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Help, My Mom Died
Photo: Frank van den Berg
This year marked my second birthday as a motherless child. I will always think of Mom on my birthdays—we two started out together. During my first visit back to my parents’ home after Mom’s death, it seemed as though something was missing from the universe. It is so hard to grasp that she is really no longer with us.

I know that I am not alone in this grief since all of my friends and cousins seem to have a dying parent. For those who have lost a parent in death, I tell them that one year from now their thoughts and feelings will be different. Grief changes with time.

Every death is different. My mother had at least 10 years of poor health with diminishing abilities. When someone dies with a chronic illness, family members often experience a mix of feelings--relief and sadness; regrets and new hope. If you have a surviving parent, you may just feel tremendous relief or a burden, depending on that person’s health and attitude.

If you recently lost your mother:

(1) I recommend you attend a grief support group. I had worked hard to be the “strong one” for my dad and brother when Mom died. I knew that I needed to help share the burdens they had been dealing with in my absence. When I returned home, my spouse was in a very different place with his sense of loss. I felt very alone. By attending the free group at a local hospital, I dedicated regular time to my own healing and to helping others. I realized that it was a safe place to own and share my grief. Also, do not dismiss the idea of some counseling. During the first holidays, you might need extra support.

(2) Treasure Mom's momentos. If you do not live near your parent’s home, make sure to bring home some items that belonged to Mom. One of my friends said that she kept one of her mom’s sweaters in a plastic bag and took it out to smell her mother’s fragrance. I brought home my mom’s decorative pin collection and I have worn some of them on my clothing. I also feel closer to mom by playing some of her favorite songs on the keyboard or making one of her recipes. I treasure each item that has her handwriting.

(3) Use a reality check on the relationship that you are grieving. When I feel sorry for myself about losing mom, I stop to remember that not all of our relationship was wonderful. I loved my mother very much yet sometimes I really did not like parts of her personality or her attitudes. Our relationship was sometimes very stressful and frustrating. We do not get to select our birth parents.

(4) Select a mother figure from admirable women that you know. I am so thankful for several women who have mentored/mothered me. I know that I can share thoughts and prayer requests and they will help me. Some of these people exist in our social circles and yet we must reach out to them to receive the blessings that can result in relationship.

(5) Remember Mom on special days. Find a way to commemorate Mom’s memory for her birthday or Mother’s Day. Even before Mom died, I sometimes felt that I did not deserve to have fun. I felt more peace if I dedicated a new experience to her, or that I was participating because she could not. Last year I donated to the Women’s Resource Center at La Sierra University in mom’s name. On her birthday last fall, I sent a donation to Your Story Hour in her name, since she always played that program on the radio when I was a child. With the money that I used to buy mom clothing or extra items, I now buy gifts for some unfortunate children.

(6) Don't expect a quick return to normalcy. Be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions and needs from the remaining parent. Dad refused to join family for the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without mom. Yet he immediately expressed that he did not want to be alone in life. He has had to work hard to reinvent his world. I have learned things about him that I never knew when they were in their relationship. People take on different roles and characteristics depending on family dynamics. Some parents refuse help or insist on only your help. You have to understand your own limits, make compromises, and look for outside resources. Become familiar with the neighbors, local Area Agency on Aging or Senior Center in the county or town where your parent/s is living.

(7) Realize a greater appreciation for family members. One of the good parts of the funeral experience was seeing cousins that I had not seen in many years. Their presence spoke love to me. Now staying in touch with everyone who is family seems more important. I try to remember my one remaining aunt, to visit her or write or call. I also regularly try to telephone my only sibling, recognizing that he is grieving also. As my adult daughter matures, she blesses me with her encouragement, affirmations and support. Some of the energy that I had put into my relationship with my mother is now available for my children and their spouses.

As the oldest child and only daughter of my parents, I am now the matriarch of the family. Becoming the matriarch includes passing on legacies of spiritual interests and family religion. I know that I cannot be the influence that I hope to be without God’s help. Ultimately, only God can fill the “mother space” inside me with perfect nurture and support.  Jesus seems more precious as my constant comfort and the hope for a family reunited.

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By Karen Spruill, M.A. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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