June 2nd, 2011 9:22pm - Posted By: Anne Maxwell
The following anecdote about my Mom describes the emotional shift that occurred for me with regards to this love based approach. It happened at a time when I was facilitating multifamily groups based on this model.
The weekend before she died, she was having difficulty breathing. Apparently, she had fluid in her throat. She had not spoken a word since that Wednesday nor had she moved by herself. It was clear that she was dying, and, I wanted to do everything I could to make her passing as peaceful as possible. We had had hospice services for her for a year and a half, and, overall the hospice staff was amazing. That week, her primary nurse (who was an angel), as well as several on call nurses had visited on a daily basis, sometimes more than once, to help us provide her with the care she needed to be as comfortable as possible. My step father (of 30 years) had died two years before. I was there when he died, and, he had struggled with fluids that had impaired his ability to breathe. I had felt so helpless and did not want my Mom to go that way.
Friday night, an amazing on call nurse had watched over my Mom for 6 hours, while I slept for the first time in what seemed like ages. The nurse was able to clear out her breathing passage with a suction machine that had a hose attached to it, and my Mom was finally peaceful.
As Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, my Mom began to struggle with fluid in her breathing passage again. Neither my sister nor I felt comfortable with the suction machine, as the nozzle seemed so sharp and stiff, and, we did not want to hurt her throat. I went upstairs to call the on call nurse, to ask her to come to the house and clean out my Mom's breathing passage.
After I made my request, the nurse did not respond to me directly. Instead, she said: "Well, I can see that you have had nurses all week long at your house helping you with your Mom... In fact, there was a nurse that came out earlier today, wasn't there?" I began to cry, furious at her lack of understanding and at my inability to keep myself pulled together. Instead of responding to the tears, she said: "I do not think it is necessary that I come out at this time. I notice that you have a suction machine. You are perfectly capable to operating it yourself. In fact, it surprises me that you were able to talk the supply company into leaving it at your home. That is highly unusual."
I quickly moved onto the back porch, as I did not want my Mom to experience my anger. It was freezing cold that night, with fresh snow on the ground. It had been snowing intermittently throughout the day, and it was one of those nights where sounds of the city were muffled by the snow, and in fact you could hear a pin drop. We have a shed in the back yard, and, my husband was there, seeking refuge from some of the intensity of the week.
I started screaming at the nurse, demanding that she come out, asking to speak to her supervisor, etc. As I raged on, I knew on some level I was not in my right mind, but I could not stop myself at that point. When I slowed down, she said: "You need to be more grateful for the help you have already been given." I exploded again, sobbing and yelling. She responded by saying: "You need to be more respectful. I resent your tone." I stopped and said: "I don't want my Mom to die like this." She did not respond. I couldn't think of what else to say or do, so I hung up the phone.
I went to my Mom's room, and, my sister had found the correct position for her to be in to keep her airway open, and, she was breathing more evenly.
I called the nurse back, and, apologized profusely for my screaming. I told her my Mom was comfortable. I said that we would not need her help. I was back in my right mind again, and, was embarrassed by my behavior. My husband came into the house. He looked at me, put his arms around me, and as he held me said: "I'm sorry this is so hard and I love you." He got it. I felt heard and understood, and, able to move on.
Emotionally, I experienced the power of this paradigm that night. In dealing with my shame at having behaved the way I did, I was able to see the truth about myself, and, about our children when they become as stressed out as I had been. I had been afraid (that my Mom's death would be difficult for her), and, it was that fear that had exacerbated the stress I was already experiencing and had driven my loss of control. Once the fear was soothed, I was able to return to a state of emotional regulation, from which I could function again. Emotionally, I experienced what our children experience when they lose it. I could see that I had not intended to lose control as I had, any more than our children do. It had not been my intention to be rude, disrespectful or ungrateful. I am willing to give children the benefit of the doubt, and, believe that they are not simply trying to be difficult or argumentative or oppositional. What about the idea that they, like me, are simply at the end of their rope, and, in an effort to be heard, behave the way I did? I experienced firsthand what it felt like to be a child in despair again, unable to stop, embarrassed, needing someone to soothe me.
I have shared this story with many of you in my office and in groups, as it seems to hit home. Many of you have told me you can relate to my situation that night. You are as horrified at the nurse's inability to connect with me as I was. I share this in the hope that it will make it easier for you to view your child's outbursts from this love based model, as opposed to the more traditional fear based model.
Posted in: Personal Experiences
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