Claire Webster and her mother

Coping with my Mother’s Death: A Year of Personal Transition

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It’s 3am and I’m wide awake AGAIN. My head is spinning with thoughts, my heart is racing and I cannot sleep.  Anxiety begins to build up inside of me contemplating the first anniversary of my mother’s death which is fast approaching and the unknown of how I will cope.   I have once again felt the wave of emotions flowing through me these past few weeks which I had managed to harness for a while but can no longer get a grip on.  I feel like a volcano that is waiting to erupt.  The first few days following my mother’s death on May 6, 2016, felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  I had been a caregiver to her since 2006 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis that would come a year after my father’s death in 2005 for which I was still grieving.  A few weeks following her death, I found myself catapulted into a state of anger and resentment towards the disease…emotions that I had worked hard at throughout the years to tame that were once again resurfacing. Random bouts of tears and profound sadness would occur most often while I was alone in my car where I could grieve privately, on my own.

I am not the same person that I was a year ago. My mother’s death had a much greater impact on me than I could ever have possibly imagined.  A tremendous shift happened.  What was the shift? I saw myself in her…All that she was, her vibrant, independent, elegant, athletic self and it symbolized how precious life is and how little time we have here.  Everything that I thought I knew about life, about myself dissolved in those hours that I lay in bed with my head against her chest, listening carefully as she took every breath, knowing that it would not be long before it were her last. Watching my beautiful mother succumb to the disease that would not only rob her of her mind, but in the end, of her body as well.  I thought that I would be ready… it had been 10 years. People kept saying, “It will be for the best when she goes”.  I stood witness to her decline in every possible way.  There are just no words that could possibly describe the sadness and sense of loss that I felt upon her death.

How have I changed this past year? Depending on how one may see it, I have become much more authentic as a person yet others may view it as “harsh”.  I can no longer pretend at anything anymore. I can no longer tolerate being around anyone whose energy does not serve me. Yet I have also become more loving and passionate towards the people and causes that I care about, making sure to cultivate and nurture the friendships that are meaningful to me and to pay closer attention to expressing my love towards my family, knowing that our time together on this earth is so brief.

This year also provided many positive experiences. All of a sudden I was becoming drawn to people and opportunities that were outside of my box.  The friendships that I began to invest in as well as the new individuals that entered into my life all had the same quality – STRENGTH. Strength in character, strength in physical appearance, and strength in dealing with challenges.  After spending so many years of caring so intensely for another human being, I find comfort in being surrounded and supported by these friends and their STRENGTH…

How else did I change?  I began to develop a sense of urgency to understand my own purpose in this world.  Waking up every day for months feeling like “life was a destination” as opposed to living in the now and enjoying the journey. I felt the constant need to accomplish, accomplish and accomplish as if I had been given only a few months left to live.  Thankfully, I have acquired the necessary tools over the years to press the “RESET/ABORT” button and have been working hard to get back on track in order to allow myself to “live in the now”.

What I know for sure is that I am not the same person that I was a year ago. And that’s OK…Over the past many years, I have acquired a tremendous amount of hands on experience in the field of “Expect the Unexpected”.  As much as I thought that I would be prepared for my mother’s death, I was not.  Yet, there has never been a year where I have learned so much about myself as a human being and for that I am extremely grateful.  Most importantly, I recognize that for however long I have left on this Earth, my love and memories of my beautiful mother will never die.

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About the Author

Claire Webster

Founder and President of Caregiver Crosswalk Inc., Claire Webster is a professional Alzheimer Care Consultant, as well as Spokesperson, Lecturer, Mentor and Advocate. With over 25 years of experience both in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors, Claire Webster also has an extensive Fundraising, Communications and Customer Service Training background, having worked for numerous organizations such as the YMCAs of Quebec, the MAB Mackay Rehabilitation Centre as well as working in collaboration with her husband in their award winning landscape architecture design and construction firm, Stuart Webster Design.

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