My mom died yesterday
February 2, 2017 7:05 AM   Subscribe

My mom died last night after a long, slow, shitty decline--she was 66. I'm a 42 year old single man and am hoping other people who don't have the usual SO or children can help.

I know that mefi has the rep of having a lot of single and/or childless members...I'm hoping someone who has gone though the death of their last parent can help (dad died over 20 years ago). I have a sister and aunt to lean or but would greatly appreciate any advice that you guys have. Really, kind words from anyone would be welcome right now.

My mom was an awesome, kind, smart woman and we had a great relationship.

I'd also like to thank all the people who have asked similar questions here over the years, and the many kind responses. I read through some of them last night and they brought me some comfort (despite generally crying through them all)
posted by aerotive to Human Relations (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, sweetie. I am so sorry. Please be gentle with yourself now, and for the next year or so. This is a trauma every bit as valid as a physical trauma. You cannot and should not expect yourself to operate on any particular grief-timeline, or to conform to other people's opinions of what you can/should be doing at any particular time. Right now, reach out to people who are compassionate and who will just listen and BE with you in your grief. We're here for you.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:12 AM on February 2, 2017 [13 favorites]

I'm so sorry for your loss.

I agree with julthumbscrew - be gentle, and give yourself time.
posted by needlegrrl at 7:18 AM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

My Dad died when I was your age and then my Mom a few years after that. I too am single, though I have siblings.
What helped me was making the effort to reach out to a community, like a church, meditation center, being involved in activities like meetups, lectures, gym.
You might also benefit from joining a group that meets to talk about grief.
There is no magic bullet. And personally I don't believe in "closure". But you and life will go on, I promise.
I suppose the strongest advice would be to focus on the word compassion, specifically for yourself. You might look up the work of Kristin Neff.

In peace
posted by jtexman1 at 7:20 AM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

So sorry for your loss. Your grief path is your own and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may want to consider a personal memorial of some kind to help you honor your ever evolving feelings.

Also, this page may have some valuable information for you about what is "normal".
posted by crunchy potato at 7:21 AM on February 2, 2017

I am sorry for your loss, aerotive.

Did your Mom pass under the care of hospice? If so, reach out to them to find out what kind of grief services they provide. My mom passed a little under two years ago and I think one of the best things for me was the "loss of a parent" support group that the hospice ran.

Even if hospice wasn't involved, you should be able to find a support group regardless.

You don't actually get over a loss like this. There's no "Ok, I'm done grieving now. It's been enough time/effort/emotional investment" switch that gets flipped. Grief just transforms from this horrible painful all encompassing feeling to a shadow that stays by your side. Most days you don't even see it, but something will happen - something that reminds you of your mom - and grief will be there in full view again.

Be gentle with yourself. Try to forgive others who judge you or demand you to stop grieving because of ______. Those people often don't understand, having not yet suffered from this kind of loss.
posted by INFJ at 7:25 AM on February 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

My mom died when I was 25 (my dad died when I was 3), I definitely had no SO or kids at the time.

Let yourself just feel shitty for a while. Do you have friends? If so, when the wave of absolute utter sadness comes, try your best to make yourself go hang out with a friend who is capable of being sympathetic to this, or at least not weird about it. Or if not friends, your sister and aunt. When you feel really in the pit, try not to be alone. It may feel like you're burdening other people with your emotions, but people are surprisingly good at understanding and not treating you like a burden, just a person who needs another human being around. And it's a little harder to be totally despondent when there's another person with their own entire life nearby. It helped me.

It get easier, and harder, an easier, and harder, but in the long run (a concept I doubt you care about at the moment, for good reason, but bear with me) you'll see the other side of the grief.
posted by griphus at 7:29 AM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

How glad she must have been, to have you for a son! I'm so very sorry for your loss.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:36 AM on February 2, 2017 [15 favorites]

My mother passed away about a year ago. She was my only direct relative left alive. I am close to your age.

It has been very hard. As my last major relative, she was the foundation of my life, and losing her really left me without a base. She always said she had hoped for me to have started a family before she passed, not for her, but for myself, and now I really understand why.

The next year may be very hard for you. At least in my case, after the end of the year and the anniversary of her death passed, things got somewhat easier. I still dream about her, but it's less frequently now. For the first 9 months or so, I would dream that she was still actually alive and that her passing was just a bad dream in itself. It really messed with my mind for awhile. I still feel alone in the world, and I don't know if that will ever go away.

Best advice I have for you is to be very kind to yourself, and understand that it's perfectly ok to feel this way, for as long as it takes. You will obviously never forget her, and you may still cry long after you think you're done crying, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Feel free to contact me directly if you feel like talking further.
posted by eas98 at 7:41 AM on February 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry you've lost your mother. I'm there with you.

