Learning to accept my mother and not feel guilty about leaving her

Aug 21, 2023

 

QUESTION

Good evening Ven. Robina,

 

It’s been a while since our last email exchange. I have made progress based on your guidance and I am grateful for all your help.

 

Fast forward to today, my mother’s health has deteriorated, she has been in and out of the hospital. I have been the primary caregiver, staying with her most nights in the last month after her discharge from hospital. I am beginning to feel extremely exhausted and feel like I just can’t do this anymore. I feel like I have expended all my resources and am running out of fuel to pull along emotionally. It’s almost as if I have put my life on hold for a while. My mother’s worsening health is an added concern.

 

Any words of guidance you have will help me immensely. How can I use this time to practice and how can I draw some boundaries.

 

Deepest Gratitude,

A.

 

ANSWER

Dearest A,

 

I understand!

 

It’s so special what you’re doing: taking care of your old mother, exhausting yourself: it’s such a powerful practice. You’re purifying so much of your own negative karma.

 

As we all know, attachment in us only wants the nice things! So, even though it is so difficult for you, by not getting what it wants you’re purifying it. So try to rejoice.

 

And try to find a way to include other things in your life. Even small things. And try to get some pleasure from it. Relax.

 

Your life is not on hold, A: this is your life and it happens to include taking care of your mother.

 

It won’t last forever. So try to be patient.

 

Of course, the other option is to stop doing the job. If you really can’t cope, you have no choice but to find someone else to take care of her.

 

Much love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Thank you so much Ven. Robina! Your message always hits home! Thank you for putting things in perspective. This is my life, indeed . . . I guess the fact that my siblings are missing in action is what adds to my suffering. I don’t resent what I am doing but the fact that none of them offer any help does make me sad.

 

Seeing her scream in pain and discomfort, calling out to God to take her is emotionally exhausting. I am trying my best to help her spiritually but it’s an uphill task.

 

I will keep at it, try to do my best to stay positive, take breaks and relax as well.

 

Thank you for your kind words and guidance.

 

Deepest Gratitude!!

A

 

ANSWER

Yes, A, it must be difficult not having the support of your siblings.

 

But try to rejoice in your own incredible kindness. Your siblings don’t realize that their selfishness is harming themselves!

 

Be brave, try to keep a happy mind. Then you feel a lot better, I promise.

 

Do you say any prayers or mantras around your mother? This can help bless her mind.

 

I don’t know if I’ve sent it before, but here is Lama Zopa singing the Medicine Buddha mantra. Let her hear it quietly in the background.

 

Much love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Ven. Robina,

 

Thank you so much for your guidance. My mother has been in pretty much the same state for over a month now. There are good days and then there are really bad days.

 

Yes, we are doing mantras, based on what she would like us to do. Physically she is being supported with whatever is needed. However she feels that it’s time for her to go, but death is not choosing her. She was crying and asking me to help her yesterday. I am at a complete loss, not sure what to do. I see her struggle but feel helpless. Doctors pretty much have said to keep her at home.

 

Any guidance you can offer at this time will be very helpful.

 

Deepest Gratitude,

A

 

ANSWER

Dearest A,

 

No need to feel at a loss. You are doing everything you can. It’s up to her and her karma: just observe, help, have compassion.

 

Much love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Venerable Robina,

 

Thank you so much for your email.

 

My mother is pretty much in the same state. There was one time when she almost left, her body completely cold and then she sprung back saying she was not ready to go.

 

There are still good days and bad days but overall she seems okay. But then she started her old talk about committing suicide because she can’t live like this anymore. This is something I probably haven’t shared with you earlier. Since I was a little girl, her threats of suicide have driven my actions and behavior to a large extent, to prioritize her over everybody including my own family. It’s a deep trauma for me, that I have worked hard to get over. I have grown up feeling it is my sole responsibility to keep her safe. Since I have told her not to talk to me about committing suicide, this time she told my sister and it got routed to me that way.

 

The complication at this point is that I have to leave in a couple of weeks. Of course, it is very difficult for her to see me go away and that is adding a whole other layer of tension to our already complex relationship. My daughter needs some support in another country. Also, my siblings have been stepping in to help, so there is someone for her. But this is not easy at all for me to do. It comes with a lot of guilt that I am abandoning my mother.

 

Being a bystander and watching her suffer is quite tough as it is and added to that a feeling of guilt is not easy. I am practicing and taking one day at a time. Hopefully, I am headed in the right direction. 

 

Any words of advice from you will help a lot. I read and re-read your emails to keep learning.

 

Deepest Gratitude always,

A

 

ANSWER

I understand, A!

 

Your poor mother’s suffering: unbearable.

 

I hope this next stage of your journey is magnificent.

 

Much love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Ven. Robina,

 

How do I handle my guilt? Am I abandoning her? Have always felt torn between mother and daughter.

 

A

 

ANSWER

A, guilt is not taking responsibility for your decisions; it’s a cop-out. And it’s anger, with you yourself as the object. No good to you or anyone else, least of all your mother.

 

You’ve made a decision, so make sure your motivation is as pure as possible: think: I want to do what is most beneficial. Your responsibility is, indeed, to your daughter. And to yourself to develop your own spiritual path.

 

And stop seeing your mother through the lens of pity. She is her own person, she made her choices; this is her life.

 

Your job is to want her to be happy and to do whatever you can, but it’s not to make her happy: that’s her own job. You could spend twenty-four hours a day with her and she still won’t be happy, because she, like the rest of us, is driven by the bottomless pit of dissatisfaction, which is a function of attachment.

 

Call her regularly, listen to her — even her thoughts of suicide; let her say what she likes — and have compassion for her and love her for who she is.

 

Love to you,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Ven. Robina,

 

Thank you so much for this hard-hitting message. It was transformational. I needed it. I wasn’t taking responsibility and your words helped me see that.

 

I am so blessed to have the opportunity to learn from you. I am leaving the country tomorrow, very excited about my studies. I will do my best to put it to good use for my own personal growth and transformation.

 

Deepest Gratitude for all your guidance and help,

A

 

ANSWER

So happy for you, dearest A!

 

Let me know how things go once you settle down.

 

R

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