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I caused my mother´s death, how can I ever forgive myself?


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KarinBe

Hi everyone, It´s been 9 years since my mom passed away, and I have had very difficult times with a lot of guilt over the way she died. It was my fault. I don´t know how I will ever be able to forgive myself. Here is my story:

My mother had been paralysed from a stroke and was living in a nursing home for 15 years. They called me one day to tell me that her pneumonia has gotten worse and the antibiotics didn´t help and this was it, there was nothing more they could do.

Having had a sick mother for 25 years( her first stroke happened when I was 16) I could not accept that suddenly she was going to die.

I know it sounds strange, but we had been through so many crises with her illness, that we just felt numb and chocked.. anyway, I went there, I live some 6 hours away by car, and I then stayed with her for 4 days. She was now bedbound but looked like she used to, only I noticed that her breathing sounded strange from time to time. The last day we had talked to the staff and begged them to try and give her liquids again because we felt they were giving up on her too easy. I know this sounds so absurd, I do not know how we could insist on this, but we were in such denial. They agreed to try, I wish they wouldn´t have done that.

My brother got hopeful and went home to his place during that day. When it was around 4 pm she started to breath quite fast, this continued and in the evening it has gotten a little worse. Though my mother was totally awake and alert. In the evening my aunt started to sit with her and i went to bed and around 11 pm we changed so I sat down beside my mother´s bed. Now her breathing was labored and very fast, like someone who had just finished a sprint race. She looked at me seriously. It was so hard to endure this breathing that I rang the nurse and asked for something to help my mom. (she had just gotten some morphine two days ago, so she wasn´t that used to it)

The nurse came back with an injection containing 7.5 mg morphine and some sedatives (in Sweden it´s named Stesolide). Maybe it calmed her breathing a tiny bit but she was still breathing so fast and deep with nasal flaring and chest indrawings. I panicked after half an hour and rang the nurse again and told her there was no change, maybe she needed some more? 

This is what caused my burden of gulit I now live with. The nurse said she could have some more, and went to prepare it. When she came back and my Mom understood what was going on, she tried to warn me, she looked staright into my eyes very seriously, like she said NO! and tried to draw her belly backwards when the nurse put the injection needle. I saw all of this but I couldn´t stop it for some reason! My mom had looked like that many times during her illness, and I have been persistent in many cases and in the end that made things easier for her and in some cases even prolonged her life. So I thought this time it was the same. Since the nurse agreed to more morphine to calm down the breathing, then she must have known best. Now I understand that that last injection killed my mother, she died 45 minutes later when I had gone to bed(!) and left her with a lady who worked there.

It was I who did this to her- her beloved daugher. My grief and gulit is beyond words, I feel I killed my mother and took away her last days and the long farewell from us, her kids. 

Please, if someone is reading this and you have some guidance or advice to give, I would be very grateful.

I killed my mother when she probably had some more days to live and my life has been a mess ever since. I have seen a lot of therapists and priests, but it always comes back and I don´t know how I can cope anymore.

Thanks for letting me share.

Hugs

Karin

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Lynda M Wardle

KarenBe,

Your mother was going through the dying process. The morphine made her more comfortable. You have NOTHING to feel guilty about.

I was an older sister's fulltime caregiver her last 3 months of life. She was dying due to Ovarian Cancer. Some of the things I had to do for her were painful for her. She never complained.

Several moths after she passed I started volunteering for hospice. I'm NOT a CNA or nurse, so I could not give medications. I would sit with the patient while the loved one/caregiver could go the store, get hair done, anything they wanted. I attended 22 deaths.

You made a choice. Make her suffer or be comfortable. The way you describe her breathing, realistically she would still have passed that day.

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Karin, I’m so sorry for your loss.  I will say prayers for you that you can find the inner peace and move on.  That being said, I’m sorry if it sounds heartless but I will let you know what I know about end of life at I have experienced with my loved ones.

 

My mother had stroked several times and her body weight was about 1/4 what it should have been.  When she had passed there was no such a thing as a paramedic, 911, home hospice or even palliative care unless you were one of the lucky people with great insurance nd a family friend/doctor.  Yes doctors still did house calls but one need money in order to have someone come out.  My father had the choice of being homeless or trying to find anyone to come out to help.

 

My brother, father and I were her care team, brother and father could carry her out to the wheelchair and get her to the hospital where hours later they discharged her sending her home telling us there was nothing more they could do for her.  Make her comfortable and wait for the end.  And that’s pretty much what we did.  We all took turns watching her, listening to her occasionally ramble and that labored breathing, almost gasping for air.

 

We did not have access to any pain meds aside from aspirin and Tylenol (I think it was Tylenol). Then one night dad came down said it was close, her breathing came fast and hard at first then it seemed she couldn’t get enough air, then she laid quiet.

 

My uncle passed decades later, they gave him morphine at the end, the only difference between my uncle and mother was he was not moaning or occasionally crying out in pain.  He had exactly as you described, like he had been in a race or was climbing a never ending stairway.  He started thrashing around a bit, then suddenly opened his eyes and was looking around at us,  Uncle was now opening his mouth to help him breathe and trying to sit up, my aunt went to him and calmed him some.  His nurse offered more morphine to make him comfortable.  He knew he was dying, was at peace with that, he knew from his experience that he should go quickly, but the family all agreed he was in pain and need the medication to relax and be quieter.  They gave him more and his breathing eased up some, 2 hours later when my aunt stepped out he passed.

