When you are helping your parent through the end of life transition, your perspective on everything changes.
End of day’s care — the term based on when the hospital system can no longer help with medication or treatment. That’s what I was dreading — those words which I knew would be the start of one of the most painful experiences of my life. But I took it in my stride — little did I know what would happen, but I was willing to go on until the end — no matter how long it took or what I had to do. Speaking about death can be a taboo subject that’s significantly uncomfortable and preferably a topic left for another day. So instead, we celebrate the beginning of life with tears of joy, laughter and happiness. But, unfortunately, death seems to have the opposite effect. It may seem strange to say this, but going through the stages of death with my mum was a blessing. However, the words “blessing” wasn’t how I initially based the experience — more so dread than anything else. I was afraid of the unknown, what lay ahead when it came to the level of pain she would experience and how I would help her through the many transitions of the end of life experience. As with life, death takes time. It may be a lot faster or slower for the individual. My mum’s death was slow and filled both my sister and me with many emotions, such as powerlessness, fear, hopelessness, and heartbreak. Napoleon Hill says that only through our struggles will we find our inner strength. I can advocate this 100% or more, and the power that comes with seeing a loved one transition towards the afterlife cannot flourish in any other way. Over the six months of supporting my mum with my sister, I have learnt many things that I hope will help you during similar excruciatingly painful times ahead.
Life lesson one: Everything takes time.
I’m in a hurry to achieve and do the things I want. I hurry the moment, people and circumstances because time sometimes slips through my fingertips in slow motion. I had failed to understand that something we are passionate about requires steps towards attaining it, one at a time. Once we reach the next level, we progress up until peak performance rises again. We achieve one degree of mastery at a time. Some people may be lucky, but most of us have to be in it for the long haul. This is what helps us to gain strength, skills and expertise. Death is much the same — it can take many years, months or days until someone’s life comes to an end. However, the law of nature never changes, whether it’s a plant, animal or human. I found it most challenging to embrace the unknown and tackle the challenges once they started to show themselves to me. That meant one thing at a time when the time was right. All we can do is try the best we can — no matter how uncomfortable or confronting those instances may be.
Life Lesson Two: Reach out to the experts for help.
Experts will know what to expect and have so much experience that they may not be able to tap into what it was like to start from the beginning.But, we all have to jump on that first step and keep it ongoing. Reach out to an expert who’s experienced it — and ask for guidance. Don’t let pride get in the way of thinking you know best. Perhaps you do to an extent, but we can all learn something new that will build upon the skills we’ve now accumulated through self-discovery. People are lovely; they want to help — never forget that all you need is a phone number and a person to give you help and advice now.
Life Lesson Three: Angels in the form of people are everywhere.
Ever wondered why you suddenly encounter people that give you small messages and meaningful parables? That’s because these are your human angels, who you come across during your time of need. They provide a light of hope, comfort and ease the burden of your suffering. So please pay attention to these people and take in what they are telling you. I remember fondly on a Saturday morning; as I took my dog for a walk, a friend stopped me in his car. He began to tell me the dying stages of his in-laws and gave me some hope and love in the process. I took what he said and kept it close to my heart. The next day, precisely what he mentioned to me started taking shape in mum. That was my cue to tell me the next stage had arrived and for me to stay strong. Perhaps the universe or God sends these people — and I’m so grateful that they came to me in my time of need. So allow them to come to you by being open and receptive to help.
Life lesson Four: Pay attention to your inner voice always.
You may get a sign at a particular time, telling you not to do something or perhaps go ahead and make that move. Second-guessing this inner voice only leads to mistakes. I’ve learnt my lesson during my life and know that I must obey this powerful voice. That’s your subconscious mind talking to you, guiding you in the right direction — one that can lead you towards extraordinary openings and a beautiful life experience. But, it will also warn you of danger or to prepare for something. My inner voice spoke to me as mum started to pass away — when her breathing began to slow down ultimately. It told me to get myself ready, hold her hand, and tell her I would be ok. Give gratitude for this, as once the chance to listen has passed, the moment will be gone forever.
Life lesson Five: Find solitude in peace.
We all have a special place to turn to when the going gets tough, or we need to sit and think in comfortable settings without distractions. Maybe you like to be active in solitude. Perhaps it’s the gym. I love solitude when I’m walking every day. I get out my headphones and audiobook — there are no interruptions at all. I can focus on the words flowing from my air pods and walk my way to relaxation. I believe walking has saved me from many moments of despair and sadness.
Life Lesson Six: Refresh and recuperate in small increments.
We can’t always spend one to two hours in self-care — that almost seems too selfish during certain times. But what if you split your self-care and healing into smaller, bite-size chunks. Make yourself a cup of tea, and sit with a good book for 10 minutes. Then, ask someone to babysit so you can go for a walk in the sunshine, have a nap on the couch, or sit down with a paper and pen. Then, write out all your feelings, frustrations and pain. Then acknowledge it by tearing it to pieces or burning it. You can do this in the comfort of your own home, whilst everyone is asleep or away from your sight. Small, bite-sized, manageable chunks of self-care can be the one thing that saves your sanity when time is of the essence.
Life lesson seven: Don’t be so hard on yourself.
We only know what we know at present. It’s easy to get swept away in a moment of self-doubt and insecurity. When you care for a loved one at home, many different things will surprise you (in a hurtful way). It can be the rate of deterioration, needing to feed them, or using a nappy when they are bedridden. All of these things are unknown to us, but when we start to practice managing them every day, they become yet another stage in our loved ones minimal days. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you break down and cry feeding your parent or bathing them. It’s the process we all have to go through when the end of our life draws near. Allow yourself to feel these emotions, however good or bad they are, and then let them go. For example, forgive yourself for being sad, having an outburst of anger or just being fed up at times. Emotions are as impermanent as we are. Preparing a loved one for death has taught me to let it go and allow the process to unfold without expectations or rules. It is what it is — and it’s the one time you can’t and will not have control of the circumstances or the outcome. So, if we can’t do something about it, then we need to let it go. It may seem strange to say to anyone who hasn’t experienced this, but seeing mum take her last breath was akin to the moment I took my first inhalation. It was overbearingly sad but also peaceful and so natural. It’s what is intended for all of us when the time is right. Life is a bit like this, too — you take the good and the bad. It’s abundant, and then it’s depleted. So there is a Ying and a Yang, the good and the bad. It describes the cycle of impermanence — it keeps spinning as time goes on. The one thing you can do is embrace the moment as much as you can, breathe in and give gratitude for what it is. One day, this too shall pass.