On Grief

She cared for her husband when he was sick and dying. He was a veteran with a pension and Medicare but he couldn’t secure a spot in a Nursing Home. For six long years she was Nurse and Caretaker until the day he left us. I never saw her cry. She claimed that she grieved his loss while he was alive.

A short six months after her beloved husband died she met another man. A man that adored her. It was a second chance for both of them and they were happy. They moved in together until they decided that their upbringings demanded that they get married. They did. 3 short months after he was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. He died 10 days from diagnosis. I never saw her cry.

She went on an online dating site 2 months after he died and began dating a man soon after.

She put her beloved dog down last Friday. I saw her cry for a brief moment. That’s it. She’s already talking about getting another dog.

She is my mother, and she does not Grieve.

I have grappled with and marveled at this for many years. I am no closer to understanding it now than before. If she was a closed-off person by nature it would make more sense. But she’s a warm, caring person. She is outgoing, friendly and kind. She had a caring, if not somewhat overbearing mother who showered her with love. Her father was, in my opinion one of the nicest men ever to walk the planet. But something or someone critical in her formative years taught her that women, not just men, don’t cry.

I tried talking to her about it the other day. I asked if she grieves in private or not at all. She revealed that she has her moments when she thinks about my dad and her second husband Frank. The memories are all over the house in the form of pictures and the fact that my Dad essentially built the house we live in. T0here are the triggers, the songs and smells and random nuggets that make us think of that one special person. They make her cry…a little. But not for long, no sense wasting time on what’s already happened.

This can only be the inherited toughness from her mother. Mom’s family cab be faithfully traced back to the ages of Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower and they were solid, steadfast people that frowned on weakness. Her mother was a stalwart example of that bloodline. I’m sure her mother taught her to “suck it up” and not dwell on that which is beyond our control. It worked for her when she was orphaned at a young age and was raised by her brow-beating Grandmother. I’m not sure she did her daughter right by passing this on to her.

I have no pretense of trying to change her. It simply cannot be done. I also inherited, or learned, toughness as one of our family traditions. It has served me well as my life’s buffet has been a seemingly endless supply of Shitburgers. But I do know how to let things go properly.

I wish my mother would just, for once, let it out. Grief is like a lungful of air after a deep inhale. If you let it out slowly it hurts. If you open up and let it go it leaves the body quickly and painlessly. I admire her toughness and her ability to trudge forward no matter how strong the wind is. But toughness at the risk of emotional health is the wrong way to go.

Yes, those of you that know me know that I admire and exemplify a high level of toughness and it is no exception with her. But before I tell something to Fuck Off from my life permanently I deal with it properly. I forgive once I decide that it’s good for me to do so. I cry occasionally because it’s too hard keeping it in. I admit when I’m wrong because it’s the right thing to do. I also know how to grieve, too well unfortunately. I’ve had lots of practice. My mother, on the other hand doesn’t deal with things, she just plays the waiting game in hopes that it will go away on its own. And she always wins. It’s not healthy.

Yes, let it go, but only after you have made proper peace with it.

38 thoughts on “On Grief”

  1. In so sorry for all the lost your mom has gone through. Everyone grieves in their own way. She’s your mom so it’s normal for your to be concerned because you love her. It seems like she’s trying to keep her self from being alone to help her not be stuck in grief. May God’s loyal love give you and your mom comfort, Psalms 119:76.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some people find it easier to live that way. Stoically. My father also did not grieve. Even when his grandson died at age six. He always told us when he became a burden to the tribe he would just walk out into the sunset and indeed that’s what he did.

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  3. I too can trace my roots to where my family came from, in what part of Norway they lived… the ship they traveled to America on. The years that followed with little to nothing to show for their travels. The farming, factory work, businesses they owned, participating in the building of the Trans-Canadian Highway… they were a tough bunch. They went through tough times! Things that you and I will probably never have to go through. I’ve never seen my father cry, ever. My mother a handful of times… but more as she ages and get frustrated by her body. Even when there is loss of life, not many tears. I was never a crier either. In fact, maybe a ‘handful of times’ did I ever let anyone see me cry… EVER. Until I got sick. Now I’m a crier. (Kinda bummed about that, actually.) But there is an element of relief when you just let the pain, the fear, the anxiety go! There is a benefit to our overall emotional health. As for forgiveness, I don’t find myself ever having to forgive ‘a person.’ I never take anything that personally anymore. The quickfire temper that I had, is no longer. (I wonder if that goes back to your post about chronically ill people being the best versions of themselves…?) Sorry for the novel. I agree though, toughing it out all the time is really an emotional vacuum. Maybe your mom has that energy to spare, for now??? Great post, Billy.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. We all grieve differently, some more so for the passing of a beloved pet than a member of the family. Days, months, years, it catches us unawares, the pain still raw as if it’s recent.
    Maybe your Mum does grieve in private, some people are like that. I am sorry for her loss, and yours. To me, Love acts a a buffer, absorbing some of the pain and making it bearable.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. If the grief is not bothering her than you should accept that it’s her natural response. I admire her pragmatic approach to life. Life is what it is and we have no option but to Accept it.

    Liked by 2 people

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