Tag Archives: family

For grieving mothers as we approach Mother’s Day.

breastfeeeding_mother_holding_baby

Every day with your child was mother’s day. Every day you held them, fed them, scolded them, sang them to sleep, wiped their tears, changed their diapers, washed their clothes, agonized with them about their break-ups, celebrated their victories, supported their achievements, gave solace in their disappointments. Every day. And now no day is mother’s day. There is nothing more you can do for them, say to them, give them. No more hugs or advice. No more forgiveness for short-tempered outbursts, no more apologies for ill-thought-out judgments. Nothing. Mother’s Day is social convention. Mother’s Day is a lie. The emptiness is every day not just once a year.

I weep with you; I mourn with you. There are no useful words. Just a gentle suggestion: don’t stay by yourself on Mother’s Day. Allow someone else to share your pain. And if you can’t find someone to do that, then find a way of celebrating someone else’s day. Just don’t be alone with your sadness and loss.

Remember: You were a mother, even for a little while. You had the miracle of life in your body, in your arms, in your daily life. That was a great gift, a grace, undeserved. A hand was placed on your chest and that touch entered your heart as no other touch can. A child knew you as his or her mother. Knew that safety, that acceptance, that bountiful love. You did that. You gave that. That was precious. And those years, or months or even moments are yours to remember and treasure.

 

Advertisements

I am struggling

mother hug

These past few weeks it feels as if the tsnumai is winning. Each day I feel as if it is pulling me down and I am struggling more and more for breath. I thought it would get easier after his anniversary passed, but then we moved towards his birthday and I realised it is on Mother’s Day this year: May 14th. I can’t seem to get past this. I want to write something for mothers who have lost children and who are facing mother’s day with that pain. Maybe that will help.

Christmas time is here again

snow on christmas

Christmas, a time when we find ourselves asking,

Were our boys happy? Did we have good Christmases?

And we give each other encouragement:

Yes, Love, they were happy. They had good memories of Christmas. We did that right.

And we decorate the tree and avoid the special decorations they made as children, or any with their picture on. We don’t want to be reminded of whose face we will not see, of who will not be opening presents this year.

I know it doesn’t hurt as much as those first few years, but it still hurts. We have created different traditions and we love Christmas Eve with our youngest son. But underneath are the memories of what we used to do, and the places we went and the traditions we once celebrated. And we sleep in Christmas morning so as to avoid the sadness of our memories: the two happy, giggling boys, the grouchy, slouchy adolescents, the compliant young adults, waiting at the doorway to the den. 

Aw, mom, really? You’re going to make us wait at the door?

Well, dad has to get the camera ready.

And he did. We have a great camera record of many Christmas mornings. We even transferred them to DVD a couple of years ago. But they were tough to watch, especially for our youngest son, so we put them away for a while.

This year our youngest son is recovering from the end of a relationship. So there is another loss for him to deal with. It will take even more effort to focus on the moment at hand, on the mass at the Cathedral and the Christmas songs, on the dinner with mom and dad. But he needs to, we all need to. This Christmas is what is real, this moment is where we live. Let’s not miss out on anything that is happening now. Today contains tomorrow’s memories, and may they all be bright.

The First Christmas Without My Mother

It goes without saying: to love is to lose; to live is to die. Life is just that – love and loss.  If we dare to love, we will feel like dying when we lose our beloved. The only question about love and death is: Who will go first? I joke with my husband: If you go first I’ll kill you!

When my mother died a few weeks ago I didn’t seem to feel much. I’m catching up now! But it’s a confusion of feelings: sadness as intense as anger. Yesterday I learned how to scream. I have read about scream therapy and been advised about anger work. I have been encouraged to hit or throw or pummel something other than myself. But I have never managed to do any of this with much energy, so it felt pointless. And my attempts to scream, while driving my car and thus insulated from the hearing world, were always throaty, soprano screeches. Not so yesterday. Yesterday I tensed my chest and my throat and made an ugly, forceful, deep grrr sound. It felt good so I did it again…louder and throatier. And then I cried the rest of the way home. A barrier had been breached.

