Many ask, “Which is harder, having someone die suddenly or watching someone die slowly?” In my experience, both are equally hard. Death, no matter how it happens, is extremely painful and heartbreaking. We can never prepare ourselves to lose someone we love, no matter how short or long the loved one’s life was. Grief is hard either way and could send anyone into a depression. For those who have depression or who are in recovery from depression, grief can be especially cruel.
Last week my grief was just too overpowering for me to be able to release it on paper. I just couldn’t put it into words. In a way, I have been grieving for my grandma over a period of several years. It first started when she got sick about six years ago and had to go into a nursing home. Slowly, over the years, I watched my grandma’s health deteriorate. I missed visiting her at her home. I missed her inviting my husband and me over for lunch for a feast and then sending us home with a bag of groceries from her cupboard, and having her at family events, and so on.
Even though her health has faded, God’s glow shone in her. During some visits we sat silently at her side holding her hand while she slept, and during other visits we filled her in on what was going on in our lives. One time we helped her play bingo and she won. She insisted we take her prizes home. It was her way of still giving, even when she had nothing left to give. Even though she was stuck in a nursing home, unable to give what little she had, she still had endless love to give.
When she was put in the nursing home, a part of her died. She had always been an independent woman and suddenly she was confined to a wheelchair. She had always been a talker. I used to be able to hold a conversation with her for hours, but the conversations turned to me doing most of the talking. The strong, vibrant woman had turned into a weak, elderly woman dependent on her nurses. I grieved losing the woman she once was.
In December, my mom called me and said Grandma was dying, and I cried. We watched her body slowly going through the dying process week after week and month after month. Each time my husband and I came to visit her, she seemed frailer and she slept more. We spent most of the time sitting at her side, holding her hand while she slept. When she was awake enough to talk to us, her words were few and sometimes she was confused. Yet she still had that glow of God’s love in her soul. The glow shone in her smile and eyes, but that glow was dimming.
Recently, Grandma became bedridden, and the dying process sped up. Hospice told us it’s only a matter of time. Each time I go to see her, I read her a chapter from my memoir. She is now skin and bones, her body dying and her smile completely gone and in its place a frown. I look into her eyes and I can see the glow slowly fading. My heart is shattered. I want to wrap her in my arms and cry, but instead I tell her how much I love her and that I’m happy she will soon be reunited with Grandpa in heaven.
It is so hard watching her die. I pray each night that God takes her home soon. I ask God why it has to be so slow. Each time I see her, the weaker she becomes. Wednesday, when I saw her, her eyes were closed. When she did open them, her breathing was ragged. I could tell she was struggling. I read her another chapter. I asked her if she liked it. Her voice was so weak that I had to get up close to her lips to hear her say, “Yes.”
Each day I wake up wondering, “Will this be the day I get the call she passed?” I find it nearly impossible to get out of bed and go to work. My heart is so broken and filled with pain I can barely breathe. I push myself to go to work and force a smile on my lips, even though a depression is blanketing my soul. I know all the signs of my sickness. I am very aware of my illness and I know that unbearable sadness all too well. I keep pushing myself to keep going because I know that’s what Grandma would want me to do.
I’m turning to my support system for comfort. My husband is very supportive. My close friend, who has been one of my biggest supporters, is dealing with her own problems and she can’t be of much help to me, and I can’t be of much help to her. So instead, I’m turning to some of my other friends. I feel bad not being able to support my friend and it seems strange not being able to confide in her, but at least we have other people to lean on.
My grieving may have put me into a depression, but I know if I keep practicing my coping techniques, leaning on my support system, and taking care of myself, in time I will once again pull myself out of this dark hole. Maybe by the time this post goes up, Grandma may have passed. It’s hard to tell when God will take her home and give her her angel wings. I just know this will get harder before it gets easier, but I will get through this. I’m too strong to let depression keep me down.
It’s easy to slip into a depression when you’re grieving. You may have never had depression in your life, and you lose someone you love, and suddenly you’re in that dark hole. While you’re going through grief, know the symptoms of depression, practice self-care, turn to counseling if you need to, build a support team, and don’t deny yourself the right to cry. Crying helps you let that pain out. Taking care of yourself and your needs is very important. If you neglect yourself, you can fall farther down that dark hole. If you need a higher dose of antidepressants to get you through or to start some medication, then talk to your psychiatrist or doctor. Do what it takes to fight the depression and climb out of that hole.
It may take a little time to get over my depression, but I refuse to let it drag me all the way down to the darkest depth of my hole. I am a fighter, like my grandma. Grandma is fighting all the way to the end, and when she is gone I will continue to fight until I am once again dancing in the light of recovery.