The Grief Comes in Waves

The Grief Comes in Waves


Our mom ca. 1962. 26-years-old.

I think it’s safe to say that my relationship with our mother was complicated. She wasn’t easy. By the time I had settled into the life of an adult (which took me longer than most people), we had settled into a mostly peaceful routine with each other – but I think that has less to do with maturity on my part than the fact that they moved up to Sacramento to be near my sister and her growing family. So she wasn’t a day-to-day presence in my life.

There was some degree of comfort in knowing that she and my dad were up there and had each other (as well as my sister and her kids). And with her passing in December, our family is trying to adjust to what my dad keeps calling “our new reality.” Obviously, for him it is an adjustment he struggles with every day. And because Linda is the one who is there, the loss of our mom has greatly impacted her life, too.

But for me, the loss manifests itself more subtly, I think. The grief comes in waves, usually triggered by a thought of something that reminds me she’s gone: A TV show she liked. An idiotic remark by a politician (Donald Trump has been a regular fountain of these). And of course, a holiday or special occasion.

Because our mom died suddenly in December and we went through the winter holidays in a state of shock, Passover was the first holiday where we really felt her loss. It hit me about a week before, while I was driving to a doctor’s appointment. I arrived there feeling weepy – which led the doctor to write a note that I needed to be monitored for depression. I told her I wasn’t depressed – I was merely having a bad day. And as it turned out, our actual Passover seder wasn’t sad. Mama was missed – but the holiday was good.

Today I’m bracing myself for another round of tears. For the last several years, I commemorated Mother’s Day by sending my mom flowers and this year, I realized I didn’t have anyone to send them to. I briefly thought about ordering some for my sister, but then I concluded that she would just find that weird. And then I thought about buying them for myself – but one of the reasons I like sending flowers is that it’s the kind of thing that people appreciate, but never do for themselves. So this year, no flowers. And today I feel sad.

I expect I’ll be back on an even keel when Mother’s Day is over. I have to: I’m seeing that doctor again on Wednesday.

A New Mother’s Day

A New Mother’s Day

Last December, our mother died. It was a short illness, started with flu-like symptoms, ended in sepsis. I knew it was very serious, but really never believed she’d die. She was 79, which doesn’t seem old anymore.

Mom was a shopper and she loved clothes. Nice clothes. Before she died, she had taken much of her very expensive wardrobe to a consignment store from where my father is still receiving checks in the mail. We bagged up most everything else and donated it. Some items are left in the closet for the granddaughters to rummage through, as they are the only ones who can fit into her small-sized clothes.

Dad is coping as well as anyone can who lost his wife of 60 years. He also lost his driver’s license earlier in the year, so he’s had a double whammy. Not that one should compare driving to a wife, but there is a loss of independence that comes with not driving anymore. He’s still mourning his car. The family’s focus has turned to him, his physical and emotional well-being, and a new life that he is rebuilding at 82 years old.
We were never allowed to look in the safe my parents had in their home, but I knew it was filled with jewelry, as mom also loved bling. I always called it The Vault to annoy her. “Show me what’s in The Vault,” I would plead. She would always say “next time.” Now I go into The Vault and play with the jewelry like when I was a kid playing with her costume jewelry in her 1960’s jewelry box. Dad tries to recall where each piece came from, but many things are not remembered.
I’m not sure what I’m learning from this experience, but I’m trying to gain something from it. Anything that is this life-changing must bring something to gain. Maybe the best part is that my sister is committed to coming to visit once a month. It makes my dad happy. My mother would approve of that.
So, as Mother’s Day approaches, I think about it and realize I don’t really feel a great loss attached to the day. I feel the loss every day. All kids ask why there isn’t a Children’s Day and all kids get the same answer. I now feel the same about Mother’s Day: Everyday is Mother’s Day, when you don’t have your mother around anymore.