Forum Thread

when letting go is the only way to hold on

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  • Independent
    Massachusetts
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    When a caretaker needs to take care of himself and let others take over.

    Perhaps only having experienced the tempest journey one arrives at that destination -- "I can't do this anymore".
    Initially it's an emotional evisceration, an amputation as well. You're paralyzed as you and yours sink into drowning. For there's no more surface above which the other breathes reality and rationality and thus to whom you can cling.
    Perhaps only the scabbing (or neuro-degensis) of the wound is the salvation. And early in the storm, to not feel utter anguish and abandonment and terror would have been but callousness, inconsideration of the meaning and value and shared being of another. Even in the minor matters of relationship one can experience such cuts, such lacerations. even a tactile hunger untouched or intended offering of self seemed spurned . . .
    Thus I've felt, perhaps all feel, for in relationships there are the two who are not conceptual (or emotional or sexual clones).
    Early and during, perhaps diminishing, the other as the aspect oneself is like a note in a chord of emotion. But there may have to come the time when the "harmonic" has distorted or become totally atonal, that one's individuality has to continue as a solo. The "I can't do this" has to be compartmentalized. Just what are the specifics of the "this" that one has been doing?
    If strictly the logistics, in most cases in worst cases the caretaker can have at least respite through volunteers parts of days. Or, through agencies or privately, the loved one can be housed where the facility is set up for a sort of "industrial-process" of the demented. But so much it seems to be the anguish of still loving as part of oneself that which is no longer loveable or, other than subjectively, retro-projectively, part of oneself.
    Thus the necessity I found to be primarily ME. Not autonomous. Not to block out or diminish another, the other. But that I had to be the priority and thus infuse and suffuse myself sith a universe of meaning and feeling and even physical communion (tactile, visual, auditory, probably extrasensory too) not obtained from the other specific person.
    Early, I had to let go what I needed and wanted and expected. For it wasn't available from her. Never did I let go the intention and attempt to reach whatever was there. But we had a lifetime ahead for voyaging such unknown realms of potential, of possibility. This isn't the case at the end-times (even early-onset) of Alzheimer's and other devastations.
    Especially then, perhaps "preemptive letting-go" should be the realization and procedure. One should prioritize as if the other is not and perhaps even including had not been -- in order to maximize the self of the one who remains a whole self (unless sensing severance from the other). It's almost a case of realizing that even healthy, normal marital relationships involve a co-dependency, And that only has a time-span at best.
    So from my experience, and to provide same to another, I've focused on each as a whole. Neither should try to become "part of". It's beyond that point of life live (already) and left.
    But, though one should be able to let go, to not do "this" any more, the life lived at least up to . . . . should be mined for even the few gems, should be harvested for what nutriments of interest and involvement were grown and given birth and travelled and even travailed.
    The only realms to be held on to, to not be let go of: what was an epic experience as if one looks back on life as if a novel read or musical stage production attended. . .. . but to realize that whatever has been one's life, whatever one has had to let go from the cast and cause . . . . . the role one played continues on.
    Even if, at a point, it is that one's mind on which the curtain closes
    And "can't do this any more" involves awareness now of self . . . . . .
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    Very well spoken, so poignant, it breaks your heart. Did this happen to you recently? Or is it a 3rd person narrative? I can't imagine anything worse to happen to a lifelong couple, than inevitable separation, & loss of affectionate contact any more, due to Alzheimer's or something equally devastating. And then the awful decision you have to make -- how to go on living with your spouse still alive, --- but lacking any significant ability to express love anymore. It would be a lot like living with a ghost -- just a poignant reminder of your former companion, sweetheart, & soul-mate. If this is a REAL experience in your life, you have my truest form of sympathy. The kind when there are actually NO WORDS to express it.... And it feels so hollow when we try a feeble attempt to say what we think. Do you have a significant support group to help you? ---- This is a situation which we might ALL face some day... And I think we all feel profoundly sad about it.
  • Independent
    Massachusetts
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    Thank you for what you say here, for the feelings you convey.
    I wrote specifically for/to someone I had not seen for 50+ years. She sought me out, having never really let go of what I'd meant to her when we were so young.

