My mom has died, I will be ok, is it ok to know that?
July 16, 2012 12:08 AM   Subscribe

My mom has died, I will be ok, is it ok to know that?

She died eight hours ago. We had a long two years of knowing it was coming. It was a surprise today, but quick, painless and peaceful. I feel like I should be sadder, but I am not. I feel an intense relief and a sense of gratitude. Many of you have helped me immensely from diagnosis to now and I am forever grateful. Do you think it is ok not to feel immobilized with grief, am I in denial?
posted by thelastgirl to Society & Culture (47 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry for your loss, and it is absolutely okay for you to be okay. It seems like in the past two years you've probably already done a lot of grieving. These moments are yours, and there is no right or wrong way to react. I hope you continue to feel gratitude and peace.
posted by gubenuj at 12:21 AM on July 16, 2012 [20 favorites]

Well, if you're anything like me, these kinds of things hit you in waves as you carry on and process the event and your memories involving her whensoever they happens to pop forth into your direct consciousness. But yes, you're ok. There's certainly no one 'correct' way to feel about anything under the sun, and how you're feeling is perfectly valid and fine. And I think it's lovely and wonderful that you're not immobilized by grief and that you found her passing peaceful and painless. I'm sorry for your loss, but this perfect stranger is glad you're doing OK despite it.
posted by involution at 12:24 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yup. Feel whatever you feel. To be honest, I think you are experiencing grief right now, it's just not expressed the way you thought it would. Just like you can be happy without laughing constantly, grief isn't bawling your eyes out or whatever, it's simply the reaction we have to a big loss.
posted by wonnage at 12:25 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Everybody processes these things at their own pace. What you are feeling is what you are feeling, and it is okay. My guess is that it may be shock; when my grandmother died, the next several hours I felt like you described, but there was more "classical" (for want of a better word) grieving to follow. But gratitude and relief are totally understandable, and totally okay. I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:26 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sometimes when endings and loss come I've felt immediate and visceral grief. Sometimes I haven't felt the full weight until later, or have had it come and go in waves. I know other people have a variety of experiences across the range, and sometimes people are even able to process change healthily before it happens.

I don't know if you'll really know for a while how it'll work out for you, but if you feel like you're well enough now, don't feel a need to change that.
posted by weston at 12:29 AM on July 16, 2012

My grandmother died last year after a long, slow, shitty decline. When she was finally gone, my immediate feeling was relief. I wasn't glad she was dead, but I was very, very, very glad she was no longer dying.

Grief came later, of course, to greater and lesser degrees depending on the day. But yes, it is OK to just be glad that it is done.
posted by KathrynT at 12:30 AM on July 16, 2012 [17 favorites]

So sorry for your loss. But, I really think it's okay to feel WHATEVER after finding out that a loved one has died.

The common reaction in society is one of grief, but relief is also understandable, especially if you felt exhausted during the "long two years" as you described it. I would think that the two years were spent grieving, preparing, and accepting the idea of losing your loved one. You may have already grieved for your loss before your mother died.

Another thing too though is that it's common to feel relief and gratitude when you know your loved one was in a lot of pain. So, having watched your mom in the last two years it may have been emotionally difficult knowing how much pain she was in so you might have been relieved knowing that she no longer had to experience pain and died in a "quick, painless, and peaceful" way.

It is absolutely okay to feel any range of emotions after having lost your mom. Try not to limit yourself and the emotions that you think are okay or are not okay to feel and express based on societal expectations. Everyone handles death differently. Let yourself handle it in a sincere way by allowing yourself to feel whatever emotions rather than suppressing the emotions. Best.
posted by livinglearning at 12:30 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

It is ok to feel grateful that your mother has been released from pain and illness. Be aware that you may be in a numb state and may have different feelings later. Or not. That is ok too.
posted by Cranberry at 12:31 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you think it is ok not to feel immobilized with grief, am I in denial?

