How do I cope with my grieving Mom?
September 5, 2009 11:41 AM   Subscribe

My mother's grief is overwhelming me. How do I keep my cool?

My Dad died in late December of last year. I am my mom's only kid in the same city (I have a sibling but she lives on the west coast; I'm in the midwest). For the past 9 months my mom's grief has draped across my life and I don't think I can cope anymore.

I'm in the second year of a Masters program and am planning to go on to a PhD. So this is a very busy time- I have to take standardized tests, apply to and visit potential PhD programs, and (oh yeah) write a thesis. This is on top of regular coursework and the 20-hour-a-week research assistantship that pays for my tuition.

I love my mom and we've always had a pretty great, close relationship. But her grief is overwhelming me. I try to call her daily and see her at least once a week, give her lots of support and make sure she is looking after herself. Every few months or so she calls me demanding that I drop everything and drive 45 minutes to her house to hug her. The most stressful part of this is that I have my own grief- but in order to be emotionally strong enough to support my mom in her grief I distance myself from my own grief about the death of my dad, who was my hero.

I've told my mom she needs professional help and found her the number of a psychologist who specializes in traumatic grief right down the street from her house. She hasn't made an appointment.

I try to be as supportive as possible, but my patience is wearing thin. More and more I find myself lashing out at her when she calls me in tears, asking that I drop everything and go to her house to take care of her. That isn't the kind of daughter I want to be- this woman raised me and I owe her better than I've been giving lately. How do I manage my frustration when I'm with my mom so I can give her the support she obviously deeply needs?
posted by Monsters to Human Relations (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My condolences for your loss, Monsters.

Has your mom been to a therapist or a grief support group? Perhaps the place to start here is with a frank (but gentle) discussion with your mom about how her grief is impacting you. Offer to help her get involved in a community group or a grief support group. Let her know that you want to be there for her, but that you also need to attend to your schooling and work. Good luck.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 11:50 AM on September 5, 2009

I owe her better than I've been giving lately

Not really. You can't possibly be expected to drop everything to hug her and despite all her grief, she knows that. It's normal to lash out after this long.

You're frustration is never going to stop if you don't reestablish boundaries. Next time you are with her, talk with her about. Assure her that you love her and think about her all the time, but that you have to live your life. You're an adult, and while you'll give her all the support you can, she can't "demand" any thing from you.

Make sure she knows how much you miss your dad and how hard it has been for you too. Then tell her you'll see her next week- and not before.
posted by spaltavian at 11:52 AM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Picture her holding you at 3AM when you were a baby. Picture her watching you get your diplomas or awards. Picture her driving you to school, buying you clothes, treats and thinking about you.
It's very tough to lose your other half.

Imagine your father watching you now.
posted by AuntieRuth at 11:53 AM on September 5, 2009 [13 favorites]

Ugh. This is a tough question, because everyone deals with grief differently. I know from first hand experience, having been dealing myself since February.
I sought the professional help, only to find myself very angry with the medication and therapy because let's face it, it will not bring my loved one back.

It does get easier with time, but it will probably never go away.

I think it may be easier for me because I am young, and have many years ahead of me, and I must go on with life. Were I older, I might be more inclined to give up and long to join them.
I think you are doing a great job with the support, I can also say that for me the most important and helpful thing has been sympathy and support from other family and friends.

I assume thus far you have managed your frustration well. Your mother seems to be more important to you than your feelings, despite your discomfort, and that is a wonderful thing.

My suggestion for making things easier on both of you is to spend time aside from her desperate calls. Do something together and remember your Dad, perhaps something he liked to do. I think it is very important to honor the departed, and carry on their memory as much as possible. Maybe even just talking or looking at pictures would be helpful.

It is always sad to remember someone who is gone, but when you see a smile peek through the tears, it is worth it

I hope this helps even a little bit, and I am truly sorry for your loss.
posted by Palerale at 12:00 PM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Remind yourself that you will never regret the time you spend caring for those who love you; conversely, if you turn away from her needs now, you may very well live many years regretting that choice.

Remind yourself, too, that part of being in a loving relationship is taking the good with the bad. If you've had twenty-odd years of good, a few bad times is very fair trade. It may even be that you find it helps you through your grieving process to help her through her's.

