Monday, April 4, 2011

We Never Get Over It, But We Do Get Through It

Last year when a dear aunt passed away, I wrote a post for my cousin on my old blog. It was intended to provide her some comfort, and she said that it did. Today I read a blog post by Cathy, whose  mom has just died. I don't know if anything I wrote for my cousin will help. But here it is, to you Cathy, with love and understanding.

Our Lives May Grow In Different Directions, Yet Our Roots Remain As One

Turning fifty this year has been great, overall. But a few things about getting older are really bringing me down. A good example— I am running out of relatives at an alarming rate.

Last week, my third last living aunt passed away, and although in her honour I would love to write something hilariously funny (Auntie Joyce was hilariously funny) I also feel intensely compelled to write something thoughtful—perhaps even meaningful—for her daughter, my cousin Cory.

These are the times when I am sorry that most of my relatives live clear on the other side of the country. If Cory lived closer, I would invite her to come and spend the day with me. I would feed her, pour her a glass of wine (I am one of only two cousins who doesn't drink wine, or anything for that matter), and create a space for her to start telling her story, her story of losing her mother. I would try mostly just to listen, having had the opportunity to tell my own dying mother story so many, many times already over the past ten years. At moments, I am sure that I would contribute a piece of my narrative just for support, or as confirmation of how she is feeling, what she is thinking. Not that I claim to know all of it, but…

I want to tell you, Cory – I have been where you are. I know some of what you are feeling, and most of what you are trying not to feel.

I know that in these early days you are probably swinging between paralysis and hyper-activity. You will find yourself having some difficulty getting through the motions of daily life. Don’t forget to eat, to drink lots of water. Brush your teeth. Put clothes on if you leave the house and remember that deodorant is a good idea in August. Staying up all night listening to the music that sears through your soul and makes you feel, feel, feel the feelings – is okay for a few days. But please don’t do it every night for a week. You need to rest, to recover, to heal. You need to be as gentle with yourself as you would be with your mother if she was going through what you are going through right now. You may need to tell Rod (your husband, Cory) that although he mourns too, he should probably take charge of your lives for a while. Be firm when you tell him that there is not a hope in hell of you making any decisions about much of anything this week, month, summer, year. Take all the time you need. And write this down:

“I may need a lot of time to get over this because I really, really, really liked my mother a lot.”

Your two beautiful daughters will be watching you closely (as mine were), looking for a sign every once in a while that tells them there is at least some hope that you will eventually be okay. You might not believe that, but fake it once in a while, just to give them a break. Do something normal. Yell at one of them for something ridiculously unimportant. You know, like we do. If you are up to it, give them each a hug and say “honey one day soon we will talk about your grief, your pain. But for now, It’s pretty much all about mine.” They will giggle. Eventually, but not right away, you will want to consider that they too have been through hell losing their Nannie and watching you go through hell, but you likely can’t deal with that today. For now, just tell them to brush their teeth, wear deodorant, and for Christ’s sake turn their goddamned music down after midnight. The taking God’s name in vain part is optional, but in our family, as you know, the option is almost always taken.

Cory, the one thing that has sustained me through a decade of mother missing, has been that I always speak to my mom. In my head, that is. I talk to her about all of the good things that are going on, and the bad or scary stuff. And because I knew my mom so very well, as you did yours, I can always hear what she would say, if she were here. You will hear your mom too, Cory. Just listen to your heart. Like her favourite music, photos of your mother will bring you both comfort and agony right now. Speak to your pictures of your mom and tell her what you are going through. Please, do let somebody know if you really believe she is talking back to you. That would be a bit much.

Cousin, I wish that I could tell you ten years from now that all of what you are going through will be behind you. Much of it will, but the longing for one more day, one more talk over tea, one more argument even, might never fully go away. I am fifty years old and there have been so many moments over the past ten years when I have whispered to myself or even said out loud, I want my mommy. Your aunt (my mother) told me, speaking about the loss of her own mother, that daughters never get over losing their mother, but they do get through it. I did. You will. Our daughters will.

And after all is said and done, we really are the fortunate ones. We had amazing mothers. And we have amazing daughters. The mother-daughter bond still exists, for us.


  1. This is written so well, and the gesture is so lovely. I lost my father this year and was alarmed at the affect it had on me. Thanks for sharing from the deepest part of you...

  2. Serendipitously, I saw you comment on SheWrites about your post, and this is going to be helpful for my friend, who marks her late mom's birthday today. Her mom passed away in 1981. I'll post a link on Facebook for her. Thank you for writing this!

  3. Thanks so much for your comments journetytoepiphany and Scrollwork. April really is my motherloss month. My mom would have turned 79 this Thursday, but she passed away on April 27, 2000. I'll be writing about her a lot in April. My father is still alive and well, thank god. I feel for you journeytoepiphany.

  4. I was moved by this and I thank you for this post. I lost my mother almost 30 years ago and I still miss her. It is true I have not gotten over the loss of my mother but I, together with my siblings got through it - slowly though painfully. I dealt with my mom's passing away through silence and only now, am I able to write about her. I hope my writing not only honors but celebrates her life.

  5. A beautiful, thoughtful post, brilliantly crafted. My mum lived in England (I am in Canada) but I could pick up the phone anytime and give her news, especially about her grandchildren, who she loved very much. After she passed away I can't tell you how many times I went to pick up the phone to call her with some piece of news, only to be jolted to the realisation that she was gone. It must have meant so much to your cousin to hear from you. We should write to our loved ones more often through their times of deepest loss as a small way of regaining the sense of community this world has often lost.

  6. I am stopping by from She Writes, and I am your newest follower.

    Have you ever read "Lit" by Mary Karr? Your profile reminded me of her. She is an AMAZING writer.

  7. a wonderful post and tribute...found your link on She Writes.

  8. Thanks for dropping by, and for sharing. I do believe that losing a parent is a profound experience for most of us, it's nice to know that people relate. And I haven't read Mary Karr's books, but I'd like to, thanks for the reminder, Florida Girl.

  9. Oh, Dawn, this is beautiful. Of course I am wailing my eyes out right now. I am reading this in celebration of Mother's Day, on a day I too really miss my mom even though it has been so very many years that she died. This writing is beautiful and thought provoking!