It is okay. But you do still have to look after yourself - as it's been said, these things can come in waves. How you feel now may not be how you feel in three months or a year or two. Which is not to say it will be negative or that you will be immobilised, it's just that be aware that your feelings may fluctuate greatly over the next while.
posted by heyjude at 12:36 AM on July 16, 2012

My condolences. When my father died after a brief but obviously terminal illness, I immediately burst into tears--I mean cartoon style, the tears getting a good bit of air as they flew off. But I was far from immobilized by the grief. Among other things, as part of his passing, we found out he'd fathered another child in Germany forty years ago and hidden it from us all. So the next day, when the funeral director asked how many children to mention in the obituary, I said, "Well ... I don't know!" and our whole family broke out in hysterical laughter.

I cried just three or four times total, and that was pretty much that, though I think of him often and miss him plenty.

Anyway, I guess there could be people who're into enforced solemnity and hardcore grieving, but I haven't met them. I think all you're likely to encounter are people who'll cut you all the slack in the world to feel anyway you happen to feel.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:44 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry for your loss. And, you will be ok. So it must be fine to realise that.

My father died recently and unexpectedly. I didn't experience the sense of relief you are feeling (probably because the circumstances were different), but I did not feel immobilised with grief. And I knew that things would be ok in the end. A different sort of ok, to be fair, but still ok.

As people say, feelings change over time and loss isn't something you get over, as much as something you get used to. Whatever you feel is the right way to be feeling. That's something my siblings and I knew and believed, and it really helped. Because then each of us was happy when we were happy and sad when we were sad, and we didn't add unnecessary guilt into the picture.

Also, we found that people would mostly take their cue for how to behave from us. And we ignored the people who told us how we should be feeling, because they were wrong.
posted by plonkee at 12:47 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry for your loss. Your grief will come, in its way for you, in its time. It is OK to feel whatever you are feeling now.
posted by caclwmr4 at 12:51 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was like that when my father died in 2008 - like you, we knew it was coming, though not when. As others have said, the more "traditional" bouts of grief often come in waves. They did for me, especially when telling other people about his death, or getting a call from a close friend.

My relief that he was no longer suffering was mingled with relief that I wouldn't have to keep dealing with his illness. That's normal too, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:55 AM on July 16, 2012

Your mother wanted you to be OK. That her passing was peaceful and painless is something to be thankful and grateful for, you will miss her in the future of course and grief may still overwhelm you at times but knowing that you were going to be OK was undoubtedly a blessing to her.
posted by fshgrl at 12:57 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

My condoleances.

Do you think it is ok not to feel immobilized with grief, am I in denial?

It's ok to feel this way, especially since as you mentioned it had just happened. I felt the same way when my wife died, a feeling of sadness mixed with relief and a desire to get on with all the things that needed to be doing for the funeral etc. Especially if, like me, you'd like to keep your feelings private as much as possible.

Everybody responds differently to loss and it is quite likely that right now, you do have a bit of denial going as wel: this is not a bad nor a shameful thing. It takes time to get used to death, even an expected death. In the same way, feeling relief or gratitude that somebody who was in pain is no longer, that finally the worst has happened and the struggle is over, is a natural thing, is what the vast majority of people dealing with a drawn out death bed feel.

Just be prepared for the grief to hit you later. And remember there is no wrong or right way to grieve.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:26 AM on July 16, 2012

Your grief is your grief, you don't need to justify how it feels, you don't need to explain it to anyone.

Of course, as mentioned, grief is not static. Allow the process to happen as it needs to for you, let it be organic.

posted by HuronBob at 3:24 AM on July 16, 2012

Of course it's okay. And in fact, it's probably far more common than you might think - despite society's expectation that we must follow a certain model of grieving, it's very heterogenous.

George Bonano is a Dr specialising in grief research, who conducted one of the biggest and most thorough studies of grieving and has this to say: (emph mine)
"There are generally three outcome patterns: chronic grief, common grief, and resilience or absent grief. Chronic grief is someone who has a dramatic, high level of depression and grief after a loss, and they don't get better for several years. The common grief pattern is usually people who show an elevation of symptoms — depression, distress, difficulty concentrating, etc., and somewhere within a year or two, they return to normal. And the third type are those who don't show any disruption in their normal functioning. And that last pattern is very common, sometimes up to half the people will show that....

