Relief for the bereaved
July 5, 2014 11:32 AM   Subscribe

My mom died two weeks ago. It was from a fast growing lymphoma - was sudden and unexpected. She was an incredibly healthy person leading up to about the year before her death - no vices at all, exercised religiously, and maintained a very healthy lifestyle. Question revolves around help for coping with this loss, potential near-future loss of father, and changes in live.

I had a complicated relationship with my mother (who doesn't) but feel very sad about this loss. I'm newly married, 8 months pregnant and really still needed my mom, regardless of the complexity of our relationship. I'm also under incredible stress from other things going on in my life (new first marriage, first baby, started a new job in May, new home, financial strain of trying to sell old home, the list really does go on and on). Additionally, my father is in very poor health and we actually anticipated him passing way before my mother. Parents are divorced but were married for decades and were still very congenial. So my question is really two fold - how do you deal with all of these unanticipated stressors - i am talking to a counselor but would love to hear some anecdata on how others have really dealt with this - any suggestions on books to read about loss would be helpful, esp ones dealing with complicated mother-daughter relationships. My other question is about my anxiety over my father's failing health. I sense he's becoming more and more weak since the shock of my mother's passing and know that sometimes when one spouse dies the other one follows shortly thereafter. (even though they are both divorced and remarried, there was still a connection) so any anecdata or insight you could share on this anxiety I have (either to quell or confirm, yes you've seen this before) would be appreciated.
posted by dmbfan93 to Human Relations (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry about your loss. According to some writers, it's the complicated relationships that are the hardest to grieve. Cheryl Strayed's book Wild is about her own grieving process for her mother and Meghan O'Rourke's The Long Goodbye is as well. I'm on a mobile device so I can't link them but they're easy to find.

For myself personally, the book that helped my grieving process most was The Grief Recovery Handbook. It takes you step by step through a review of your relationship to help bring some resolution.

I wish you well. I still miss my mother but it's not nearly as painful as it once was.
posted by janey47 at 11:54 AM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Motherless daughters by hope Edelman. Don't be turned off by the title, but it may be helpful.
posted by bengalibelle at 12:22 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

My deepest condolences. I lost my mom more than 5 years ago.

This may be appear tactless, but do you have her (and your father's) estates in order? One thing that reduced a LOT of stress was hiring an excellent Estate Lawyer. She handled the nitty gritty of the financials, including selling her condo, while I handled the grieving and my own issues with finding a new place to live and a job. My mother's finances were a mess, however, and she didn't even have a will.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:20 PM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry for your loss. All I can suggest is what I consider good advice for everyone in pain: be as good and gentle with yourself as you possibly can, give yourself the latitude and understanding you'd give someone you loved, and ask for help however you prefer to receive it. This sounds like a very challenging time indeed. Do what makes you feel better, even if it's not feeling obligated to feel better.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:53 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry for your loss. All I can suggest is that you involve your father as much as you can in the joy of your new baby, who will be a reminder of the continuum of life.
posted by essexjan at 3:52 PM on July 5, 2014

My condolences. Sounds like a hard year for anyone. Are you familiar with the Holmes and Rahe stress scale? Scores of over 300 on the scale indicate that you might be at risk for illness. You'll have to tally your score, but I think you're close. Life is throwing a whole lot of stress your way. But maybe this is the worst of it and the next few years will be smooth.

You should really be emphasizing self care. It's great that you already have a counselor. What else sounds good to you? A massage? a weekend away? watching trashy movies? Let yourself indulge in some happy things.

Do you have any friends that can check in with you? Like, call you on a biweekly schedule to make sure you're doing okay? Would just be a quick reminder for you to check with yourself and reflect on how you're feeling.

Congratulations by the way! Babies are great. What an exciting time. But the hormone fluctuations can be wild even if you weren't already stressed. Google can be your best friend or worst nightmare. Decide which it is for you and use it or stay away. For me it was a great tool. Baby hadn't pooped? Google it! Baby has a weird rash? Google it! There's tons of moms out there experiencing the same stuff and it was really comforting to me to know that it was 99% nothing to worry about. Similarly, I bet there are grief related forums that might be comforting to read.

Also, can you plan to do something during your maternity leave to honor your mother? Plant a flowering shrub, craft something in her memory or donate money for a rememberance in her name?