My awesome, smart, once-vibrant mother, with whom I had a great relationship, died January 15th at age 97. Her decline was unique (that's another story) but her death has left me feeling alone and lost in spite of wonderful support from friends and acquaintances. I have no SO or children, and two lousy sisters who are basically not grieving our mother's death.

I still work full time and it's a big help for me to get up, get dressed, get out of the house and be somewhere that distracts me for a good part of the day. I remind myself that I know many people who have lost parents, who felt their losses terribly just as I do, and they have gotten through the worst of it and now mostly have good, warm memories with only infrequent moments of sadness. I expect it will take me a while to get to that point, but looking forward to it helps.
posted by Dolley at 7:48 AM on February 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


While I do have an SO, I lost my mother last year. That was after losing my father the year before. I am a bit younger (32) and have younger sibblings (28 and 19) which became my de-facto kids.

She was amazing, fun and under my care at the time she passed.

I had so much to do to help my siblings that the first months just passed by. However, later on I needed light therapy to deal with it all. I understood that little details like celebrating her birthday, meeting with my sibblings on her anniversary, has helped keep her alive and deal with the grief.

If it helps. I am a much better person now. I appreciate a lot more those who are around me. I take more care of myself and now I know time is short so I do my best to go on more adventures.

Please send me a message if you need more help. Until then, grieve, take care of yourself.
posted by The1andonly at 7:55 AM on February 2, 2017

Many different circumstances - I lost my first parent (my father) last year. I'm a little older than you; he was much older than your mother. Relative to many others I've heard of, I think he had a reasonably quick, shitty decline. He went from being in pretty good shape for being 80 to losing his lower legs to vascular disease and then pneumonia finished him off within about 2 years.

Still, as Dad himself would say, "He had a good run." My generalized observations and advice:

- You will not always feel like you're actively grieving, but there is a loss there that you will always think about. It's been several months and I still think "Dad would appreciate this..." "I should tell Dad..."

- relatives are not always the closest people to you or uniquely qualified to help with the process anyway. My brother and I get along, but we process emotions quite differently and he doesn't like to talk about anything. My wife is also not much of a talker about things like this. If you're not well fixed with friends, this is a good time to work on that.

- if there are any financial arrangements to unwind, I'd suggest going as slow as you can. If her estate has the funds, spend some on a lawyer. Above all, don't get hung up on things like letting collectors hassle you to pay her debts (if any) that you weren't responsible for, "saving a homestead," etc.

Hope this helps a little. Grace and peace to you.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:29 AM on February 2, 2017

(I do have SO and grown-up kids, no siblings--whatever, here are a few thoughts)

I'm so sorry for your loss.
My mom (last living parent) died on 30 December after getting poorer over the last year and a steep two-month decline at the end. I, my wife, and a morning-and-evening nurse took care of her in her home during the last month. At the end of it there's grief paired with relief, a serious lack of sleep, and a huge heap of emotional exhaustion.
Everyone told me to take care of myself but they rarely filled in the blanks. This will be your main task here: HOW to take care of yourself.
1) When people invite you over (for taking your mind off things or whatever), fight the impulse to say no. If people, more vaguely, say why don't you come drink a beer with us, go and do it. It does help. It's always good to talk to people about one's experience in situations like this.
2) It's very difficult to detect signs of mental exhaustion from within; most of the time, it's like breaking through thin ice: you feel fine one minute and you stand behind the garden shed barfing the next (especially great when it's early in the morning and there's a good echo in the valley, AND when there are magpies to contemplate and fight over, uh, yes, well). Not a good thing to wait until you're utterly done, and implode. So you need to listen to others telling you when/that you make an exhausted impression: then go sleep, rest, walk, whatever but force yourself to take a time-out.
3) Official stuff: it can be overwhelming, and it might feel like it's interfering with your coming to terms with the situation. But if you tackle whatever needs tackling in a systematic way, one step after the other, it will also give your day structure and that can feel good. DO NOT, however, put too much on your plate every day. Do some things, then give yourself a break, do more things another day. Observe weekends or rest days.
4) Grieving can't be pushed, but it can be prolonged by being stuffed away. Give grief the time it needs, but look it squarely into the face.
posted by Namlit at 8:30 AM on February 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm a 62 year old mother of adult children and can think of no finer eulogy than "my mom was an awesome, kind, smart woman and we had a great relationship".