And also, read this recent AskMe, about a woman who wants to know how she can possibly thank her parents for their care, and recognize that you've got a perfect opportunity to do just that with your mother.
posted by Houstonian at 12:06 PM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

it sounds like you both really need each other right now. You shouldn't have to distance yourself from your grief - can you instead share it with her and grieve together? It also sounds like your mom needs you a lot right now - can you turn this around and comfort her by needing her? Perhaps she could come to you for hugs? or come make you dinner when you are too busy to make it yourself? Or help by cleaning the house for you? It would get her out of the house, give both time together, and get her mind off sitting at home and just grieving...
posted by zia at 12:07 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Our situations are almost identical: My dad died last August and both my sisters live on the coasts while I live 45 minutes away from my other here in the Midwest. Kind of freaky, isn't it?

But my mom didn't experience the overwhelming grief your mom is going through, so I thought about why that would be. (Except, of course, for the fact that my mom has an eerie stoicism about events that would knock anyone else for a loop.) FWIW, these are the things that made a difference for my mom:

- A few days before my dad died, they moved from their house of 36 years into an independent living center, where they already knew people and many of them were widows or widowers. I'm not suggesting your mom move, but maybe it would be easier for her to reach out to family, friends, or neighbors than to make an appointment and talk to a therapist (no matter how well trained he/she is).

- She has been out to visit each of my sisters. Aside from the obvious benefits of that contact, these trips also reminded her that there were some (for lack of a better word) benefits coming from her widowhood since my dad had been unable to do much traveling over the last several years of her life. She's going to Europe in the spring.

- At the urging of my sisters and me, she returned to her normal routine of events -- classes, bridge games, etc. This also brought her into contact with people with whom she has much in common, plus it got her back living her life.

I hope some of this helps. Now, for your own benefit: Don't try to play hero by delaying your own grief because your mom and your studies need you to be strong. Denying your grief is no better than your mom's wallowing in it.

My condolences and sypathies to your entire family.
posted by DrGail at 12:08 PM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry AuntieRuth but it is not that simple and I really don't think it is fair to drop something like that on the original poster. It is true that "It's very tough to lose your other half." but she should be aware that her son has a life and that he is going through a tough time too.

She sounds like she is very lonely right now and needs more interaction. This might sound cold but if you can introduce a pet into her life, it might help her a little bit and therapy of course when she feels ready.
posted by caelumluna at 12:08 PM on September 5, 2009 [17 favorites]

Have you spoken to a therapist about this? Maybe your mom just isn't ready to take that step yet (or ever), but that doesn't mean that it couldn't help you to talk to someone about finding a way to experience your own grief and navigate your relationship with your mother. Your seeing a therapist might also be a gentler way of restarting that conversation (not so much "I can't help you, you need professional help," but rather "I found therapy really helpful for dealing with my grief, can I tell you about my experience?").

I'm very sorry for your loss, and I hope you and your mom are able to find ways to cope. Could you try calling her at a time when she isn't asking you for anything and tell her how you're feeling? I wonder if, to some extent, she sees you being strong and going on with your life, and doesn't realize how present and real your own grief is--she may be thinking, "Monsters moved on so quickly, so surely she has the strength and time to help me through this..." As I suggested above, it might be easier to have this conversation after you speak with a counselor on your own--get some support for yourself, give yourself permission to mourn.

I think AuntieRuth's comment is well-intended but the wrong message for your situation.You are not shirking your duties as a daughter. You are not failing to show gratitude and love to the woman who cared for you when you were a helpless infant cyring at 3am. You are the adult daughter of an adult woman, and both of you have suffered a tremendous loss. You acknowledge your mother's grief, you don't seem impatient with her for grieving but rather frustrated with her for putting pressure on you to support her in her grief without seeing that you have your own grief and your own life to deal with as well. You don't need to feel guilty about taking care of yourself.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:27 PM on September 5, 2009 [21 favorites]

I'm sorry you are going through this. My mother in law sounds similar to to your mom. Except now it's been 7 years and she behaves as if her life is over a lot of the time. Your mom needs hobbies, friends and something to look forward to in the future. She needs to know that she is not just a mom or a spouse, she is her own person too and deserves to do things for herself. We all deal with grief differently, but at some point we have to see beyond it. You are doing as much as you can. Does she have friends you can call to arange lunch? A class you can go to together?
posted by wingless_angel at 12:28 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

For the love of all that's holy, don't let AuntieRuth guilt you into ignoring how this is affecting your life. Your mom needs support and care, yes, and even adult kids can't and shouldn't be expected to be a parent's sole emotional support - especially if said kid is suffering from the same loss.

