My Mother’s Death was a Dividing Line In My Life
I talked to my grief counselor about the recurring dreams I have that my mom is still alive. In my dreams, I gave away her clothes or her jewelry or her lease on the North Hollywood apartment she loved so well. In my dreams, I show her the empty closet with nothing but plastic hangers on the rail. In my dreams, I am filled with guilt.
The counselor explained to me that my mother’s death is a dividing line: there was life before she died and life after. It takes time to navigate the new normal. She asked me how my life has changed since my mom died. I told her I feel like a little girl who lost her mommy in the grocery store. I look for her in every aisle. I know I saw her a few seconds ago, but when I look up she is gone. No matter how many announcements they make over the loud speaker, I know my mother is not going to come busting down Aisle 12 in her leopard blouse, black slacks, and leopard loafers to get me. Not this time.
We talked about how I feel sad and empty and how it is hard to talk about it with anyone. I told her how I feel my grief is a burden. I told her that I am experiencing conflict in relationships that have always been tricky.
My counselor said that the death of a mom can result in permission to let things go: experiences, relationships, people that drain the mourner. One of the things I notice is that I don’t have the strength (Yiddish word korech, as my mom would say) that I had before. The counselor says my mom filled me up — and that enabled me to deal with things that perhaps didn’t serve me well. My mom is gone now. With her death goes my patience for those things, too.
I have never experienced this level of loss. My mother was someone I spoke to on and off throughout the day, every day. I was intimately involved in coordinating her care the last year of her life. I was ‘her person.’ Losing my mom has made me feel more vulnerable than I ever have before. I am a turtle without a shell. I am shield-less and shy. Who will go crazy about my son getting into college? Who will celebrate that the size 8 shoes fit me? Who wants a pair of socks with my dog’s face on it? Beside my husband, my mom did. She cared about everything I cared about. I have to learn to navigate my new life without her.
I still look for my mom down every aisle, even though I know I won’t find her. But I know she would want me to take care of myself. I know she would want me to let go of things that no longer serve me. I know she would want me to be good to me, the way she was always good to me. So that is what I will do.
I am taking care of myself. Even if it feels weird and not totally comfortable. I am putting myself in places that feel warm and safe and ease my soul. Just like my mom would want me to. Because even though I cannot find her, I know she is here.