I hope that brings you some comfort.
posted by she's not there at 8:34 AM on February 2, 2017 [17 favorites]

Also single, around the same age as you, and lost a parent last year. I found great services through the local hospice organization and went there for the better part of a year. Also, I'd recommend taking whatever vacation or leave you can and using that time to be especially kind to yourself, which may involve just staying home and doing a whole lot of nothing if that feels right. I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 8:37 AM on February 2, 2017

Oh honey! I'm so sorry for your loss. As others said please be gentle with yourself. There is no timeline for grief and the supposed stages don't go in order all the time. I'm not good with practical help but I wish I could hug you. Is there anything I could send you to help? Something from your Amazon wishlist, some books to keep your mind going? ❤
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:17 AM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

My mom passed away 2 years ago this month and this post I just happened to come across (or did it find me?) was really helpful. Here's the link to the whole post but I copy/pasted the relevant portion below:

" [...] As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks."
posted by eatcake at 9:21 AM on February 2, 2017 [19 favorites]

Take it slow, but don't sleep on finding a therapist to talk to about your feelings.

My dad died three years ago, and while I had some family (spouse who loved him/loves me, mom who was divorced and never resolved her issues from two decades before) and plenty of friends but the therapist was tremendously helpful in getting away from a sense that I was over burdening my spouse and friends by making every comment and conversation about my grief. I guess what I am trying to say is your feeling is common, even among people who are objectively less isolated.

Take care of yourself.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:45 AM on February 2, 2017

You may be in your forties, but you're now an orphan. And that's really really sad. So please hold yourself gently and stay aware of the fact that you need protection and love. Don't overextend. Don't have ideas about how things "should" be. They are as they are.

I always recommend the Grief Recovery Handbook, because it also includes exercises in remembering and honoring the relationship that is lost on death. But, like, as eatcake says, it comes in waves and they're unpredictable. I had no idea that I would fall apart when I looked at my telephone bill the month after my mother's death and saw the last time I spoke to her. But it was like a little explosion in my brain and I had to sit down and let it pass before I could move on with my day.

Take good care and know that we are all sending love and comfort to you.
posted by janey47 at 9:56 AM on February 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

My SO (child/SO-less at the time) was orphaned in his late thirties after his mother didn't make it through her second bout of cancer.

I don't know how much this will mean right now, but last weekend was the 10th anniversary of his mum's death, and he spent a good whack of the time chatting with his siblings and celebrating. You'll come out on the other side eventually, one where you can revel in good memories rather than feeling like hell.

(I know it doesn't compare, but when I lost my grandmother ten years ago things just felt awful for a long time and I'd cry at the most random times and places. I still cry, but it's rare, and now when I think of her it's gratitude for her place in my life, and for helping turn me into who I am, and all manner of happy memories of my time with her.)

The idea of being orphaned at such a young age is scary to me, but. One thing it did to my SO was turn him into an exceptionally compassionate person, and a person who knows what to do when somebody else's parent dies -- a really useful skill for our age+, because it happens but it hasn't happened enough for most people to have much of a clue how to respond, but he has a knack for knowing exactly what to say. My last grandparent died recently and I felt very fortunate to have him around. So you have a bit of an unwanted gift there that you can probably eventually put to good use -- I'm also 42 and here and there friends are starting to lose parents. It's so hard to know exactly what to say when you haven't experienced the same trauma. But now you know, or, will figure it out over time, and can be a terrific source of comfort to your friends when they lose parents.
posted by kmennie at 11:43 AM on February 2, 2017

I'm a little bit older than you, and my mother is older than yours - she's gravely ill now, on her second go around with cancer, and it seems likely that she'll die before long. Maybe a few months. You're ahead of me, and I feel for you. I don't know how I'm going to feel when she goes, but I'd like to add my thoughts to the others that have been expressed here for you. Take it easy.

I have an SO (whose father is also terminally ill) - and I have two siblings, who have their own way of dealing with this that is not my way. Navigating through all of their feelings when I have my own to deal with too is part of the story.

Your mom was awesome. Take care of her memory. I'm thinking of you, aerotive.
posted by rd45 at 11:57 AM on February 2, 2017

I'm so sorry for your loss. My father died when he was the same age as your mother and I was your age and in the same circumstances as you. He died over about 15 years, same long, slow decline and then a distressing death on top of that, which I missed due to waiting for a flight from somewhere isolated.

Firstly, that time before the funeral is horrible. As I was the eldest I had to take on a lot of responsibility for funeral arrangements when I wasn't necessarily coping that well myself. People are for the most part extraordinarily kind and understanding and will do whatever they can to help, especially if you ask. This includes the wonderful people at the funeral home or priests/religious leaders if you're religious.

I took a lot of comfort from the most mundanely worded sympathy cards - they really meant a lot more than people necessarily understood, even with the most cliched phrases. I had a couple of friends I could call during that week, which helped as the family situation can be a bit suffocating when you're all grieving.

