How to Go on After the Loss of Your Mother
Your mother is your first friend and playmate. She’s the one who rocked you as a baby, patched you up as a clumsy kid, and eased your heartaches as a teen. She helped you plan your wedding and coached you on the ins and outs of being a first-time mother. In a sense, your mother is the biggest part of your life. This article is about dealing with the loss of this woman.
Nothing can prepare you for what it’s like to lose your mom. I’ve had many friends throughout the years who have lost their own mothers. I felt sad for them and offered words of comfort. I cooked lasagna and bought cards to help my friends “get through” the grief. I had absolutely no idea though how excruciating it is to no longer have your mother with you.
No matter what I write in this article, if you haven’t lost your mother, you won’t fully understand the depths of grief one goes through. The pain is crippling, and it hits you at random moments. One minute you might be fine, and the next minute you are curled up in a ball on your bedroom floor in inconceivable pain. If you have lost your mother, then you’re probably sitting there nodding your head in agreement.
"The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her."— Author Unknown
My mother passed away on September 18th, 2011. She had suffered with lung cancer for the year and a half prior to her death. Her suffering was long and difficult for everyone. We all knew Mom was going to die. In fact, there came a point when we were praying for God to take her and end her suffering.
I thought I was prepared for Mom’s passing. I’m an educated, intellectual woman. I read all the books on death, dying, and grief. I knew it would be hard, but I figured I was ready to face it head-on. After all, losing a parent is a fact of life that millions of people before me have faced. Mom was very brave and was ready to die. I was going to be brave too. I thought I would grieve for a while, and then I would be able to move on with life. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The following is based on my experience. Your experience might be completely different, but I’ll bet most of you can find some similarities between my experience and yours.
Coping With Grief
• Allow Yourself to Feel What You Feel
• Don't Put a Time Limit on Your Grief
• Remember Your Mom
• Allow Yourself to Have Bad Days
• Find Your Peace
• Smile and Live Your Life
The first few days after your mother dies are going to feel like a blur. You will function only in that you will make funeral arrangements, contact relatives, console family members, and go forward taking care of necessary tasks. Numbness is the perfect word for this time. The funeral will come and go, and so will the relatives and well-wishers.
After the burial, it’s time for life to go back to normal, right? Wrong! Life will never be normal again. It will be different, but it will never be as it was. How could it be?
For the first few weeks, your friends and coworkers will be wonderful. They’ll offer you lots of smiles and hugs. They’ll offer to take you to dinner and they’ll listen as you talk about how bad the pain is. You’ll hear a lot of “I’m here for you”, and “If there’s anything I can do” comments during this time.
After a couple months, it will seem like people have forgotten that you lost this important part of your life. They’ll stop asking how you are, and they might even look worried when you want to talk about your mom. You see, people who haven’t gone through this pain think there’s a period of grieving and that's it. After a certain time, you should be ready to move on with your life and "get over it."
But you will never get over it. The pain will lessen, and the moments of intense grief will be farther apart, but how can you ever get over losing your mother?
Allow Yourself to Feel What You Feel
Well-intentioned people will try to speed up the grieving process for you. They’ll try to keep you busy, and some of them won’t mention your mother’s name for fear of hurting you. But you must allow yourself to grieve. If you try to stay busy and put it out of your mind, it will catch up to you. You’re going to feel it at some point. It’s best to let it happen when it happens.
After Mom died, I tried to push away the grief. Any time I felt like falling apart, I would take deep breaths and get busy with something else. This worked for a little while, but not for long. The pain was not going away, and I needed to feel it. One night—two months after Mom’s death—I was sitting at the dinner table with my husband and children. The kids were talking about their day, and I was trying to actively listen. I felt like my chest was going to explode. I knew what it was, but was trying to ignore it. You see, grief is a very physical thing. You literally feel physical pain. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, and I got up and ran to my bedroom. My husband gave me some time alone. When he finally came in to check on me, I was curled up on the floor sobbing uncontrollably. After that night, I learned to allow myself to feel the pain. I didn’t ignore it anymore.
Don't Put a Time Limit on Your Grief
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there's no set time limit on the process.The old saying "Time heals all wounds" is not entirely accurate, but not entirely inaccurate either. I don't know if the wound of losing a mother is ever healed. The pain does get more bearable over time. But how long it should take? No one can say.
Five months after my mother passed away, the parent of one of my students died. I knew this man well, and I wanted to help my student. I planned to go to the funeral, but then the day before, I realized I couldn't do it. I hadn't been in a funeral home since Mom's wake, and I nearly hyperventilated just thinking about it. I told a friend I wasn't going, and she became aggravated. Her words were, "Your mom died in September. Don't you think it's time you moved on?" I probably don't have to point out to you that this woman's mother is still very much alive. I'll be honest, I felt like something must be wrong with me. Why wasn't I able to move on? Now, I realize that I was still grieving. I wasn't following any timetable, and it was okay.
Remember Your Mom
That heading sounds silly. Of course, you're going to remember your mom. She was your mom! What I mean here is that you should remember your mom for who she was—the good and the bad.
I spent months remembering my mom as this perfect human being who was, by far, the greatest mother who ever walked the earth. Mom was a wonderful person, but let's face it, she's was human. After a few months, I started having memories of the real mother I grew up with. She wasn't perfect, and we didn't always get along. Mom had a knack for being negative toward me, and I wasn't always patient with her. Putting Mom up on a pedestal wasn't fair to her, and she would've hated it.
Yes, remembering the bad times isn't always easy. Regret may rear its ugly head, but there's nothing you can do about it now. You can't push it away, because like the grief, it will find you. As they say, it is what it is. My mom knew I loved her dearly, and I knew the same about her. We didn't have the perfect relationship, but in the end, I was there by her side. I watched as she took her last breath, just as she watched me take my first. She was my mother. The good, the bad, and the ugly ... she was my mother, and I loved her.
Allow Yourself to Have Bad Days
It's now been a year and a half since Mom passed away. I miss her dearly, especially when I go visit my Dad. I hold up pretty well, though. I can laugh and smile as I tell my kids something Mom used to say when I was a child. I can crank up her favorite songs and sing as loudly as she would. I would say, I'm doing pretty well.
Some days are tougher than others. One reason I wrote this article is that yesterday was a particularly rough day for me. I woke up craving my mother's voice. I wanted to call her and hear her laugh. I wanted her to make me laugh. Mom had the best sense of humor of anyone I've ever known, and I needed that yesterday. I cried several times yesterday, and it was okay. I let myself feel the grief again. Those days will come, no matter how long it's been. Let it come.
Find Your Peace
People find comfort in different things. For some people, taking a walk helps. For others, a long, hot bath does the trick. The important thing is not WHAT you do, but that you do something for you.
There may be songs, smells, or images that bring comfort to you as well. For me, it's the sight of a hummingbird. This was Mom's favorite animal, and she had several items around her house with the tiny creature on them. During one of the darkest moments of my life—Mom's funeral—a hummingbird flew to the window of the church and lingered there for a minute. I have caught glimpses of hummingbirds a few times since then, and it they have brought me great peace. Silly? Maybe, but you find whatever works for you. Don't let anyone diminish those moments. I truly believe they are meant to help us.
Smile and Live Your Life
At some point after your mother's death, you will find reasons to smile again. I think this is one of the greatest things we can do to honor our moms and the love we have for them. Find joy again. Laugh heartily. Love deeply. Live like your mother would want you to.
On those days when you just miss your mom, don't fight it. Allow yourself to miss her. A wise friend of mine said, "Your mother deserves to be remembered. She deserves to be missed."