I’m sorry that this post topic may at first be rather depressing, but I hope you will find it ends in a way that provides some emotional lift. It’s been a few weeks since my nephew passed away, and the wounds are still fresh and will likely be for quite a while. But yesterday something else happened. A strong emotion for someone who left us further in the past was experienced. That emotion was for my mother, who died about 12 years ago.
We held a memorial service yesterday, for my nephew, of course, but also in a sense for my mom, too. I’d like to discuss my grieving process for my mom, in conjunction with my new grieving process for my nephew.
When my mother died 12 years ago it was a huge shock for my family. We knew she was feeling unwell for a few weeks, but she assured us that her doctor said it wasn’t anything major. At the time I was quite unwell with my bipolar disorder. My husband even took me away for a vacation to help me recuperate in some way. But while we were away, my dad had to take my mom to the hospital. It was there (that first day) that the ICU doctor said she was dying, with no chance to survive. That statement was a huge shock to us all, and I must admit that many of us were in denial. It turned out that she had an aggressive type of cancer of her bile ducts. A cancer I had never even heard of.
My mother’s sudden unexpected death at only 61 exacerbated my illness and led to a four year plus period of multiple hospitalizations and ECT. During all of that time I remember not being able to think of my mother in any way other than tragically. I could only remember her final days and death. I couldn’t even look at her photograph without having only tragically painful feelings.
During the years following my mother’s death, I went through typical stages of grieving in conjunction with bipolar episodes:
- Denial – As I said, this was my first reaction. Not believing she would even die. I remember in the ICU even telling her she could fight it. I remember the nurses standing by looking at me with looks of concern, because they knew her fate.
- Anger – Anger started almost immediately upon her death and lasted for about three years afterwards. I had full blown manias with mixed features (depression mixed in) and the symptom of irritability to an extreme. That anger nearly got me fired from my job. It fueled terrible episodes leading to multiple hospitalizations. I was violent to myself, and to things around me. My mouth spewed anger at everything and everyone.
- Bargaining – The stage of bargaining is not one my family had time to really experience for my mother or nephew. Or at least I didn’t. I think this stage is common when a person is slowly dying and people bargain with God or someone/thing else to save their loved one. Since my nephew and mom both died so suddenly, it didn’t seem applicable, unless you count my telling my mom to fight her illness in her final days.
- Depression – I certainly experienced a prolonged depression that followed my mixed manias. Even that led to three hospitalizations. And even after my hospitalizations ended I had periods when my mood was sub normal or worse. I was yearning for that special link in life that disappeared. It was even disabling for me.
- Acceptance – I think it is too soon for me to fully feel acceptance for my nephew’s death, but this stage of the grieving process has been developing over the last few years for my mom. Yes, after almost 10 years from her passing. I have been able to reminisce and think good thoughts about when she was well. I have her photo in my house and now smile and blow kisses at it regularly, instead of avoid.
Despite my developing acceptance of my mom’s death, I guess I never felt full closure. Or at least not until yesterday.
Yesterday both my nephew’s and my mom’s ashes were spread together in a sunny spot in a beautiful wooded area overlooking the Delaware River. My mom’s ashes had been sitting far too long in an urn in my father’s house. We all agreed that putting my nephew and mother together was the appropriate thing to do. They loved each other very much, and would now always be together in those woods. If they meet in another life, it shall be quickly since they are in essence hugging each other physically. It also brings me peace to think they will be visited not just by us, but regularly by the birds, deer, chipmunks, and the other living creatures of the area.