Grief Over A Loss Never Goes Away
It’s been 13 years… And every so often, my dreams are haunted by memories of my mother. Every time I think of her, I get that familiar ache, knowing she wasn’t around to see me graduate college, see me get married (and divorced). She wasn’t around to see me have her first and only grandchild. She wasn’t around to even give me advice on how to deal with a colicky baby or how to soothe the pain from teeth coming in.
It’s been 13 years… And I’ll never forget how her health dwindled. I’ll never forget all the doctor appointments where I accompanied her in case she forgot an important fact, or an urgent issue with her health that was bothering her. Or how I had to advocate on her behalf when we were facing issues and doctors were dismissing them. Or the way she was avoiding the truth: her cancer was terminal.
It’s been 13 years… And I’ll never forget crying on the phone with an experienced hospice nurse who was offering her support when I felt so lost. I’ll never forget calling the nurse and begging for help, as my mother had a seizure or something that morning and I was frightened. I’ll never forget the moment my brothers and I realized she was gone.
It’s been 13 years…
My mother had terminal cancer. Cervical, in fact. I remember the events sharply, because I was there for almost all of it. It took years for us to even realize what was going on, and by then, it reached Stage 2. Not bad, not great, but could have been treated.
However, my mother was staunchly against the concept of Western Medicine. Right or wrong, that was her stance, and I had to respect it. We hoped against hope that the alternative treatments she was trying would work.
We were wrong.
I loved my mother. I won’t deny we had our problems, our issues, some I’m only beginning to process as I proceed through therapy. But she was my mother and one of my scant few believers and supporters as I grew up into adulthood. I’ll always love her.
I just wish she had approached her cancer differently. Or that the oncologist she met was supportive and willing to work with her to track the progress of her alternative methods and her cancer. Perhaps, if he had, we would have caught the growth and started a different treatment.
So many what ifs. What ifs are dangerous; they solve nothing and leave us wishing we had the skill of foresight. Hindsight solve nothing, and all they do is plague us.
Matter of the fact is, my mother died with a great deal of regrets. Before her mind was destroyed by the cancer and leaving nothing more than a shell, she told me she was sorry, that she wished she had done better. I remember crying and holding her hand, telling her she did her best. She did, and it’s unhelpful to try to think back and go “What if”.
In one of our late night conversations, my mother told me to be a better mother than her, to not make the same mistakes she had. While I did end up marrying the wrong man for me, unlike her, I made the choice to leave him far earlier. So I suppose I did avoid that one particular mistake. And in raising my son, I have sought different parenting methods, so my son would not grow up to fear me as I feared my parents.
Overall, the grief was one of the hardest I struggled with over the years. I sometimes see her in the mirror when I regard my reflection. Over my lifetime, people speculated we were sisters, due to how much I resembled her. I can see it at times, especially in my eyes, and it’s hard to not let that go. My son has her eyes too, the deep, dark brown and starburst irises.
I inherited other aspects of her looks. My hair, while not curly like my mothers, is almost the same color. Like my mother, I often looked older when I was younger, and now seem to be approaching the opposite as I get older. I’ve had people remark that I must’ve been at least ten years younger than my actual age, something else my mother had. It’s in the shape of my face, the cheekbones.
In me, my mother fostered the love of art and writing. She loved the stories I wrote, encouraged me to keep going. In my artwork, she supported by getting me the pencils an artist should use, the collection of special paper. I still have a poster I drew for a school art contest, framed by her to make it stand out.
What I miss are our long talks about everything and anything. I was able to tell her a great deal, confide in her, seek her advice. We sometimes shared clothing, because we were similar in size at times. I loved her jewelry. People remarked how unique her tastes were and how it flattered her beauty.
In me, my mother fostered a love of animals. Because of her affection for cats, she surrounded us with them as we grew up. I now have cats of my own, and remember hers fondly.
My mother encouraged a love of books in all of us. She figured comic books were the gateway to reading novels, and had Archies and ElfQuest around all the time. Through her love of ElfQuest, I discovered the world of fantasy and the love of elves.
I wish I could say everything from my mother was a positive thing. In our sorrow, I was also neglected and ignored at times. My mother never once tried to draw the truth from me of my childhood trauma. She merely assumed it was someone, and that person was the wrong one. However, given her favor and how she doted on my attacker, I felt I could never tell her.
Eventually, I did, and it broke her heart. She asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me?” And I replied, “Because I never thought you would believe me.”
There were times when she had forgotten to tell me things, and told only my brothers. I was shocked. I was her only daughter, how could she forget me?! But she did. I was often overlooked, shifted to the side. She saw my quiet behavior as good behavior, never thinking I chose to withdraw out of fear and neglect.
Perhaps, if she had come to talk to me, to draw me into deeper conversation, things would be different. Ah, another what if. I never acted out, like my brothers did, and therefore she thought I was fine. Silence can be another way of a person hiding pain.
I suppose in that, I learned to pay attention. At times, I would take my son aside and ask if all was well. I wanted to not repeat my mother’s mistakes, the way she did with me and my brothers.
In memories, there is grief. In grief, sorrow, tears, and the bitter regrets. She would have been 69 years old, had she survived her cancer. She would have been a great grandmother, of this I’m certain. She died a few months shy of her 56th birthday.
Today was her birthday. I pause on this day, my emotions catching up with me. I light a candle, if I have one, for a little while, in her memory. It never goes away, grief. The edges aren’t as sharp, aren’t as painful, after time gives us distance.
We simply learn to live with it.