How do you grieve someone that's not passed?

imamommyDecember 11, 2007

Ten years ago, my stepmom suffered a brain aneurysm at home. While at the hospital (during brain surgery to repair the first one) she had a second. She physically survived but never recovered any cognitive ability. She has lay in a hospital bed at home, being cared for by family for the last nine and half years. I am currently one of her caretakers.

Last night, I had a vivid dream about her. I dreamt that she sat up and began talking. She recovered, just like that. Then I woke up. Even though we have known since bringing her home that she will never recover, we have cared for her without grieving her loss.

She was a brilliant woman and was 50 years old when she was taken by this. She just turned 60 last week. She had gone back to get her Master's Degree in Psychology and graduated when she was 48. She was a Marriage & Family therapist and was always there for me. I miss her very much and still talk to her like she can understand me. We don't know if she hears or understands anything. She's in a persistent vegetative state. She isn't in a coma or on a respirator (no life support) but breathes through a trach and is fed through a tube.

she may live this way for the next ten or twenty years... we just don't know. But in the meantime, we aren't really able to grieve for her but then again, we do. It's hard to explain because there is no end in sight and when someone passes, you can say goodbye and hold onto their memory. But I care for her on a daily basis and her body is there, so I deal with the physical pain she endures, but her ability to communicate or respond is gone.

any ideas on how to cope?

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Bless you and the others who care for her. Your love for her is shown by your commitment to her after such a long time. It must be extremely difficult to care for her as a living loved one, but have to accept that she might have no awareness of you. Just the same, I would continue talking to her as though she hears and understands you, because that can't be known with 100% certainty. So I think you're wise to not say anything or act in any way in her presence that alludes to the fact that she is 'not really there' or that you are mourning the loss of the woman you knew. But I would talk often to her other caregivers and cry or do whatever helps you all cope when NOT in her presence, because you certainly do need to acknowledge the huge void her 'absence' has caused in all your lives.

It is so sad when a sudden tragedy like that changes someone's life so drastically, especially since she had just accomplished so much. I know it's not really a solution to your question of how you can cope, but I just wanted to assure you that your gift of love and commitment to her is uplifting, even though she cannot acknowledge you herself.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 3:52PM
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Yes, she can hear you, so just talk normally to her. She is so blessed to have someone like you caring for her.

I have a friend who's sister was in a car wreck. She went into a coma and lived in a nursing home for 12 years like that. One day, out of the blue, she 'woke up' and after a lot of rehabilitation, was able to return home. She told them she was aware when someone was in the room and she could understand when people talked in her room - she just couldn't respond. Maybe this will be the case with your mom!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2007 at 9:59AM
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Your stepmom probably does see and appreciate what you do for her. My mom has Alzheimer's and didn't say much at all towards the end. Just a few minutes before she passed away, she told me, " I see all you do for me". That was the greatest gift she could have ever given me.
I know it is hard caring for your step mom like this, and yes, you are grieving each day as we did my mom. When she does leave this world, you will be able to be proud that you gave part of your life caring for her and helping her life be more comfortable and filled with love.
I know, it's a long grieving process. Bless you!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 11:28PM
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