A mother-daughter relationship can be quite complex. Beatrice was not the oldest in her family, she wasn’t the closest to her parents nor was she particularly fond of her mother, with whom she had always struggled to find a connection. But now her mom was widowed, in her late eighties and in need of assistance due to severe health issues. When her older sister called to let her know their mom could no longer live alone and would need someone to stay with her, and asked her to consider being the caregiver, Beatrice was stunned! Could she do it? Would this possibly be an opportunity to finally make things right with her mom? Was it too late for that relationship she had always wanted? As these questions all swirled around in her head, she decided with much trepidation to plunge into the role of cargiver feeling this might be her last chance to make up for all the lost years of being estranged from her mother.
We often think of mothers in the context of being a loving, supportive adult, someone that as a child you would want to emulate when becoming a parent. Unfortunately, we all know of so many instances when that is not the case. If you haven’t seen Meryl Streep’s latest movie, August: Osage County, that will surely give you a dose of reality into what may often happen in dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships. While not all relationships become as dramatic or toxic as those we often see on the big screen, think of the infamous 1981 movie, Mommie Dearest, written by Joan Crawford’s adoptive daughter, these connections are nonetheless painful and can cause much anxiety.
In the case of Beatrice and her mother, the situation became even more difficult as she discovered her mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Where would she find the strength to put aside her own feelings of abandonment and resentment that had been festering in her for so many years while each day her mother slipped further and further away from reality?
The story of Beatrice and her mother is one that plagues a number of caregivers who may find themselves in a similar situation caring for someone – perhaps a parent or even a spouse – who provokes a high level of anguish. While there are no easy to follow guides or perfect solutions – mainly because each situation is unique – finding ways to build up your own emotional and spiritual strength through prayer, meditation and mindfulness is an approach that may be helpful.
mmLearn.org provides many free online videos specifically for caregivers of older adults which include a series of Caregiver Prayers. Kay Gerfers, one of our most viewed presenters, tells a personal story about the difficulties in caring for her father at the end of his life. Get the tissues out for this one! If you have some stories about where you find your strength in caring for others, please share them with us – we’d love to hear from you.