It’s been almost four years since my mother went to Heaven. Even though she was in my life for over 30 years and we made a lot of memories, the ones I really remember the most are the last eight months of her life. When she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer I immediately went home to be with her and our whole family rallied around to take care of her. Instantly I was fearful. I was in shock. But I knew work needed to be done. I didn’t want to get a phone call that something happened. I wanted to be there if it did.
But being one of her caregivers was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Watching her body give up on her but witnessing her mental strength really inspired me to keep moving. Being her caregiver was really important to me because I wanted her to know that I was there for her. But I quickly realized that while I was by her side I was losing a part of myself. I think it’s a natural thing that happens. When you decide (or remember) that your family is important to you it can send your emotions, your ego really, into a kiddie panic attack. Your ego and your need to be there will eventually collide. I knew I wanted and needed to take care of my mom but I also had a huge case of FOMO and I still wanted to do cool things… like go see Rihanna in concert for free or have Sunday brunch for five hours with my good girlfriends. And because I still wanted to do those things for myself I started to feel guilty.
I had to learn how to manage caring for myself and caring for her quicker than I thought because I was falling apart.
Keep a journal
There were some days where the overwhelming feeling of taking care of my parent would take over my mind and leave me beyond unproductive. I had these feelings which seemed irrelevant next to all the things I was watching my mother go through. But those feelings were still worthy of my attention and if I continued to ignore them I’d fall deeper into a depression.
I opened up my journal and just wrote.
I wrote down every feeling I ever had about the process, about my mother, my family, about me and my family…I wrote down everything. Before I knew it I had basically documented my process which were a huge therapeutic win for me. And landed me my first book deal (read about that here). Journaling became my all-accepting, non-judgmental friend who listened attentively every single time. And isn’t that why we pay for therapy. We just want someone to listen us, without interruption, without judgment. Experts say that journaling will not only stretch your IQ (and who doesn’t want to be smarter) but increase your emotional intelligence and boost your memory and comprehension.
Eat, drink water & sleep
I know this sounds really simple and almost silly to even list but I would forget to drink water, my meals were reduced to once a day and me and 3am had become the best of friends. I’d have my coffee in the morning and maybe in the afternoon and maybe at night. So actually my meals were reduced to coffee. My mother was the one who pointed out that she, a cancer patient, was eating more than I was and she was barely eating. So when I fought with her to eat her food, I did the same for me. You cannot be the best at taking care of your loved one if no one is taking care of you. And only you can take care of you!
Breathe (& fall in love with yoga)
This tip might also be another one where you’re like, duh Ty! But seriously stop and breathe. And not the kind of breathing that is required for living but the kind of breathing that allows the world to pause a minute in order for you to get still. It’s the only way your mind and your body truly connect. Breath is the foundation of both yoga and meditation, it combines the focus of the mind with the life of the body. Allowing your mind to clear by experiencing the sensation of breath can have a powerful impact on your sanity. It’s the best way to care for yourself. Now sometimes I just stop and breathe!
Let go of your need to control
Sometimes I felt like I didn’t do enough. I felt like I didn’t move quick enough. The reality of this beastly part of life that I was experiencing was that my mother was dying. Period. And what’s worst was, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I felt like I had failed as a caregiver. As a daughter. As a woman. For months after my mother’s death I was crippled with the thought that I could have saved her. It lead me down a spiraling road of depression and paused my healing to halt. I first realized it when I began writing my book, “Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mom Died“.
Your loved ones needs your care and support. You are not, cannot and will not be the miracle that will save them. That’s a hard yet truthfully pill to swallow. But once you do you will begin to breathe again.
Let the thugs tears loose
For so long I saw tears as a sign of weakness. “What are you crying for?” “Damn is it that serious for tears?” Yes, actually it is! And now I cry at everything. Every sappy movie, every nice gesture I spy out in public…you name it I am a ball of emotionally tears now.
What they don’t tell you is that tears are the release of those emotions. It’s a way of letting you know that the emotion is now free. You are free! Those emotions are no longer holding your heart, your time or your healing hostage.
So let all the tears escape. It’s good for you.
Here’s what I know for sure:
Taking care of my mother made me an adult. And to think, I really thought I had been adulting for all these years. But I stopped being her daughter and become a woman who was taking care of another woman. It made me grow up. Quick! And I have no regrets.
Disclosure: While this post is sponsored by AARP, you beauties know that all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that make my blog possible!