Sunday, October 11, 2015

Grieving the Death of a Mother - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 41

I miss being someone’s daughter…
So now I go through life with one less person keeping an eye on me, 
one less person loving me. 
- Joyce Maynard

Last week, I wrote that my mother had died on August 15th. Shortly after her death, I ordered quite a few books from the library. I'm finally getting around to reading them in their entirety.

The almost-two months have been filled with daily activities related to her death: planning and having her visitation, funeral and burial; packing up her and my dad's home of 41 years; making home improvements to ready their home for sale; writing thank you notes to people who helped with the funeral and/or made gifts in her memory; and so on.

This is on top of trying to homeschool, lead a 4-H club, and maintain a home. Nothing in any of those areas is perfect or how I would like them to be in an ideal world.

These aren't ideal circumstances, though. What I am able to do is my best given what has happened.

At any rate, the book I was able to read this past week is called Grieving the Death of a Mother by by Harold Smith. This is for Week 41 in the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. I found this book to be equally as valuable as the one that I read last week. This one, though, had an interesting theme in that it was focused specifically on the death of a mother. (I would be interested in reading a book about how to deal with the death of a father...although that happened for me in January 2012...four years this coming January.)

Below are some points in the book that resonated with me:
- A mother’s last breath inevitably changes us. Motherlessness can be paralyzing or it can be empowering.
- The one we would have turned to is no longer there to comfort us.
- A mother might not have known what to say or do, but she would have listened to the end of our sentences, even the ones that rambled incoherently.
- Grievers are reminded of their loss by the birthday card not received or sent; a present not given or received; a missed regular phone call.
- I miss my mom’s house. I miss home. I miss my bedroom. I miss the closet filled with childhood toys and memorabilia.
- Do these two young teens have any idea how much they will eventually miss such moments with their mother? Can anyone comprehend this before her death? I want to whisper: “Guys, pay attention. Look at your mother. Listen to her. Memorize the moment. Someday this memory will comfort you – or confront you.”
- Now, no one worries about me. After all I am big [girl]. The world is scarier without a mom actively worrying and aggressively praying.
- I miss her listening to my stories. Some stories get told (or I tell the short version) because no one listens as thoroughly as a mother does.
- After the initial mourning period has worn off – about thirty days – rarely does anyone say, “Tell me about your mother.”
- The death of a mother creates a demanding learning curve.
- Things look different after you have buried your mother, after this shadow shines across your path and across your memories.
- Amazingly, your brain logs in the fact that your mother’s death, but it takes a long time for your heart to absorb the reality.

 “I’ll never forget my experience in 1947. 
So you may well know that my sympathy is heartfelt. 
There is no supporter like your mother. 
Right or wrong from her viewpoint you are always right. 
She may scold you for little things, but never for the big ones."
- Harry Truman's note to Dean Archison, 
who had served as secretary of state, 
upon the death of Archison’s mother

- Your mother’s death affects you regardless of the status of your relationship at the time of death. In ways apparent and not so apparent, motherloss shapes you.
- “Betty had been the most important person in her son’s life – the person who had advised him, admired him, believed in him, encouraged him, protected him against enemies. No one else…could fill those roles.” (in reference to Andrew Jackson’s mother, Elizabeth Jackson)
- Victoria Alexander believed that every griever has three needs: to find the words for the loss, to say the words aloud, and to know that the words have been heard.

With human relationships, nothing is ever final. 
- Laura Davis

- Death was the only way her suffering could end.
- I had hoped for a nap but was too agitated. Later as I showered I reminded myself that “the show must go on.” So, I just flipped a switch and did my thing. We all have to flip that switch at some point, just to make it through.

You lose your history, your sense of connection to the past. 
You also lose the final buffer between you and death. 
Even if you’re an adult, it’s weird to be orphaned. 
- Therese Rando

- We rejoiced that Mom no longer suffered, and we grieved that she was gone from us.
- She faded as a photograph fades if it is left in too sunny a place, until only the dim outlines of personality remained.
- Part of a son’s or daughter’s stress is witnessing the vulnerability of a mother in the last days.
- I aged that morning. I felt older, alone, abandoned. Never have I felt so alone. I had wanted to be there for her and I wasn’t.

But at any age, the loss of a mother is a special bereavement. 
To be cut off from the one who bore us, 
nourished us and taught us the first and deepest lessons of life, 
leaves us lonely in a way no other deprivation can. 
- F.J. Bowman to Harry S. Truman

- The fraternity of the bereaved is perhaps the oldest fellowship of humankind. Within the fellowship cluster those who wear the badge of particular loss – who speak a language never chosen and learned in pain and tears. One such cluster of the fellowship is those who become orphans – children without parents – regardless of chronological age. On [August 15th, my sister, brother, and I] became members of that fellowship – mid-life orphans, receiving the mantle of full adulthood, bearing the title of the older generation of our family. (Adapted from Kay Collier-Slone’s quote)
- Grieving is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we have when a mother dies. Mourning, on the other hand, is the outward expression of our grief.. Grief is what we feel; mourning is what we express.