Finally, your dad. Who is sharing the load with you? Do you have step siblings or a step-mother? Uncles, aunts? Try to involve some other people so its not all on you. Depending on how reliable they are you might be able to delegate some chores. Find out where he's receiving his medical care and if they have a social worker or clinical resource coordinator who would be able to walk you through the process of what will happen as his health continues to deteriorate. Like, will he need caregivers in home, or a nursing home, what the criteria will be for each, what sort of financial papers he'll need to have in order, etc.
posted by MadMadam at 4:30 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

On Grief and Grieving (and seconding Motherless Daughters)
posted by superfish at 6:23 PM on July 5, 2014

My mother passed away from cancer almost 4 years ago, I was 23. For a long time I was nurturing this painful guilt that it was somehow my fault she went through what she did. Grief does a lot of things. One of the things that helped me cope during the first few years was writing her letters. I had a file saved in my laptop that I would update with everything I wanted to express to her. Almost like a journal, but instead of "Dear diary" it was "Dear Mom." It was cathartic mostly because the multitude of thoughts and feelings that would forever be left unsaid found their outlet, somehow.
posted by tackypink at 8:19 PM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

My condolences on your loss. I lost my mother suddenly a little over a year ago. She was healthy for her age, and was about to start the process of moving to the city I live so I could take care of her when she needed it.

I found that what helped me the most was talking to someone who had been through the same loss, even if it was years in the past. Someone who understands down to the bone what you're going through, and can be supportive and empathetic. Others feel sympathy and try to help, and in their own way they do, but they don't really know exactly how it feels. (For me it was like someone had pulled out part of my foundation. One of the steady signposts of life.)

I hope that you find what you need. I'd spend as much time with, or in contact with (if he's not nearby) your father. Do not feel guilty at the moments of joy, your mom wouldn't begrudge you them. And, as was said above, take care of yourself and your baby. Be good to yourself, and take the time you need to grieve for what is lost, but don't lose yourself.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 10:07 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Be preemptive about post-natal depression because you're grieving and with multiple other big stress factors, so the hormonal turmoil of a new baby with everything else makes you more vulnerable than most women. Discuss with your partner, you counsellor and obgyn what you could plan to do if the signs crop up so they can get the help organised when you need it faster and as you preferref (meds, childcare for the baby, etc.) Hopefully you won't have to use the plan at all.

Have you got other older women in your life who can step in to do the grandmother/mothering role for you? Like an aunt, your mother-in-law, an older friend. I am estranged from my mother. When I see other women getting support and help from their mothers for their grandchildren, it's still remarkably painful, and I wish I had someone to fill that role. Given how recent and complex your loss is, if you have someone like that you think might be able to help in that role, you might have a heart-to-heart with them to explain that you will be still be very sad and conflicted and sometimes that might be directed at them for being there when your mum is not, and you hope they'll understand while you deal with that and becoming a mother.

Writing to her as suggested by tackypink is a really good idea.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:11 PM on July 5, 2014

Complicated relationship or not, it hurts to lose a mother. My mother and I had a complicated relationship, she was difficult for me and I know I was difficult for her. She died May 24th, 92 years old, sharp until the very end.

I find now that I want to talk to her about this, or that, or the other. Alive, it was a struggle for us, I wanted to call but I didn't want to hassle with her, be told what to do and how to do it and that I am going to hell because jesus levitcus satan blah blah blah; it made it hard to call, and I didn't call, not near enough.

But now, dead, gone, she's mythic. I think of the fun we'd had, over the years. One time, when I was a kid, we'd gone down to visit her sister in Peoria, and coming back to Lombard on some Illinois two-lane through a summer evening in a late 50's or early 60's blue Buick, she dropped the hammer, for fun, we were screaming on down that road at a hundred, more maybe, I don't know. Maybe this didn't even happen – it did happen though -- maybe it didn't even happen, it seems like out of a dream: the golden light in the air, the Illinois summer, the empty road, her happy presence. There was a happy person in her, a light person; not a clown, not a joker, but just buoyant somehow, she could get there sometimes, and she was fun then. I sometimes wonder if I could somehow been more her friend -- was I too harsh?

I never questioned her love for me, for any of my siblings; she had a good heart. But she was damaged in shipping, and passed that on to us, as often happens.

So, I don't know. She had a good run, and she was in a lot of pain the last years of her life, she'd been ready to take off for a long, long time, but she was just to tough to go. We tried to keep her in Life, too, by sharing our lives with her.

Anyways. I don't have a book recommendation for you, just telling you what's happened here. I think of the good parts -- not like I'm trying to block out anything negative, it's just what's happening. Maybe it's my psych, protecting me, maybe it's my heart, giving her a break. We didn't have too many good times, too bad. Always stressors in our family, and she mostly wasn't buoyant. But it was fun when she was; they're sweet memories, some of the best I have in this old dumb heart of mine.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:16 AM on July 6, 2014 [10 favorites]

And I'm glad you're in therapy. Our psych can't send us a telegram, there's no writing on the wall.

It doesn't use language, not as we understand language. It has it's own language, elegant but opaque. It uses dreams, and images. Metaphor.

A man cried at first snow. Every year. It made no sense.

In therapy he remembered that his father died in winter.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:17 AM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

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