While there's no timeline on grief, and everyone does it differently, it does sound like your mom needs actual professional or para-professional (support group) help. In the months after my mom died, as things got less raw, I still sometimes wigged out unexpectedly. If I was by myself, I cried, I wrote, I listened to loud music, perhaps I'd leave a message on my therapist's voicemail.

You need to sit down with your mom, at a time when she's not in the midst of feeling your father's loss acutely, and tell her that as much as you love her, you can't keep doing this, because it's hurting you too. Offer to go with her to a first meeting of a grief support group, or drive her to a meeting with a therapist. Once you know that you are not her sole emotional support, it will be easier (for both of you, probably) to give and receive love and caring from each other. And yes, therapy for you too wouldn't be a bad thing.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by rtha at 12:31 PM on September 5, 2009 [7 favorites]

Uh, no offense, AuntieRuth, but blatant guilt-tripping is clearly not what the OP needs. She's asking for ways to cope, not ways to feel crappier - it sounds like if thinking about the love and support her mother has given her in the past would make her position easier, then she wouldn't be posting here at all.

OP, I'm sorry to hear about your loss. It sounds like depression is playing a major part in your mothers grief at this point, and I think you are right to suggest therapy. Try maybe making the appointment for her, and offering to give her a ride there and take her out for lunch afterwards or something, so she has more incentive to go. Other people have suggested a schedule of sorts, and this is a good idea, too.

Try not to let her grief be the only thing you talk about. Keep her up to date about your academic projects, your work, your friends, etc. Find an activity you both enjoy that you can do together that has nothing to do with processing emotions. Read a book together and talk about that. Anything that can provide a temporary diversion and give her some breathing room from her emotional state. This may help make your visits with her less stressful, too.
posted by ellehumour at 12:32 PM on September 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

The most stressful part of this is that I have my own grief- but in order to be emotionally strong enough to support my mom in her grief I distance myself from my own grief about the death of my dad, who was my hero.

I'm no expert in grief, but maybe this isn't helping. Maybe it would help if you dived right into your own grief at the same time. It might make it easier if instead of "supporting" her, you simply grieved along with her.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:57 PM on September 5, 2009

Best answer: You're asking really good, extremely compassionate questions here. Considering all the demands you're dealing with, I find this remarkable. I'm sorry for your loss. If you can be as patient and compassionate with yourself as you're being with your mother, you will come through grieving for your father well (where "well"=healthy, rather than "easily"). When I was faced with a difficult grieving process, I found Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking very helpful in understanding what I was going through, and what others around me might be experiencing.

If therapy isn't something that your mother is open to (and I say this as someone who can't imagine quite a number of my family members ever agreeing to enter therapy, except maybe to address an addiction), even if you can talk her into going, it might not be that helpful to her. However, if you are open to it, going to therapy yourself (if you're not already) might be valuable. Or if you're not in a position to manage therapy right now, turning to some close friends: "Look, I'm having a hard time with my mom right now, can you please help me out by giving me some space to vent?"

Does your mom reach out to other friends and family at all, or does she only feel safe being this vulnerable with you? If it's the latter case, it's a tribute to your relationship - at the same time that it's a serious challenge for you. It might help your patience, sometimes, to remember that she's turning to you because you're special to her, and you provide a form of support she can't get anywhere else. But you do also need to tell her, when you're in a calm and gentle frame of mind, that you need to focus on your own healing and your own life so that the two of you can continue to have a healthy relationship.

Maybe she needs help figuring out where else she can go for support - church, a community group, a friend - so that her grief isn't overwhelming the both of you. Could you ask some of her friends for help identifying what those resources might be? Is there anyone you can think of, on your side or hers, who you can draw on for support? It sounds like you're trying to manage an awful lot of things yourself, and my experience is that other people are usually happy to help, especially if you give them an idea of what's needed. I wish you well - this is such a tough situation, but it sounds like you're managing better than you think you are.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:58 PM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Please see a therapist yourself. They will help you find ways to keep the proper "distance" between you and her. You owe her compassion and caring of course, but she doesn't have the right to overwhelm you and your life. Hang in there darlin.
posted by CwgrlUp at 2:05 PM on September 5, 2009

The only good thing about long-term unemployment is that it gave me months to spend with my father after my mother died. My observations may not fit your situation; in any case, I offer my condolences for your father and my sympathy to you and your mother.

