Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Growing from Grief can help in other situations (pets and humans involved in this post).

This post is a personal story, hopefully it will help you.
When my father was dying, I felt like taking him off of all the machines he was hooked up to and all of the 13 IVs he was hooked up to was murdering him. It took almost a week to make the decision with my brothers. I still wasn't one hundred percent sure when we did it, but I did know he would be hooked up to some IVs and attached to at least two machines to be kept alive if he did "get better", as we phrased it with the doctors and palliative care team.  That was part of what made me think that removing all the things that were keeping my dad alive was maybe the right choice. 

The moments he was aware of our presence and I was able to communicate with him and get some limited, but appropriate responses from him were usually when his pain meds wore off and he was in tremendous pain. Seeing his extreme discomfort at those moments was interesting and new to me. He was one that wouldn't show his pain. Kind of an old New England puritanical type of thing I believe. I did treasure those lucid moments he was in extreme pain because I could see him in his eyes and communicate briefly with him before I would go get the nurse to inject more pain meds.

Life is precious to me. The quality of someone's life or of any creature's life is precious to me.  I love my companion animals as well.  Just a few days ago, I lost an elderly companion animal, a ten year old beautiful black rabbit, named Salem, who had a large inoperable cancerous tumor. Through all her years, she showed an endurance and strength that I rarely saw in other rabbits, never mind many humans or other creatures.  She was a fighter also. I could tell she was uncomfortable just by the way she would position her self and struggle. I couldn't bring myself to have her put to sleep like the vet recommended.  I did obtain pain meds from the vet though. 

The pain meds did seem to, at moments, give Salem some wherewithal to go after bits of fresh hay, greens and oatmeal we would leave for her at different times.  She always loved to eat and would nibble at those moments of feeling good from the meds.  She didn't have the stamina to do it for long though. I was very happy to see her enjoying some last few times of enjoying some of her favorite treats. She was comfortable. She wasn't the most affectionate rabbit, but was always appreciative of her food! She let us share with her some of those moments. She lasted a few days-longer than we or the vet thought. She showed me it was all the right decision with both. She was always that fighter. Like my dad.

My dad helped show what to do with Salem in the journey of the last days of her life.  Salem showed me that I helped my dad die a death of dignity, living his few last days with his family near, instead of potentially living hooked up to machines without the quality of life that would have meant something to the stubborn, ornery, puritanical wanting-to-be independent man that was my father.  He would have hated that life on machines, but he also needed to die on his own and his way-he took his last breaths on his own and was made extremely comfortable by the hospital staff. We were able to say "good-bye" and let him know we loved him. He was able to hear us and breathe on his own for his last breaths-nautrally.  He looked like my dad and not a creature hooked up to all kinds of gizmos (like in an experiment). It was loving and peaceful.

Having my dad on those machines and IV meds for the brief time he was gave us the beautiful gift of being able to say good-bye.  Keeping him on them would be a different story.  Salem and my dad passed from this earth on their own terms and peacefully, knowing they were loved.  Salem helped reassure me of their peace, while my dad helped reassure me of what was right for Salem and us.

I will miss them both, but they both had dignity.  I am finding that in my own personal grieving process that I am growing.  I still feel pain, but I am growing.

I thought that sharing this may be helpful for someone some time in their grief journey.
Thank you for joining me.
May you find peace in your journey.

P.S. As a little bonus I am adding a link to an article that may be helpful to someone who is losing their pet/companion animal. I didn't do everything it said, but I found comfort in some of the things it said.
Helping a dying animal.
Remember everyone's grieving and experience in this journey of life are individual and must be treated like that for ourselves and others.

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