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the grieving process unfolds

by Judy
July 19, 2015

It has now been a little more than three weeks since my mom died…it feels much longer. I still remain in my mom’s apartment down in Florida surrounded by her art work and the beauty that she created in her home.

Losing a mother when they have already lived a very long time – 99 years – isn’t necessarily easier than losing a mother when they are younger. I was amazed to be talking with her accountant who told me he just recently also lost his mom of 99 years in February and it’s been really hard for him. Yes, I had her longer than most, but I also had the time and good fortune to become closer to her than I could have ever imagined and so the loss is felt very dramatically.

At times I am still “hit” emotionally. I want to touch her again, hear her voice, see and talk with her. Even when I was not in her room, she was always the focal point of the life here. She was always in my consciousness. I miss her.

And at the same time I do feel her spirit is with me, particularly her spirit of care has seeped into the cells of my being. When death happens, it really is a poignant time and you know deeply that relationships really matter – all relationships – our contact with each other. My mother was a very caring person and didn’t leave any stones unturned. And so it is with me now.

Since my mom died, I have been responding a lot – to everyone who has been touched in one way or another by her. It has felt important that I speak personally to everyone, to let them know that she died peacefully and was ready to leave this earthly plane. Each time I do it, it brings tears to my eyes to actually say, “My mom died,” but that passes and then we are just together, leaving room also for them to express how they feel.

And I know this is what my mom would have wanted. I still have a few people to call – it can’t be done all at once as it’s too much on an emotional level, but I have covered a lot of territory, from friends still alive, relatives, to her hairdresser; to Sam, who framed all her pictures over the last 40 years and even to Michelle at CVS, who always asked about my mom after she stopped coming in.

I recently had a small memorial for my mom with all the caregivers who were involved with her over these past years. We gathered in my mother’s home. Pat read from Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season…” and said a beautiful prayer for my mom and me. Sophia, one of the caregivers, with a beautiful voice, sang a heart-piercing gospel song called, “If you could see me now” about mom in heaven and being whole and complete. I read from an essay I had written called “My Caring Mom” and   then we just shared together stories about my mother. It was a beautiful tribute. We “broke bread” together and at the end I had gift bags for all of them including photos of my mom. It felt like a fitting completion to our love and appreciation for this woman, Selma Fox.

My mom didn’t want me to suffer or be sad after she died. She made that very clear. In that spirit, I am taking care of myself as well. I am making sure that I give myself some time to just be…time to go walking, go to the movies, go out! My contact with friends and with Pat is essential as left solely to myself, it would be so much harder. It’s like grieving and allowing that process to unfold and at the same time not “giving in” to grieving. I know there is a fine distinction between the two and will vary from person to person. I guess for me it is the recognition that our loved ones don’t really want us to suffer even though of course we will to some degree. It’s inevitable. But we are still alive and that too must be honored. Life goes on as it should. So for me it’s distinguishing between what naturally arises in any moment with regard to my mom, painfully missing her, reflecting on her life and my relationship with her, and at the same time not indulging; which in part means giving myself to Life as my mother did so wholeheartedly.

 I have received so many heartwarming responses to my mom’s death and to the essays I’ve written as well that I am very grateful for and which lifts my spirits.

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