My Mom the Lighthouse, One Year Gone

by Steve C
(California)

Mom and I with Family in Alaska

Mom and I with Family in Alaska

It's been a year now since I lost my Mom to a random disease. She was 77, old but not old. She was so busy and active – hiking through mountain trails, marching on Washington, running her city's "get out the vote" program – I thought she would outlive us all. We spent a week trekking Alaskan glaciers with her in summer 2012, then in February she was found delirious and near unconscious from a mystery brain infection. And then she was gone.

Mom and I loved each other, and our relationship was always good. But I couldn't say we were especially close as adults. We lived on opposite sides of the country, she was busy, I was busy, and I felt guilty that we only talked by phone once or twice a month. Even so, the love was always there, and our visits were warm.

Nobody expects losing their mother to be easy. But I was completely unprepared for how much it hit me like a mountain crashing down, violently upending my life and changing my outlook on everything. Nor for how long the grief would continue to wash over me, an infinity of waves breaking on the beach, still with the power to knock me down even after a year.

The unwritten expectation is that you'll grieve for a month or two, then be at peace and move on. But it doesn't seem to work that way. Most of the time I'm fine, then suddenly I'm standing in the peanut butter section of the grocery store with tears in my eyes. My wife and friends are sympathetic, to a point, but nobody really wants to hear me moan on and on about my mother. There's a feeling like "Gee, I'm really sorry about your Mom. (pause) So what else is new?" So I mostly keep my feelings to myself. Sometimes I talk to my sister, which helps. My brother doesn't want to talk about it much.

My attitudes on life have changed. I don't care so much anymore about career or money. Mom wasn't about those things either. I'm trying to refocus on family, and friends, and simply enjoying what each day has to offer. And I try not to stress out when something is broken or lost, or I'm late, or someone cuts me off in traffic.

I've spent many gray days asking what my mother meant to me and why her loss has affected me so much. I decided that Mom was like the lighthouse in my life, and I was the boat, traveling a dark and rocky ocean. She didn't tell me which way to go or give me life's answers, but she shined her light in ways that helped me see what I needed to see, so I could find those answers myself. She was my compass and my reference, my square one and my home base.

Though I miss her fiercely, I've found that if I look hard, Mom's light still shines. Some question will come up, and I'll think "I wonder what Mom would have said about this." If I sit quietly and take a breath, I can imagine exactly what she'd say, and the rightness of it. I can hear her voice saying it, the intonation of her speech, the look in her eyes, the little smile she'd make to emphasize a point. And so in a way, she's still with me. But that doesn't keep me from crying in the grocery store. I miss you, Mom.

Comments for My Mom the Lighthouse, One Year Gone

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Mar 13, 2014
So sorry
by: Anonymous

Steve, I am so sorry for your loss. Your story is incredible. I just had the first anniversary of my Dad's death and totally agree with you. Grief is so underestimated. I love your analogy with the lighthouse, it is perfect. I pray for you and may God give you peace and comfort. Thanks for your story.

Mar 06, 2014
So sorry
by: Alicia

I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my mother 3 months ago today and it's so hard. I can related when people think you should be over it by now but when you are still grieving they seem shocked or even surprise that you are not over it yet. I have been keeping it inside as well. I can only hope that it will continue to get better for us both.

Mar 01, 2014
My Mom the Lighthouse, One Year Gone
by: Doreen UK

Steve I am so sorry for your loss of your Mom. I too lost my mom at 77yrs of age 11yrs. ago. It took me all of 9yrs. before I could look at her photo in the frame and put it on the wall. The nature of relationship between a parent can change when one get's married and matures. But the love never dies. I know what you say about crying in the strangest places. I would cry walking down the road, in the supermarket, in the bank, on the bus. Just anywhere a memory would be triggered off. Healing is slow to the point it feels as if it is lasting forever. I lost my husband of 44yrs. 21 months ago and only then did the loss of my mom feel stronger. It takes one loss to trigger off another.
I too cannot talk to anyone about my loss of my husband as my siblings still have their partners. It is understood but can't be felt till they go through their own loss. But we have this site and also grief counsellors to talk to who are impartial and can support us in ways a family member cannot. Your sister understands you because you both shared the same mom and she can understand on your level what you are saying, and how you feel.
It is true how our perspective on life will now change. We can lose our drive to be materialistic. When my husband died and I cleared out his closet and his garage, the reality hit me that He didn't take anything with him. I then wondered how we accumulate so much goods throughout our lifetime. Someone else in the family then has to get rid of it all. It is then hard as everything becomes sentimental in value. I was de-cluttering years before my husband died, but I guess there are some things we can't part with. I don't know when I will get to the personal items. Just seeing my husband's cowboy boots he loved is so very painful. I cleared out his closet days after he died whilst I was so numb I couldn't feel the pain of losing him. There is no easy way to do what we have to. But just taking one day at a time has helped me through my grief. The sad fact is there is an age when we expect our lives to end, and our loved ones to die, but some die prematurely and this is harder to bear.

Mar 01, 2014
Thank you
by: Sara

Thank you for your share. The 1st anniversary of my moms death is in three days and it is so helpful to hear others are as affected and struggle with feeling others dont really getting how long it takes to process and heal a broken heart . . I miss my mom so much too. I am 36, and just assumed she'd be my lighthouse for at least another 10 years. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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