There is an Elephant in my Room!

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Last week was my parents’ wedding anniversary.  The first one Dad celebrated solo.  The plan was for my sister & I to be around him as much of the day as possible to try to make it a little easier.  Since it fell on a Monday, and I have class Monday nights this semester, the best I could do was stay for the weekend then head back home after lunch on the anniversary date.  Distractions worked.  Evidently better than we thought because he didn’t realize it was July 1st til after I left.  It may have been months, but we are all still adjusting to losing Mom.

Bright spot in the day for me was learning that I had won a contest on Facebook!

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Not just any contest but one from Lower Cape Fear Hospice and LifeCare Center’s  Begin The Conversation program. Talk about life’s interesting timing! Not sure there is room on the internet for me to say enough good stuff about hospice.  We really would not have been able to deal with losing Mom in any way near as well as we have without them.  Locally, I was extremely thankful for the grief programs offered.  There was a great comfort knowing that even though I was home, I could still have support resources to help.  The program I went through was focused on adults who have lost parents and the specific focus of the group really did help.

Know what else has helped? Having had “The Conversation” – Which is the focus of the Begin The Conversation program.  Knowledge really is power.

What is Begin The Conversation?

Their mission states is better than I ever could:

Mission

The objectives of Begin the Conversation include: 1) the understanding of possible healthcare choices, including timely hospice and palliative care services; 2) the knowledge about ways to record decisions, using advance care planning forms, legal documents, toolkits, and other resources; 3) encouragement to have end-of-life conversations with loved ones, family members, clergy, and physicians.

Basically, knowing what your loved one would want IF anything did happen is ideal for everyone.  They have the comfort of knowing that their wishes are carried out, or more likely that their loved ones aren’t going to be stressed out trying to plan or do everything, and we who lose someone have some guidelines in place to allow us to do what we think should be done while we also try to deal with adjusting to losing someone.
Key is understanding the options available.  After understanding the choices, put them in writing.  For some cases having them spelled out will help in legal situations.  Other times it helps to be a reminder of what they want.
I remember the first few times coming to my parents to see the big orange DNR posted on the fridge.  Was the first thing you’d see walking in the door.  It hurt.  BIG TIME.  But after a while I got used to seeing it and it hurt less.  Even when the sight of it grew less startling, I knew what it meant.  Do Not Resuscitate.  If something started going wrong with Mom, they were not to take extreme actions.  Very hard to grasp emotionally, but learning to get used to that sign, helped me get used to the fact that she was at the point where things were not going to get better and we had to learn to let go – for her.
Her coming to terms with passing in a lot of ways felt like giving up.  We as a family wanted to inspire her to fight on, even when the odds were not in our favor.  There comes a point where you just can not keep putting up the fight but there is beauty in the grace of letting go.  Looking back, finding peace with her decision probably prolonged the process and certainly it took away some of the stress of constantly searching for a long term plan.  Instead of planning the next round of attacks, we enjoyed as much as we had left together.  Turned out we had more time than we could have imagined and it went by quicker than we wanted.
Honestly.  In writing this post, I have tears in my eyes.  It still hurts.  But the pain is from missing her.  Not from wondering if we could have done anything differently.  Which truly is a gift.
Truth is we all will lose someone.  It will always hurt and we will never be quite as ready as we want to be.  Still there are things that help greatly.  Discussion, tough as it is, really does help.  Doesn’t need to be done at the end or after someone is diagnosed, but that certainly should be done then.  Every adult should think about what they would want IF something happens (which it will at some point).
Get it out of the way.  Think about it.  Talk about it. Then live knowing you are prepared.
Sure it is a bit scary and tough to think about.  Doesn’t get any easier the longer you put it off.  I promise it can make it all a lot easier when the time comes, which I sincerely hope is a long, long way off.

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Grateful for the T shirt too which I hope sparks conversations as I wear it proudly.  Also couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that I won elephant related gifts!  Truly is the year of becoming an ElephAUNT.  Will have to let my nephew try out the stress elephant next time I visit.  Which thankfully will be soon.

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5 thoughts on “There is an Elephant in my Room!

  1. You and your loved one may have different opinions about the contents of the advance directives. You should share your opinions, but in the end, it’s his choice. If you both can’t agree, you may want to ask someone else to guide the conversation between you both. You might talk to a member of your faith community, a social worker, other people dealing with cancer, or a hospice worker.

  2. I shared with you via Twitter some time ago a piece of my story about LCFH and the help they gave me when my mom was dying. One of my favorite parts of what you wrote is “It still hurts. But the pain is from missing her. Not from wondering if we could have done anything differently. Which truly is a gift.” Years later you will still feel the hole in your heart but the pain won’t be so acute and there will be more smiles than tears. Thank you for writing about an organization I am so very passionate about.

  3. They truly are a blessing to so many in so many ways. I’m in awe at the organization and the people who work in it. Can’t imagine how tough it must be to be there for so many during their toughest times. Truly takes special, beautiful people.

  4. When a patient finds out that he or she is terminally ill, that in itself is very traumatic. Support is needed to assist the patient and family through this journey. Imagine wandering alone, lost in an unfamiliar environment, not knowing where to go or who to turn to. Family tries to be supportive, but they also are reeling from the news. The first gift needs to come from the physician. They need to be able to reach out to the patient and family, have that difficult conversation and lead them in the right direction – hospice.

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