Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to cope with dying

I made some bad choices in college and I have to get tested for HIV. I had to wait a month for the test results. During that month I wondered what will I do if I have HIV? How will I cope with HIV? I told close friends that I had been tested and didn't have the results back yet. I thought about going shopping if the test results contained bad news. I wondered what to do to ease the pain and fear. My test results came back and I was not HIV positive. But that experienced changed my life. What if the test results had been different? I remember while waiting for the test results I would Google "what to do if you have HIV?" and "How to deal with HIV".

I remember when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was so quiet. It was like she shut down and became detached. I barely noticed. I only realize it looking back.

I'm posting this to help others. I will also comment on how I observed my mother as she was about to pass away. I hope this helps those who are dealing with dying and those who are having to watch their loved one deal with dying.

The Five Stages of Grief, as identified by Dr. Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross in the book "On Death and Dying", is a model of the process you may go through when notified of a terminal illness and are about to "cross over".

The 5 stages are:

1. Initial Shock. Denial and Isolation, in which you grasp for straws that your departure is not inevitable. You refuse to accept the truth that you are going to die, and you tend to isolate yourself from friends and family, saying, “This can’t be true. Leave me alone.”

My thoughts: I remember when I found out that my mom had cancer when I was 13 I felt numb and didn't really feel that she was going to die. I remember my mom saying "You never really think that its going to happen to you. You hear about other people dying, but you never really think it could happen to you". I can't remember her exact words but the is the idea of what she said. I guess that was her "shock" statement.

2. Anger. rage and resentment over why you are “chosen” for death while other people are not. You may be angry at God, family and the doctors about the forthcoming loss of your physical plane life. You may go through anxiety and reason with God, promising you’ll behave better in exchange for a deferment of your transition. “Just let me be at my daughter’s wedding next June,” or, “Please let me go to our grandson’s christening in the spring.”

My thoughts: I don't remember mom being angry. I remember waiting for her to get out of the hospital so she could see me get baptized. But she died and she had to watch me in her spirit form. From what I hear she had cancer for ten years before she had her breasts examined. For ten years she didn't get a mammogram. I'm not sure if she ended up regretting not getting checked sooner. I've had dreams where I ask her why she didn't get her breasts checked sooner. She says "I don't know".

3. Depression. in which you mourn your departure and wonder why you should even bother with anything at all. This may be accompanied by bouts of loneliness, panic and guilt, especially if you feel you could have done more to prevent your passing. You look around at the familiar things and people in your life that you will be leaving behind but don’t know what comes next.

My thoughts: I remember my mom started to eat a lot of ice cream and buy a lot of stuff before she died. After she died bill collectors would call. But we just told them she died. I remember she got a little dog and then the next week she died. Strange.

4. Detachment. You resign yourself to your fate, and slump into apathy and isolation.

My thoughts: I remember when she was diagnosed with cancer we went on a trip (starts crying) to Canada with my older sister. I remember one day my sister was sick so she stayed at the hotel. But mom and I went to the Gardens by the Olympic Tour in Montreal. I video taped her walking through the gardens. She wasn't happy. She just walked. And she seemed detached. We lost that video tape. I wished I still had it.

5. Acceptance. You work through detachment, resignation and apathy, and finally surrender to the inevitable. Depending on your belief system, you hopefully arrive at acceptance, optimism and quiet expectation.

My thoughts: I remember just a few months before my mom died, Princess Diana died. It was all over the news. I remember watching Princess Dianas funeral. Mom watched it too. Perhaps it helped her. 

Not everyone goes through all these stages or in a prescribed order.Denial, the first stage of grieving, isn’t refuting the fact of your departure, but keeps you from being overwhelmed by going numb. It’s a way to get through each day. Denial helps you to manage your grief by metering how much you have to handle at once. It’s a protective mechanism to keep from bring emotionally overwhelmed, because to let it all in at this stage would be too much. So one way to handle your crossing is to go through the Five Stages.

I really believe that there is more to life that this world. When I think about my mom and life...it really seems impossible for life to just end. I persons spirit can't just disappear. It must go somewhere. How can a person who once loved me just disappear? It would be as if she never loved me and I know thats not true. We all know our bodies become wounded and then heal but sometimes things die. But that is just bodies and plants and matter. But what about the life and spirit. I think my mom is just in another world. An invisible world where she cannot be seen. And she has no body. But she is still real and she still exists just in a different form. Why would someone cease to exist just because their body is not longer able to contain their spirit? Their body is no good anymore so their spirit must leave the body like a hermit crab leaves its shell. But a hermit crab goes to another shell. I'm not sure where mom is.

Once last year on the anniversary of my moms death. I was asleep but something touched my arm. I woke up and saw something leave the room. I saw reflection/shadow move across a framed picture on the wall. In the morning I saw that it was a picture of my mom that the shadow crossed over. I think it was my mom visiting. She would always wake me up in the morning.

I don't believe people just disappear. I think people just change form. When there are storms about. I think its my mom also.

I have had several dreams about her. I dream about her at least once a week. In some dreams I am a little girl again and I am warning her about the lump in her breast. In other dreams she has some back as another woman. Other dreams she has left tapes, or presents behind for me with messages on them but I never get to read the messages. And dreams where we are together in the spirit world traveling really fast on a highway in the sky.

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