4 years ago · transitionalw · 0 comments
When adult caregivers face the end of life for someone they love deeply, there may be little chance to resolve their feelings—unless they’re aware and have a deep desire to “clean house.” Such housekeeping can make a world of difference in the peace with which the loved one passes. Here’s a personal story that illustrates the healing that is possible when we can be honest and clear in our desire to resolve our past.
My mother had difficulty letting others love her most of her life. An example of this occurred when I was about eleven years old. I had saved my babysitting money to buy my mother a special Christmas present. She had always complained of her feet being cold in the mornings, so I bought her some pink, fluffy slippers. I was so excited about the “secret.” I had earned, saved, and then purchased the perfect gift. Christmas morning came and went. My mother never opened the gift from me. I felt tremendously rejected.
Years later when I was cleaning my mother’s closet, I found the slippers. “Mom, why didn’t you ever open my gift and use them? I was so excited about having earned the money and giving you something I thought you could really use, something I thought you would love.”
Pensively she responded, “I always thought you worked too hard as a child. You started right after we adopted you, collecting the newspapers to sell to the Pottery Barn, and later cleaning homes and babysitting almost every night. I didn’t want you spending your money on me.”
Pausing for a moment, she sheepishly added, “I had intended on returning the slippers and giving the money back to you.” She had recognized that I was a child who worked too hard and was missing a lot in the play department. She hadn’t understood that my desire to give to her was a way for me to express my gratitude and love for her. She had no idea that I had taken her actions as rejection. What I came to believe later was that she hadn’t known how to let love in, mine or anyone else’s. She hadn’t felt worthy of my time, my gifts, or my love.
But through the process of my own personal growth and development, I healed the feelings of rejection from this event prior to my mother’s illness, making it possible to look back with new perceptions and have a different understanding of what my mom intended. Many people who have not dealt with this type of emotional scar continue to harbor the buried feelings of hurt from the unresolved events of their childhood.
All of us have these stories of miscommunication, hurt, and misinterpreting the actions of others. When we personalize the behaviors of our declining loved one, we see their actions through the lenses of our hurt from the past. Our unresolved feelings can interfere with our effectiveness to care of our loved one.
As my mother declined in health, we talked a lot about her early childhood. She came to see how she had spent her life wanting the love of others but not knowing how to accept it when it was there. As a family caregiver, I felt my primary role now was to encourage and support her in recognizing the value she had as a person. I believed she would only accept love from others when she learned to love and accept herself. I was just a messenger, holding up the mirror for her to look deeper inside, at the person I knew her to be.
It was an opportunity for her to heal, even at the end. Morning Star Holmes M.A. is a Transitional Life Coach, Family Consultant and author of the book, Transitional Wisdom, A Guide to Healthy Aging & Completing Life with Dignity and a companion Transitional Wisdom Action Journal. She works with individuals and their family members experiencing age-related decline, life-threatening illness and life transitions. For further information on Resolving the Past with No Regrets and to sign-up for a complementary pre-assessment of your family’s needs please contact Morning Star Holmes ~firstname.lastname@example.org