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How to Survive the Loss of a Mother

Thank you all for the wonderful outpouring of your condolences for the loss of my mother.  This last week has been one of the most difficult of my life.  In fact, it’s been one that I have been dreading most of my life, for as a child I used to have vivid nightmares that my mom had died, and I’d wake up not knowing if what I experienced was a dream or reality.  Unfortunately, this week the dream became real, although I can scarcely believe that it’s been a week since my mother has been gone.  It still amazes me how a single instant can dramatically change your life, and I marvel at the great vastness of the hole in my heart that cannot be filled.  The good news is that I survived this event, or perhaps I should say, I am surviving it.

I think that there must be a special bond between mothers and daughters.  Perhaps it exists in the same way between fathers and sons (but we’d never know about it because so few men will talk about their feelings <g>).  I’ve heard from so many of you who have harbored the same fear and have told me that this death hit them like few others.  Many of you are 5, 10, 15 years or more from the date of your mother’s death, and the pain and loss feels almost as raw as the day it happened.  Why is that, I wonder?  What makes this situation different?  My cousin Tisa, who lost her mom, my Aunt Tootsie, several years ago, recounted to me similar stories to the ones I’ve heard about the pain around the loss of a mother.  “Donna,”  she said, “I wish that someone had told me that this was never going away. I had never heard that before until my own mom died.”  My best friend, Jacque, who lost her mom, Gloria, about 10 years ago, told me that it took her a full year to come out of the fog of the pain of that loss.  There, indeed, is something special about the relationship between mothers and daughters.

So, does that mean now that I belong to a special club that you join and can share its secrets only when your mother dies?  I told Eric that I felt truly alone for the first time in my life.  Of course, he assured me that I wasn’t alone, for he was there with me.  “But.” I said, “I’ve lost the only person who was there for me my entire life through thick and thin, whether I was good, bad, or ugly — the person I could always count on no matter what.  She was always there to talk to, and while she didn’t always agree with what I said, she listened.  And, eventually, regardless of how big of a jerk I might have been, I’ would always be forgiven and welcomed back into the fold.  How do you ever replace that?”

My other life lesson, and perhaps a part of the club initiation, is that, for the first time, I truly feel like an adult.  Possibly if I had children, that feeling would have come to me earlier in my life.  But, now that I’ve buried both parents, it really feels like I must finally, at last, grow up.   When I discussed this with Eric, he responded, “But Donna, you’ve been an adult for awhile.  You’ve been on your own, paying your way as an adult and have been doing so for awhile, so what do you mean?”  I guess what it really means is that I’ve had to become an emotional adult. 

To some degree, I’d still hide behind my mom’s coattails at the really difficult points in life, usually around the death of a family member.  My mom was always right there, helping in some way with the arrangements.  When my siblings and I were at the funeral home last week making arrangements for mom, I thought, “Why am I here?  Mom usually takes care of all of this.”  While I had been there in body to help my mom make the arrangements when my father died over 20 years ago, emotionally I was still a scared 4 year-old counting on my mom to make it all better  Perhaps that’s the trait I’m really going to miss — the fact that despite my age, despite my accomplishments, she never stopped being a mother.  Only she had the power to “make it all better.”

The scene that continues to haunt me from this past week is the one in which my mom asked me to run into the grocery store to pick up a few items before we returned to her house after her release from the ER. (She had been taken to the ER in respiratory distress early in the morning she died but had been treated and discharged).  She wanted to get out and go in, as she was feeling fine at that point, but I made her stay in the car with the AC cranked while I ran inside.  I returned to my car about 10 minutes later to discover her in what I thought was respiratory distress again.  She told me that she needed to return to the ER, and then encouraged me a time or two to “hurry” between big gasps of air that she was taking in. 

I keep replaying that scene in my mind, over and over again, and while I know intellectually that there was no way I could have known that what was actually occurring was cardiac arrest and that I did my best, the emotional side of my brain continues to wonder, “Could I have done more?”  While I realize that it’s pointless to keep traveling down the guilt road, here I am, right smack dab in the middle of the lane, all over again.  At what point will this scene ever go away?

After the ER doctor had pronounced her death, they permitted me back into the room to see her.  I just kept apologizing, telling her how sorry I was and that I didn’t know it was a heart attack, and I was so sorry that I had failed her.  At the most critical juncture of her life, when her life, was, literally hanging in the balance, I couldn’t help her.  After all the sacrifices I know that she made for me, after the hell and grief that I put her through when I was a teenager, I couldn’t help her.  That, indeed, will be the greatest burden to bear.  I know that it would be easier if I could only hear her say, “Donna, it’ll be ok, things will get better.”  That would be music to my ears and balm for my soul.

So, what advice can I give you as this new initiate into the Club of Lost Mothers?  I’m going to break the club rules and tell you what to expect (hopefully they’ll let me retain my membership <g>).  If you’re a woman, few things will be this hard in your life.  The pain of the loss will never go away.  It may take a year, or more, before the sharp, raw ache is dulled a bit.  You’ll never stop missing her.  It may be awhile before you lose the urge to pick up the phone and call and see what she’s up to.  But the bond you share will never be broken.

About the Author Donna Gunter

Best-selling author Donna Gunter works with successful business owners who are experts in their fields and established in their industry and are seeking a way to stand out from their competitors. Using her Ideal Clients on Autopilot System©, she helps them determine the exact strategies to generate more qualified leads and better-paying clients with automated systems. This proven system makes all their marketing easier and more effective and they find themselves positioned as the only choice for their clients.

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