Going places helps immeasurably. Being home is at most half what it used to be. My parents were both retired and went to restaurants, parks, museums, concerts, libraries; I went to all of these with my dad after my mom died. Sure, all these places are full of memories of her for him, but they're also places he likes going, and going with me (and subsequently my brother and his family) may have helped him keep doing things he enjoys.

Sometimes we would talk about my mom, her life and death, the latter usually in the context of all the death-related tasks piling up, but most of our conversation was about this and that: an article in the paper he read this morning, a player in the soccer game we just watched, an idea in a book I just read. I let him give me advice. He talked a lot about what the world and his life were when he met my mother, when they were married, when my brother and I were born.

And the whole time I'm thinking, god damn, I just lost my fucking mom, I'm a motherless child, she's never gonna speak to me again, she won't be there anymore, she's gone, she's dead.

Me losing my mom is one thing, it's kind of how life is supposed to work out, with the older generation preceding the younger one, and really you love your parents because they're you're parents, you know? On the other hand my dad lost the woman he fell in love with; he married her and built a family and shared 45 years with her. Though the loss is the same -- the loss of my mom is the world's loss -- the hurt, which is bad for me, is worse for him, and constant.

I talk to him a couple times a week and visit more like once every couple months. He gets around, still has lunch out, enjoys the museums and the library and concerts and plays, usually alone, though sometimes with an old work crony or a grandson or two. He still takes a walk in the park every morning, sometimes he'll take care of my brother's dog for a few days and so has company.

I think people upthread have made some very good suggestions, particularly the pet idea and the point that it's helpful to talk to your mom about things other than your father. Perhaps meeting her somewhere away from home would help. Grief is complicated and personal but I think it's an opportunity for growth in some ways; you learn about how you and the people around you react to immense loss. You see who you are, you grow up a little, it never stops hurting.

I hope you can figure this out.
posted by breezeway at 2:14 PM on September 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

Imagine your father watching you now.

Um, no. Don't do this. Your father is dead and he can't watch you anymore.

Your mother is hurting very badly but she needs to be an adult in this situation and deal with her grief appropriately. Yes your mother has given you alot of support in life but parents don't have kids so that they can be supported in their later years. That would be an extremely fucked up and selfish reason to have kids and I would run from any parent who believed that I "owed" them my existence.

You have your own life and the best way to help your mom right now (besides making practical efforts as noted above: therapy, getting here out of the house, etc.) is to succeed at your own challenges and to grow into your own person. Gently but firmly explain to your mother that asking her grad-student daughter to forgo studies so that she can be comforted in her hour of need is inappropriate in your relationship.

By all means, make time to help her and be with her. Just don't sacrifice your life for her emotional needs. That's not what children are for.
posted by Tyrant King Porn Dragon at 2:15 PM on September 5, 2009 [7 favorites]

Does your sibling know how this is affecting you? Is your sibling calling your mom daily and arranging to visit your mom or have your mom visit him/her? It sounds like you have been stoically carrying everyone's. It is okay to ask other to share the load. You can tell your mom sibling that you need a long weekend to get things together in your life and don't call or visit and focus on yourself in a little holiday from her grief. There is nothing wrong with screening your calls and calling your mom back when you feel emotionally strong enough. You sound like you have been wonderfully supportive and your mom is lucky to have you.
posted by saucysault at 3:22 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is emotional blackmail. She's using you.

Blunt words, yep. But true.

I'm not saying she isn't grieving. I'm not saying she doesn't love you. But to use you in this way is just not right. Maybe in a primitive culture ie a culture without therapists / grief specialists / support groups et all, and maybe if you weren't also caught in this thing deeply, and maybe if you weren't in a very busy life... Maybe. But it's emotional blackmail, even if all those were not the case.

All of this shaming you in this thread because you're not up there holding her hand and wiping her nose as she sobs -- it's total bullshit. You can take turns holding one anothers hand and wiping one anothers nose as you sob, whatever. But that's not what's happening.

If you are to have a relationship with your mother it's got to be on equal footing. She's going to have to come to you as adult. I'm not saying that she won't be hurting, and hurting bad. But you cannot allow her to use you as she is.

I have a buddy used to be a life-guard in southern California. One thing that was drilled into him from day one is that he's got to take care of himself. If he doesn't use methods to prevent them from clawing on him, they'll both drown; it's almost like a type of judo, you get close to them and spin them around so they cannot drag you down and then you haul their ass back in. If you have to, you debilitate them to quit them from clawing at you so's you can get a handle on them.

