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loss:when the table turns

by Judy
February 17, 2014

Recently I was speaking with a friend who lost her mother a year ago. She said her experience of losing her mom was very different from what she expected. Even though she had reflected upon what it would be like, she said that we cannot really know until it actually happens. It took her by surprise. She spoke very eloquently about her experience expressing a sense that a big chunk of her life, a reference point, that she wasn’t even aware was there, had gone and she was left with a much greater sense of being alone. As I listened to her - although my mom is still alive - I could intuit and deeply understand what she was saying.

Having lived independently for much of her life, she had not realized how much her mom was part of her life and now gone; it was like a part of her had died.

I thought how true this is and also especially with a mother’s death, it has even a bigger significance. Our mother or The mother is such an archetypal figure and in that carries an added dimension of meaning. She is symbolically someone who is always there to protect us, metaphorically to nurture and love us unconditionally which becomes the backdrop of our consciousness. With that gone, even though we may not have depended upon our parents for years, it’s like a jolt to our being, like the last vestiges of being a child are taken away and what remains is a new felt aloneness. “It’s all up to me – there is no one to fall back upon. I really am fully responsible for everything.” This is what I imagine, but again, I have not lost my mom – although the mother/daughter relationship has changed tremendously - but as my friend said, you can’t really know until it actually happens.

In many ways I’ve been aware of this inevitability for many years. When my mom was even in her seventies, I saw her noticeably aging and I remember contemplating the possibility of her death. And even before that when she was in her fifties, the doctors thought she had a dangerously blocked carotid artery (she stopped smoking after that) but it turned out to be less serious. The thought of losing my mom back then scared me – a very human response especially when we are still young.

In referring to my own situation of living and writing about my mom, my friend also said to me that in some ways I am dealing with certain issues now that often don’t get dealt with until after one’s mother dies. For example, since her mother died, she is having much more of an appreciation for who her mother was in the context of her whole life. In that way, I have the space and time to step back and really allow that appreciation to flourish.

Thinking about death and loss, it really does mean losing a part of one self. Every person is unique and when we are close to them, their uniqueness is part of what we treasure – their eyes, laugh, way of expressing themselves, their unique way of being, thinking, loving – even their smell and touch. And our relationship with them is also unique. I don’t think, for example, I will ever laugh the way I laugh with my mom. It has a particular flavor and that will die when my mom dies. Of course I will laugh and do laugh with others, but never quite the same. So part of that dies too.

Even when older, the loss of one’s mother is a big deal. Yes I remember now my friend said it’s like the umbilical cord is cut yet again. That image brings to mind a final separation which of course on one hand is painful, but also points ideally to a deepening maturity: growing up, becoming whole, authentically ourselves and fully responsible for our life. In that way it also means coming to turns with change and loss. I am very grateful to have this time now with my mother and to experience such a simple and direct love between us. When I reflect on the death of my mom, sometimes it is painful and poignant contemplating the loss of her, me and us; and other times I am so full with gratitude and feel how much her spirit will be with me forever. In that as well there is a simple very straightforward acknowledgement and acceptance of change and loss as a fact of life – it’s just the way it is. It’s also so much my mother’s spirit to not dwell on the past, but always look to the present and future. It is that spirit that has rubbed off on me and I am embracing.


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