Siblings Edd and Maureen had never been close and had lived their lives along parallel tracks. Edd had returned to Napa ten years ago and moved in with his mother, Priscilla, to care for her. Maureen also lived in Napa, but was busy raising her own daughter.

Then four years ago, Priscilla was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, and the siblings’ tracks quickly crossed, with their mother facing chemotherapy—needing more hands on care, transportation to doctor’s appointments and help making critical life decisions. Maureen became Priscilla’s advocate, interacting with her doctors, handling paperwork, taking her to appointments, all while her own marriage was falling apart. In addition to being Priscilla’s caregiver, Edd was, in her final weeks, “doing tasks that no mother should ever have to have her son do for her.” The two siblings began to lean on each other and develop a new appreciation for each other’s strengths.

In January 2017, Priscilla went on Collabria Hospice, and passed away three months later. Maureen reflects on the experience, “As horrible as Mom’s approaching death was, she could not have been better cared for. She had both of her children at her side, as well as the support of hospice and a wonderful aide. I don’t know how we would have made it through those final weeks without Collabria Hospice.” “We had spent so much time and energy caring for her that after she passed away, we felt adrift. Our mother was gone, my marriage was over, my daughter was preparing to go to college, and Edd was no longer a caregiver,” says Maureen. “It was a point that left us each wondering, ‘Who am I? How do I live now?’”

The two decided to try going to the bereavement counseling offered through Collabria Hospice for help coping with the loss of their mother—and along with that, they found new hope for their own lives and a renewed connection with each other. “I had no idea what to expect,” admits Maureen. “But it was so helpful. Janeen helped us understand the ebb and flow of grief, and how time, a day or a season can be a trigger. Our mother’s birthday and death day, and Mother’s Day all fall within one month, and she helped us prepare to cope with that. She let us know what to expect and that our feelings and pain were normal.

“Bereavement counseling also gave us a chance to talk about ourselves, our futures, and each other. We now recognize that we are both are reinventing ourselves. Edd just turned 60 and I’m a few years younger. It’s important to me that I don’t let time slip by without examining my life and figuring out what brings me joy.”

“Janeen has an ability to see through the bull,” adds Edd. “I’d use wit to avoid difficult conversations, but she would gently call me on it. She got us to talk about what each other had been through and acknowledge the pain and grief. We developed a real appreciation for what we had been through individually and together.”

“The biggest question often asked after such loss is ‘What is my purpose now?’” says Janeen Fabulae. “The loss of their mother became a catalyst for Edd and Maureen to re-evaluate and re-engage in their own lives. Edd once told me ‘I feel like, in some ways, taking care of my mother for 10 years was a good way not to be as engaged in my own life.’ Now, he has refocused on his own health, and is actively reuniting with his sister and many old friends. And Maureen has reclaimed her independence, opening her life up in so many ways and exploring that question in such a brave way. They see that they can grieve and have a good life.”

“Edd and I both find ourselves ‘going it alone,’” says Maureen, “but supporting one another as we figure out what’s next has deepened our bond as siblings. We know and care for one another in a way we never have before.”

“We are now in a place we’ve never been, both as individuals and as family,” says Edd. “I have more hope and optimism than I’ve had in a very long time.”

To learn more about our Bereavement and Grief Support Services please visit https://collabriacare.org/caregiver-resources/grief-support.