But the fact is that you're not a life-guard. You're hurting too. You need a friend, an understanding friend, a friend who knows, and friend who can be there for you, too. Your mother isn't that friend now, and until she decides to do what she needs to do to become that friend -- and you've offered her some scenarios -- until she decides to become responsible for her grief, you're going to have to boundary her off some.

Grief is almost unimaginable. I've only married once, I was an ass, and when she took off -- and only when she took off -- did I see what an ass I'd been. And I loved her. Loved her. Agony. My sibs and parents were astonished, and so was I -- I'd been bitching about her from the start -- it took me years to go through it, it changed me in upwards of seventeen thousand ways, it ate through my cool, pounded at me in ways I didn't know were possible. The hardest piece in my life, and I've since lost many people I love; I guess much of what I learned in that period of grief over my little ex-wife transferred to other pieces, in fact I know that it did. Your mother is in that piece now. So -- compassion, for sure. But you can't save her.

Typical MeFi advice here -- get thee to a therapist, get support in holding her at bay, and dealing with your own pain.

Hope I've not been too blunt here.....

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:27 PM on September 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

Dear Monsters, many condolences. You are being a very good daughter and friend to your mother. This must be a very stressful time for you.

My experience of grief (losing a beloved father and brother within weeks of each other) is vastly different than yours. My mother acted as though nothing had happened. I never even saw her cry. We hardly ever talked about our deceased loved ones and that affected me and my remaining siblings in a deep and damaging way (hello addictions!) until we were adult enough to seek help ourselves.

My response to your question would be to participate in a grief program together if that is at all possible. Does your mother drive? Could you find a grief program or grief therapist in your town and ask your mother to attend with you on a weekly or fortnightly basis? Maybe she could then stay over the night before returning home so there is a bit of a social treat after the session. You could even frame it in the terms you have here: - You need help to deal with your loss and her coming with you is vital to your healthy grieving and acceptance. Or, if she can take the truth of it: you both need help, and need each other to help each other.

I must admit I still harbour resentment at my mother for being selfish, yes selfish, about her own grieving and not caring for the grief response in her remaining children during that time. Of course another part of me understands that her emotional limitations caused this damage and that no parent is perfect especially one who has lost not only a husband (half expected) but also a son (very unexpected). But I know for a fact that if we had been able to seek professional help or support during that time, my life and that of my ex-alcoholic sibling would have been vastly different and far less pain ridden.

You need to deal with this soon, as you know. These things can cause lasting scarring if not dealt with promptly. Maybe your distant sibling can be the go-between: "Hey Mum, Monsters is having a hard time of things right now and needs you to help her."

I send warm wishes of resolution to you.
posted by Kerasia at 4:43 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Monsters, I am so sorry you are going through this. Just a question--is alcohol involved in these demands for impromptu "hugs" and comfort? It is pretty much a selfish call made on her part--and most reasonable people wouldn't make a call like that (unless impaired and/or profoundly depressed).

Here's a provocative question (not meant in any way to minimize the depth of her grief)..what did your Mom do for hobbies a long time ago? Did she like art or swimming? Was she a dancer or a quilter?

It would be really wonderful if you could get her to think about her interests and see if she could get around like minded people. If she were out in the world more, making friends she wouldn't have to rely on you so much. I am certain she feels that the one person who knew her well is gone and no one else (aside from her offspring) care about her. But you might be able to convince her that her long forgotten interests could ignite a spark in her again...and with NEW friends her life would not seem "over" could actually seem hopeful and fun again!

I'm probably your Mom's age and though thankfully I still have my spouse I re-visited oil painting after a very long hiatus. It is very surprising how engaged I feel with the process--and I realize now what was missing from my life for many years--a true passion that is completely mine. Through painting I have also made great new friends who do care about me and I care about them.

If your Mom lived for years "through" you and your Dad (as is the case with many women) then she has yet to discover her true deepest interests--you could give this line of reasoning some thought and encourage her to "take up" something that she used to love (but abandoned, perhaps, in favor of family life). Your Mom could have a very bright future ahead if you can counsel her about finding her personal passion...and if she finds it---she won't bug you to fill the void anymore. Give this some serious thought!

Positive thoughts going up for you and your Mom.
posted by naplesyellow at 6:12 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might consider taking some stress off yourself and request a leave of absence from your program. Depending on your adviser and your program you can request a certain amount of time to get yourself together and deal with your grief and the grief of your mother.
posted by jadepearl at 6:32 PM on September 5, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you for your thoughtful replies. Your messages of support are so kind. Each of you who reached into your own grief experiences to give advice, you have my sincere gratitude.

