It’s now well over 4 years since I unexpectedly lost my mother and though I would very much like to say things have settled into a new normal, they really haven’t. Or if they have then the new normal really isn’t a very nice place. However there are a few things that I’d like to say or that maybe might help others if they lose their parents relatively young in life.
Many who have recently lost their parents will tell you they know what you’re going through, they don’t. I lost my mother when I was in my 30’s with no warning. Admittedly logically speaking, this is much better than it happening when you’re 15 or even 25 but it’s still not really normal and definitely not pleasant.
Nothing has made me cringe more than when someone says that they completely understand what I’m going through. Invariably this person might be in their 50’s or 60’s and often older than what my mother was when she died.
Losing a parent when you’re in your late 50’s or 60’s is now near enough the norm and is somewhat natural. To have someone older than your mother telling you they understand as they have just lost their parent isn’t pairing like with like. Just as I happily have no idea of what it is like to lose a mother when a teenager, it cannot be the same as a retired person yourself to lose your own parent who is well into their 80’s or beyond and whose death was somewhat forwarned.
People that haven’t experienced this yet just don’t get it, and that’s not their fault. I realised it isn’t their fault, and I should be happy they don’t understand. I would never wish this experience on absolutely anyone, and I am grateful that the majority of my friends my age and considerably older are unable to relate to it.
One of the annoying things that people say is that the person you’ve lost are “in a better place”, “they’re watching over you” but even if you do feel their presence sometimes, I really do find it to be the last thing you want to hear. I don’t want you to tell me they’re watching over me, because it’s not the same as having them in front of me and hearing their voice or laugh. Is having a picture or soundtrack of a pizza the same as eating a pizza? Of course not, it’s absolutely no consolation whatsoever. Extending the principle further, you’d just have dead people doing all the jobs but that would be nonsensical as nothing would get done. That nothingness is what we who are left behind feel. I know these people mean well when they say these things, but it just hurts more.
I hate it when people complain about their parents to me, because at least they have them. I cannot emphasise how much I hate this, how much it makes my stomach turn and my heart ache from people again who are much older, even older than my Mother was.
I can understand people complaining or sorrowful if their parent is terminally ill or suffering from a protracted illness but for every day non-event issues, I can’t ever sympathise with these sorts of complaints.
One thing that immediately became apparent to me as my Mother died the evening before Good Friday at Easter is that holidays and important life events will NEVER be the same. They aren’t just never the same again, they are quite frankly quite awful. Not only are the traditions you held with your parents gone, but you’re also left with the emptiness that their absence left behind. Now you forever wonder what things would be like if they were there, and you wish that they were.
Holidays now carry a gloom, an emptiness that will never be filled. It also causes the memories of the past holidays and traditions to be brought to the surface, opening back up the pain of what used to be. It reminds you that you would do anything to have it back. The people around you are filled with the holiday cheer, unaware that these days bring you so much pain, emptiness and loneliness.
Though I’ve had other negative events in my life since, I can safely say that every single Easter, Christmas, Public holiday, private holiday, birthday and New Year in the last few years have been nothing less than an unending misery almost without exception.
I’ve had perhaps 4 happy days this year which wouldn’t be great on January 17th, let alone July 17th.
As no-one else can understand what you’re going through, it does mean that those few who do understand or at least those few who entirely sympathise and try to help and understand what you have lost, and the weight you now have to carry around with you. These people become more important to you.
Not only that, but you now understand how easy it could be to lose someone because you already lost someone so important to you. It makes you cherish the people you have more than ever before, and it makes you want to hold onto them stronger. The unexpected loss of the single most precious person on the planet demonstrates how important the remaining important people in your life are to you.
In some ways having learnt that losing someone can happen in the blink of an eye, can make you worried and paranoid about all the things that can happen to the people closest to you. When someone is supposed to come over and doesn’t, you worry. When someone doesn’t answer their phone, you worry. You instantly start thinking about worst case scenarios, and everything that could have gone wrong. And the relief you feel when you finally hear from them is unexplainable.
You know you worry too much, and deep down you know they’re probably fine, but you still can’t stop yourself. The potential of losing someone else closest to you is too much to bare again, and you know the risk is always there. It can probably being annoying or overbearing to those you care about but at least they know that you do care.
You don’t want to lose the people that are still in your life, so you become more attached to them. You want to show them how much they mean to you, remind them all the time. I can’t explain the feeling unless you’ve experienced this, but once you do, it makes you want to hold on to the people around you tighter, makes you want to show them how important they are to you. It makes you need the affection and love from these people to help you heal from what you have lost, to remind yourself that there are still people in your life that are important and that care about you. That there are still reasons to keep living.
