My Struggle to Stay Healthy During My Dad’s Last Days of Life
Who even thinks about their own health when someone dear is dying? Well, probably no one.
When my Mom passed away, I woke up at the crack of dawn after a horrible night’s sleep to go to my workout studio for my 5 a.m. class. I did this day after day. When I wasn’t at the studio, I was running with my dogs outside. Some days, I’d do both. It was the only way I could get through my day. My running would energize me. It was my stress “relief”, but I didn’t realize the stress it was putting on my body.
I was struggling at the peak of POTS – Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. In order to get my blood flowing, I HAD to move. With my excessive tears and my inability to rehydrate as quickly as I was losing fluid, I was feeling symptoms more than usual. It prompted me to exercise more and be even more fearful of eating the wrong foods.
It was my sister who worried about me now. I didn’t want her to stress about my health like Mom did. I’ll never forget the first time I was in the hospital getting rehydrated after a POTS flare up. I didn’t tell my sister until after the fact. There’s something about being in the emergency room by yourself that is hauntingly lonely.
It might seem like exercise and a rigid diet was an attempt at taking care of myself. In fact, it wasn’t what my body needed at all. My mom had cancer. She’d been diagnosed, treated, and then passed within a period of 9 months. It was a horribly stressful time.
The past 4 years without Mom was a challenge. Initial grieving, getting used to a new “normal”, and dealing with the loss of my “person” each day. Then there was making sure Dad was ok. He was absolutely lost and so were we. We all had to pull together.
Dad’s health had been progressively declining, but with his amazing caretaker and his insistence that he was “good”, we took for granted he would be around for a long time. So when he suddenly took a turn for the worse, we found ourselves experiencing the deja vu of the dreaded days of hospice. The experience of spending the last hours with a loved one is indescribable. It was dramatically different with Mom than it was with Dad, while at the same time, eerily similar. Do not try to imagine if you haven’t experienced it.
While the pain of losing my Dad is too raw to get into at this moment, I reflect on how I dealt with Mom’s passing and how it affected my health. A few critical differences:
- With Mom, I RAN. With Dad, I physically cannot run since my surgery. I can not RUN from my emotions. So I sat in them. A lot. I reflected on stories with my brother and sister. We laughed, we cried, we sat in shock, and ultimately we found the best parts of Dad that contributed to the people we have become. I took the dogs for quick walks. I tried to get some sunlight.
- With Mom, I was empty with zero appetite. With Dad, I had anxiety to the point of looking for comfort foods. While still “healthy” options, it was still a way to soothe my distress.
- With Mom, I couldn’t sleep. With Dad, I was exhausted to the point of feeling like a zombie all day.
- With Mom, I did not have a meditative practice. With Dad, I have been practicing multiple times daily.
- With Mom, I wasn’t supplementing or eating nutrient dense foods. I simply ate “clean” which is code for low calorie, no value foods. With Dad, I went out of my way to take immune support, my Purium plant nutrition superfoods, and pounded the water.
While I certainly wasn’t consistent and loyal to my routine, I did whatever I could in the midst of the most stressful hours to keep my body from going into shut down. The idea of getting sick and run down was not in the cards.
As the dust begins to settle and the world continues to go round, I am grateful that I have learned lessons from the sadness and trauma of losing my Mom and my Dad. Finding gratitude in these awful times is the only way for me to pull myself out of the deep sadness. Honoring my sadness, my exhaustion, my shock, and spending quality time with my brother and sister and friends is what the doctor ordered.
The locks on my life’s compartments are just a bit looser now. You have to empty some of the compartments in order to place new valuables in the safe. And sometimes it is just better to have some empty space for when you may need it.
People are always asking what they should do to feel better, to not get sick, to be in less pain, to lose weight, etc. and the answer is simple. There is not ONE thing you should do. It’s never ONE thing. It’s a compilation of things. It’s what you do as a whole that makes up your wellness. Stress management, SLEEP, what you feed your body and mind, how you move your body, it ALL matters.