My mom died on 12 July 2017.
My mom was buried on 19 July 2017.
Our house flooded on 20 July 2017.
I pushed my grief away. One, because I couldn’t bear it. My mom, who was not only my mom, but a protector, my friend, almost like a sister… one of the pillars of my foundation was gone. Another pillar, my husband, was unstable. My foundation was like a floor during an earthquake, constantly moving, making it difficult for me to re-find my balance. The flood depressed me, but it gave me the opportunity to focus on things at home, and push my grief to a dark corner. I joked that mom caused the flood, to make it easier for me.
But it didn’t get easier. No. It got worse. I gradually became a grumpy bitch. At work definitely; a bit less so at home. I couldn’t really be happy anymore. I didn’t have happy feelings. Also not when I should have. Yes, I smiled and laughed, but I just didn’t feel it. I noticed that I was retracting more and more from things. My worked noticed too. They even offered to lay me off, if that was what I wanted, to give me three months salary so I can find something new. But, I like my job, I just couldn’t handle the responsibility anymore. Result: I am not a manager anymore but just a ‘normal employee’ now. And you know what? This at least is something good that came from this. It helped a lot with the stress I felt, but not with the grief.
I was already seeing a psych assistant, but she couldn’t help me. I needed someone to talk to, not just someone who listened. I went back to the doc, and he referred me to a psychologist. A grief counselor. Of course the first appointment was only an intake, and my homework for that was to set my goals for the ten appointments I would have with her. One of those goals was to be able to talk about my mom without feeling the pain gripping me buy the throat and threatening to choke me. I know it will always hurt, but this pain tearing my chest apart was just too much. I needed someone to help me work through it.
My first assignment was to write about my mom’s passing (just thinking about it makes me feel the tears again), to write about what I felt when she died, just before she died, what I did. I knew beforehand it was going to be difficult, and it was. Writing it made me choke up with tears, as I know it will again when I translate it. This is a shortened version of what I wrote:
I was there the moment mom died. I held her right hand, while my oldest held her left and we watched her fighting. I kissed her forehead and whispered that she should let go, that she had to go and rest, that she had fought enough. And, she was gone. I might have been crying then. I don’t know. I don’t know what I felt. I was with her for so long, had seen this coming and still, when I was home hours later, I said to my husband: she’s really gone.
I was there from the very first moment, the day we heard that mom was sick. I brought her to every appointment, was by her side everywhere, brought her to the emergency room when she needed blood again and was admitted to the hospital. Only once I wasn’t there, when she was admitted to hospital just before her birthday. I was at my work then, but an hour later I was at her side in the emergency room. There was a period of about two or three months that my oldest and I alternated days going to mom, but for the rest I was with her every day, in the care hotel or in the hospital.
From 12 June I was in the hospital every day all day, and on 1 July mom said she didn’t want to be alone anymore. Three nights I slept next to her in hospital and eight nights in the hospice. Every day I left for an hour or two, while the two oldest sat with her. Every night I had to get up countless time to wipe her mouth when she coughed up blood. I had long forgotten about the horror scenario everyone was prepared for. I did what I had to do and wanted to do – help my mom for as long as I could.
Until that last night. While I was gone for the two hours, a morphine pump had been connected to replace the morphine plasters and nasal spray she had been using. Roundabout 11.00 or 11.30 I thought I thought I heard her breathing stop. The night sister checked and said it was still okay, that it was barely noticeable.
That night mom didn’t wake me once. I was awake a couple of times and saw that mom was asleep. I was so tired after all the broken nights and tough days. Mom barely talked those days. It was too much for her. But, she did say a couple of things. Like when she told me she loved me, and that she said I shouldn’t fight with my brother. She understood that I would wait until he came to me, and said that she would see to it from ‘up above’.
During those days it often seemed like mom was angry, and that was allowed. She was dying. Just like that. Everything changed from one day to the next. We thought she had a cold, as she so frequently had in the years before. No. Lung cancer. Obviously she was angry. But, it wasn’t only anger. Also resignation. Mom was done. She wanted to leave, back to her Lord. She wanted peace. The rotten disease had destroyed her will to live
About half an hour, maybe even only fifteen minutes, before mom died she suddenly turned on her back. Her head was thrown back and her shoulders almost lifted off the bed when she breathed in deep. It was only afterwards that I realized we were watching her battle with death; that she fought to get air into her lungs.
The undertaker came and we had to leave mom there in the room. I didn’t like this. She was just lying there. Alone. And she didn’t want to be alone anymore. But we had so much to arrange. Two men came to clean and dress her for the coffin. We watched when they dressed her but when they closed her mouth I looked away. I didn’t like how they did it. She looked so strict. She wasn’t like that. Not towards the end. Her dress was crooked but I didn’t dare to straighten it. My oldest did.
I just let things happen. Everyone thought I had everything under control and I did, but then again I didn’t. I had everything but myself under control. As long as I was busy with practical things I didn’t have to think about my own feelings. My mom, who meant so much to me. Gone. Just gone.
I knew we would talk about what I had written at my next appointment. We did. After I had read it out loud. Writing it was hard. Reading it even harder. I cried so much. I had to read it a second time and that was easier, because I knew what would come. It’s all part of the process, to face my grief, to work through it, to get in touch with my feelings again. But it’s so damn hard!