Present Yet Absent.......


Christmas is truly my favourite time of year, but glancing through my social media timelines recently made me realise how difficult this time of year can be for some people. I have seen some lovely, meaningful thoughts and messages from people who will be missing a loved one this Christmas. For some it may even be the first Christmas without them. And that is quite sad.

This forced my mind to wander to places I really wished it hadn't. 

You see there are two absent parents that we will keep in our thoughts this Christmas, as usual, but there's also another parent to consider. The one who is present, yet also absent.

Which made me ponder on how we're supposed to deal with our loved ones who live in this limbo? This limbo of neither here nor there-ness? A limbo swathed in a foggy confusion that clouds the mind; making them wonder not only who you are to them but who they are themselves. A confusion that sends them back into their past, muddling what their present age is - on any given day - who's alive and who deceased, and how did they 'end up in this place' anyway? A limbo, therefore, of blame and sometimes pain, without the words to convey their thoughts coherently.

Sadly they are no longer the people we once knew. The mothers who nurtured, the fathers who protected, or the spouses who loved are no longer available to us. They are seemingly replaced by a discombobulated version of their former beings. This version will still lovingly remind you to 'be careful' or to 'keep your chest warm' (a favourite saying here!) when it's cold out, at one point of a conversation, yet revert to calling you their 'mammy' at another. It is very difficult. Being the 'child' of a loved one who has mentally and emotionally traded places with you....

How are we supposed to cope with this? Do we mourn the person they once were - while they're still present, still alive? Or do we wait until the inevitable finally occurs, and their confused and tortured minds and bodies are allowed to leave this earth? 

Perhaps we get to mourn these special loved ones twice. 

It is a very sad situation. This 'present yet absent' lark. Heartbreaking. To watch this person you knew and loved - and still do, just differently - fall deeper and deeper into this unyielding abyss. 

You really do mourn what has been lost. Not only the person they once were but the older person they should have been allowed to become. The fuller life that they deserved to have, after all their child-rearing and house-cleaning years. A fulfilling life that would have allowed them to enjoy their family, mother and daughter days and nights out and to thoroughly enjoy the one and only grandchild that they have. The grandson who perpetually remains 'the little fella' in her mind, but in reality will turn sixteen next week. The grandson she therefore never recognises when he visits. 

Life is cruel. So, sometimes is living. And life, if this teaches us anything, is also very, very short.

Life also goes on, and so therefore must we. 

We deal with this as best we can, while we can. 

We compartmentalise. Or at least I do, it's the best survival skill in my ever-growing arsenal. 

We clutch at the good days, because there are some. These good days glow with such joy and warmth that you grab them greedily, like Christmas Gifts from the gods. 

You soak up the funny moments too, because they also exist, and you stretch them out for as long as they will last.

You just get on with it. Try and leave any mourning until a later date. 

While I found it quite therapeutic to give these thoughts and emotions of mine a brief and rare airing, I am very glad to now place them back in the Pandora's Box that I unwittingly seemed to have opened.

We will absolutely have a lovely Christmas, and I wish that for you too - especially if you find yourself in a similar situation.

And while we attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and gather round the dinner table on Christmas Day, we will remember with love those who are no longer with us.

And those who are present, yet absent.....










NOTE: Here are some links that you may find helpful and informative: Dementia, Understanding and caring for Stroke Patients Stroke Information and Carer's Association. 

14 comments:

  1. I hope it helped you to write this, it was certainly a very moving read and I'm sure that many people will relate to it xx

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    1. @Looking for Blue Sky: Yes, it did. Thanks. I keep this under wraps most of the time so writing it was emotional, and helpful too. I know I am not alone, some of my friends are in similar situations. It is very sad but we cannot dwell on it. xx

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  2. How beautifully you describe such a sad situation - I hope it helped you and will help others.

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    1. @Office Mum: Thank you. Yes, it did and I really do hope it helps others. I'm sure there's more they could add too.

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  3. Oh Jazzy, this is such an emotional post to write and yet I know you are not alone. I'm sure you are voicing the thoughts of so many and it really is something we should all talk more about. And offer more help for. Thinking of you at what must be an incredibly difficult time, and admiring your positivity and knowledge that it is what it is. xx

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    1. @Steph Curtis: I haven't even allowed myself to think too much about this stuff for the past few years let alone discuss it! I actually got quite cross when writing about what she's missed out on. So unfair. For the effects of strokes and dementia to hit at a relatively young age. Thank you so much for your lovely, supportive comment. xx

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  4. I love the expression 'mourning is an expression of great love'. It's so very hard and the confusion of mourning your loved one who is still living must be very difficult. I'm glad you shared your moment with us. Thank you.

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    1. @mythoughtsonapage.com: That is a lovely expression. I've been trying it out in my head since I read it last night as I'd not heard it before. Thank you.

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    1. @Midlife Singlemum: Thank you. It is sad but I don't let it take over my thoughts every day. I can't. But it was good, in a way, to release it. xxx

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  6. Gosh it is such a difficult situation Val, you have explained it really well and given me a glimpse. I'm so sorry you are experiencing this limbo, I can see why it feels like you have all been robbed. I hope you can all find some peace. Mich x

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    1. @Michelle Twin Mum: And it is only a glimpse. Thanks for your supportive comment :) xx

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  7. Merry Christmas, Jazzy. Life really can throw some horrible curve balls and I feel sad for you regarded your present yet absent one. Sending a special Christmassy hug. xx

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  8. @Bright Side of Life: Thanks, your hug has been received with much gratitude! We had a lovely Christmas as things turned out....with herself in the best form I've not seen in some time :-) xx

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