Hi everyone! Happy Thursday 🙂
This post is different from my usual topics, written in response to several requests I have received. If you have ever had to deal with the devastating loss of a loved one, especially your mother, I hope that by sharing my story I can be of some hope and comfort to you.
The day my mother passed away:
May skies, black with threatening clouds, children crying in the halls looking for comfort and reassurance as winds thrash at buildings. Ice shooting down to the ground like thunder bolts. Warning sirens fill the air.
A crab apple tree stands firm in the storm, roots planted in the ground, pink flowers in full bloom struggle to stay on the tree. The tree has three main sections branching of the trunk making a perfect trinity for the spring flowers. Suddenly, there is a powerful gust of wind, and with a deafening snap the crab apple tree loses one of the three branches. The branch falls to the ground, pink flowers still intact, not yet realizing their fate. The remaining two branches seem to bend down towards the third but they cannot reach, they are still connected by the trunk to the roots planted firmly in the earth.
With the fall of the branch the skies clear, the hail stops, the sirens die down, and the wind subsides. Their job is done. The children go back to their classrooms staying close to their teachers.
My mom loved her crab apple trees. Each spring she would enjoy the weeks when they were in full bloom with their pink flowers. They were, and still are, a source of beauty. She died the first week in May 2003, sometime between a Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. My sister and I did not know she had passed away until Friday morning. For three days straight there were tornado warnings and severe weather every afternoon. On the Friday we found out she had passed away the storms were particularly violent and the above scenario in not mere poetry but actual events of the day. The tree limb was ripped from the tree just as my mom was ripped away from us without warning. The day I lost my mother, Mother Nature had the final say.
Why it is so hard:
Birth and death are two universal experiences, and yet, we each experience them alone on a certain level. We may very well be surrounded by others when we enter this world as well as when we leave, but the experience is our own. Similarly, when we lose someone close to us, our loss is unique to our relationship with that person. We may be surrounded by others who are also mourning the loss of an individual, and there is a certain level of comfort to be found this, but each person’s sense of loss is unique to their relationship with the deceased person.
All losses are difficult but the loss of a mother can be particularly devastating. Our mothers gave us life. For nine months we were connected to her in a way we are never connected to another human being, developing in her womb. At our birth she is the first person we seek out for food and comfort. Without a mother, or mother figure, we are not able to thrive or even survive. As we grow in body and mind, our mothers gradually let go of their influence and allow us to make our way in the world, quietly watching just in case we get into a situation we cannot get ourselves out of. We may have differences with our mothers, arguing with them and rolling our eyes, we may feel suffocated by them at times, or our mothers may be our best friends. No matter what our relationship with our mother is, in times of trouble we look to her for comfort and advice. When we are successful we often we look back over our shoulders to see if “mom” is watching us hoping that we have made her proud. We may tell ourselves we are all grown up , living on our own and starting our own families , but deep down inside as long as we have our mothers with us we still look to her as the matriarch of the family. The day my mom passed away I felt like an orphan. I was 40 years old but I felt as lost and helpless as if I were 10.
Dealing with grief:
The pain of grief is profound. It is a hell in which the only way out is to walk through it. The way to walk through it is one day, one minute, one second, at a time. Each second that you survive your grief you are a step closer to your healing; and once you are healed, your experience gives you a greater understanding of yourself and the world around you, giving you the potential to be a blessing to others. If you are suffering now, I promise you that one day you will wake up and your stomach will no longer be in knots, your heart will not feel shattered, and your mind will be clear. One day you will even catch yourself laughing or singing and you will feel joy return into your being. There are moments of relapse and you will always remember your loss, but you will feel love and joy again. Eventually, you will be strong enough to choose to leave the mourning behind, celebrate the lives of those you have loved and lost, pass on their wisdom, and share their legacy with future generations.
How Laura got her joy back:
One of the things that brought me the most grief about my mother’s passing was that I did not get to say “good bye”. I did not get to tell her one last time that I loved her. I did not get the chance to say “thank you” for all the sacrifices large and small that she made for me throughout my life or that I thought she was an amazing woman and outstanding mother. If I had the time to tell you her life story you would agree that she deserved to hear these things before she left this earth. Coming to terms with the fact I could not turn the clock back and say all that I wanted to say to my mom was a turning point for me. I realized that all I have at any given moment is the moment itself. I consciously decided that I wanted to live a life that honored my mother so that she would have a legacy worthy of all the love she gave and all the sacrifices she made. Since my mom passes away 10 years ago I have lost over 130 pounds, ( I was obese for a good part of my 30’s) earned my master’s degree in education, and grown in many ways towards the person I want to become; a person who makes a positive difference in the lives of the people I meet. I have a long way to go but I am a lot closer than I was back in 2003. I know what my mom wanted for me: a life full of love, joy, and great adventures. She wanted me to be a person that makes a difference and to be happy. I believe she knows everything I wanted to say to her. I have also come to realize she is always with me because she is a part of who I am. I am a living legacy to everything good and wonderful about my mother so it is with great happiness and joy I can say, “Mom, thank you for everything. You are an amazing woman and an outstanding mother. I love you! 🙂
For further reading on the 7 stages of grief: http://www.journey-through-grief.com/7-stages-of-grief.html
Until next time,
Beautiful Laura. As someone who lost her mother the same day her first child was born, your “why it’s so hard” section resonated greatly with me. Loved this article. Thanks for writing.
Thank you Sooze. I can not even begin to imagine the emotions you had in regards to your experience. I am glad my post had meaning for you 🙂
Wonderful article Laura, I’m lucky I have mum, but it still applies somehow. I lost my dad less than a year ago, and he was to a certain extent a kind off “mum” to me. My parents divorced when I was 12, and I lived with my dad after that. Guess that makes me a daddy’s girl 😉 and the grief is still real.
I am so glad you were able to apply my article to your situation, Anne. I am sorry about the loss of your dad. Your are lucky to have been a daddy’s girl 🙂 Is the blogging helping you work out your grief? I bet your dad would be proud of the blog and your Minimalist choices!
This made me smile 🙂 thinking about I was trying to picture what dad would say. Most likely he would have told me it be a waste of time, and why would I want to! He wasn’t really a fan of things like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and stuff (you know, anything that would make you sit there with your nose into the computer, phone or iPad) 🙂 would he be proud? He might, secretly, but no way he would have told me 😉 He could be a hard nut to crack at times, and he wasn’t the most verbal person when it came to feelings… But that’s ok, I love him anyway, and I know he loved me.
It’s been just over two years at Christmas since my Mom passed and 14 years since Dad passed on. I was their caretaker, more so for Mom. I graduated from Bethany and returned home to step into that most unusual role of having my parents, especially Mom, rely more and more on me. She colored everything in my life, even my marriage. Both of my folks left this life at Christmas and so that too has changed it’s meaning in my life. I appreciate greatly your words, since I never anticipated the tapestry of effects that both of my parents would have on my life these many years. Dear friend, my appreciation of our thoughts funs deeply into the soul of my grief. Keep the legacy going no matter how your Mom shapes you. And many blessings are wished for you as well!
Kathy, thank you for such a touching reply. It sounds like you have much to deal with over the years and have much to share about the aging process and care giving.. I am glad you appreciated my post and I pray for your continued healing 🙂 I am grateful that even though it has been many years since our days at Bethany we are still able to be in contact and support each other as we make our way through this life!