after your mom dies… the pain that lingers.

‘i considered my options. there was only one, i knew. there was always only one. to keep walking.’ – cheryl strayed

my mom always used to ask me what i was going to do once she was gone. it was a joke about my inability to knit, sew and iron. i would laugh and tell her it didn’t matter. i would find someone to sew my stuff and besides, i had at least 10 more years to learn those things for myself. it turns out, i didn’t. and now i have a pile of clothing that needs to be sewn, girls that want hand-knit floppy toques and my very own VIP membership to the dead parent’s club.

i honestly thought that because i already had a parent die, it wouldn’t be that difficult when it was time to say goodbye to the other. oh ridiculous, naïve me.

maybe because i was older and had kids of my own who had a special relationship with her, we were closer for that. maybe because i’m a single parent, i needed her, so in a selfish way, i feel a void there. or, maybe it’s much more basic than that. i grew inside of her. i suppose that one’s hard to beat.

the girls have a tonne of questions that i have no answers for. i know it helps them to talk about mom and there’s a part of me that likes to hear what they have to say. but there is a greater part that knows every time i have no answer, a deeper hole gets dug inside my heart. i reach for the phone to call her several times a day. it’s an involuntary action that i suspect, requires a lot of time to undo. at the very moment that i realize there is no call to make, my heart breaks. every. single. time.

my friend told me that the ojibwe tribe mourns the death of a loved one for a year after they die. this is starting to make more and more sense to me. just because the casket’s closed, does not mean everything reverts back to normal. in fact, it’s just the opposite.

but we take our days off and plan a funeral and then spend a day or two feeling downright shitty and then we go back to work and make nice and be polite. we sign forms for school and make sure our kids are wearing enough layers. we say hello to strangers and go through the motions of being a good citizen because we want everyone to feel comfortable. we don’t wallow. we smile and nod and answer ‘fine’ when people ask us how we are. we sit through meetings and hope that the pain and anxiety stays away for 5 more minutes. and then, when your kids are gone to bed, you wonder. and worry. and cry. because you miss her.

i am tortured by the fact that she was lying on her deathbed, possibly wondering what would become of me and the girls. upset with worry about who would sew my stuff. wishing she wasn’t going. i could never have been able to anticipate the gut wrenching anguish that has come from her not being here. or how hard it is to pretend that i’m not feeling that feeling.

there is no day that eventually comes when it all feels easier. you don’t get sad on any particular date or anniversary. it comes at you in waves and there is simply no way to prepare. you just have to let the sadness wash over you and know that you are not alone in how you feel. you will wish for her to come back. you will see her in your dreams. and you will wonder when and how you will ever break free of the impenetrable sadness. i can only tell you that you won’t. not completely.

but i would ask that you keep going. that you lift your head and turn your face towards the day. that you somehow put your feet on the ground and one foot in front of the other. that you step up, out and into your life. be brave, you. there is simply no other way.

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4 replies »

  1. Jeni, You have expressed the process of grief so beautifully. I have learned to lean into the pain. When it washes over me. I take it as a measure of how deeply I loved. I feel that I carry my mother in every cell of my body. I see her in my actions and speech. We have an inner dialogue throughout the day. I hope you feel your Mom’s presence and embody her beautiful spirit.


    • thank you marilee. you are so right, leaning in is kind of the only thing we can do. the girls and i talk about her every day and we laugh at things that she did and remember how much she loved us. that is what carries us. love to you. xo.


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