On Grief

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CrocusesMy mother is dead.

I’m not sure why this is news to me, since she died on January 3, but for some reason in the last few weeks my grief has worked itself into something more menacing. It’s quite awful, and physical, like a weight on my chest.

“I feel like someone has shoved a bacon press over my heart,” I tried to explain to a friend. “Sometimes I cannot breathe.”

But the key word is “sometimes,” because at other times life feels almost normal. I work, I write, I make dinner, I enjoy watching Dr. Who. There are some changes to daily life, like the hours I have to spend now on Mom’s finances and fixing the house up for sale, but if there’s a surprise about grief it’s that ordinary life goes on.

And that feels like such a betrayal. Mom should be here. I should be able to call her, to see her, to chat about what we’re reading, to make plans for the future.

How can life move forward? How can there still be taxes to pay and sinks to scrub? How dare the crocuses peek out?

Shortly after Mom died, a reader sent me her condolences along with a lovely quote to help me through the weeks and months ahead. The words she sent have indeed been a balm, especially in helping me envision a time when grief will have settled into something less, I don’t know, physical, less urgent. I know life will never be the same, but maybe sometime in the not-too-distant future the grief will become more absorbed, more settled.

13227454The character Harold Fry says:

“I miss her all the time. I know in my head that she has gone; the only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It’s like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it’s there and keep falling in. After a while, it’s still there, but you learn to walk around it.”



The crocus image is used with permission of Shutterstock.com.

  • Cathy Denpesy-Sims

    My dad died 20 years ago this April. I can’t believe it… How could life have gone on without him? I became an Episcopal priest, I moved to Buffalo, I got married, I got and beat cancer. And he’s not here?? How can that be?
    I tell you this to say, it’s ok. You will have her with you always, just not how you would like. I get that. Be well. Cathy

  • Michele Tennesen

    My mother died suddenly when she was 56. I was 24. I was really angry about it. I had been robbed of caring for my mother when she was old. I wouldn’t be able to take her grocery shopping for two bananas and a loaf of bread, take her to the cemetery to place flowers at the graves of those who had gone before, and worst of all, show her the grandchildren that were still to come. I hate that she died so young and left me, a young mother, feeling orphaned. After all these years I search to remember what her voice sounded like. I remember her words, but can’t remember her voice. In spite of my deep, deep sorrow at her leaving, her death did give me a gift. And that was the gift of being able to find my own path to spirituality–a path that was not the same as hers, but a path that has been much more satisfying and brought me closer to God than hers ever would. When a girl’s journey with her mother ends a new one begins.

  • Elisha Anderson

    “Betrayal”…that’s a fitting way to put it. I feel the same. My mom died two years ago March 5th and I can’t get over it’s been two years already. The reason, I believe, that some days feel so normal is that we live apart from each other, in far away states; talking on the phone multiple times a week. So days would go by when we didn’t talk. It must have been so much harder for her when my grandma died because she saw her all the time. We were very close and said “I love you” often, but I wish I would have told her what a great mom I thought she’d been. I did think so, but don’t think I ever really said it.

  • Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen

    My mom died a few months ago. Sometimes when I walk to the mailbox I am fine when I start out, but by the time I get to the box, my knees have buckled and I am groaning out “Moooooom!” for no particular reason. Underneath my living every day is the assumption she will eventually come back and be curious about what I’ve been up to. She’ll tell me she likes how I organized her desk, that the plant looks better on the chest after all, and which of her grandkids would like her books and memorabilia. I still don’t know how to do life without her, and I’m 54.

  • Deborah Hall

    My story is very similar to yours, Michele. Your words resonated with me and my heart goes out to you. I was 23 and my mother was 54 and it did lead me on a different spiritual path. You can read my story at Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s blog. I pray you are comforted by knowing others share in your sorrow.

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