My mother and I shared so many things….
In fact, my mom taught me everything – 
except how to live without her. 
I was 43 when she died, and I was devastated. 
- Darcie Sims

- You do not delay mourning for a mother by avoiding it or by throwing yourself into your work; rather, you delay reconciliation with the loss.
- Mourning for a mother can be difficult to explain to a supervisor or colleagues who have never been touched by motherloss or who has a strained relationship with a mother.
- Here before my eyes and at my fingertips was the residue of someone’s entire life, the record of a human existence. A mother’s death forces a son or daughter to deal with her possessions. Whether furniture, art work, or even fabric that she was going to use “some day,” collectibles, clothes, the good china – a decision must be made about all of it.
- The work of discarding and saving, boxing and bagging, trashing and storing can be heart-taxing work.
- Each object seemed to tell its own story, or was somehow a part of her story. I had to pick and choose. For some, the cleaning out, keeping, and throwing away is too final. Who wants to dump their mother’s “things” into garbage bags?
- We talked about new traditions for old treasures
- The box stayed unopened and inside the front door of my home for months. As I came and went I reminded myself that I should unpack it. But to take out the objects would add a note of finality that I wanted to evade – they belonged in my mother’s house.
- Irreverence…is a valid way of coping with the stress of making funeral arrangements.
- Viewing a mother in a casket can be a collision with reality.
- Few children forget the day of their mother’s funeral.

There was no longer anyone who would 
ever again claim me as their child. 
No longer was anyone living who had been present at my birth, 
who had witnessed my first steps, 
heard my first words, 
walked me to my first day of school, or 
paced the floor, nervously, the first time I borrowed the family car. 
No one knew the details of my life and 
my family’s history. 
I was no longer anyone’s child. 
-Alexander Levy

