Two weeks ago, my friend’s mom passed away after a long illness. We were very close in college, grew apart after graduating, and recently reconnected. I was unable to attend the wake and have been rattling words inside my head, trying to think of the right thing to say to help ease the pain. This is a sampling of the randomness:
There is nothing I can say that will help you feel better. However, knowing that you are not alone in your grief is comforting. Sometimes, people will tell you that your mom is no longer suffering. That doesn’t make you feel much better; you wish you still had your mom here and that is okay. It is your grief, no one can tell you how to handle it. Other times, people are afraid of saying the wrong this and say nothing. If I’ve learned anything, saying something, acknowledging the pain, is always helpful.
Grief is going to hit you out of nowhere when you least expect it. This isn’t like a cold that you can nurse better in a week or so and go on with your life. Years later, something great/sad/silly/amazing will happen and you’ll think about telling your mom, only to have the sinking realization that you can’t. When my mom was in the nursing home, I used to call my mom every afternoon when I was getting on the highway after work. Eight years later, I still take different backroads to get to the highway, simply to avoid the reminder that I can no longer call my mom and tell her about my day. While spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws, I always think of my mom’s burnt dinner rolls, look at my mother-in-law’s perfectly cooked rolls, and tear up that I will never be able to make hockey puck roll jokes with my mom ever again. You will be able to resume day to day normalcy, but grief will come out of nowhere and hit you when you are not thinking about it.
For a long time after she’s gone, you’re going to remember your mom as perfect. It is okay to also recognize her flaws. I tell Liam about his Nana, who fought so hard to stay alive long enough to meet him, keeping to myself how angry I was when she told everyone I was pregnant long before I was ready to share my news. Freshly remembering the pain of discovering I was pregnant only to have it go away, I didn’t want to jinx myself or have to explain to people I was no longer pregnant if that happened again. My mom couldn’t help herself, sharing the good news with everyone she could. As time passes, things that used to drive you bonkers about your mom will become nothing more than entertaining quirks.
Signs are going to come when you expect them least and need them most. Don’t question how or why they happened. Appreciate the signs that a loved one is still watching over you.
I keep putting together these words, hoping for the courage to write them on a card and send them. I don’t want to appear like I am an expert on your grief. Your grief is different than mine, which is why there is not one magic formula for recovery. Knowing that you are not alone makes all the difference.