...We followed a group of people in Michigan over six years in a bereavement study where we knew a lot about the people before the loss occurred. We showed that about half the sample showed no symptoms at any point in the study. They just were not depressed before or after the loss, and we found that they were healthy people. They had fine relationships. The interviewers did not find them cold or aloof, and they did not score high on a measure we had of avoidant attachment."
What you're feeling is perfectly understandable and valid, and very common. Please don't feel any sense of guilt or obligation, or judgment from others. And while this may hit you harder at a later date, it doesn't for a lot of people, and there's not a damned thing wrong with that. Don't expect it to happen, and don't worry if it doesn't. You still love your mum and your family, and no one gets to dictate the kind of feelings you have about that relationship, except you. Stay well.
posted by smoke at 3:27 AM on July 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

It is very much okay to feel however you DO feel: no two people grieve exactly the same, and no single behavior is the "correct" one. You'll probably have somber times when you may be near tears, as well as times when you'll remember her with laughter. And there'll be plenty of times to come when you see or hear of something you think she'd be interested in, and it'll hit you again: she is gone. All normal.

There's actually two things you are and will be experiencing: one is grief, and the other relief. The grief is for you, for the loss of your mother; the relief is for her, for knowing she is no longer suffering or in pain. And there's no set time limit on how long you'll grieve; some people may 'get over it' (or at least seem to!) quicker, while others take more time.

Your feelings will also depend on whether this is your first parent to die, or if your father predeceased her: it doesn't mean you care more for one or the other, but in many ways it's harder to loose the second parent, and to suddenly face being the senior member of the family. It's odd, but even as an adult with children of your own, no longer having Mom and Dad there in the background of your life? I can only compare it to loosing an emotional support net.
posted by easily confused at 3:37 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Both my grandfathers lived to be very old, and both their deaths were long and slow (although not painful, blessedly). Neither of their deaths came as a real surprise. And both my parents felt a little relieved when they each passed.

What you feel is normal. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 AM on July 16, 2012

From a friend explaining why she was ok when her husband of many years died after a long, difficult illness; "I've already done most of my grieving during the time he was sick and knowing what was coming." She also had lots of loving family support. It is very different to lose someone who was very sick for a long time, than dealing with a sudden and unexpected death. How you feel is ok, and you will be fine. We all deal with grief and loss our own way.
posted by mermayd at 4:04 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dad died of cancer. I did my mourning when I found out that it was terminal. Nine months later he was dead. The only thing I felt was relief that it was over.

What you're feeling is normal, and it is definitely OK.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:45 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you lost your mom.

My father died in the spring after a long dual-diagnosis illness which significantly reduced his quality of life. As others have said, I had done a lot of my grieving and preparation while he was ailing. In the immediate aftermath I felt ok: sad, but even more relieved he was free from a life he never would have chosen for himself.

It does come in waves as you process it, so don't be taken aback if you experience grief differently a month from now than you do now; but yes, what you're feeling is ok and well within the range of normal, in my experience.
posted by hilatron at 5:02 AM on July 16, 2012

My condolences. My father died in December and I felt bad about how not bad I felt initially. I had to give myself permission to just feel what I feel and not feel bad about it.

You can't control your brain and you're not broken for feeling what you're feeling. You've also had 2 years to prepare for this and you've had time to come to terms with how she is feeling.

It's perfectly fine to feel this way and it's fine to feel another way. Just let yourself feel it.
posted by inturnaround at 5:18 AM on July 16, 2012

My sincerest condolences.

My dad died three weeks ago and I felt much the same way. He was not in good health and fell ill and within a week was gone. Even now, I keep expecting to be consumed by grief, but it hasn't yet happened. I did have my moments coming to grip with the inevitable and when he passed, the wake and funeral were tough. Much of my time was consumed with handling everything because my mother wasn't really able to and I'm the most responsible of my siblings. From talking to doctors, making healthcare decisions, making travel arrangements for family and all funeral arrangements, I did it all.

For me - and I suspect the same may be for you - I feel that I haven't fully realized the fact that my father is not here anymore. I miss him, but I lived 1200 miles away, spoke to him a couple of times a week and only saw him 2-3 times per year so I haven't had that day to day interaction with him for over 20 years. His poor health was tough for him and I am glad that he isn't suffering anymore even though I desperately wish he were still here.