Things felt a little better after the funeral. Then I went back to work quickly and tried not to think about it too much. I cried whenever I needed, sometimes in public, felt sad when I did but tried to enjoy small things and avoided deliberately thinking about my Dad or wallowing. The grief will come when it comes, and it doesn't need extra help by ignoring a nice day, a cup of tea with a friend, or whatever makes for a nice moment in your world. Talk about your mother afterwards with your friends as far as sharing good or funny memories of her, or sad ones about her illness. Don't feel awkward about it. Most people will understand and be glad you brought it up as they were wondering whether it would be ok.

Noticing small good things and stringing as many you can together in a day to make it bearable while you're grieving helps. Don't wallow but on the other hand, let the grief come and go as it needs to without worrying about it or pushing it away.

The only important thing is not to feel guilty right now. No one is the perfect son or daughter, but now is not the time to start trying to unravel guilt. It gets in the way of good, clean, uncomplicated grief- don't let it make a space in your brain right now, push it away by saying, "Not now. I need to grieve for my mother." or whatever works for you.

It improves but yes, it's really hard and right afterwards is the very worst. Take comfort wherever you can, and hopefully you can stumble through it. Just about everyone goes through losing one or both parents in adulthood so don't feel afraid to reach out. In your 40s is shitty- I felt kind of resentful about that, but if you talk to people in their 60s they might have some advice too.
posted by Stephanie_Says at 12:30 PM on February 2, 2017

I don’t have many words to add. But I’m in my 40s and lost my mom this weekend, and she was my last immediate family member. I’m exhausted and in a cloud of sadness. Thank you for asking this question. Take care and be very kind to yourself.
posted by quarterinmyshoe at 2:20 PM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thank you everyone who has replied and sent PMs. Some are wrenching and I could not finish reading. I'm not really in a state yet to reply individually but I will. Thank you again so very much.
posted by aerotive at 2:30 PM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Deeply sorry for your loss. From a Buddhist perspective if it helps to think of death differently:
Life and death are two phases of a continuum. Life does not begin at birth nor end at death. Everything in the universe—from invisible microbes in the air we breathe to great swirling galaxies—passes through these phases. Our individual lives are part of this great cosmic rhythm.Everything in the universe, everything that happens, is part of a vast living web of interconnection. The vibrant energy we call life which flows throughout the universe has no beginning and no end. Life is a continuous, dynamic process of change.
posted by metajim at 4:50 PM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am also reminded of a story that take many shapes and is attributed to many different teachers, but in its barest form:

A Buddhist teacher was grieving for his young son that died. When the teacher's followers saw him crying, they were confused.

"Teacher, why are you crying? You have taught us that death is an illusion."

"Yes," the Teacher replied, "death is an illusion, and the loss of a son is one of the most painful illusions of all."
posted by janey47 at 6:08 PM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry for your loss, and I'm so sorry you are hurting so much.

I have found this quote about grief very comforting and true. It's from Rachel Joyce's novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; the speaker is talking about coping with the death of his wife: “I miss her all the time. I know in my head that she has gone. The only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It's like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it's there and keep falling in. After a while, it's still there, but you learn to walk round it.”
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:51 PM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry. You lost your dad years back, and now you've lost the other parent. When my father died (mom had died five years prior) it felt to me like slipping anchor, like I was drifting now. You've had at least one of your parents all your life, and when you lose the last one, that's the beginning of a strange new chapter for you. That can make the pain of loss more difficult. You won't get over it but you'll get through it.

You said you have a sister and aunt to lean on. Well, that's exactly what you should do. This is your family. Go be with them if possible. In the meantime, be easy on yourself and also take care of yourself. Make sure you're eating somewhat normally (this is something grieving people often forget.) If you find chances to laugh, take them! You know that's what mom would want. After each parent passed, my siblings and I went out to dinner at a place where we could hang out a while, and chatted, and told entirely inappropriate jokes and talked about mom or dad. You'll have plenty of time to reflect, but just get through the tough part first. It may take some time.
posted by azpenguin at 8:49 PM on February 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

So sorry as well. You were very lucky to have such a great relationship with your mom.

I second going ahead and leaning on your sister and aunt if you're close with them. Are you in touch with any of your mother's friends? I'm friends with one of my parents' childhood friends, and after my dad passed away just over a year ago, she reached out even more to me and took me out for dinner once a month or so. She has a lot of hilarious anecdotes about my dad at age 12 and it's comforting to hear memories like that, to keep connected to him in another way.

Go easy on yourself as far as grieving, too. Grief does come in waves, but if there are periods where you don't feel sad or don't want to cry, you know that's okay too.
posted by Recliner of Rage at 10:46 PM on February 3, 2017

Just seeing this and wanted to add my condolences. I hope you're doing ok. Take it one day at a time and you will feel better eventually.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:26 AM on February 14, 2017

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