The biggest problem I am having right now, in terms of mental health, is trying to deal with my mom and her extreme and debilitating grief. Since we come from such a fucked up family, my mom has no support system other than me, and that’s incredibly difficult to deal with. I want to be supportive and I want to help. But I am also grieving, and doing that in my own way. My mom’s grief takes the expected forms (crying, lethargy, forgetfulness, inability to make decisions, obsessing over the dead person, repeating the same stories over and over, comparing everyone and every situation to the dead person/a thing the dead person did.) plus she’s also turned into someone who is not my mom. This lady sounds like my mom, looks like my mom, but she’s not my mom.
My mom doesn’t leave dirty dishes lying around, my mom doesn’t lie on the couch crying for hours and forget to let the dogs out. My mom isn’t this soggy mess of a person who doesn’t hear me when I talk, or ignores me when I am injured. This lady who stays with me periodically now (at least she’s not here all the time) is a hot sack of disaster. She breaks things, she loses things, she sticks the laundry in the wrong places, she leaves Kleenex and cough drop wrappers all over the house. She feeds the dogs the wrong food, she can’t find the thing she just set down, she loses her medications and her important papers multiple times per day. She calls me at work to ask me things that aren’t important (well, she always did that) but she doesn’t want to talk to her sisters (that’s new).
I was so comfortable in the role of the less-involved child, I let my brother deal with all my mom’s disaster moods and crazy antics. Now I have to deal with them full force, plus the fact that she just won’t stop crying, ever.
I am looking up how to support a grieving person, and all the sites say to not pressure the grieving person to feel better on your time schedule, to realize it takes much longer for that person to feel OK than you expect.
Let go of time expectations. The person grieving may struggle for longer than expected. If this happens, regardless of how frustrating or frightening it may be for you, let them grieve for however long they need, knowing you won’t judge them for it.
Which is fine, I understand that might be ideal— but how do I deal with my own being frustrated or frightened? How do I not judge? I guess now I need to find a site on how to support a person who’s supporting a grieving person, because you know what’s impossibly sad? Sitting around every night for hours on end watching your mother cry, and listening to her compare everything you do to what your dead brother would have done, and knowing that half the time you speak she won’t hear you, or care what you say. That is not an easy thing, and it’s not good for [my] mental health. Being afraid to laugh, or do any activity, or talk about something that’s not <<DEAD BROTHER>> is really hard.
Every thing I do that’s not focused on <<DEAD BROTHER>> is like a slap in the face to her, everything I do say or do related to him is a sad reminder, she has even made me stop sharing happy memories, since they make her think “he might come back.”
So I can’t talk, and I can’t not talk, and I can’t do things, and I can’t not do things, and basically it’s all impossible.
And that’s just on the days she stays with me. On the days she’s gone, that’s when I have to deal with my own sort of paralyzing sadness and pain, and try to reconcile the relationship I had with my brother to the one I wanted to have, the one I will never have now – when parts of me still don’t believe that he is gone. I am still having to remind myself that he died.
I don’t know, it’s super fucked up is what I am saying. I am trying to find the right level of meds to keep me functional, keep me sane, keep me rational, keep me calm, and still let me be me without sleeping 18 hours a day. That’s not an easy task at all.
I feel like a bad daughter, but I really wish my mom had a support system that wasn’t just me. I don’t mind being part of the system, I just don’t want to be the whole system. She doesn’t like the online support groups that she has tried, she doesn’t like to talk to her sisters, they don’t understand, no one understands. She doesn’t want to go to a support group in person, she doesn’t think they will understand. No one gets the rawness of her grief, which is unlike the grief of any parent who has ever lost a child, apparently. She doesn’t want to up her meds, she doesn’t think her counselor helps. Nothing helps, no one helps and she will never-ever feel better. She says.
But she still has questions, and comes to me with them all. And I am not some wondrous combination of estate lawyer, car salesperson, divorce lawyer, tax attorney, financial adviser, medical doctor, malpractice lawyer and grief counselor that she needs. I am just her daughter, and I love her, but I am at my limit for how much I can do. And the high expectations combined with the lack of other support means that I am frustrated instead of supportive, and irritated rather than patient, and exhausted rather than able to help.
Last week without mentally preparing myself for it, I read over a detailed account of my brother’s last 12 minutes on earth as a living entity. Every single detail of how they fought to keep his body alive, and then all the mistakes and things they wrote down in the week leading up to his death, which I couldn’t go back in time to correct and tell them NO NO NO PAY ATTENTION! To read those dispassionate notes wrongly describing his condition and knowing those notes were leading inexorably to his death, without being able to take any action to stop it – that left me mentally comatose for at least two days. Walking wounded, walking dead, shell-shocked, whatever you want to call it, I was that for two whole days until I got drunk enough to shove the thoughts back out of my brain.
So obviously I am not able to do whatever that lady up there needs done, and yet there is no one else. There is no good answer. There is no solution. There is only writing it down, processing it, knowing that in time it will pass, surely in a month it will be somewhat better. That’s all I have for now.