We all mourn differently and I firmly believe that you grieve/mourn any way you see fit and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Please take care of yourself and again, you have my thoughts & prayers.
posted by SoulOnIce at 5:22 AM on July 16, 2012

I'm sorry for your loss. However you feel is fine, there is no right way to grieve. I felt much the same way as you when my father died three years ago. I cried when we were getting things ready for the funeral (pictures and things), but I was never wailing and incapacitated with grief, it was a relief that his suffering was over. I was also worried that it wasn't "normal" to be so okay with it. I was (and am still) much more perturbed by the length of time it took him to die than the fact that he died.

When my best friend died suddenly, I was incapacitated with grief, and I have still not really come to terms with it.
posted by biscotti at 5:35 AM on July 16, 2012

I'm so sorry.

I think what you are feeling is perfectly fine. You've had two years with your mom where you knew that she was dying. You made the most of the time you had left and you've left nothing unsaid.

Sure, you'll have some days where you'll wish you had your mom to talk to. You'll be in the oddest place doing the most mundane thing, and you'll have a wave of grief and miss her in the worst way. I still feel that way about people I've lost and I think I'll always miss them to some degree.

Knowing that she's no longer in pain, or debilitated or suffering is a HUGE relief. If you believe in an afterlife, you're sure that she's now on her new path, and still looking out for you in her way.

Take every moment as it comes. Grief is different for each of us, as are the circumstances surrounding it.

Your Mom would not want you to be sad or miserable, I'm sure she'd want her life celebrated.

Do whatever feels right in this time. Don't worry about what other people expect from you, screw them.

Remember to take good care of yourself and to let friends and family help you.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:45 AM on July 16, 2012

I'm so sorry for your loss, thelastgirl. As everyone has already said, there's no regulation handbook for grieving - everyone handles loss differently and on their own schedule. Three of my grandparents passed after long periods of declining health, and I would say that the overwhelming emotion among my family in each case was relief. The sadness was there too, but tempered by the long time we had to come to grips with the situation.

Let yourself feel what you need to feel, take care of yourself, and be well.
posted by usonian at 6:01 AM on July 16, 2012

You are already grieving, and you probably have been for the two years that you knew the illness was terminal. There is not a right or a wrong way to do it. You might get sad and cry later, or you might not. Nobody has the right to tell you to do this differently.

Think of this as the wedding of two people who have loved each other for years. The wedding is a milestone and a significant event in their lives but it doesn't change the couple's feelings for each other.

One thing I would suggest is to use this time to help relatives and others who are not handling it as well and may need more emotional and logistical support.
posted by moammargaret at 6:09 AM on July 16, 2012

Whatever you feel is acceptable and right in this circumstances. My grief was a bit delayed when both my parents passed away. What you will likely experience is a rush of memories coming to mind that you haven't thought of for years. There is no prescribed timing for grief though so don't worry about what you feel or when you feel it. I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by dgran at 6:24 AM on July 16, 2012

I'm so very sorry.

When my mom died, I was relieved and numb - from her diagnosis to her death, it had been about six months, but it was a very long six months.

I'll confess I don't remember anymore how I felt in the days following - the whole period is kind of a blur. I know I cried a lot unexpectedly - things like shopping for cat food (I adopted her cats) made me break down in the cat food aisle. Seeing any reference to an orphaned child or the death of a parent on TV made me lose it. Stuff like that. It's all very surreal.

Try not to worry too much about if you're feeling the "right" thing. Whatever it is, you are. Again, I'm so very sorry.
posted by rtha at 6:27 AM on July 16, 2012

My father died in the last year, but the situation was different because although we knew his health was such that it was a distinct "could happen at any time" possibility, we were by no means expecting it when it happened - on the contrary we believed based on what we were being told (he was hospitalized) that he was out of immediate danger, and it was entirely possible (as far as we knew at the time) that he could have lived many years more.

That being said, I did have a very immediate sense of feeling that I was okay - I had processed this, I accepted it, I was sad but I wasn't overwhelmed with unfinished business - that later I really felt like was basically denial. In that moment I needed to assert that I was okay and I would be okay - and these things are essentially true - but I quickly learned that the sadness was a larger and deeper well than I'd initially apprehended, and that the idea of having no unfinished business with my dad was (for me at least) an unrealistic daydream. The deeper negative impacts only really began to manifest in the days and weeks (and months) following. One thing that really characterized this was repeated realizations that ideas and realities I thought I had come to terms with (by thinking about them a lot in the long-ish period of serious health problems that presaged his death) were just something else when confronted in actuality. This was also the first really close, significant death I've experienced so it was the first time for all these things.

Again, I think the degree of certainty, and how much and what sort of end-of-life conditions you were dealing with, and for how long, could change this a lot. But I guess I would say nonetheless that it probably wouldn't be surprising if you find yourself later feeling a lot less okay than you did initially, and if you find that there is still a lot of territory to cover in your coming to terms with this loss.

The other thing I would say though is even if it is not accurate these feelings may be necessary and appropriate for now and the "positive" (for want of a better word) reactions are just as valid as the negative ones and there's no need to overly interrogate them or feel bad about any kind of relief the internal tides afford you. As I said the underlying idea - that you will be okay, that this won't sink you - is in fact true and worth holding onto if later you find yourself in the midst of greater sadness. I miss my dad terribly and while I get used to that fact, and gain acceptance, it isn't ever going to stop being true. But it is not nor should be the end of my or anyone's world and I perceive that there are greater depths of wisdom and understanding out there in my grown acceptance and assimilation of this basic reality of life. Every good thing about my father does in fact live on in me and a great many other people who loved and admired him, and the same is true I am sure for you.

I'm sorry for your family's loss. Take care of yourself and each other.
posted by nanojath at 6:28 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am sorry for your loss, thelastgirl.

My dad died one year ago today. I sometimes wonder the same thing - should I be grieving more? Truthfully, I feel relieved. He was 71 and seemed to be in great health, and died suddenly. My siblings and I would have many conversations about how to "deal" with our dad as he got older - all of us near certain that he would live another 20 years. Our mom died of cancer when we were kids, so we had already seen and been through the stresses and suffering of a parent with a terminal illness. It is obviously very hard for the person with the illness, but also extremely difficult for family members and caregivers to go through it with them.

I am actually very relieved my dad died the way he did - quick and relatively painless, though a total shock. I am relieved that we don't have to constantly worry about him during snowstorms or thunderstorms (the one a few weeks ago in DC completely wrecked the wooded street he lived on). I am relieved that I don't have to worry about him driving and sacrificing his independence, or getting into an accident. I am relieved that I did not have to see him become skeletal and debilitated, as we saw our mom. He was stubborn with change, rather lonely, and no matter how much we tried, the worry consumed us at times.

It seems like it's taboo to admit relief after a loved one dies, but I do feel it. I miss him and I do sometimes feel sad, and sometimes wish I could talk to him, but I also feel very much at peace about things. That said, I don't think there's any "normal" way to grieve - you are allowed to take this time to honor your own feelings as they come and go, as needed. Whatever you feel, is completely valid.
posted by raztaj at 7:01 AM on July 16, 2012

There's no right way. Your feelings may change. Everything everybody here has said to you is true. I'd encourage you to try as hard as you can not to take the temperature of your reaction too much. From everything I've ever seen from myself and everyone else, grief is a marathon, not a sprint, and whether you're in denial or not, what you feel is okay. There's no great benefit to identifying your phase of grief, especially so very early in the process. I think there's a great temptation to build a narrative -- a story of how you're doing, partly because everyone wants to know. And you don't have to do that; you just have to ride it out.

I'm so sorry this has happened; best thoughts to you.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:10 AM on July 16, 2012

Yes. Like everyone else has said, there is no wrong way to do this. You feel how you feel and that is okay, and there will be other feelings that you will feel, too, and those are also okay. Be kind to yourself.

How you feel is natural: you can know that because you are feeling it and that is your body taking care of you and making sure you can meet your basic needs. Behind your conscious self, there might be such a tremendous reserve of deep, deep feeling which would totally overwhelm you right now, such that if your body opened the gates, you would just short circuit and shut down. You might be portioning out your grief to yourself in manageable amounts and that is okay.

It's also natural to wonder, at such a time, about your own inadequacy. About what you could do, or should do, differently. Like this: should you be differently right now? Should you have been differently before? It's natural to ask these questions. Don't beat yourself up about how you feel, or even about how you feel about how you feel. There is no wrong way to do this. There's no should. There's just you.

