Most people don’t have the perfect life where everything goes just the way they would like or a life where everything around them is perfect – most people have something in their life that makes them feel sad.
Our biggest unhappiness and tragedy in our life is of course losing our dear Daughter Millie. Many of you whom have read what we have written in the past few years will of course know that a month to the day after we lost Millie, we lost her Grandpa Frank (Dan’s dad) to Cancer.
Sadly, Dan’s Mum has also been suffering from Alzheimers. When I first met her 5 and a half years ago, she had small memory issues, mixing words up, forgetting what she went in the kitchen for and forgetting where she had left things like her coat. Over the years, she has gotten slowly worse but for the past 3 years in particular since the loss of Millie and Frank she has worsened at a much quicker rate.
To be honest, at the time Millie passed away, she didn’t really know what was happening and that was really sad for Dan. It’s a horrible illness to watch someone suffering from but it’s even worse that when Dan needed his Mum the most, she couldn’t be there for him through absolutely no fault of her own.
In the summer of 2012 before we lost Millie and at the point it was quite clear that Dan was going to lose his Dad to Cancer, Dan and I had a conversation in our kitchen at home about how we could help his Mum in the future when his Dad passed away. We discussed the possibility of maybe moving house to somewhere were there was a Granny annexe for her to be somewhere we could keep an eye on her but so that she would still feel independent. We wanted to do this for her because she was Dan’s Mum and we didn’t know how she was going to be when it would come to Frank’s passing.
As it happened, during Frank’s Cancer battle, we lost our Millie and it turned our world upside down, inside out and extremely dark, darker than we ever could have imagined.
Unfortunately as time progressed I got extremely ill due to my mental health issues, Dan was himself struggling with depression and this led to us not being in a situation where we could offer Dan’s Mum any help. We couldn’t promise to take her out anywhere because we didn’t know whether we were going to get out of bed ourselves on a day to day basis. We couldn’t offer to make her dinner in the evening because the chances are that we wouldn’t have slept during the night and would be asleep when it would come to her mealtimes. We couldn’t physically or mentally cope with her care because we were struggling to look after ourselves and we were extremely close to ending our lives. We were broken.
In the past 3 years after losing Millie and Frank, Dan’s Sister has looked after their Mum with support from social carers attending her home, meals on wheels type services, other relatives helping out and from Dan’s other Sister when she has been here in the North. This week though has seen Dan’s Mum move into a home that has a specialist dementia team and it is actually a really lovely place. She seemed happy last night with Leo (See pic below).
Of course, she doesn’t actually know who Leo is, she doesn’t know that Leo is her grandson. She doesn’t know that on many occasions she has referred to Leo as a “she” or a “her”; this one specific thing has been tough on Dan and I after losing Millie but obviously not her fault, it’s the illness. She doesn’t know that Millie is his big sister. She refers to him as “the baby” when she sees him and just smiles at him. I find this really sad. What I find even more sad is the look on Dan’s face when he sits with his mum. I know that he is sad that he can’t have a proper conversation with his mum and I know that he is also sad because his Mum is never going to really know or remember his children and I understand that he struggles a lot with this thought.
Then I struggle. Some people probably think that we should have “gotten over” what happened to Millie and helped out more with Dan’s mum. It’s not actually as simple as that. You might like to think that it is…but it isn’t.
Dan became my carer a lot over the past few years. He made me get out of bed and get dressed. He made me take showers. He made me eat. He took me to hospital appointments. He took me to Counselling appointments and Pyschologist appointments. He was there for me when I had had enough and wanted to end my life. He has been there to comfort me when I woke up screaming in the middle of the night. He has been by my side when I struggled through my pregnancy with Leo. Dan learnt to understand why I couldn’t make an attachment to our son that I was carrying. I know that he really struggled with this part of my illness and I totally understand why. What mother wouldn’t fall in love with their child instantly from the moment you find out you’re pregnant? A depressed, struggling woman with anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD because of child grief. That’s who.
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We were there, we were ready to offer our help before we lost Millie but we couldn’t afterwards. Child grief is hard enough to deal with on it’s own but for Dan helping with his mum was virtually impossible. It certainly wasn’t good for his mental health when she referred to Leo as Millie and has no memory of Millie even when you show her a photograph.
I feel as though it’s my fault that Dan hasn’t been there for his mum as much as he would have wanted to be. He made the decision to concentrate on me, look after me and to ensure that he had a wife to hold every night and not a wife he would have been visiting at a resting place. I love my husband so much and it does upset me that he has had to look after me but there was no one else I wanted or needed to look after me, Dan was and is the only one that could ever understand my pain and the reasons behind why I wanted to end my life.
Luckily, Dan’s Mum had two other children and other relatives that could offer a lot more help physically, emotionally and mentally then Dan ever could in the past 3 years.
Even since having Leo, we’ve struggled to help any further because our lives aren’t like other people’s. We refuse to put Leo into any type of childcare and struggle to let anyone look after him, even for a hour because of what happened to Millie and we both work full time. This means that we work alternate days and one of us is often working in the evenings (like Dan tonight) and we are lucky if we get one day a week together most weeks; that’s why it’s really important we take time off together for family time when we can and make the most of the one day a week we do get together.I’m not complaining, I’m not at all. I come from a family where my dad worked in the day and then my mum would go out and work in the evening when we were going to bed and I know plenty of other families today where parents work alternate times just to pay the bills. It’s life for many of us.
I’m sure Leo’s Grandma will soon be settled into her new home and we of course will keep taking Leo to visit her so he can see her Grandma smiles. Some decisions in life are so hard to make and ultimately you have to make choices to survive x
Someone commented on a photo of Leo yesterday and said how much his smile is like Millie’s – so I pulled this photograph up which is one of our favourites and put them side by side … We love how much our gorgeous kiddies have so many similarities.