Dear Jennifer: I was wondering if you have any insight/advice on coping with seeing someone you love dying? My mother has COPD, along with many complications and she is dying. The doctors have said there is nothing more they can do for her and have put her in hospice. Her medicines no longer work and the prescribed steroids are making her bones crumble. Her body is bruised from blood thinners and she can no longer care for herself. I have made peace with her eventual death but seeing her in this condition is ripping me apart as I cannot bear to see her suffer like this. Do you have ay advice on coping with this situation and why people have to suffer so?
Jennifer’s Answer: It is so hard to watch someone you love suffer like this and especially since you know that eventually she is going to leave her body and you want that to be an easy and painless process for her. You feel that she is out of control here but she is not. Her suffering is not caused by something outside of herself but by her willingness to accept this as her only option. She could choose a different way of dying and of living.
I am not trying to be insensitive to your pain or to her situation but when we acknowledge ourselves as powerful, that applies to every part of our lives. We can control every aspect of our life, when we know that we have control. A lifetime of feeling smothered by her life, being unable to breathe life into her dreams, unfulfilled expectations, and the sorrows she carries in her heart, have created the belief that life is something she must endure without being able to control any part of it. Our bodies are mirrors of our beliefs, thoughts and experience and illness in the body is a symptom of our limiting beliefs. Your mother does have a choice, she has many choices available to her but she doesn’t see or know them and believes what she has been told, that her situation is incurable, irreversible, painful, limiting and she is going to die.
While it is difficult to watch someone suffer, it is even harder to consider that they are choosing this as an option for themselves, even if that choice is made very unconsciously. Why would they do that when so many more fulfilling, life expanding, peaceful and joyful options are available? Because they do not know that and do not think that they are capable of anything else. Acknowledge that suffering what your mother has chosen for herself because she doesn’t know that she can choose something else and even if she knew that, she would have to also believe that it was possible for her before she could make that her reality. Continue to care for her in the best way you can, remember the good times and let her feel the love you have for her.
Let her suffering be a learning experience for you too, that a lifetime of feeling powerless, out of control and helpless, of not having the courage to make your dreams a reality, of not believing in yourself and not giving yourself the gift of fulfillment in every area of your life will eventually take its toll on your body, mind, emotions and spirit. Suffering is an option but so is joy. Powerlessness is another option but so is expansive, fulfilling living. Create boundaries that limit your willingness to choose pain and suffering and expand your awareness of the unlimited options for joy. Choose what you want for yourself and let that become your reality and this is how you will honor your mother’s life, her suffering and her death, by becoming something that she wanted but never had the courage to become herself.
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