My mother died in January and I haven’t said a word about it online until now, more than five months later.
Why the long silence?
First, I didn’t want to post anything until the relatives were notified. After that was done, I still hesitated. I didn’t know what to say. (Public announcements like that aren’t really necessary, anyway… right?)
But I think the main reason for my silence is that I didn’t want sympathy. Didn’t think I deserved any, or needed it.
I’d been handling my mother’s business affairs and seeing to her care, but from a distance. First, visiting her at a senior-living apartment two hours away, and later moving her to an assisted-living facility near my home. In November, she spent a few days in the hospital and then had to rehab in a nursing home before she could return to assisted living.
Mom was 92, wasn’t getting any stronger, and didn’t care to. She felt like she had lived quite long enough. Figuratively speaking, she had spent the past four years drumming her fingers and waiting to die.
Mom’s last day was a good one. I had a pleasant visit with her that morning and left when lunch was served, promising to come back in two days. But late that night I got The Call.
So sudden, and yet, in a way, so timely.
I won’t lie — the role reversal, having to “parent” my own parent? It made for a delicate dance, balancing care and advocacy with deference and respect. Second-guessing myself on a regular basis… it stressed me out at times.
Now that Mom was gone, my sorrow was mixed with shock. But also with relief, for both her and myself. The net effect on me was a sort of blank. As if my mom’s death barely made a blip in my life.
I thought of a long-distance friend who had lost her mother to Alzheimer’s more than a year before mine died. In her own home, my friend had cared for her mom through the confusion, fear, and mood swings. Talk about stress and responsibility! After her mom died, my friend was inconsolable. She mourned openly on Facebook. Loved ones near and far were able to rally around her with sympathy and prayers and concern. The support must have been so healing for her, yet I didn’t reach out as she did.
Frankly, the contrast between me and my bereaved friend threatened to send me on a “Worst-Daughter-Ever” Guilt Trip.
Then, two weekends ago, Brent and I went with his mother to the National Cemetery where my father-in-law is buried. Not until I stood by his grave did I start feeling the weight of loss. Dad Johnson. My own Dad. My sister.
And my mom.
Well, I’m finally sitting down to write this post because now I know what I want to tell you.
I’m learning first-hand what I’ve heard for years: Grief is not the same for any two bereaved persons. Or even for the same person through any two seasons of loss. How you feel is how you feel. There is no right or wrong.
I’ve learned that I was grieving all along… I just didn’t feel as if I was.
If you’ve lost a loved one, be kind to yourself. Ditch any expectations, and, if you want help from someone, please ask. People do care.
Thanks for reading,
PS: This past year epitomizes the kind of experiences that can make me more compassionate. The kind I meant when I wrote in 2012 about comforting others. For more, click over to “With Those Who Weep.“