Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tell Your Mother You Love Her

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Tell Your Mother You Love Her

It has been seven years since my mother died, prematurely as far as I am concerned, but not for her, as she wasn’t functioning the way she would have wanted to. The amazing thing is that when I spend any time thinking about her, which is often, I still feel very sad at lost opportunities to really interact with her. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror that looks like mom, and am reminded of how much I miss her. There is no other person like your mother. It often takes most of one’s life to resolve differences and come to realize the significance of a mother’s love in one’s life. It is only then that one grows up.

I would like to impart this late learned knowledge to others who still have their mothers so that they will run over to their mother’s home, or immediately call them on the telephone, or send an email and tell them that they love them. Further, that they will be sure, especially if the mother lives a great distance away, that all is well with her. When adult children move away and get involved in their own lives it seems to be natural to and somehow justifiable to neglect or ignore the parents.

On the parents side, there are not always as many things to occupy them so some may be living very lonely lives unable or unwilling to let their children know just how much they would like to be a bigger part of the children’s lives without feeling like a burden, nuisance, or an extra.

When my mother was living alone after her mother and her husband died within a few months, I really didn’t know for a long time just how lonely and needy she was. I was very busy working and when I talked to her and asked how she was doing, she said she was fine, but she wasn’t. I wanted to hear that she was okay so was content with what I heard. I didn’t take the time to really find out how she was. She couldn’t function living alone after raising eight children, and taking care of her mother and husband. She didn’t have much of a life outside the family. It took too long for me to realize that she was lonely, had lost her purpose in life, and became depressed and then had some dementia. By the time my siblings and I realized her needs it was too late for us to make a significant difference in her life. It wasn’t that we didn’t care, it was just that we were all busy with out own lives and didn’t look beyond the surface.

We need to take the time. My advice to you is to call your mother. Ask how she really is and what she wants in her life. Ask how she is functioning. Ask if she enjoys living alone or needs to move in with family or needs to have family live with her. Ask how her health is and what she does to keep busy. Ask her what she enjoys and what she doesn’t like. Ask her about current events and what her opinion is on the latest news story. Ask her for advice on relationships and living. Ask her how she ever did such a good job raising her own family. Invite her over for dinner or out to lunch. Tell her how much you appreciate her part in your life. Tell her that you love her.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Why Aren't We Listening?

I have some things to say. I’ve been looking for the right place to say them and I believe that this is the place to start. I want to speak up and out loud about the plight of older women. The ones who can’t, don’t, or won’t, speak up for themselves.

Older women are being treated badly – being ignored, disrespected. Some are desperately lonely. They wonder if their lives matter to anyone. They are not recognized for the wonderful people they are, nor for the amazing things that they have done. Worse, their loneliness and desperation makes them vulnerable to scams and abuse.

Let’s be clear here. These are not nameless, faceless older women. These are your mothers and grandmothers. They should be revered, valued members of your families, but they are not.

I have had the opportunity in the course of my work as an LCSW and Geriatric Care Manager to come in contact with many older women. Some were ill and disabled and without much income and others were healthy, affluent, and mobile. But the most common and prevalent trait they shared seemed to be that they suffer in silence regardless of their health or economic well-being. They did not and would not make a scene; would not tell the family how they really felt or what they really needed. In just about all of the cases I came in contact with, there was a real and complete communications disconnect.

Do You Really Know Her? Or is She Just Mom?

When was the last time you asked your mother what she thinks about the war or the way things are in society? Wait. Let’s back up a minute. When was the last time you even called your mother or grandmother? Do you know what her favorite book is? Do you know what her hobby is? How about her biggest fear or concern – or wish or dream? Have you talked about what she where she would like to live if unable to take care of herself? Have you asked her if she’s able to take care of herself?

Do you know that she is an excellent knitter, bowler, or painter? Did you know that she volunteers to visit other older people who are lonely?

She has a lot to tell you and the family about her life, what she has done, what she thinks about you, and what she thinks will help you. She has much to share with you and with your children. How about having lunch one day soon and begin to get to know her?

Voices of Older Women: Blog and a Book

I have written a book, “Voices of Older Women: What They Want to Say and Why You’re Not Listening,” due to come out the first part of next year, about these wonderful older women, invisible to families and society, but very present to life. Some are desperate and lonely and others are thriving, having found new interests, talents, and activities. But all have one thing in common. They love their families and don’t see them enough and don’t feel comfortable conveying their need for contact, and sometimes assistance. They don’t want to impose on them. I interviewed 100 women from age 50 to 95 and found them to be courageous, thoughtful, caring, wise, and all with a story to tell, a message to convey, and love to share. These women are your sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. Get to know them.

Voices Of Older Women – both the blog and the book -- is a call to action. The older women hidden in our society, the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers need to get together and talk, to build trust, and learn from each other like we used to. Our older mothers and grandmothers have so much to teach us – how to grow old gracefully, with dignity, and with a conscience free from guilt. How will you navigate the last third of life’s journey? Because if you haven’t thought much about it, it is about to hit you in the face. Be ready!

Keep reading these posts and we’ll explore these issues and challenges together.

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