I made my mom choose a support group and I went with her today.  It was at Holy Cross Church in Novi.  She was nervous and uncomfortable on the way there – but even she admitted that this experience would probably be good for her.  I was so proud of her for being strong enough to go.

And then… no one came.  No one.  It was just her and me and the facilitator.  Do you know how f*’d up that is to finally reach out for help – and no one shows???  It was a very grey, all-alone kind of feeling.  I felt HORRIBLE for her.  God, maybe she’ll never reach out again because, after all, what good does it do anyway?  I pray that she doesn’t fall into the-best-person-to-look-out-for-you-is-YOU mentality.  Wow.  We were the only ones there.

The facilitator asked Mom to introduce herself anyway and then asked her if she had any questions she’d like to ask.  I think it was good that she was invited to ask tough questions in a venue where someone was potentially going to know the answers.  And she was pretty much forced to ask the big, bad, scary questions – because, after all, what else were we going to do for an hour, look at one another?  Her and I have been feeling our way around in the dark on this so far, both too injured and uneducated on the topic to help one another effectively.  Finally, we had someone before us who has seen this happen to others.  So Mom asked… When do you consider a home?  …When do you take away the keys?  …How fast will he slide?  …How long will this last???

Mom even admitted aloud that she still hasn’t cried since hearing the diagnosis.  That’s two whole months!  The facilitator told her that this was a safe place and to go ahead.  And we waited.  And then my mom cried.  She sobbed.  For about thirty seconds.  And then she shook it off, apologized, and said she felt silly, as she dabbed her eyes back to composure.

On the way out, Mom wholeheartedly thanked the facilitator for her time and understanding.  But we left not knowing if Mom had gotten any real benefit from that experience or not.  I think she did.  Maybe it was having been given permission to finally cry.  Maybe she realized that, even though no one showed up, her support group was already by her side.  Maybe I was enough.

I have spent a lot of time lately compiling local support group information via the Alzheimer’s Association in an effort to present it to my mom so she won’t have the excuse that she doesn’t know where to go nor the time to research it.  I figure I’ll just give her the list of options and tell her to choose one, and then make her stick to it.

I realize that, no matter how dark the funk may be that I’m in, my mom must be going through something a thousand-times worse.  But she won’t reach out.  She won’t even really cry.  I think that would make it too real.  And she doesn’t want to appear weak.  This way, she can stuff it all into a manageable filing system within her where she’s able to deal with it in her own original way when she’s ready.  She’s definitely not an OMG-woe-is-me kind of person.  She’s strong.  Tough.  Like she always said as a child, Don’t let ‘em see you cry. 

But the danger is that she’s already a tough person and by getting tougher now to survive this, she WILL break down at some point.  YOU HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF THE CAREGIVER.  I’m working on getting this point through to her.  I have to get through to her.  I just can’t push her too much.  And I can’t give her too much space for too long of a time.  I have to time it just right.  She can’t feel smothered.  But I refuse to ever let her feel like she’s alone.