Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grief and Loss

I lost my mom on July 13th. It had been anticipated and expected for the past several years. But, it still took me by surprise. There were so many times in the past few years that I thought I was going to lose her, but she rallied and got better. To have her just die in her sleep was not the scenario I expected. There was no particular health issue. She just died.

I miss my mom. But, I have been missing her for many years. She changed when she went into the nursing home. The strong-willed mother who never feared giving her opinion was gone, replaced by a vulnerable woman with a far-away look in her eyes. I missed her advice. And although I didn’t always agree with her, I missed the conversation over coffee after breakfast. We often would talk so long that by the time we cleared the dishes, it was time to make lunch.

These past few years when I shared a meal with her it was at the nursing home. I watched as my mom just pushed the food around her plate, nibbling here and there, but eating little of it. We didn’t talk much anymore. There was a lot of uncomfortable silence; at least it was on my side. I am not sure how it was on her side. I felt that I no longer knew her.

I am told that there is a lot of my mother in me. It wasn’t until I got older and could appreciate her for the woman that she was that I took it as a compliment. I loved her independence and even as her skills started to deteriorate, she found a way to compensate so that she could live independently. I believe she started to die when she realized she had lost that independence, forever.

It was hard for me to go see her at all. I dreaded the drive down and many times cried after I left. I put myself in her position. I knew how I would feel. It hurt to see her.

Now she is gone. In a way it was almost a relief. Her soul was set free, independent of an aging body that no longer worked well. She would say that she had finally gone home. But, I still hurt.

Tuesday night it all came back, triggered by a totally unrelated event. Grief and a profound sense of loss overwhelmed me. It was as powerful as that first moment I heard she was gone. Once again tears flowed and I sobbed uncontrollably. I could do nothing, but grieve.

No matter how old we get, I think it is always a comfort to know you have a parent out there. That connection to unconditional love is a precious thing. When they are gone, you realize that you are truly alone. It is up to you and you alone. And maybe in reality, it had been that way for many years. The death of a parent confirms it.