The continued journey of dealing with profound loss

‘My mother wasn’t just ‘my mom’ - she was a foundational part of who I am.’

It’s very hard to believe that it’s been nearly five months since my mom passed away.

The grief journey continues its unpredictable pace from days when I feel relatively okay to other moments when it seems as raw as it ever did.

That’s the strange thing. Over the past five weeks or so, I’ve more intensely felt the loss of my mom then I did in the initial weeks following her passing.

I think mainly it’s because during those early days, you really are in a kind of bubble. There are all kinds of things to do. People are all around you. There are lots of helping hands extended.

But as the weeks pass, and as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the ‘journey’ became much quieter.

And I believe it was due to the basic inability to distract myself with running out the door to see friends over the past weeks that I’ve had to more squarely begin to face my loss.

I just recently took down the sympathy cards that were on my coffee table, and found amongst them a birthday card from mom from a few years ago that I must have inadvertently included.

Part of it read, ‘I want to thank you again for being so good to me – helping me through so many things. I love you and have so enjoyed my boy’. Wow – talk about being overcome by feelings again.

It was a reminder that part of the chasm in my life has not only been the loss of mom but also the disappearance of a role I had for many years – that being one of assisting her with any number of things.

To that end, I would have never dreamt how disorienting death can be.

Yes, there is the grief, the emptiness, the stretches of loneliness.

But it’s more than that. When someone we love dies, other things die too.

Part of my identity is gone. Everything that mom represented; that she symbolized – that’s all gone.

When she was living, my mother wasn’t just ‘my mom’ – she was a foundational part of who I am.

Her impact – her influence – is found around every corner. As Robert Brault has said, ‘If you have a mom, there is nowhere you are likely to go where a prayer has not already been’.

So the days and weeks pass by, and each day gets perhaps a tiny bit better.

I’m usually quite cheerful in the morning – it seems to be the time of day when I’m at my best. But things take a turn towards late afternoon and stay rather bleak into the evening.

I suppose that’s because those are the hours I typically saw mom the most, particularly towards the end of her life.

Do I ever miss those hours.

At the end, I’m not even sure how much she really knew I was by her side, but it didn’t matter. Those are hours I will never forget.

The peculiar thing about grief is that as much as you want the pain to stop, in another way, you don’t want it to.

What I mean is, I feel when I’m experiencing sorrow that mom is front and centre in my mind. There is a part of me that doesn’t want that to end, but I know with the passage of time, it will fade.

I have been afraid of the fading of that emotion and the memories that go with it. And I don’t want anyone to forget my mom. It’s sort of like standing at the side of a busy road holding your loved one’s picture and pleading with people to remember. I remember when my father died thinking how this life-altering loss had happened and yet the world continued on like nothing was any different. Of course that’s the way it is. But you just want everyone to stop and in some way acknowledge your loss.

Those are the moments when I turn repeatedly to God and I ask him to comfort me. The Bible describes him as the ‘God of all comfort’, and I believe it.

That sense of comfort doesn’t come at once – it’s more like a gradual realization that I am feeling better. And that I’m not alone.

And I can hear mom say, ‘Mark, I want you to live. I want you to smile. I want you to be happy. You have things you need to accomplish and I want you to accomplish them. We will always have our bond – that won’t change. But you need to move forward’.

I’m not sure if she would exactly put it that way, but it would be something like that.

In the meantime, it’s step by step. Letting the feelings settle and the new routines take root – as they must inevitably do.

I came across an anonymous expression the other day that holds true – no matter how old you are.

’Mothers hold their child’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever’.

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