Skip to Content

Losing My Mother – I Was Supposed to Be Ready

My mother died from metastatic breast cancer in 2008. In some ways, I miss her even more since my cancer diagnosis because I know what an amazing support person she would have been. She felt quite a bit of guilt for potentially carrying the BRCA 2 gene mutation on to her children. Mothers like to fix things, not be the source of unsolvable problems. 

Of course, I feel no resentment toward her for indeed passing this mutation on to me. In fact, in an odd sort of way, I feel even more connected to her; our cancers bind us  together even further. Somehow, it makes me feel like we get the last laugh over cancer, if that makes any sense.

Cancer could not divide and conquer us, in the sense that really matters anyway.

I was supposed to be ready when my mother died.

I was supposed to be ready to say goodbye. After all, she was in her seventies. I was not a child or even a young adult. It is assumed that losing your mother at a younger age is more traumatic and detrimental. That’s probably true. At my age I was supposed to be ready. Her cancer had been diagnosed four years earlier, so I was supposed to be ready. Her health had been rapidly declining before my eyes and she was living out her final days in a nursing home, so I was supposed to be ready. I knew the end was coming, so I was supposed to be ready. But I was not.

Society gives few messages and the ones that are given seem mixed about how to “appropriately” grieve for parents. In his book, When Parents Die: A Guide for Adults, Edward Myers states:

Loss of a parent is the single most common form of bereavement in this country. Yet the unstated message is that when a parent is middle-aged or elderly, the death is somehow less of a loss than other losses. The message is that grief for a dead parent isn’t entirely appropriate.

When we lose a parent, we are supposed to be prepared for this normal life passage, or at least be  more ready to accept it when it does happen. We are expected to pick ourselves up, close the wound quickly and move on. We should not require so much time to “get over it.” This loss is expected and in the natural order of things.

However, just because losing a parent is so common place and in the natural order of things, this does not mean a person can or should be expected to simply bounce back. On the contrary, losing a parent is extremely difficult for most adult children if you have had a good relationship with your parent and even if you haven’t. In fact, sometimes the latter makes it even more difficult due to unresolved issues or conflicts.

So, remember that losing a parent can be unexpectedly devastating and cause considerable upheaval in even an adult son or daughter’s life. Maybe that sounds like stating the obvious, but I think it’s worth saying anyway. The magnitude of this loss can take you by surprise and helpful resources are not that plentiful.

HERE ARE A FEW SUGGESTIONS FOR COPING

1. Don’t expect to be ready, you won’t be.

2. Never let anyone belittle this loss or hurry you through your grief. You need to experience all of its intensity.

3. Grieving for a parent, just like all grieving, takes considerable hard work emotionally, physically and spiritually.

4. All of this work takes time, the process must not be hurried.

5. Even as an adult, don’t be surprised by your feelings of abandonment and uncertainty.

6. After they’re gone your parent will continue to be a part of your life, just in a different sense. You are still their son or daughter.

7. You will learn to live with your grief, but it will never be over. Loss is forever, but so is love.

Have you lost a parent (or do you know someone who has) and how did it affect you (or them)?

Get weekly updates from Nancy’s Point!

 

I was supposed to be ready.

I was supposed to be ready.

Dee

Thursday 11th of April 2019

My Mom died a few weeks ago. I was lucky to be a caregiver for her and really bond with her the last 15 years as Parkinson's slowly took her away from us. She was the funniest, wittiest person I have ever met. I don't care who you are, Mom's humor would reach your funny bone. I have spent part of every day with her consistently for the last 6 years. Last October, Mom broke her hip due to the mobility issues associated with Parkinson's and she never recovered after the hip surgery. Her system began to shut down and she could no longer process food or liquids. Dementia and hallucinations which were not present before the fall, became a part of every day life for her. The rehab facility sent her home with services and eventually hospice was called in. One day I laid on the bed next to her and she reached for my had and held it to her lips for about 10 minutes, I cried the whole time, I knew she was saying goodbye. She slipped into a coma shortly after and my Sister and I held her while she took her last breath. It was a beautiful moment but also left an image that I can't get out of my head. I don't know what to do with my time when I am not at work because that is time that I reserved for Mom. The real pain kicked in just recently. I feel like I was numb when preparing for the funeral. Now it feels real and I have to learn how to live without her. I keep asking myself, how do people get through this? I don't imagine that I will ever stop grieving.