I am sorry for your loss. Please take care of yourself, and please don't hesitate to reach out to anyone you feel like talking to, if you need to.
posted by gauche at 7:24 AM on July 16, 2012

You have been grieving for a long time, and dealing with her coming death in increments, as it sounds like she died in increments. You must be emotionally exhausted, and you may not have much if any emotional energy available. You may or may not experience more intense grief later. It's really okay.

My warmest thoughts and a big hug to you, and everyone in this thread.
posted by theora55 at 7:35 AM on July 16, 2012

Yes. You are aware of your feelings, you're feeling relief and gratitude, and that's OK.

At my mom's funeral I was aware on some level that some people were critical that I wasn't crying, but it wasn't that I was suppressing it. Like yours, my mother had a long decline, and her death was a coda.

You should not feel obliged to feel or display anything you don't legitimately feel. The work you'll do will be internal, and will progress at a completely individual pace, and will be mostly invisible to others. Most people have experienced the death of someone close to them, and will understand this.

This is your mother, you're not going to lose your memories of her and there will be moments where you miss her badly. I still catch myself, very occasionally, thinking "I must ask Mom about that" or something like that, and then remembering – almost ten years later. But you will be OK.

Take care of yourself.
posted by zadcat at 7:45 AM on July 16, 2012

It is okay. It happens. When my father died I shed no tears and felt no grief, and it wasn't because I did not get on with the old chap or anything like that. It was that he was becoming increasingly unwell, increasingly senile and an increasing burden to my mother, who was eleven years his junior. When he went I felt inevitability and relief, coupled with concern for my mother's well-being, naturally. But no grief about what seemed to me to be a necessary and appropriate ending for a decent man's decent life.
posted by Decani at 8:31 AM on July 16, 2012

I'm so sorry for your loss.

When my dad died after a long illness, I wasn't overwhelmed by grief. But I still have sharp pangs of missing him even two years later. Everyone's grief has a different shape and timeline.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:41 AM on July 16, 2012

It's both a blessing and a curse to know that someone you love will die in the foreseeable future. I experienced this with my father when I was 16. I experienced the unexpected death of my mother when I was 27.

I was much more functional around my father's death even though the long term impact was severe. I didn't cry about his death for three weeks. When my mother died unexpectedly I was a complete wreck for about four months. I almost lost my job, etc.

You have the right to feel how you feel when you feel it.

I'm glad your mother is at peace. So very sorry for your loss.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:04 AM on July 16, 2012

Do you think it is ok not to feel immobilized with grief, am I in denial?

Totally fine. My father died sort of suddenly lat year. At the same time he was in a sort of not-getting-better state from years of alcoholism that were clearly not going to turn around. The fact that he died on his own terms [and not in some slow decline where he made everyone else miserable] was a real blessing to everyone and while I missed having functional-Dad in my life an awful lot, it was such a relief to have that chapter of my life closed in some reasonable way.

The thing I didn't expect was how STUPID the grieving process would make me. Not like obviously but I had a lot of memory and coordination problems for months, I slept too much or not at all, and I think it's because regardless of what my conscious brain was doing, part of my subconscious was still going through the processing, the dealing with other family members, the "complicated grief" stages. I didn't feel like I got my whole brain back for almost a year, though I definitely had days in-between there where I was like "Okay I am OVER this, time to get back to my life!" but it wasn't entirely accurate.

But, that was just me and everyone goes through this stuff differently. I am sorry for your loss, but gratitude in a situation that could have been terrible but wasn't is something I'm familiar with and seems very appropriate.
posted by jessamyn at 9:05 AM on July 16, 2012

Nthing the point that many people feel this way after the death of someone who has had a long, slow decline. It's OK.

I read something here recently that I liked--the idea that your mom's death will now release you, in some ways, to remember what was good and how she was when she was alive and healthy, rather than the sadness of seeing her in decline.

My husband lost his mother rather suddenly when he was in his late 20s and says that you'll be struck by surprising flashes of grief over small things. Many years after her death he found a little notebook in which she'd written some recipes for him, and seeing her handwriting made him just lose it.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:07 AM on July 16, 2012

Your description of your feelings mirrors those that I felt after my father's death, 5+ years after we knew it was going to happen. When an illness leading to inevitable death spans such a long time, you have time to move through a significant portion of the grieving process before you've actually lost them, and you can obtain a perspective that is much more them-centric; that is, you stop mourning the loss of the person in your life, and you start empathizing with their suffering more directly. When they pass, then, you might view it more as a release from suffering, primarily for them, but also to a certain extent for you.

