How do we cope with grief? A rhetorical question only, I haven't got an answer, and I'm not resorting to reading material that sets out the supposed 'steps' of grief and instructions on how each one might be handled. Surely we are all too individual to follow a manual on such a personal and private experience.
I'm managing moment to moment, day to day, and of course I see a loosening of the grip. My grieving process started several years ago, after it was evident that my mother would not recover her sensibilities following two strokes. Mum was a vastly changed person with her disabilities and damaged brain, so naturally our relationship changed. Although she was still my mother, the capacity with which she was my mother had changed dramatically. I loved her, but even though I was 50 years old, I missed not having a mother who was actively being my mother. In reality, I know I lost the one who 'mothered' me a long time ago.
It was obvious that she loved having me around, and although she couldn't remember my name, I am sure she understood somewhere deep from within the confusion of life, that I was her daughter. She knew what things I was good at, and saved appropriate jobs for me to do when I visited. Mum would save different jobs for my sister to do, because she knew "that one" was good at something else.
So everything changed. Mum had little recollection of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so I could no longer have long pleasant conversations about what my family was up to. I missed that. I also missed not being able to explain to her all the things my husband and I were doing to our new home in a small town in north-western New South Wales where we will soon retire to. I would have loved to have taken her there, to show her where I would live out my old age when she was gone.
As my mother's condition deteriorated and she was placed in care, I continued to grieve. Not only did I feel sorry for my mother being dealt such a cruel blow when she was just at the onset of her old age, I grieved for all that I also missed from my mother. I grieved the loss of my mother even though my sweet little old mum was still a part of my life.
Mum suffered, and had no hope whatsoever of improving her life in any manner. I prayed that she would be blessed with death. It was heartbreaking watching my mother deteriorate into barely more than a vegetative state. Heart-wrenching, impossible to comprehend, sad beyond words. Because I had already grieved the loss of my mother for years, I presumed the grieving process following her death would be made easier. Perhaps it has been. But on some days I am so overcome with sadness that I feel this thing called 'grief' is larger than me, unmanageable, unending. I dissolve into tears at the most inappropriate moments when some small thing tugs at my heart.
Of course, my emotional state is made worse by the fact that it has only been 4 months since I lost my father. Such a monumental combined loss of both my parents within such a short space of time. Dad's passing was very different to Mum's. He was much older, coherent to the end, and was afraid of dying even as his organs slowly shut down. I loved my father, but it was a different love than the unconditional love I had for my mother. Simply put, Dad could be a selfish bastard, and treated his wife with little respect most of their long marriage. But I am sure that Dad did the best he was capable of. During the last few years of his life, I had some wonderful long conversations with my father, and was privileged with a glimpse into the private person that he was.
I miss them both so very much, especially my mother. Does a woman ever truly get over the loss of her mother? Another rhetoric question; there is no answer. I will not try to force anything, I will let my grief take the course it takes, and I will be OK.