fun. I like the idea of a new slate and drawing flowers on it.
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“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got...and thank you's that aren't coming” – R. Brault

You did a miraculous job and made life better for many people, even if they don't recognize or acknowledge it.

Start with doing things you enjoy just because you enjoy them!

Wishing you the best.
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bundleofjoy Nov 22, 2022
LOVE what you wrote.

so many of us helping our elderly LOs, are under-appreciated.

i’ve copied your words into my notebook:

“You did a miraculous job and made life better for many people, even if they don't recognize or acknowledge it.

Start with doing things you enjoy just because you enjoy them!”
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I've never been a fan of the terms 'starting again' or 'starting over'. To me it just puts too much pressure on a person. Really when you think of it there's no way to 'start again' because no one can change the past and I find it's best not to try and ignore it like so many people do. All of us have writing on our slates. No slate is clean and can never be. This is what has shaped us into who we are.
When you have negative emotions and painful memories come up, let them come. Don't try to push them down or put them out of your mind. Let them come and then let them go. Your siblings are not going to change how they think and what they believe. You can change how you interact and respond to them and can even choose to not interact or respond to them at all. That's within your power to do.
You're done with caregiving and now it's time for you to make a different life for yourself with you at the center of it. No one can 'start over' because everything that's ever been in our lives is what makes us who we are.
Change the things within your power to change. Accept those things that you have no power over. Have the wisdom to know the difference.
Good luck to you in making your different life. You will do well, I am sure. L'chaim! (To Life. Cheers!).
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golden23 Nov 16, 2022
They are happening - the changes. Of course the past cannot be erased. I have spent a lot of time and energy throughout my life processing my way through the messes that went on in my family of origin. Since mother passed I have cut contact with my sister. All that is over now, though still, sometimes, there is a need to process feelings, but less and less. It feels new and good and hopeful to have a life without the mentally ill people that I had to cope with. In that sense I have a fresh slate to write on. Or perhaps a fresh page in the book of my life.
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Golden23, you may not see it when you look in the mirror... but you definitely wear a Super Hero cape! You are precious and you still have amazing and beautiful adventures awaiting you. I promise!
May God bless you abundantly in your new times to come.
Sincerely,
Kk :0)
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golden23 Nov 22, 2022
You are very kind. I do believe there are good times ahead. God bless you too.
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Your words touch me deeply. You went through so much. And you helped so much.

Your mom was similar to my mom: abusive, critical, put-downs…

I’m still caregiving, so I’m not where you are right now. Your question is: Can we really start again?

YES.

YOU WILL and YOU CAN.
The best is ahead of you, waiting for you!

…Heal.
…Meet great, kind people.
…Having wonderful people in one’s life makes all the difference.
…ELIMINATE BAD PEOPLE in your life, also from the internet.

What you kick out of your life is important too, just as much as what you keep in your life.

YOU’LL BUILD A GREAT, NEW LIFE.

People often think “this or that” is impossible, until someone achieves it and shows it’s totally possible.

:)

One also needs luck.
HERE IS LUCK your way :).
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golden23 Nov 16, 2022
That was a great pep talk. We can't choose our family but we can choose our friends and we meed to choose supportive ones. Your time will come.
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I have also thought that, “you can forgive but you won’t forget”. Then I recently heard a talk on this very subject. The speaker stated, “you may not really be forgiving if you don’t forget.” Wow that hit me!
An example was given about stresses we carry, and things that burden us and weigh us down, like, not fully forgiving. We can liken this to caring a backpack . Our problems in life are like carrying a backpack, it can be a lite backpack or can be a heavy backpack. Think about if you carried a backpack full of rocks, it is heavy, it weighs you down. Our stresses weigh us down. But if we take out those heavy rocks, one at a time, it gets lighter to carry, right. That’s when we forgive and forget, not bringing those memories back to our minds, letting them go. Forgiving doesn’t minimums the wrong done, but you are letting it go. Not thinking about it, not picking up and carrying it again, but let it go. That’s really forgiving.
These thoughts really helped me, I hope this example helps you.
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golden23 Nov 22, 2022
That is a great thought and a great example. I find I do tend to forget - put out of my mind - not dwell on the past when I have forgiven. Still working on my forgiveness towards my sister. I knew from a very young age that mother had problems and I was not the cause and I forgave her on an ongoing basis. For years I thought I could have a decent relationship with my sister, until I finally accepted the reality of how she is and that any relationship would always be toxic. I am working to understand what being groomed as the golden child does to a person and also the causes of sociopathic personality. I find if I understand I can deal with things better and forgive. Yes what you have written helps.
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I think you may find this book to be of help to you as you start over with healing and building a new life after the storm of caregiving: Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, by David Kessler

https://www.amazon.com/Finding-Meaning-Sixth-Stage-Grief/dp/1501192744/ref=sr_1_17?crid=3QZGFQFZ1FR8U&keywords=elisabeth+kubler+ross+and+david+kessler&qid=1668550952&sprefix=elisabeth+kubler+ross+and+david+kessler%2Caps%2C129&sr=8-17

In this groundbreaking and “poignant” (Los Angeles Times) book, David Kessler—praised for his work by Maria Shriver, Marianne Williamson, and Mother Teresa—journeys beyond the classic five stages to discover a sixth stage: meaning.

