Sitting at work a few weeks back, I pulled up the next bereavement phone call that I needed to make, briefly reviewed the case and dialed the number. As the ringer summoned my bereavement client, I cleared my mind with nothing but thoughts of the moments spent just months ago with this dear family. A wife who fought a tough battle with Alzheimer’s. A husband who spent as much precious time as he could with a wife he had adored for over 50 years. Two adult sons who wept like babies when their precious mama took her last breath. I was instantly snapped to attention with the surprise of a deep chuckling voice that said “hello”.
I immediately shared my name, reminding him of my affiliation to the hospice agency who cared for his late spouse and shared with him that my intention today was to check on him and see how he had coped so far on his journey through grief.
He shared with me that he had met someone new and had been spending quite a bit of time with her lately, a person who was also widowed fairly recently.
My “judgy” nature, as the teenagers call it, came creeping out as I peeked back into the chart to see just how long his wife had been gone…six months. Six short months. As I forced myself to focus back on the words flowing through the telephone receiver, I picked up on “getting remarried” and “deciding which furniture will be kept” and “my boys aren’t okay with this”.
A couple of times during this call, I could tell that she must have been near as my client would mumble something I couldn’t understand or chuckle at a joke to which I had not been privy. I encouraged my client to attend our support group, assessed for needs and provided education regarding the phases of grief, as I do every bereavement phone call. When no needs were voiced, I ended the call with please give us a call if we can help in any way.
As I sat in the aftermath of the call, my heart was breaking for the sons who were having to deal with their grief as well as the gravity of seeing their father move on.
Grief has numerous layers. The loss of the person, the loss of hopes and dreams of future events with this person, loss of tasks or traditions that were contingent upon that person’s presence, loss of interest in past enjoyments due to all of the strain from grief, loss of identity after the loss of this person and just the raw pain that is present from having watched a loved one suffer through end of life. They are not easily worked through. Which phase of grief held these sons hostage?
I faced my own grief for the moment and realized that part of my own grieving process is negatively effected by the fact that most around me have moved on. There is only one other person who feels the same depth of loss that I feel after losing my sweet mama and that is my little brother. My dad is grieving as a husband, but my brother and I are grieving as children who will never again see the woman who kissed the boo boos, spanked our behinds, fed us and was always our biggest fan. We lost our biggest fan.
We will never again listen as two parents share stories from our childhood. We will never again have two parents that are present at some function solely to be our support. In my reverie, I suspected my client’s sons were haunted by the fear of being forgotten without two who shared knowledge of their childhood. Haunted by the fear that a new love interest of their father somehow decreased his ability to love them as much or deem them with as much importance as before. My mind questioned whether his sons felt like the life with their mom seemed less important than before. Devalued, if you will. All I could think was somehow one loss had produced a million losses and time continued to march on as if nothing had happened. Utterly infuriating.
There are still days when I cry a few different times within the same day; some days I cry none at all. Most only see the cool, calm, collected me. Most would be surprised at the level of hurt I still feel most days. Am I intentionally trying to hide this pain? Not really. I just feel like most can’t handle being present for my grief as often as my grief is present with me.
I don’t ever want to be the person someone dreads to see coming. You know the type I’m referring to; the folks that have woes they intend to share with every last person with ears. (Drives me nuts. Ha!) Those are the ones you quickly learn to never ask the question “how are you” because they will most definitely tell you and it won’t be a simple “good”. They are the ones who didn’t get the memo that you don’t really want any answer other than “fine” or “doing well”. Ha!
But there are no days that go by without seeing my little mama in my mind; whether it be something pertaining to her final moments or a moment where we belly laughed or a moment where we disagreed. Some good moments. Some bad moments. All of which are neatly tucked away in files in my mind, ready to be pulled up, reviewed and cherished at a moments notice.
There are no days that I don’t feel a tug to spend moments thinking of her; wishing she could be back here…not sick…but the her that was with us before pancreatic cancer entered our world. I long for the days when she was full of life and wanted nothing more than to see the precious family she loved so strongly.
My brother and I have become so much closer during this time. Honoring mom’s deepest wish to have family stay strong. Well, her deepest wish was for us to take care of Dad. But second to that was keeping family knitted together so tightly that nothing could slip between one fiber.
I feel as if time continues to march forward as I continue to drag my feet. Terrified of moving so far away from days when she still lived and breathed and laughed and loved that I’ll forget something; something about her voice, her mannerisms, her likes, her dislikes, the sound of her nails clicking on the ivory. I want to retain it all. Keep it safe in my heart. The fact is that memories do fade; my heart pleads for them to remain vivid.
Is it okay that I still cry when I sing certain songs? Is it okay that my heart aches to see others who don’t still long to have her back as deeply as I? Is it okay that there is a gaping void where a whole, unbroken, uncracked heart used to beat? Is it okay that I’m not ready to move on yet? Is it okay that I just feel like I owe her a few more months of wallowing in this funk?
I’m not certain that I have answers to any of those questions other than grief for me is what grief is for me. I have learned to be okay with wherever I am for that day or that moment. There are no other options.
Sipping coffee tonight out of my “I ain’t doin’ it” mug and realizing, you know what, I am doin’ it…and mom would be proud. ~paula