Losing a Loved One by John Seeley
Here I sit in Wisconsin in my Aunt Mary’s hospice room, as she lay dying. I’m feeling myriad emotions and thoughts are surfacing that I haven’t had in years. I’ve met with a number of my relatives, siblings, cousins, and brother-in-law. It seems that I only see them when someone dies. How unfortunate and yet I’m still glad for the reunion.
My aunt is pain free for now and completely unconscious, as she has been since my arrival last night. It seems that she decided this is the time to leave the planet, and has refused food for a week now. The staff seem to go along with her wishes. So we wait for the inevitable. Meanwhile her breathing is labored and you hear a constant gurgling, since she has a challenge swallowing. The staffs of nurses come in periodically and check on her, readjust her medication or oxygen supply. It’s a process I hope I don’t have to go through. We have al wished my Aunt Mary peace and said she can go if she wants to. We all told her we love her. The nursing staff suggested that she might not even make it to today, but like Terri Shivo, she is hanging on a few more days.
I feel somewhat helpless, since I can’t do anything to help the situation. This is the first time as an adult that I’ve had warning that death is impending. The other lives I’ve been associated with all left suddenly. My best friend committed suicide, and I found him. My grandparents each died suddenly after a short trip to the hospital, as did my dad. My mom was killed in a head-on collision, coming to volunteer at this hospital almost 15 years ago. My sister had an aneurism and died instantly 2 years ago.
I’ve had a lot of loss in my life. Even as I type this I feel tears welling up in my eyes. It’s not a wonder I’ve been feeling the sadness associated with loss lately. I’m sure I haven’t fully dealt with the loss of my sister and maybe not loss in general. I feel the aloneness from my siblings, that is I feel alone compared to them. They seem to have their own life that is mostly separate form mine.
Maybe the lack of rest is catching up with me, since I’m yawning and my eyes are watering. I’m taking advantage of being here to catch up with some friends as well. Wayne Dyer says friends are God’s way of making up for your relatives. Probably right.
So here I sit waiting. Sooner or later my aunt will take her last breath. I was hoping to have a conscious talk with her, but that may never happen. I’m not sure what radio station we’re listening to there are no commercials, and an eclectic variety of tunes. I finally decided to turn on Lawrence Welk on PBS. Even though I really didn’t like the program, my aunt always loved watching it.
After 10 hours of my vigil, I told my aunt that she will be ok, and we will as well. They say the last thing to go is the hearing. Shortly thereafter my Aunt Mary did transition. The nursing staff came in to reposition her and did a suctioning of her throat to clear it. I had left the room for a few minutes to give my aunt her privacy. I returned and the nursing staff came in to check her vital signs. Shortly thereafter her breathing slowed then stopped. This was a first for me. I’ve never been present for a human being when they transitioned. I felt sad, but I knew she was at peace.
I don’t know what to feel. Men often disconnect their feelings for survival, at least in their mind. I’m no different. My feelings come and go, at least on a conscious level. Even though I have studied how to deal with emotions, I still have normal resistance to dealing with them. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if I really don’t have unexpressed emotions, or if I have actually learned acceptance as life happens. I suspect it’s a combination. People often mask their feelings and put on a face to show the world. Sometimes it’s due to not knowing what to do, sometimes fear of completely falling apart. We will find a time when we will deal with our emotions. It will happen when we feel safe. It needs to happen.
We often continue our life as though nothing happened. I find that writing helps me to express myself. I encourage clients to do the same. Try it yourself. If you need help expressing your feelings, find someone who can help you. Friends, family often can be supportive. Sometimes however a professional coach or therapist is needed. If you need help, find it. Life changes, and if we want better results we need to do something different. It’s worth your effort to do the emotional healing to create the life you want.