What wakes YOU up at night – dreams, nightmares or something more?

Hello KIRC family!

I would like to say thank you for coming along on this journey. For anyone who is (or about to become) a family caregiver, we know the path can sometimes be rocky. Just knowing there are others going through this can help. We must always remember we are not alone.

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I have to take my own advice and trust that my new KIRC family can offer up some input. I’d like to share a recent dream – or rather nightmare, which left me a bit shaken.

It has me questioning, ‘Is the emotional stress, angst and many times fear that was such a daily part of the caregiving journey lingering in my system? And if so, how long might this continue and how will it manifest?’

Helpless to help my mother

I recently woke myself up and out from a disturbing nightmare. It felt like I was trying to scream, but what came out were just whimpers.

Courtesy: Adobe Stock

My subconscious set the scene:

It was late afternoon, inside a train station. As I glanced around the terminal I spotted my mother sitting in the corner with a little travel bag. I was shocked, because it seemed this location was someplace overseas – maybe London?

Why would my mother be traveling alone in a foreign country? And how did she get there?

I frantically ran over to her to ask if she was okay. She said yes. I demanded to know what she was doing in this train station, especially when she knew that I would be away traveling with friends. She should be safely at home!

She fussed at me saying she was fine, that she could travel on her own and knew how to get home. It was just one train ride away and she would be fine.

For some reason I believed her although deep down I knew better. I gave her a little hug and said, ‘Okay, be careful. I’ll see you when I get home.’

Courtesy: Getty Images/Luis Miguel Carrilho Branco / EyeEm

Shortly after leaving the station the reality of the situation hit me. What in the world was I thinking?! My mother shouldn’t and could’t travel alone.

*She didn’t know how to transfer at the next station and make it home.

*She couldn’t navigate her walker through the terminal.

*She didn’t have a cell phone.

*She didn’t have any food with her and the restaurants would all be closed by the time she got off the train.

*Who would help her in the bathroom?

*How would she get help?

Nightmare panic took over. I recall running with everything I had to get back to the train station to collect my mother. As I arrived, I saw the train pulling off.

An overwhelming sense of fear and panic took hold. I started shouting – ‘NO!’ The realization dawned on me – I might not be able to ensure my mom was okay.

How could I have let her go on her own? Why didn’t I cancel my plans and take her home when I spotted her in the train station?

In the dream I started crying and that’s when I woke up.

What does it mean?

Many of you who have already said goodbye to your mothers shared that for this past Mother’s Day, you were planning to visit a grave site and/or leave flowers.

This past weekend I made a trip to the cemetery to visit my mom and dad. It did my heart good to put some flowers down and tell my parents that I missed them. Many days it still doesn’t feel as if Miss Nellie is gone.

  • I have yet to finish clearing items from her bedroom closet.

  • There are stacks of boxes in the garage – her belongings – I have yet to touch.

  • Her favorite Dove Body Wash liquid soaps remain in the bathroom cabinet.

These are little things but all are reminders of her, and of the years of heavy-duty caregiving I experienced.

It turns out, I am not imagining these feelings. There are clinical studies focused on caregiving PTSD. This is an excerpt from a report by the National Library of Medicine:

A caregiving role of severely ill adult patients can be extremely stressful and could result in an array of adverse outcomes, including PTSD.

Was the overwhelming fear and sense of helplessness I felt in that dream a form of caregiving PTSD? I suppose I can’t know for certain.

But what I do know is that the journey of caring for an aging and declining parent takes something out of you. It changes you. And even once you move through it, the emotions do not quickly fade.

✍Do you have a personal story you would like to share that you believe could help others? Submit your information here.

Any advice or guidance you would like to share for me? I would love to hear from you or if you have had a similar experience.

In the meantime I suggest this: let’s all cut ourselves some slack. In those moments when we are feeling overwhelmed, sad, lost, confused or a combination of ‘I don’t know what I feel feelings,’ let’s just be kind to ourselves. Deal?

Until next time~