Caregiving & Wedding Planning
Caregiving and Wedding Planning. Those two phrases don't really go together, do they?
When you get engaged, everyone expects you to be 100% happy about it, all the time. Society doesn't leave much room for anxiety, sadness, grief, or difficulty coping when you're planning a wedding. Anyone who has planned a wedding, or been in a wedding, knows that it is generally stressful planning a wedding independent of having a family death or illness.
One of the biggest decisions of my wedding was how to include my mom. She was still alive at the time, living in a home. Two weeks before the wedding, my mom fell and broke her hip. We made the decisions, in agreement with her doctor, not to operate. Logistically, that made it easier to make the ultimate decision that she would not come to any of the festivities.
"I came to call it the “Missing Mother Malady.” A sickening cycle of excitement and joy followed (approximately 8 hours later) by overwhelming grief and anger that permeated every step in the planning process from the easy days (what’s my color palet) to the hard choices (how do you honor your dead mother in your ceremony)." - My Mom Died Before my Wedding.
It was not easy to make this decision. I was getting a lot of competing information from both sides. One side was saying, it would be nice to include her, since she's still alive, even if she only knows you for a minute. The other side was saying it was selfish to bring her there, and it was only serve me and my dad's desire to want her there, whole and not ill. Both of these opinions were coming at me from all sides. Family, friends. Some asked for, others given freely with no request. It was very difficult. I felt at the center of it all, and it felt like a lot rode on this choice.
"Take good care of yourself and your partnership, both before and after the wedding celebration(s). Don’t lose sight of the celebrating, and, importantly, your upcoming marriage. Ask for support from other important relatives and friends when you need it. It’s hard to think about celebrating in ways that are different than what you originally imagined, but there are still ways to celebrate." - My Parent has Dementia.
In the end, we decided it was too difficult to manage the logistics of bringing her there safely. In my heart, I didn't want her to come at all, from the beginning. The thought of her being there gave me a lot of anxiety. I felt it would take the attention away from the festivities, and would force my focus on her, if she was okay, and I didn't really want that pressure. I also knew that she wouldn't know what was going on, at that stage in her illness. Despite me wanting this from the beginning, I did not know how to say that to those who really wanted her there. So I waited to choose. Overall, I am happy she was not there. It would have been very hard for me, and hard for our guests who may have not seen her in many years, since before she was ill.
Once that negative, stressful decision was out of the way, I felt really free. I had already planned for remembrances during my ceremony. We had a pianist playing Chopin pieces that my mother used to play. I wore her bracelet and necklace. Her sister helped me get ready. My cousin, and maid of honor, wore my mother's shawl. Also as a nice surprise, our Reverend who did the ceremony included a brief statement about my mother at the beginning, honoring her. Thankfully I didn't know about it, so I couldn't feel anxious about it, and I was able to keep it together!
"I let myself understand that she would not be able to recall the details of the day or be the mother I knew, loved, and needed on that day, and I made a conscious decision that that would be alright. I would not get the dream wedding, and that would be alright." - Losing my mother during wedding planning.
So, know this: You are not alone, planning a huge, happy event, while something terrible and sad is going on behind the scenes. You do not have to be perfect, or lose weight, or present as a crazed happy loon for the entirety of your engagement. Hopefully your partner understands, and is patient with you.
I gained a lot of support and wisdom from the many blog posts on A Practical Wedding concerning loss, illness, and getting married. At the time, very few people I knew had lost a parent, and no one I knew dealt with this illness during a wedding. APW is so great! See some of the articles that I found really helpful throughout the post. Share these with your friends, family, partner. Help people understand how, while you are very happy, you are also dealing with a lot of stress and pain surrounding these happy events. Don't succumb to the pressure of being "perfect" during your wedding. Let yourself grieve not having your parent there for key moments. Allow space for yourself.
"She is with me, through all of these moments."