 

What you asked for for your mother  was not necessarily the cause of your mothers death.  From what you described that’s what several friends sand relatives did at the very end, especially those with seriously bad medical conditions.    I blamed myself because I couldn’t help ease my mothers pain and I let her suffer. I was barely a teenager but there was something I could have done, someone to call, back then there was nobody.   I blamed myself for Over 15 years that if I would have been more obedient, if I would have been better student, helped more around the house, helped out financially etc.  Anything I could think of to blame myself for her death I did.

 

I attended the passing of my best friends mother, she died in the exact same way, fighting to breathe at the end, pastor said it was quite normal during the final few hours.  That finally sunk into me that I was not to blame, it wasn’t my fault at all.   You need to try and come to peace with the fact you were there for your mother.  Yes I understand all the false alarms.  I also lived the majority of my life hearing ‘your mother may not come home’ with all the illnesses she pulled through.  I just needed to come to terms that no matter what we could have done she would pretty much have died in the exact manner.  Your mother at lest he pain relief at the end, did you ever think when she opened her eyes and looked at you it my have been a thank you, please by all mens thank you?  I don’t men this to upset you, but I bet myself up for many years, working all the time and stressing myself out, nightmares, blaming myself for everything that went wrong at home, in the family and with my life.  
 

Please try and be t peace with the fact she would have passed anyway.  Once that labored breathing starts it’s just the matter of hours usually, even my grandmother went much in the same way.    I do hope you start helping soon, maybe you can never forgive yourself but at lest try nd come to peace with the fact she did not suffer in horrible pain in the end.  You were there and tried your best to help her.

 

take care, 

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KarinBe

J.Pete, thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my post. Thank you for telling me what happened in your own life, I am very sorry that you also have experienced this terrible feeling of guilt. The thing with my Mom was, she was totally awake and alert that night, that´s one reason I believe she had some more days to live. There was no proper goodbye from my brother and me, it is so so sad and gives me a lot of anxiety thinking about that she had to leave without that.

I have searched the internet about the fast and heavy breathing that my Mom had, but can´t find anything. It´s alla bout Cheyne-Stokes.

My mother´s breathing was regular and rapid with nasal flaring and chest indrawings, she was very alert. The breathing was machine-like and I am not sure that she struggled to get air, it was proably more me that got so stressed, it was so very hard to sit beside listening to that and I desperately wanted to help her. That urge resulted in her death.

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KarinBe
On 6/10/2022 at 5:06 AM, Lynda M Wardle said:

KarenBe,

Your mother was going through the dying process. The morphine made her more comfortable. You have NOTHING to feel guilty about.

I was an older sister's fulltime caregiver her last 3 months of life. She was dying due to Ovarian Cancer. Some of the things I had to do for her were painful for her. She never complained.

Several moths after she passed I started volunteering for hospice. I'm NOT a CNA or nurse, so I could not give medications. I would sit with the patient while the loved one/caregiver could go the store, get hair done, anything they wanted. I attended 22 deaths.

You made a choice. Make her suffer or be comfortable. The way you describe her breathing, realistically she would still have passed that day.

Dear Linda, I am so grateful for your respons to my post, thank you very much. I´m so sorry about the loss of your sister. May I ask you, since you have witnessed a lot of deaths, the breathing my mother had was very regular and rapid, with chest indrawings, nasal flaring and lso oud, she sounded like a machine. I am not sure she was fighting to get air, it didn´t seem like it, it was more that it was so fast and she looked superconcentrated. Have you ever witnessed this in dying patients at hospice? I felt I needed to help calm her breathing down, but I later understood tmuch later on that it was the only way she could breath and without it there would be no drive. So when thinking morphine and the sedatives would help, it actually did the opposite (with the breathing).

When my father died from pneumonia, he had no such breathing, it was much more serene and I could barely hear him breath. I wish the nurse would have recognized a daughter´s distress and calmed me instead of giving my Mom more morphine.

On 6/9/2022 at 9:44 PM, reader said:

Dear Karin,

I found this article that I hope will give you some comfort. 

https://whatsyourgrief.com/guilt-and-grief-2/

Thinking of you. x 

Thank you Reader, that was helpful. all the best to you.

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Lynda M Wardle

While the labored breathing is common,  It's different from one patient to another patient.  I say it is common. It's one of the things a doctor, nurse or hospice care usually will include as signs to look for that death is close. Someone should have told you this. They also should have told you Morphine does slow the breathing regardless of what health issue you have. I feel allowing the morphine shots was kindness and very caring, as it allowed your mother physical comfort.

You did everything right and nothing, absolutely nothing, to feel guilty about. You did not do anything wrong. Medical professionals failed to prepare you for her death.

I've been praying for you that you will find peace and hopefully comfort. It's time to let the guilt go.

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On 6/16/2022 at 4:37 PM, Lynda M Wardle said:

While the labored breathing is common,  It's different from one patient to another patient.  I say it is common. It's one of the things a doctor, nurse or hospice care usually will include as signs to look for that death is close. Someone should have told you this. They also should have told you Morphine does slow the breathing regardless of what health issue you have. I feel allowing the morphine shots was kindness and very caring, as it allowed your mother physical comfort.

You did everything right and nothing, absolutely nothing, to feel guilty about. You did not do anything wrong. Medical professionals failed to prepare you for her death.

I've been praying for you that you will find peace and hopefully comfort. It's time to let the guilt go.

Dear Lynda, thank you so much for responding to my post. As you attended several deaths, I wanted to ask you:

Have you ever sat by a terminally ill dying patient that was fullt awake and alert and died that way? Even if having labored respirations?

Kind regards

Karin

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