Nancy

Thursday 11th of April 2019

Dee, I am very sorry your mother died. Your grief is very raw, so remember to be extra gentle with yourself. As you said, that initial numbness is wearing off and now reality is setting in. I'm sure that image you have is a very painful one. I'll just share that I wasn't able to be with either of my parents at the exact moments of their deaths, and that, too, is very painful - to not have that image. Treasure your time spent with her during the last six years. And before that too, of course. The memories will forever be treasures for your heart. Your grief will not end, that is true. But the harshness of it will soften just a bit as you begin to remember with smiles more often than with tears. Grief is forever. Thankfully, love is too. Again, I'm sorry. Take care of yourself.

Troy Aldrich

Thursday 23rd of August 2018

I am a Only Child..Adult Now..:-) My MOM died a few days Ago. She had a Bunch of Health Issues going on. A Bad Liver..A not Cancer spot on her Lung.. She had two Bad Knees.. Always had to Rush to the Bathroom. She died after a Fall in her Bathroom. She Broke her Left hip. After Surgery Everything just Snowballed out of Control. I miss her Awesome Bad. Hearing my Dad Cry was Normal but just Heart Breaking. Her Birthday is on Christmas Day. Me and my Dad have decided not to have a Christmas this Year but we are going to Travel some to get away and Clear our Heads a Little. I Still cannot believe she is Gone.. It is the Little Things that MOMS do that mean just as Much as the BIG Things. Waking up in the Mornings without Her With us is Just a Empty feeling. I am Single and She will not see me get Married which I want to do in my Life. Even though she is Looking Down on us it is not the Same. You have a GREAT Site here..Thank You Very much for letting us Share Feelings.

Nancy

Thursday 23rd of August 2018

Troy, I am very sorry. What a heartbreaking time for you and your dad. You're right, it's the little things, not just the big things that we miss when a dear one dies. You're going to be experiencing many emotions for quite some time. Be kind to yourself. I appreciate that you took time to comment. I hope you find a few of my posts helpful in some small way. My sincere condolences. Feel free to share any time.

Eddie Fox

Wednesday 11th of July 2018

I lost my mother in 2009 and I wrote a song to help release the pain. It’s called “Mama You’re My Angel.” Feel free to share it with anyone you wish. https://soundcloud.com/eddiefox/mama-youre-my-angel

Nancy

Thursday 12th of July 2018

Eddie, I am sorry about your mother. Thank you for sharing the link.

Heather

Thursday 15th of December 2016

Thank you it helps just to know someone else gets it...lve lost a lot this year,my mother to breast cancer in march,my dad to destructive behavior and one of my twins to high blood pressure from stress. I struggle to feel joy that my remaining child is healthy and growing.....seven months and counting, I am still trying to wrap my mind around having my first child without my mom. If you have any more tips I could use them. Thank you

Nancy

Thursday 15th of December 2016

Heather, I am very sorry to hear about your great losses. Your struggle is understandable. I wish I had some gems of wisdom. Your grief is still very raw and so you'll need to be very gentle and patient with yourself as you honor your grief. You might find my new post about grief and the holidays helpful. I hope there is someone you can talk with and confide in. Thank you for reaching out. May your heart heal over time. You are not alone.

Christina

Wednesday 6th of August 2014

I love reading your story. As an only child I can not be begin to describe the sadness and emptiness that's come over me. My Mother passed away May 3rd 2014 at 69yrs old. My father at 65 in 2008. Yes it Seems Far Apart but it's not Are not As Yesterday This All Just Happened. I can't even write right now. There's more that complicates everything. To wrap my mind around it all is driving crazy.

Nancy

Wednesday 6th of August 2014

Christina, I am very sorry your mother died. It's a huge loss for you and you are transitioning into a whole new phase of your life - a life without your mother in it, in the physical sense. She will always be there with you in your heart and in your memories. I know that's cliche sounding, but it's true. Allow yourself to feel the sadness, to grieve the way you need to and to do it on your own timetable. Your grief is still very raw. I hope reading some of my posts on grief and loss helps just a bit. Thanks for sharing and for saying you love reading my story.

%d bloggers like this: