There is no protocol or written guideline when it comes to how one thrives after the passing of a parent. In fact, in many ways, it’s looking like a lonesome journey to finding that acceptance and peace again.
My mom passed away on May 19, 2017 unexpectedly after her discharge from the hospital due to a heart issue. I almost went home to see her during her hospitalization but didn’t as she made progress health-wise. She passed away from a failing heart which I find ironic because she is one of the most loving persons I’ve known in my life - her strongest attribute is her undying love for her children. She was only 72 when she transitioned.
My mom lived overseas so my knowledge of her death came in the form of a text message -
“Your mom died today 1:30 pm may 19th.”
Upon receiving the message, my body quickly went numb. But even more so, my mind was in overdrive as it refused to digest the information. You can call it being in denial or shock. It was a sensation that no one ever forgets. As it was a Friday morning and routine beckons me to report to work, my mind easily managed to set aside the horrible news to get me to my office. I was productive albeit in a very slow fashion on that day. I sorted out the leave and permission from my office to fly overseas to tend to the family emergency without any delay.
Since then, I have attended the wake and funeral with my family with the same numbness that I felt from the beginning, but with the intermittent flow of tears alongside my father and brothers as we observed the casket being lowered down to the bottom of the earth. My mother never made it easy for us when she was alive. Now, that she is longer with us, even grieving is not as straightforward. Mourning over her is complex. Beyond the usual sadness, guilt, and pain are the feelings of regret, resentment and confusion.
“Some of us find that time is the only essential tool to heal and if we could, we would ask for time off or give ourselves the freedom to simply 'be.'”
My mother loved us in her own unique way. She was a disciplinarian and a strict mother who tried to control her children even in their adulthood. There was a sense of physical and emotional abuse of all of us on her part which my three brothers and I experienced in various levels - a dynamic in our relationship with her that continues to require attention and healing. As my brothers and I gathered together, we also learned of our mother’s weaknesses including her addiction to gambling which depleted most of her and my father’s savings.
With the above noted backdrop that unfolded before me during the wake and funeral, the process of grieving over my mother begs the questions of “how?”. Aside from the tearful display on my end in the company of my father and brothers, I have not fully cried out in solitude since the passing of my mom. It remains true to tell you that all I feel is numbness. Most recently, the numbness has been accompanied by the feeling of emptiness. It’s the kind of emptiness that I’m not familiar with. It’s one where I can function daily for the most part but find myself at peace the most by doing nothing but listen to silence. Somehow, I’m being drawn further into the allure of nothingness where no topic or subject manages to stay in the realm of my consciousness. Once in a while, as I go by my day doing mundane things, a brief sense of longing creeps in although I have yet to experience the feelings in full effect.
And strangely, I’m perfectly okay with that. The nothingness presents numerous conundrums from wanting to be left alone and yet wanting to be in the comfort of loved ones or friends, from wanting to travel and get away to just being content with staying put, to wanting to cry but not wanting to feel, to wanting to keep myself busy but not wanting to do anything but stare at nothingness, and the list just goes on and on.
But one thing is for sure. I found some peace spending time with my father and brothers or those who are closest to my mom. Somehow being with people that knew and loved her creates a world where her loss makes sense and where I can console myself quietly in their company. Perhaps this is the very reason why people attend support groups. While most of us can relate with one another as to various aspects in our lives, grieving is one aspect that is too profound to understand in one sitting, not to mention how the path to healing varies tremendously from one person to another.
“It’s okay to say you’re not okay.”
A funny point to make is if there was a protocol for grieving, perhaps, I will find it to be of use in my case. After all, my life has been driven by rules and expectations until now. When I go to work, I have meetings to attend, arguments to make, pleadings to write and people to routinely consult with. In other words, my profession provides me a cookie-cutter lifestyle. Outside of that, I have the weekends and the evenings to enjoy my time at leisure which provides a bit of freedom on my part to decide how I wish to spend my time; however, in essence, the amount of free time must nonetheless comport with my job’s rules and protocols.
But, what then when you have a parent that passes? What then when you have to use up your free time to grieve? How do I schedule this within the time frame that is dictated by my routines? Because of the complexity of grief, I realized no cookie-cutter schedule can dictate the amount of time one should spend to heal. Now, I understand why some friends of mine quit their jobs or took a long break from their careers to spend time with themselves.
How should I feel about losing my mom? It turns out there is no protocol for grieving; that’s why some of us make our own rules and listen to our own inner guidance to lead us as to the right steps to take. Some of us find that time is the only essential tool to heal, and therefore, if we could, then we would ask for time off or give ourselves the freedom to simply “be.” It’s okay to say you’re not okay. It’s okay to take a break from the daily grind with the hope that you’ll be better than you ever were upon your return to the real world. And we should know that permitting ourselves to avail of the much needed time “to feel” is a requirement, not an option. And society as a whole must just learn to deal with it, the way we need to deal with the loss in front of us.