For clarification, my sibling is very much involved in supporting my mom. Despite living so far away, she visits every few months (during which she usually takes on a major short-term mom-helping project, EG cleaning out the garage). She calls my mom regularly. She is aware that I've been having trouble coping and has really been stellar support.

frustrated with her for putting pressure on you to support her in her grief without seeing that you have your own grief and your own life

This is exactly it. She knows I will talk to her any time on the phone. And that I enjoy spending time with her but I prefer to have it planned at least a few days in advance (this was my attempt at installing 'boundaries'). The problem comes only when she asks me to drop everything and go to her immediately.

it's a tribute to your relationship ... she's turning to you because you're special to her

Thank you for saying this. You make a great point and it's a good, simple thing to remind myself of when my nerves are fraying.

Regarding pets, I'm working on getting her hooked up with a nice mellow cat but I don't want to force a pet on her. A cat she didn't want would stress her out more and be pretty shit for the cat as well.

I'd say Mom and I are both kind of on the cusp of therapy (I got some counseling via my university last semester but I fell off over the summer). Thanks for your advice that therapy is the right track. Setting boundaries was what I discussed most with my counselor- how to do it kindly and even generously while maintaining my own sanity.

As a thanks to you for wading into the emotionally fraught waters of grief, here is a happier story.

One of the ways that my mom and I have connected since my father's death is through music. My mom loves folk music. My dad did too. But artists with a political message were absent from the music I remember as a kid (I imagine my Mom did this out of respect for my dad's more conservative political views).

Mom let me know she was interested in going to see Joan Baez a few weeks back. Turns out she likes protest singers. Due to her rural youth, she had missed out on going to popular concerts as a kid. Seeing my mom's joy at that show was a beautiful thing- seeing her launching out of her seat at the end of a song to give standing ovations. In the car on the way back, she said, "I feel like I can have fun again!" It was wonderful to hear.

Oh, and AuntieRuth? I'm sure your post was made with good intentions. I am not a religious woman per se. I am however, in my way, as utterly pious as your post makes you seem to be- especially when it comes to the care of my parents. I suggest that, in the future, when you craft your messages to people asking about topics of such strong emotional sensitivity, you exercise some care if you truly wish to help. I was very clear in my question: how do I cope with this frustration? If your response was truly answering the question I asked, you may wish to avoid grief threads in the future. Real grief is contradictory and confusing, and not without its moments of anger, resentment, guilt and shame. I interpreted your post as a pat, throwaway comment to an imagined ungrateful daughter, and that sure as hell ain't me. If that wasn't what you were going for, maybe it's time to rethink your approach.
posted by Monsters at 9:36 PM on September 5, 2009 [8 favorites]

Monsters, quite simply, you rock!
You are an amazing and compassionate person, even with Mefites.
My deepest sympathies on your loss.

I didn't have as much trouble with my Mum as you're describing due to a large family and lots of friends around to share the burden with, but your Joan Baez story struck a chord.

A year after my father died, I took my Mum to a seminar on SIDS. Her first child had died at birth at a time in Ireland when dealing with such tragedy consisted of sweeping it under the carpet and never, ever talking about it. She never even saw her firstborn son, James. Because he was unbaptised there was also the pain of suspecting he might have been buried in unsatinctified ground, again, she couldn't even find that out and for a Cathloic like her this was horrendous. My father was her rock and he held her when she cried, and cried with her but he thought he was helping by not speaking about his pain, or the baby.

I suggested this seminar only because I had just had my first child and couldn't imagine how horrifying her experience had been so I thought this might help her. Just like your Joan Baez story, it tuned out to have been just the thing, she cried, she laughed, she reminisced about her pregnanacy & hopes with other mothers who had lost their babies, it was profoundly cathartic. I know it really helped her deal with the other grief of my father's loss and suspect that bulding in some expereinces like this with your mother will really help.

If she altered her music listening skills out of respect for your father, are there any other hobbies, groups, political activities she might re-engage with? Trying to set up a shedule of things to look forward to (or just get out of bed for) is useful if this has become full-blown depression. WRT a pat, just take her along to the pound as an activity. If she sees an animal she can envision in her life, all the better.
Good luck!
posted by Wilder at 1:38 AM on September 11, 2009

eek, meant of course a pet!
posted by Wilder at 1:39 AM on September 11, 2009

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