grief in these strange times
March 24, 2020 10:35 AM   Subscribe

CW: suicide

My mom committed suicide last Wednesday. I found out over the phone. She had been diagnosed with BPD and we had a difficult relationship. Much of my adult life has been spent figuring out how to love her, and at the same time figure out healthier patterns for myself. I'm struggling with the idea that if I'd been a better daughter, she'd still be alive.

I'm struggling with seeing everyone grieving their social lives and their favorite restaurants and normalcy, while I'm grieving an actual human life. I'm struggling to watch the complacency and cruelty of young people who are ignoring social distancing and don't seem to care if people my mom's age live or die.

I can't do any normal things to grieve. My friends can't come over and give me a hug or share a cup of tea. We can't have a funeral.

My dad is 58. He travelled from another province to stay with me (by plane). Now he has a cough, and I'm terrified he's going to die too.

I found out yesterday I'm going to be laid off because the hospital unit I work on is being turned into COVID beds.

I have pain in my chest and I don't know if it's COVID or anxiety. It started after the phonecall where I found out that the police found my mom's body, so I'm inclined to think the latter. How do I get through this time?
posted by unstrungharp to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am so sorry; this is a lot to take in at once. You have been resilient in coping with your mother's personality disorder and difficult relationship; you have deep reserves of strength. If you have a close friend who has been self-isolating then maybe visit them to get a hug. Yes, we should be self-isolating, but if you have reduced most of your contacts then this is a time to make an exception. Reach out to your local hospice group - mine is offering free telephone/online support. All therapists I know have transitioned to FaceTime/skype as well. Your EAP will also have free options (if it is Shepell I must say my experience has ben a bit mixed. I personally have a fantastic therapist who has been working online for years and has a LOT of experience with BPD and operates on a sliding scale. I can dm his name if you would like it.

I'm sorry, make sure to go for walks, eat comfort foods, and be gentle with yourself. Can you take up a hobby like sewing facemarks, binging shows, or knitting? Complicated grief is not easily understood by those that have not had to go through it. I wish you peace and acceptance.
posted by saucysault at 10:45 AM on March 24, 2020 [8 favorites]

This sounds so difficult, and I'm so sorry about your mom. I'm sending you internet hugs and hoping you are able to get through one day at a time. Sometimes I'm able to take some small comfort in trying to feel a collective sense of "this is sucking in various degrees to everyone, and we're all sharing in a global sense of 'holy crap this is hard, how do we get through this.'" but that may or may not help. I'm sending you whatever positive energy I can at what must be an exceptionally difficult time. I'm so sorry.
posted by Zephyrial at 10:46 AM on March 24, 2020

I'm so so sorry. This is a really difficult time and your personal circumstances are the kind of circumstances that "tragic" does not even cover.

First, I want to commend you for such a clear, honest description of your feelings. You truly have a gift for communicating and I am impressed with your ability to be so upfront with this and ask for help. It's not easy.

I can say for sure that this was not your fault or your responsibility. I know that you know that intellectually but might have a hard time truly believing it. That will come with time.

As for advice, I have a little. This is very practical, I know, but if there are any video games you particularly get caught up in, or anything else really immersive, those can be a good way to give your mind and heart a break for a while.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:47 AM on March 24, 2020 [14 favorites]

I'm struggling with the idea that if I'd been a better daughter, she'd still be alive.

Nobody is stronger than the factors that drive people to suicide. There is nothing you could have done differently. If your mother was here she would tell you that herself.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:10 AM on March 24, 2020 [31 favorites]

This is not your fault. I know that your mother very likely spent a lot of time telling you that she did x or y because of something you did or something you ‘were’ (common ones are selfish and careless, but our mothers know exactly which levers to pull).

This is not your fault. None of this is your fault. Nothing she did or said to you when you were a child, and nothing she has done or said recently.

You may find some insight in My mother, myself and/or Motherless Daughters, both books that many women in your situation have read. Take what rings true for you and discard the rest.

Sadly your mother might still tell you this is your fault, but that doesn’t make it true.

This is not your fault.

My last piece of advice is, if you have a therapist, call that person. If not, please use one of the teletherapy options available where you are. There are professionals who can help you through this. If teletherapy is not an option, please call a crisis line. A first degree family death of this nature is a crisis.
posted by bilabial at 11:23 AM on March 24, 2020 [9 favorites]

I'm so sorry for your loss. My family also had a loss late last week -- different circumstances, but with someone dead -- and FYI the funeral home was set up to do a remote funeral. There were one or two people present and everyone else tuned in online. I did so expecting it to be unhelpful and then was surprised that it was a very powerful service in this time of great upheaval. That may be an option for your family.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:27 AM on March 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

I am so, so sorry to hear this. This would be incredibly difficult and painful at any time, and of course, it's especially painful now as you see what's going on in the world and how people respond to dealing with so much less. And not being able to grieve as you would like to makes it especially hard. Funerals are valuable, and you are finding yourself denied even that comfort.
Words are of limited help at a time like this, but unfortunately, they are what we have, especially as you cannot see your friends. Please know that this internet stranger is thinking of you. Please take care of yourself. Try to connect with your friends in whatever way you can. Know that this will always be painful, but that it will eventually feel better than it does now. Internet hugs to you.
posted by FencingGal at 12:07 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry for your loss, and that it came during an especially challenging time for you and everyone.