I am not sure which is worse –  having sweet, loving, memories of affection and tenderness, concern and affirmation, and being overcome with grief at her passing, or having no such memories.  I tell myself that my good memories are being held hostage by the bad ones I cannot recall; that perhaps as I face the bad memories the good ones will surface, too. That’s what I tell myself.

I do know that my mother cared for me in the ways in which she was capable. My mother taught herself to cook and parent as best she could. The child of upper-middle class parents, she was raised in a private boarding school from the age of about 4, and parented by nannies during vacations at home. Entering nursing school at 18, she was completely unprepared for independent living, but she could dress with taste, recite all the Catholic prayers, crochet and sew, and – of course – play tennis. She could also play piano well enough to have possibly pursued a career in music. But a high school trauma she would never explain caused her to refuse to ever touch the keys again. My mother was a woman of private pain.

My mother loved her children through her coffee cakes, butterfly scones, horseshoe biscuits. She loved them through her hand-washed laundry, not owning a washing machine until she was in her 70’s. She loved her children through her scrubbed carpets and wallpapered rooms – doing all the decorating herself. My mother loved her children by remaining faithful and committed to her husband, a loyalty that cost her the support of her own large family of 8 siblings, none of whom were represented at her funeral. None.

Now I am wondering, did I ever tell her thank you? Or did I just spend my life waiting for the signs of love that 50’s TV shows and James Stewart Christmas movies held out as tantalizing fantasy?  Did she know that I noticed her care and was grateful, even though I wished there had been hugs and soft words?  I have lost the opportunity to get over my childish, self-centered resentments and be an adult in relation to her. I left home at 18, too.  Maybe if I had learned to be angry and to scream 38 years ago I could have had an emotional confrontation and begun an adult relationship with my mother.

29

Today Malcolm would have been 29. Actually yesterday, as it is now 1:00am. I was just re-reading some of my posts and looking for words of hope … hope in something, hope in something more than nothing, hope in the future or just the now.  Then I think of my son, James, and I think of Flint Creek,  and I think of my wonderful, crazy family celebrating at the Bulldog just a few hours ago, and I smile. Tonight, that’s enough.

A Week of the Weepies

It happens! A week or two when I can’t seem to stop crying. And it happened last week. Too much going on. But most of it was really good stuff, so it is annoying that I got so sad/depressed. The truth of the matter is, when the family gathers as we did last weekend there is a heightened awareness of Malcolm’s absence. Family gatherings were the times he treasured. He was insistent that traditions be kept going: Mardi Gras morning, the week at the State Park. He would have loved the Saints games parties, and he would have been the first to organise a kegger for his brother — home from the Middle east. 

Malc, we had two parties this past weekend, you would have loved it. Jesuit won; the Saints won. TJ and Jenny hosted a party at their apartment. TJ works at a bank now. Can you believe it? TJ a corporate type — but he loves it. He’s learning investment banking and he and Jenny have a wonderful apartment.

Your brother misses you, TJ misses you, Becky misses you. But we are able to look at pictures now and smile, even if we cry, too.

Today the younger brother became the older

One of the joys of having a child who loves math and problem solving is that he can work out things like the very day on which he has officially outlived his older brother — counting leap years and everything.  Today, he tells us, is that day. As of 3.30pm he became the older brother. I don’t know how to get inside that experience with him. But then again I don’t think I should. Some griefs are personal.

So, on this day of passage, I want to write a letter to James.

You were a great younger brother.  Malcolm knew how much you wanted to be with him and be like him and be included by him. Although he got aggravated by you following him physically and socially, he was somewhere inside kind of flattered to have a fan. He loved you even while he ganged up against you with TJ; he knew he would always have you.  And as he grew older he was so proud of you. 

As you get your head and heart around the significance of today, remember that the life you live does not have to somehow be valuable enough to compensate for Malcolm’s death. The only life you have to live is your own; the only expectations you have to live up to are your own.   You have nothing to prove to us.

I am sorry Malcolm isn’t there for you, leading the way into adulthood and parenthood. But you are not alone. You have us and you have a big extended family. Stay ever closer to your cousins no matter how far you go geographically. Remember, family is the glue (!) and you can still be “Uncle” James to Beth’s twins.

We love you.