He’s struggling. It’s evident by his Facebook posts. Sometimes the sadness oozes from the page like tar. Heavy, black and thick. In those moments you’re overcome with sadness too because losing a mother is that thing that we all know is going to happen, but we choose not to think about. Or we simply deny. Lose my mother? Nah, she will live forever. But the truth is, she won’t. She’ll go one day and the pain will hit you completely off guard.
How will you survive?
Well, first you have to be able to talk about it. And not just when it happens to you, like now, when it happens to someone else. One of your best friends lost her mom about a year ago and you can’t remember the last time you asked, “How are you dealing with it?” It’s not that you haven’t wondered. Your fear is that it may upset her or worse yet, that she’s still having a hard time with it.
You remember being on the phone with her not long after she found out. The way she cried reminded you of the utter helplessness you felt when your grandmother passed. It was the kinda pain that made your whole body ache. You never want to be reminded. So you don’t ask. And hope that she doesn’t notice that it is you who can’t take it.
But it doesn’t make you a very good friend, and it keeps you clueless as to what to expect or how to handle it one day when it does happen to you. So what now? Start talking. Better yet, asking.
Since you value a good professional opinion, and this psychologist happens to be the mom of a good friend, you ring up Dr. Jane Fort to see if she has any advice on how to survive the loss of your mother.
She starts off by saying that parental death is unlike any other, and unfortunately, this society doesn’t give much guidance in terms of grieving.
“It’s important to know that this is a long journey. If you’re waking up every day and getting dressed, you’re doing well.” She says, “You want to give yourself two years to grieve. Knowing that can help someone know that they’re not doing so bad if they still feel horrible after the first year.”
She also advises that a person respectfully say ‘no’ to things they don’t want to do. “It’s okay to let the phone ring, and just sit. Some nurturing no one can do for you.”
Utilizing support groups such as the ones that hospice extends to families can also be helpful in that you don’t have to feel so alone.
It’s interesting because opening that door made you want to ask your own mom how she’s doing. Your grandmother died around 2002 and while you made every effort to comfort her the best you could that first year, after that, you stopped talking about it.
She seemed okay. Right?
“It still feels the same,” says your mom, a little surprised that you’re asking. “I mean it gets better in that you can deal with it. But you never get over it. She was my best friend.”
You start thinking about your friend and his Facebook posts. How long has it been? Does anyone still ask how he’s doing?
“It’s like waking up in the morning and getting out of bed to do something that you always do, and then hitting the floor because you don’t have any legs,” he says of the pain he still feels one year later.
You wanna tell him that it supposedly takes at least two years, and he’s probably doing better than he thinks. Never mind, just listen…
“She died a few days before my birthday and then after that it was Mother’s Day. So when this time of year comes around it’s hard. The worst part is when I see a dude and his mom laughing. I wondered if I was being a ‘b*tch baby,’ because I’m still taking it so hard, but a guy who lost his mom told me you never get over it.”
“Does it help when people ask?”
“It means a lot when someone asks because it could open a door…but when it happens I just say it’s getting better…if there’s a follow up question…I give more.”
You had no idea.
Ultimately, what you learned is that surviving the loss of a mother has a lot to do with managing your expectations. You will never get over it, but one day you will be able to deal with it. Knowing that is better than nothing.