Don't be surprised if unexpected feelings of grief arise later on -- that's also totally normal -- and in the meantime, don't feel guilty about feeling relief. Your mother's suffering has ended, and separate from all other concerns, the ending of suffering is a good thing.
posted by davejay at 1:59 PM on July 16, 2012

My grandmother died nearly two years ago after a long, unpleasant decline. After an initial, very brief bout of tears immediately after hearing that she'd passed away, I really felt less grief and more relief -- she was no longer suffering, and I believe strongly that she was reunited with my grandfather. Plus, I think I'd grieved a lot for her over the years of her decline.

I did, and still do, have occasional waves of sadness and loss since she died, and sometimes they're surprisingly strong, and will bring on tears, so don't be too surprised if grief sneaks up on you in the future. I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:33 PM on July 16, 2012

Your experience sounds quite similar to mine. I was very close to my mother, and all my life I feared that I would fall apart when she died. I didn't. I was utterly surprised to find that, from the very evening of her death, I felt a lovely sense of peace. My friends expected me to feel sad on Mother's Day, but I didn't -- she was a wonderful presence in my life, and always will be, so what do I need to be sad about? I miss her, but the missing feels like a tribute to her -- more warmth and gratitude than sadness. I can't say that I ever really felt a need to mourn or grieve. Somehow it seems that that would be insulting to her. My reaction to my father's death was similar. Of course, some deaths are tragic and wrenching, and everyone reacts differently. It's reasonable to be prepared to handle some stress and difficult adjustments. Your emotions will bring you some surprises, but they won't all be bad ones.

You're not in denial, you're in acceptance. Death is the natural end of life. It's not like it's something that isn't supposed to happen, though people often act that way.

It's perfectly OK to be perfectly OK.
posted by Corvid at 6:08 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Grieving isn't a feeling, its a process. And with two years of knowing it was coming, the truth is you started your grieving process a long time ago. What you feel now is okay no matter what feeling it is. The reality is that relief is a very normal feeling. So is sadness, or acceptance, or anger, or anything else you feel. So don't worry too much about how you feel and just take care of yourself.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by GilvearSt at 10:16 PM on July 16, 2012

Even if you are in denial, it's not a bad thing. Staying in denial would probably be a bad thing, but moving in and out of denial while you deal with stuff is quite a good coping mechanism.
You may find that you are in a state of calm functioning, or you may find that you are surprisingly labile, suddenly wanting to scream in rage, or wail, and that too is okay. Oddly, you might even find that you want to eat everything in sight, or want to have sex, or that you just don't want to deal with it and what you really want to do is take a few evenings off and watch bad comedy TV. You may also want to go on a nostalgia kick. Not a nostalgia kick relating to your mother, but to your own past, like re-reading books you read as a kid.
All these things are normal and not unhealthy. Getting stuck in anything and being lastingly miserable or moody is the only thing to watch out for.
It will most likely take a long time to go from matter-of-fact about her passing, to feeling sad and feeling she was cheated somehow, to enjoying remembering her without it making you sad.
The worse the relationship the more of a mess the whole grieving thing is likely to be. If you had a good relationship with her and was prepared for her passing, you might deal with it without too much pain, and that would not mean you were a bad, shallow person.

I'd just like to say I am sorry for you loss.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:32 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's weird. I'm comforted by how many people can understand what you're feeling but, at the same time, I wish I was the only one who understood, because it would mean no one else had gone through it. It is really the shittiest, most populated club on the planet.
But yeah, you will experience something different when you know someone is on their way out for a long time.
Jane the Brown is right- you started grieving this death a long time ago. My father was diagnosed with something that there was no recovery from, which meant his death scene lasted for three years. It was a tragedy in slow motion. So when he died, it did feel like an unclenching, a release. I was sad and angry on top of that, but it wasn't a shock.
Don't feel guilty. The other responses ti this question have been right- whatever you're feeling is the right feeling. Don't feel like you need to conform to a standard of grieving.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:27 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

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