In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first identified the stages of dying in her transformative book On Death and Dying. Decades later, she and David Kessler wrote the classic On Grief and Grieving, introducing the stages of grief with the same transformative pragmatism and compassion. Now, based on hard-earned personal experiences, as well as knowledge and wisdom gained through decades of work with the grieving, Kessler introduces a critical sixth stage: meaning.

Kessler’s insight is both professional and intensely personal. His journey with grief began when, as a child, he witnessed a mass shooting at the same time his mother was dying. For most of his life, Kessler taught physicians, nurses, counselors, police, and first responders about end of life, trauma, and grief, as well as leading talks and retreats for those experiencing grief. Despite his knowledge, his life was upended by the sudden death of his twenty-one-year-old son. How does the grief expert handle such a tragic loss? He knew he had to find a way through this unexpected, devastating loss, a way that would honor his son. That, ultimately, was the sixth stage of grief—meaning. In Finding Meaning, Kessler shares the insights, collective wisdom, and powerful tools that will help those experiencing loss.

*****************************************************

I also think that many times we have to reinvent ourselves after we spend decades in a caregiving role. We turn into a different person as a caregiver, and after the loved one dies, we find ourselves saying, "Now what?" As much as a 'slate is wiped clean', we are a cumulative collection of memories & experiences we've undertaken in the past, all making us into who and what we are TODAY. If we're left with dysfunctional ways of coping with stress, and suffering from anxiety afterwards, then we have to find ways to alleviate that stress and actively work on finding new and healthy coping mechanisms vs. ones that self-harm (my personal favorites :( )

Wishing you the best of luck reinventing yourself as you move through a new phase of life and come out better and stronger for it in the end, Golden. God bless.
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golden23 Nov 16, 2022
We do need to reinvent ourselves and I have been working on that and am very close to being ready to move on. For me it was not just the last years of caregiving but also the lifetime of having to relate to a mentally ill mother and sister. Not having to do that is like stepping through a door out of a stale room into fresh air. I can breathe.
Meaning I have always had. The hardest grief I had was losing my youngest son. I learnt a lot about loss and recovery from loss from that. You do change as you heal. If you don't cave in you become stronger.
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I was a fairly new member here when your mother's passing occurred. I can still remember your posts from that time and admired your strength. Hearing the age of 106 created a panic within me.

My mother is 92. She is bedridden in SN. I am an only child. While I may not have had the extent of your difficulties I have had many and I guess each of us lives our life with the entensity of the past we have endured. My mother had periods of time throughout my childhood where she was basically in bed. There are so many other issues I have dealt with. I never thought she would live this long given how she chose many unhealthy choices for many years. These choices have burdened me as she chose not to seek medical treatment for me when I was young due to her belief in Christian Science. I had great resentment at that and have felt that her choice with this religion caused further difficulty with her health yet she lives on greatly compromised. I have guilt with these thoughts at times but I am so emotionally exhausted with her care. I know it is not in my home but I do visit and am witness to a very slow decline.

Anyway I have admired your advice given to others and sympathize with your difficult family situation. You certainly are deserving of a positive change and I hope you can arrive at that physical and emotional state for your future.
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golden23 Nov 16, 2022
I panicked as each year over age 100 went by too! You certainly had your share of dysfunction and hurt. and caregiving, even not at home, is exhausting. The positive change is happening. The context of "Can we really start again? was a visual I had of sig other and I driving away from this place into newness. It seemed unreal thus, "Can it really happen?"
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I think we owe to ourselves to live the best possible life post caregiving.
I read somewhere and I am paraphrasing: what we do post caregiving until the end of time perhaps is the most important part of life, as we have to overcome so many struggles.
As we faced so many obstacles and set backs and baggage we accumulated, it is all not easy.
As Margaret suggested great trip or trips.
Would put some distance between past experiences and return of sense of adventure.
I would suggest my favourite city Marrakesh, Morocco, perhaps too far, especially with all airlines troubles lately.
Merida, Mexico on Yucatan is beautiful city, lots of Canadians, I know more than 15-20 who are planning winter there I would join them as I did before if I could. My GF 84, goes every year. Theaters, concerts, activities, markets, great culinary experiences and lots of tours outside of the city.
There is tours for older travellers, even for people with mobility issues, I found one for hubby and I, Machu Picchu, we always wanted to climb it. Well, not that easy anymore or even possible for him.
But even Canadian Rockies by train tour would be great!
Imagine a week or more from Banff to Vancouver or opposite.
I would still take Orient Express, Paris to Istanbul.
If I was post caregiving I would purchase ticket around the world, see where it takes me. I wonder if they still have them?
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golden23 Nov 16, 2022
Agreed, and as much as possible also during caregiving. I've always wanted to visit Morocco but not sure sig other would, He favours Mexico and I am open to that. I travelled a lot and lived over seas when when I was younger so don't feel the need as much as I otherwise might. We had a number of great trips north and west (Yukon and BC) and one to the Bahamas during caregiving and I have lovely memories of them and hope to do more of the same. We are of like mind regarding the trip through the Rockies. It would be awesome. Orient express - oh, my yes!!! Lots of adventures out there.
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