- We walked through the dark, dismal rooms…..everything was gone: clothes, furniture, books. Without the familiar, the house seemed alien. I looked to the “marker” places where familiar items had been as long as I could remember. For example, the clock….missing!
- I felt sad backing down the driveway that last time. We had moved in just (months) after my eighth birthday…
- A mother’s death does not have to be recent to be felt on a holiday. Just hearing “I’ll be Home for Christmas” can challenge my emotional control. It may be “beginning to look like Christmas,” but it doesn’t feel like Christmas.
- Others found the second or third Christmas without mom more challenging: in some cases, they were numb during the first. Some feel a fresh sense of loss every Christmas.
- When she was gone, I suddenly thought, “Why am I doing this? For whom? ….I’m all dressed up, an my mother won’t see me.”
- In a large sense I turned a page in my lie when my mother passed on. I realized that all the things I was doing were simply not enough.
- I will never be the same again. For some a mother’s death turns into a “Developmental push” that “may effect a more mature stance in parentally-bereaved adults who no longer think of themselves as children.
- On the anniversaries of my parents’ death, I travel to the cemetery. There’s nothing of them there…It is a place I go to spend time with memories. I’ll sit a while and wonder about many things, especially about the strange experience o having become an orphan as an adult.
- I miss Mom, and I am finding a place for her in my life even though she is not physically present.
- Abraham Lincoln said: “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
- For many adults, the first person you call with good news is your mother. In the great moments of life, we want to call and say, “Hey, Mom, guess what?” Now there’s no mother to call.
- Without denying any o a mother’s mistakes or negative qualities, a son or daughter can choose to stop rehearsing the wrongs, or hunt for the slightest good to remember. Grieving children have found guidance in the words of Paul, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable….think about those things. (Phil. 4:8)
- Creating a cherishable memory is not unlike creating a work of art or a quilt. It requires sitting in the quiet of a beach or a park or woods and giving oneself permission, “I want to remember the time Mom…” or “I choose to remember how Mom always….”
- In the “scrapbook of our mind” there are some snapshots we put toward the front, some we place toward the back. Some pictures we choose not to include. I is, after, my album of memories.
- Part of my mourning is not “hanging out” with memories of the last years of mother’s life as dementia wreaked havoc. I am not ignoring the memories. I am not afraid to go there. I just don’t stay long if I am summoned by a particular painful memory.
- Birthdays also activate grief responses, not only because they remind us of the phone call or card that never comes but because each one we celebrate brings us closer to the neon number: the age a mother was when she died. Because we identify so strongly with our mother’s body, and because our fate was once so intertwined with hers, many of us fear that the age of physical demise will also be our own. To each the year is a milestone, to pass it becomes on o our most glorious achievements.
- For many, a memory is like a bulb that gradually dims and goes out.
- Mothers are not dead until we stop telling stories about them or repeating, often to a new generation, “My mother always said…”
- My children need to know, too, about the people of the past who have impacted their young lives, for each family is a reflection of the experiences and values of its preceding generations. Like my mother, I will tell the family stories to children who aren’t always eager to listen. And hope that when their turn comes, they will remember them.
- Memories are summoned by a scent, a smell, a taste, a touch, a word, a sound.
- Some sons and daughters indict themselves with lists o regrets and “I should have’s.” Did I visit Mom enough? When I visited, did I stay long enough? Was I patient with Mom? Could have done “more”?
- Some daughters and sons have done too much “more” and have negated their own health, jobs, and relationships.
- I fell apart when Mom died. I didn’t know what to do with myself. My whole life was organized around Mom’s care.
- I regret that I ignored my own family, including my spouse. I couldn’t do enough for Mom, which meant I didn’t do enough for my spouse. At times, I was a walking zombie. The day after we buried Mom, my spouse said, “I’ve met someone…I want a divorce.”
- Listen to “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere” – it's a song.
- I miss having someone interested in anything and everything I have to say.
- Remember your mother’s “words of wisdom.”
- No matter how we struggle to be wholly separate, no matter how far away we plant ourselves, we are destined to exist in relation to our mothers, to the very source of our lives. Our achievements are their achievements. Our failures are their failures. Our dreams are only variations of those our mothers dreamed for us. We reject their expectations, or strive to live up to them, but we live our lives forever in the shadow of theirs.
- It can be demanding to reconcile the frail woman I visited at the nursing home with the robust mother of my childhood.
- Ways to honor a mother:
o Display photos of your mother.
o Re-frame old pictures. At holidays, bring out special pictures that are holiday-related.
o Visit or revisit places your mother loved.
o Do a good deed in honor of your mother
o Watch some of your mother’s favorite movies.
o Use your mother’s china or glassware for special meals.
o Plan ways to pass on your mother’s possessions.
o Remember your mother on All Saints’ Day (November 1) or All Souls’ day (November 2).
o Save something your mother owned to pass on to grandchildren or great grandchildren.
o Refinish a piece of your mother’s furniture.
o Compile something of your mother’s” recipes, poems, or sayings.
o Plant a tree or bush in honor of your mother.
o Find a way to uniquely honor your mother on Mother’s Day.
o Complete a project your mother started.
o Donate flowers in honor of your mother to a place of worship on a Sunday nearest her birthday, anniversary, or day she died.
o Continue a tradition of your mother’s” an open house or a Fourth of July gathering, for example.
o Create something of beauty in honor o your mother. Take your mother’s clothes and make a quilt.
o Visit her grave
o Donate money or time to an organization seeking a cure for the disease that claimed your mother.
o Compose a doxology of twelve things in your mother’s life for which you are grateful.
o Write your will and end-of-life documents.
o Find a unique way to celebrate your mother’s birthday.
o Cook your mother’s favorite recipes. Make copies of the recipes to pass on to future generations.
o Pass on one of your mother’s recipes.
o On the one year anniversary of Eleanor Roosevelt’s physician’s mother, she wrote to him, “This time is sad for you, but I hope also it brings you happy memories for that is as your mother would want it to be. She would want you to feel her love and her protective presence and she would rejoice in your growth. You probably do not realize it but you have grown in personal strength and power in this past year…the 28th must have some feeling of loss but this note and the flowers are to bring you a message of love and remembrance of your Mother and gratitude to her for what she was…”
o When I die...Mom will know me. I expect to hear again, “Oh, Honey, I am so glad you have come to see me. How long can you stay?” However long I will wrestle with motherloss – the rest of my life – will seem as only a brief interlude as I answer, “Forever, Mom. Forever.”


Rita said...

I have observed that even if you had a negative relationship with your mother that when they pass you mourn or grieve for what you always wished could have been. Especially if you never came to terms with that while she was alive. And that if the mother lived long enough to have a change her for the better--that was a precious time to repair old wounds. Even as the opportunity for a one-sided forgiveness by the child. Family is the most complicated and closest to your core. Some are blessed more generously than others--but it is our core, no matter what you were given in life. *love and hugs*

Carol Weaver said...

Hugs. I lost my mom in 2007. I had lost my father in 1985, and I will say having previously nursed someone into heaven, my mom's death was less jolting to me in many ways. She was with my dad too, and that was super comforting for all of us! Here is a picture I took on that day:

Robin McCormack said...


I'm so sorry honey. I know how it is to grieve as I lost my mother almost two years ago so this was hard to read, but I'm glad I did. Don't know what to say about your husband.It makes me mad for you that he had no compassion which is the one thing you needed at that point in time. The fog of grief is difficult, yet you don't know you are in it. I told my husband we weren't getting anything done because I was the rudder and I'd let go to drift. I'd let him know when I was ready to pick it up again. Thank you for sharing all of that. Hugs