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When Death Is Not Peaceful

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I lost my mother two days ago. She fractured her hip about 6 weeks ago. She was only 73. Due to her advanced dementia we elected not to do the surgery. We were told she may not recover and might be in pain even longer. We thought we were electing for a wheelchair and possibly a walker. Little did we know we were choosing her death. After her injury she would refuse to eat or drink. At first she ate/drank very little, but began to refuse all together and lose her ability to swallow. Two weeks ago we were given the option of a feeding tube. We said no, then yes, then finally no because she was basically nonresponsive and her quality of life was zero. Little did we know it would take another two weeks without any food or water before finally dying an uncomfortable miserable death. I feel like I basically chose to starve my mother. I know she was miserable before, but I had to sit next to her bed and watch her for days and days. There was no peaceful look on her face, no assurance she is in heaven although I prayed and prayed for that. After watching her we began to pray that God would just take her, but he let it drag on and on.

I can't get the images of her dying out of my mind. I have noone to talk to about any of this because noone stops by or comes by, nor did they when I sat by her bedside. Isn't that what friends should do? There were a handful of people that stopped by, but none of whom I would consider my close friends. My husband is a good physical help and did stay with me, but how do I deal with the emotional part of all this?

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Dear one, I am so very sorry to learn of your dear mother's death, and sorry, too, to learn that it was not a peaceful one ~ for your mother or for you. You say you have no one to talk to about all of this, but I assure you that by coming here, to this warm and caring place, you've found others who understand and are willing to listen, and we will not let you walk this difficult path all by yourself.

I also see by your registration information that your mother was on Hospice of the Valley's service, which tells me that as her daughter, over the next 13 months you are entitled to all the services that our Bereavement office has to offer, at no charge. This includes in-person grief support groups at times and locations all over the valley, as well as short-term professional grief counseling in your own home, if you are open to that. Your name will be added to our mailing list, so that you will receive our bi-monthly Bereavement In Touch newsletter as well. Within the next two weeks, you'll be receiving a telephone call from one of our Bereavement Counselors, who will review all these services with you and help you decide which, if any, you wish to pursue.

In the meantime, you can go to Hospice of the Valley's main website, www.hov.org and on the right side of the main page, click on the link entitled WE OFFER VARIOUS TYPES OF GRIEF SUPPORT to read more about what we have to offer you. I also invite you to explore the pages of my Grief Healing website, at www.griefhealing.com, as well as our Grief Healing blog, at www.griefhealingblog.com.

You've asked how you will deal with the emotional side of this, and although there is no simple answer to that question (because everyone's grief journey is different: as unique to them as their fingerprint) I think that if you spend any time reading some of the posts in these threads, you will find many helpful ideas and suggestions. What matters most right now is to know that you are not alone. We hear your call, we are here for you, and we stand ready to support you in any way we can.

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I saw your post and wish to let you know that you are not alone and people on this site will reach out to you and understand. My husband died two years ago with dementia (3 kinds from what we could tell including Alzheimer's). He was 79. Though he died at home, three weeks before he died he was in the hospital and I was present when he pushed food away one day and never took another bite of food and only little sips of water. Though it was clearly his choice not to eat at some level and his swallowing was extremely difficult, I chose to honor his wishes and my own and not prolong his life but rather to keep him as comfortable as possible. I brought him home a week before he died, got Hospice in, and it was a long three weeks for all of us. I just want you to know that I not only support the decision you made but made the same one myself for the person I love most in all the world. You prevented further and unnecessary suffering.

As for friends coming by, frequently they just do not know what to say or do and as well intentioned as they are, you end up more lonely than you would have to be. You came to the right place and will received support here. When you feel up to it, you might consider calling your closest friends and tell them you need them to come over. That might free them to do what you need. Just a suggestion. I know they should know to come but the fact is they are not.



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Hi losthope - Please accept my condolences for the loss of your mother. What you wrote is very heartbreaking, and I want you to know that my thoughts and prayers go out to you.

My mother died on May 12th, 2011. She had been in and out of the hospital in the years before her death. In reading your post, I remember all of the decisions that she made, and then we later had to make for her, regarding her health. It always seemed that there were always so many considerations in every option, and all had good -- and lousy -- possible outcomes. There are also the many times that medical errors could have gone unnoticed, if me and my family weren't with her in the hospital every day, and into the early part of every night. My family made the best decisions we could at the time, during the upset and stress. I think there will always be regrets regarding medical matters, as there are always risks involved, whichever way is chosen.

Most important, I was with my mom through all she went through, as you were with your mother. So, no regrets there.