Something else that comes to mins is that going through this sort of situation helps you choose your words more carefully. I’m well aware of how important last words are, whether the last words to your were good or bad, you understand the weight it holds and the importance it has. It makes me more aware of how I speak with people who are important to me. It makes me say “I love you” before I say goodbye
This is because if this is the last time you talk to them, you want to make sure they know how you feel about them and that you love them. You make sure you tell them all the time how much they mean to you and how much you need or appreciate them. Even when you’re angry with them.
One of the obvious lessons is that you appreciate that there isn’t time to waste either on not doing anything or indeed on doing something you don’t want to do. You now understand that life is not forever, how time is always ticking away. This teaches you to not take anything less than you deserve, and to never waste time. It makes you more honest and upfront with people because you understand there’s no point in wasting anyone’s time being anything less.
Irealise how important my time and life is. I won’t waste it on something or someone that doesn’t measure up. I realise how important your time and life is too and I won’t ever waste one moment of it.
As I understand how quickly life can disappear after losing my mother, you sit there and reminisce on all the lost chances and times you could have had with them. You would give anything to have one more trip, adventure, or even simply a dinner with them. I would give my entire savings and my car for one last hug or real conversation with my Mother. However this does make one more likely agree to doing things with other people because what if you never get another chance.
You start to realize how important adventure and time spent with people are. You understand that these are what brings life to, well, your life. You start to seek out anything that will bring meaning to you or that will fill the hole in your chest. You want to experience life for your parent, for everything they are missing out on. You want to make their loss worth it by knowing you gave life everything you had for them.
In the month of June alone, I worked 560 hours on my business. Obviously this is 3-4 times more than the average person in the Western World. Partly it is by choice, partly it is to make the most of the opportunity I have of having my own business and partly it is as I have little else to do. I also know that whatever happens, I gave it my very best shot. It’s also to ensure a better life in the future, if I’m lucky enough to have one. I often think of a wonderful quote about entrepeneurs in that for a relatively short time they do things that no-one else will in order to live the life than no-one else can. I think it is very apt.
Many people feel guilty about their relationship with their mother or wish they could have changed something. In this regard I am very lucky, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I never did anything I regretted and I told her I love almost every day and certainly every time we communicated or met. My only regret is that if I am fortunate, I have to live most of my life without one of the people that I love the most.
After losing someone so important, it is easy to become bitter and resentful towards the world for taking them from you, for robbing you of so much time and love. You can become so pessimistic about life’s outcomes. You have to learn to let go of the bitterness. You have to reteach yourself to think positively, to not always worry and think the worst case scenarios. You have to learn that this experience does not mean you will never be happy again, and that life will never be good again. Unfortunately, that is just what people say, I have found no evidence of this whatsoever but hopefully one day I will.
I realise that my Mother would never want me to go through life with this shadow looming over my every thought and action, that she would want me to be happy. Still, this prospect seems as remote as it did several years ago.
Nevertheless, I did this and so far survived it. Every bad thing that could happen over a life-time has happened to me in a few short years and somehow I am still going strong…ish. That brings one unexpected bonusy in that you realise that nothing will ever stop me, because none of life’s obstacles will ever amount to this tragedy. None of the petty complaints that people make a drama of amount to anything in the big scheme of things. Once you’ve survived this you realise you can survive literally anything life throws at you. What else can go wrong except for my own demise? Thus, you begin to realise your strengths. Even if I can’t see them myself, plenty of people spend half their lives telling me them. Thank-you 🙂
Perhaps the most important lesson in losing my mother as I did is that I don’t take anyone for granted. You should never take a single person, experience, memory, or moment for granted. Everything you currently have can be lost in an instant, without any warning.
You learn to appreciate every little good thing in your life, and disregard the bad because it’s nothing compared to what has been. You have learned what is important in life, and what is not. Your meaning of life has changed forever.
It’s been 4 years since I lost my mother, an earth-shattering, soul destroying day that may as well have just happened yesterday. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of her or miss her. There is absolutely no consolation to her loss, there is no aspect of life that is enriched by her not being here and every day is pretty much a nightmare. Such is the price of a deep love.
If you can relate to this then I’m really sorry for you but I can’t say that time will heal things. Maybe it can for some people, obviously it can’t for some others. If you wonder what on earth I’m going on about them I’m really happy for you and not a little jealous.