The only thing I can suggest (as I don't know you) is to reach out and connect with your friends. Tell them, ask for their support. If you're religious, call your parish/temple/mosque/community of worship and maybe ask to speak to someone there.

There's a beautiful word in German called "Seelsorge", which means something like 'pastoral care' but literally it's 'care of the soul'. When Marx said religion was the opium of the people, he meant it's like morphine. It soothes the soul. It's love that catches your freefall.

If you're not a believer, turn to that which makes your life meaningful, what gives you comfort (your 'greater thing').

And while you wait for this to pass, maybe find something to do to alleviate someone else's burden. Something that you can give or do with relative ease, and that would mean the world to somebody else.

You'll be in this stranger's thoughts and, unless you object to it, also in her prayers.
posted by ipsative at 12:09 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry for your loss. I know that everything is FUBAR right now, and that these are really trying times. Just know it isn't your fault.

My close friend committed suicide, triggered in partly because of a medical condition he viewed as a 'life sentence' -- even when it wasn't. It broke all our hearts. We wondered what we could have done to prevent it. Maybe helped him manage his disease? Maybe been there more or lead by example or been better? It took me a long time to be at peace with the fact that his personality and upbringing meant that for him, it was just too hard to live every day managing his health, and the mental toll it was taking on him was too hard to keep him going. Maybe someone could have talked him down that day... but then he would have had a reminder, or flare up and he would have gone then, instead. I know that now. There is nothing anyone could have done to fix what he felt in his heart. He knew he was loved, he just was never the type of person who could 'bounce back,' when things got really bad. I know that in my heart. I'm not religious but I let him go knowing that he was more at peace being gone than here.

Coming to this conclusion wasn't easy-- I talked to my brother (his best friend) at length about him and who he was and it helped a lot. Talk about it. To anyone and everyone who can lend an ear, even if you can't get physical comfort, it helped me to process it to just get it all out, for a good 1-2 weeks.

I'm so sorry. In this time of isolation it's heartbreaking to want/need comfort and hugs etc and meaning you can't get it because of social distancing. I've mentioned this before and I'm sorry if it sounds stupid, but, for me, at my loneliest-- when I was isolated etc, I found it really helpful to self soothe. And for me at least, it does help. When I'm in the height of grief or pain for me it helps to hug a plushie/pillow/myself and cry. Sometimes I will tell myself stuff like that I have my own back, no matter what. That I have me. I will admit sometimes in the past when things were especially bleak, I have hugged myself and rubbed my own back and told myself it's going to be ok... and it helps. And it will, and it will be different forever, but it will get better.

As for your dad, he's staying with you? Canada (I presume that's where you are?) has a self assessment tool for COVID-19. Monitor how he's feeling day to day. There are numbers to call if his condition progresses.

For what it's worth, 58 is not a super high-risk demographic--a great majority of the deaths are 80 plus, and the percentages get lower under that number. That doesn't mean don't be concerned, of course, but there is a good chance that even if it is COVID-19 that he has good odds to recover. Same goes for you... It's likely that pain as if your heart-- that feeling of tightness or as if it's literally breaking is anxiety... I never knew that when people said 'a broken heart' that your chest could actually feel like it was being crushed. Monitor yourself, but if you had lung symptoms you'd also have fever etc by now most probably.

As for your job... that sucks but when this crisis is over there will be ways to help rebuild and jobs and things. Presuming you are in Canada (the province thing?) I'm sure there will be ways the Canadian Government is planning on rebuilding the economy. Try not to despair.

Please take care of yourself. -Internet stranger hugs-
posted by Dimes at 9:35 PM on March 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

All I can offer is to grieve for you and with you. Suicide is a tragedy that is not the fault of anyone and certainly not the fault of daughters of mothers who themselves have mental health diagnoses.

In terms of getting through in some sense it matters less how you do that than that you do. I agree with others you have a gift for articulating your feelings in writing. Perhaps AskMeFi is not the place but I would encourage you to journal or write somehow. Admitting to others how complex your grief is you might find solidarity. Some of my friends have resorted to rage-tweeting to get stuff off their chest and this seems to me a totally valid strategy, there is a colossal injustice in what you are facing.

Sending lots of love to you and your family.
posted by Erinaceus europaeus at 12:47 AM on March 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am so very, very sorry you are going through this. Everyone else has offered good suggestions. Another suggestion: are you a plant person? I have gotten plants when mourning, and found it very helpful to have visible evidence of things growing and changing over time. If not, that's totally okay.

Also in case it is helpful, here is a poem I have found comforting during grief: Linda Pastan's The Five Stages of Grief

Sending gentle thoughts and virtual hugs your way.
posted by wicked_sassy at 7:21 AM on March 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

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