Regarding friends being there, as I've written in other posts, my long-term friends that I thought would be there for me, pretty much vanished. There were, however, other acquaintance-type friends that showed-up at different times, and gave me lots of comfort. I am still confused and disappointed by my many long-term friends, and don't really know how to go on with them from here, but am very Thankful to those who were there for me. Coming to this website has been very helpful to me. I think my pain is too deep to be comforted, and, my mother was the only one who really knew how to comfort me. I am learning to be patient with myself in learning how to deal with all that has changed (pretty much everything) now that my mother (and very best friend) is no longer here on the planet.

I hope that you receive the comfort and understanding that you are looking for. My heart goes out to you.

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Dear LostHope(for now):

I am so sorry that your heart, mind and soul had to witness the dying and finally death of your mom. I am so sorry for the tough decisions you had to make. I am so sorry for the grief, possible guilt, second-guessing and sadness that may haunt your every thought. I have cried for you, will cry with you and sending you many cyber hugs, as many as you may need.

So please know, your hope is really never lost; it will come to you when your aching heart has some time to heal.

Please know, as Marty has said, we are here for you. It may take you time to reach out, but we are here. Please don’t feel obligated to respond to our words of understanding, encouragement and hope. Just take care of yourself, write when you are ready. These next few months? Years? May prove to be the most difficult.

It’s only been a couple of days so go easy on yourself. You just lost your mom and from what you have tried to convey, it has been a long journey for you both.

My pops lived a valiant 81 years before he passed away February of this year. We were blessed, mentally, he was very astute but physically he was literally falling apart. His bones would collapse upon his own weight; he could easily fracture his ribs just by coughing.

My pops also fractured his hip twice. But his doctor told us; if he didn’t get the surgery he would die within several months. If he had the surgery we didn’t think he would make it through anesthesia.

To have the surgery and not survive the anesthesia would mean a premature death. To elect not to have the surgery would mean a certain death.

When provided with this information how on earth can one come to any sensible decision? It seems like a no win situation. We were all tormented. Life can be cruel sometimes.

To boot, if once wasn’t bad enough we had to make this decision twice. Second time around wasn’t any easier.

Ultimately, mom and dad had their late night discussions and they made peace with their decisions. They both cried and said their I Love You many times over. They have been inseparable and married for over 60 years.

During pops final days, it took him about 16 days before he finally let go. A week before he became unresponsive, he did yell out I’m starving! I will forever be haunted by those words “I AM STARVING”. Why didn’t they tell us they were giving him solid food! He couldn’t even move his arms to feed himself! How the hell could this happen?

Desperately, we made two attempts to insert a feeding tube, on two separate days and on both occasions he “yanked” the feeding tubes out!

To this day I am tormented! Was he starving? Thirsty? Did he think the feeding tube was a means of life support? Did he understand that it was a feeding tube? Not a ventilator? Or was he literally dying of hunger and thirst. I allow doubt to continue to grieve my heart, mind and soul.

During his last week of life, pops stopped eating and drinking too.

I’ve had many frank discussions with his physicians about pops dying hungry and thirsty.

Separately, they are all in consensus, they went on to explain; when the body senses an emergency (fractured hip, kidney failure, major infection/illness) it will conserve itself by not requiring the intake of food or water.

It takes too much energy for the body to consume and digest food. The body will get its energy and nutrition from the stored fat in your body. The body no longer has cravings for food or water. In an effort to survive parts of the body starts to slow/shut down (cold arms, hands, legs and feet). Just the vital organs, center of body (heart, kidney, lungs) are being supplied with nutrients, blood and oxygen in an effort to survive.

The body will automatically concentrate itself around the vital organs, heart, liver, and kidney and even forgo the brain just to survive.

So I was told that NO, pops wasn’t starving or dying of thirst. The body was slowly shutting down until finally the vital organs (heart, kidney and lungs) gave out. Perhaps the same applies to your ordeal?

So I am trying my best to wrap my mind around this concept. Trying to look at it from a scientific standpoint instead of an emotional humane point of view.

So please understand I write not to torment you or to burden your heart anymore than it already is. I write in hopes this will touch you in a way to help you with your grief, doubt and pain. My hope is to bring you some kind of comfort, empathy sympathy and to let you know you are not alone.

Try your best to be patient with your friends, for they are at a loss for words and emotions. Difference being, they don’t have the vivid memories we have to bring them such grief and sadness, if they did they would be tenderly cradling your heart in their hands. So go easy on yourself and those that love you, it will get better.

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