Her absence is like the sky - Imagine NJ

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Perspectives on Grieving

Her absence is like the sky

The act of living is different all through. Her absence is like the sky, spread all over everything.” C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Though C.S. Lewis was writing about the death of his wife Joy, his words describe how I felt during the first year after my mother’s death.  In fact it was only after passing the third anniversary of her death from pancreatic cancer that I felt like I was finally recovering the full use of my brain and body.  [Though after recently turning 53 and finding myself unable to remember the simplest nouns,  I do wonder about my brain!] 

I can’t speak for other daughters who lose their mothers during what one would consider the normal course of events —  I am an adult, my mother was 79 —  yet I felt consumed by grief.  As if I wouldn’t be able to speak for a year after witnessing her suffering and her death.  My cheek against hers, breathing with her as she took her last breath.  To this day I cannot think of her illness and death without weeping.

Why and how could I be so bereft?   I remember saying to a board member at the time whose mother had died the year before, how caught off guard I was by the depth of my sorrow and how I was so utterly immobilized.   “She was your mom,” he said.  “There is no one like our moms.”  I can still hear him saying that, giving me permission and understanding that no matter our age, when we lose our moms it hurts.

I thought I knew what grief was all about because my dad died when I was 14.  I thought I knew from grief!  I thought I knew what it was like to lose a parent.  But until my mother died, I only knew about death through the eyes and heart and mind of a child.  I had known my dad for 14 years but I knew my mom for 50 years.

And noone could have prepared me.  I remember someone saying to me that at least it would be easier for me because of the work I do.  I wanted to laugh!  As if knowing about grief in my head would lessen the grief in my heart.  I told a friend about that and he laughed out loud and asked if I were a funeral director should I perform my own embalming because I know about it?!  I laughed out loud too.

But in a way I was prepared.  I knew that my experience was ‘normal’ and that I wasn’t going crazy when all I could do was lie on the floor and cry.  That I wasn’t going crazy as I became forgetful and unfocused, as I kept tripping and bumping into things.  I’m amazed I didn’t end up with stiches!   Driving was the worse when all of a sudden my vision would blur with tears or I would be as clumsy with my driving as I was with my feet.   I call this driving under the influence of grief.

Eventually I got my balance back.  What helped was the passage of time combined with talking, talking, talking, to anyone who would listen, and support from my group, professionals, and writing.  I will miss my mom for the rest of my life, as I will my dad.  But as I did with my dad, and now with my mom, I have learned to live with the sadness and joy of life side by side.

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