    But first, in my case it was paranoid schizophrenia, astounding cognitive chaos (and threat) I was "caretaker" of -- not neuro-degeneracy per se as in dementias. And thus, for most of the 30 years of our marriage, there was my quest and a format and a goal and . . eventually a resolution so that our last years together were "sane" and my wife could finally express love to me and feel it for herself. Because it just might work -- my infusing and inspiring my sense and experience of life and love into my wife -- I would not, could not, let go no matter how deeply my soul bled. She died from lung cancer, 4 packs per day (Pall Malls) almost up to the last breath (which, had she not been comatose, would have been a drag). But we held each other through the months her dying was so evident, slow.

    My years-ago friend's husband was the one who suffered dementia. The anguish she endured for the months she was the caretaker was insult to the actual injuries that were inflicted on her as he became violent as well as incompetent. It was she who came to realize she had to let go, that she had to let others take hold. And though relieved of the unbearable, she was alone so alone with an added wound of guilt that he died in a hospital, not with her. For she had come to reaize she couldn't do it any more. She had to let go. She had no choice, for she had no goal to reach, thearapeutic effect, transference for terminated mentality.
    It was she who was left emotionally dying, alone. And she sought me out. And we have shared our souls since. It was in response to her beautiful writing concerning letting go that mine was a reply, a confirmation, that's led to our ongoing collaboration of correspondence and caring.

    After the caretaking phase, it seemed she hurtled into a searing atmosphere of agony . . . the vacuum of so much now behind her, past, a vapor trail of tears needed to be cried to someone. I shared the . . .space . . and tears, I filled the emptiness. And so long after the accomplishment of an actual marital relationship with my wife, I realized how much I'd hut for all those years prior. And the need that I fulfilled for my now dearest friend (again) has healed me.
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    What a precious story... Seldom do people get to know the silent pain that many people are going through in their senior years. It is usually sealed up in a nursing home, or kept well secret away from the rest of the family, but it is good to know that significant others can come along & be such a blessing.. Really what you have written is so good for us all, for the spirit can find a new meaning, even when it appears that all is lost. Thank you for sharing that....
  • Independent
    Foxborough, MA
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    To "eternal flame"
    I am the friend of the original contributor on this topic. I appreciate so much your caring replies.
    I had read a book, by Meryl Comer, "Slow Dancing with a Stranger" and I could not read through the tears. I experienced her words and emotions as if I were she. Her first words - I can't do this any more- initialized my flood of emotion on this issue. I was lucky that advanced lung cancer coupled with brain mets took my husband before the depth of the dementia took him so far that he no longer knew himself.

    I poured my emotions out to my dear dear friend who has helped me through this grieving process, having walked the path before me. What the forums see of this brilliant man is not all which determines his measure. Healing me was for both of us.

    And now, I am finding new doors opening for me, including perhaps involvement in these forums. My political views now and (always) mirror much of what I read here. I am especially interested in conserving our resources for our children, grandchildren, and following generations. I (through the re-connection with my old friend) have discovered the me of decades lost. My reading, hobbies, outlooks, all have been restored to me, for during the 55 years of my marriage my husband (also a brilliant man) dictated much of what we did. I find joy in expressing my own views again. Hopefully here in these forums I will find fodder for my mind, and the opportunity to share with others as well.

    And I can do it now. I have been shown that.
    In this world, we all have to learn we have to "do it" in some way, if we want to leave behind a world we ourselves would want for our future, should it have been given us were we to live for decades and centuries to come.
  • Liberal
    Independent
    Durham, NH
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    Welcome, this is a good place to express yourself (if you're not thin-skinned at least)!