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syz's avatar

How do I deal with this guilt?

Asked by syz (35649points) October 23rd, 2008

I visit my elderly (93) grandmother about every other month. Over the last 6 or 8 months, I’ve known that it was time that she no longer live by herself – she had been falling, bruised but never broke anything. I didn’t call and talk to my uncle about having her moved to a home because I knew she wouldn’t want to go, because while she would be confused one visit, she’d be brighter the next visit. I also didn’t intrude because I’m not really welcome within the family (it’s complicated, she’s the mother of my estranged father that I haven’t seen since I was five, when he divorced my mother). So I never called, never insisted.

Yesterday she was found dead at the bottom of the stairs to the basement. She died by herself.

She died alone.

It’s exactly what I feared would happen. And I did nothing about it. I don’t know how to get past this.

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14 Answers

shilolo's avatar

I am sorry for your loss.

Your situation sounds complex, like most situations with elderly family members who want to retain their independence. It was made much more so by the family tensions you describe. I think you should focus on the positives. You visited with her on a regular basis, and each of you got something valuable out of the visits. Perhaps the event that led to her death would have happened anyway like a heart attack or stroke (though you make it sound like she fell down the stairs and couldn’t get help). So, while you mourn her loss, think fondly back over her long and full life and realize that being in a nursing home would not necessarily have been a panacea.

SpatzieLover's avatar

You allowed her to remain independent. The exact same thing could (and probably would) have occurred in nursing care. But, instead of going quickly, she’d have had medical intervention and been “saved” to remain in bed with a broken pelvis for a month or two of horrific pain before finally letting go.

The ^^^above happened to more than one relative of mine.

Grieve, get through all the tears, and know that her living independently was what you KNEW she wanted.

My condolences to you and your family.

Snoopy's avatar

My grandmother lived alone. As she wished. She lived 3 hours a way.
We paid a neighbor to check on her each AM and help her to run light errands.

He found her one morning, have suffered a significant stroke. It was nauseating to realize (based on her clothing and the things left out in the kitchen) that it had clearly happened the night before and she had laid there like that all night. She lived for about a week and then passed.

We focused on the fact that she was able to live her life as she wished. Be glad that at 93 your g-mother was able to do the same. People 20–30 years her junior live in nursing homes and will remain there the rest of their lives, for a mulititude of reasons.

Time will ease your pain. I am sorry for your loss.

loser's avatar

I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you were in a difficult situation that you weren’t really in control of. I know guilt is a tough one to deal with but try not to be so hard on yourself. You don’t know if things would be any different if you had said or done anything differently.

jessturtle23's avatar

My last living grandmother lives alone in the woods in a shack in Mississippi and she’s 93. Everyone in the family has tried to get her to move in with them but my grandfather built her that shack when they got married and she will never leave so I feel your frustration. Independence is a really important thing to that generation and I’m sure she would have rather died at home. It’s sad that she was by herself but if the family was there when she passed it would mean that she probably would have been in a nursing home or hospice. Feeling guilty about her dying alone sucks but if she was miserable in a home right now you would probably feel worse.

jvgr's avatar

My condolences as well. In the end we all die alone whether in a crowded room or an empty house. Death is a very private event.

Don’t let the fact that you believe you could have changed things eat at you, because in my own experience and that of the above posters, you wouldn’t have likely been able to change the outcome. I’m 60, and I know of only 1 person who voluntarily moved into assisted living. Most, my parents included, want to be totally independent until the end. That is important.

autumn43's avatar

I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. No one would judge you for not saying anything. At her age, she wouldn’t have wanted to move from her home. You visited her and loved her and she knew that. Please do not feel guilty.

Remember all the good things and try not to dwell on how she died. She lived a full life if she was able to live indepently until age 93. And you are very sweet to worry, but please know it wasn’t your fault.

Knotmyday's avatar

I know that there is nothing I can say to mitigate your grief, but I am in agreement with everyone here. There is no reason to blame yourself for this happening. <hug>

susanc's avatar

I know a lot of people who have voluntarily moved into assisted living – they wanted the predictability, the burden off their kids, the simplification. People are different.

A good thing about your family is that your grandmother had the power in this situation. (Not you.)

“She died alone.” It sounds sad, but we all die alone, darling. You’ve got to walk it by yourself, remember that old song?

I think she was ready.

When I’m her age I want a granddaughter like you. I long for it.

deaddolly's avatar

So very sorry about her passing.

She didn’t want to move. She died surrounded by the things she was used to. We’re born alone; we die alone. If it was me, I’d be happy my grandchild came to see me and happy no one made me leave my home.

You have nothing to be quilty of.

tinyfaery's avatar

Things happen. We all do what we can, what we think is the best choice at the time; unfortunately, we don’t have the gift of foresight. Take comfort in the fact that you loved her, and that she loved you. She lived her life the way she wanted. You’ll have your say when that time comes for you as well.

My deep condolences.

augustlan's avatar

I have nothing to add to these wonderful answers but my sympathy. I’m so sorry.

syz's avatar

Thank you all for your kind words.

loser's avatar

Hang in there!

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