with each breath

by kye on May 3, 2010

The feelings of those who are caregivers to the dying can be challenging.  It’s important to have ways of working with these feelings and moving beyond them, rather than ignoring them.  When the feelings are dealt with, it liberates energy for coping with the situation, and evens out the ups and downs of daily life.

Here is an example of how it can look when I’m working, myself, with the feelings brought up in caring for my mother:

The last few weeks, sometimes I’ve been waking up breathing oddly.

I had thought maybe it had to do with limits that have been strained.  I cut back some, and the last several days my breathing had been fine when I woke.

Then this morning, there it was again.  So, I lay quietly in bed and began to explore it, curious.

It began to feel like some kind of fear.  I stayed inside the precise outlines of this funny-breath fear  …not swallowed up by it, but instead, experiencing it while also knowing that I am more than this sensation and this emotion.

It was what was here right now.  I also noticed more:  a sunny day with bright light pouring through the window; the sounds of traffic and birds; the feeling of lying in bed.  All this (and more) was my experience at that moment.

I began to notice that the exact way my breath was not releasing was not only an afraidness but was also a holding back of tears… the tears I had held back each time I went to see my mother, so that I wouldn’t distress her.   My body was faithfully holding those tears for me.

I let them flow as they wanted to.  My caring began to wake up and circle itself instinctively around my own back, comforting the teary one.  And now the curiosity became a tender ‘what’s wrong?’

In the presence of that tender attention my tearful funny-breathing fearful one could begin to open up about the fear.

…Oh!  It’s about my mother’s breathing!  She is having a tiny bit more trouble with her breathing now, and when she coughs her face looks pained.  I hadn’t realized how horrified I’ve been, watching her slowly losing her lung capacity.

I notice how afraid I am of suffocation, drowning, strangulation.  This fear is something I’ve carried with me going all the way back to birth and a cord-wrapped neck.   I’ve been laying this old primal fear on top of what’s happening with her.

My tenderness for the one who’s been carrying this, grows.

And now I remember what I actually saw yesterday.   She was asleep almost the whole time I was with her.  Except for when she coughed, her face looked very much at ease.

She never looked distressed.  I was still carrying the distress of a few weeks ago, mixed with my own primal fear.  But she was peaceful.  This teary one who was afraid for her, who had been on watch through the night with her… this one could rest from that particular labor.

My lungs opened, and I took a deep breath.

Right now I am breathing, I can breathe… and so can she.  What a shame it would have been to miss experiencing these precious breaths.

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