Grief by the numbers

 

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Maxime Perron Caissy/Freeimages

A fellow blogger who recently lost her father posed an interesting question on her blog, which went along the lines of what happens after that first year of loss?

As a society, we tend to mark major life events by months, then years. So what does happen on that first month after the first year marking the death of a loved one? While it’s common for people to mark the six month anniversary of something, the 13th month is not so common.

Soon, I will know, as the one year anniversary of my mother’s death quickly approaches May 21.

I don’t think my grief will suddenly lessen when June 21 rolls around, but perhaps a loosening in the monthly ritual is a part of the healing process. There was at least one month in this first year where I actually didn’t mark the day itself; I thought about it before and after but not on the actual day. At first I felt bad, but then I realized that it was probably a positive sign.

My father’s death was a completely different process. First, there was a greater sense of relief in that death finally freed my father from Alzheimer’s cruel gasp. At 79, Dad had lived a pretty long life and as an almost lifelong smoker, if dementia hadn’t taken him, emphysema (which he had) or lung cancer probably would have. With my mom, even though she was only 2 years younger, I felt like with proper, prompt treatment, she may have had some good years left.

Another difference in the grief process was that my grieving for my dad was cut short due to my mom’s illness. She became ill just six months after my father died. I had to switch gears, letting Dad rest in peace while I poured all of my energy into keeping Mom alive and nursing her back to health. By the time she recovered, Dad had been gone for a year or so and time had began to heal the loss.

In a way though, taking care of Mom helped me feel less guilty about not being there for dad as a caregiver. So while I’m not saying that Mom’s cancer diagnosis was a good thing, there was at least one positive outcome.

After surviving Mother’s Day (which I marked by participating in a charity walk and visiting cats at a shelter) I have now survived every holiday for the first time “motherless.” For those of you have been through the grieving process, I’m sure you can understand my feeling of relief.

 

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4 Comments

Filed under Memories

4 responses to “Grief by the numbers

  1. This is good insight. Every death for every person will be a little different because of the circumstances surrounding it. But we learn with each death that we’ll survive it, don’t we?

    • So true, there is no generic blueprint for grief, it’s different for everyone. Hopefully we emerge from the active grieving stage with a greater appreciation for life and for the death process.

  2. As you know, I’m fortunate not to have lost a parent yet (except father-in-law). I mentioned before that it seems silly to mention the heartache when I lost my dog. But, I remember having to go through all those holidays without him. We had no family for so long (in Florida), and we actually celebrated holidays with him. On Thanksgiving we took him to the beach. No one was there and it was great. I still marked the anniversary of his death by months for close to three years. I didn’t want him to be gone for years, and months sounded like it wasn’t as far away since I’d seen him. I don’t know if that helps you any, but I’m glad you did something for yourself to get through Mother’s Day. The holidays may still be melancholy without parents, but you made it through the hardest ones. We never stop missing them, but we grow accustomed. IOW, we adjust.

    • That is interesting but totally makes sense, that you preferred to mark your beloved dog’s death by months instead of years. It is so true, whether our pets or human loved ones, there is no expiration date on grief, we just learn to live with the loss.

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