Author Topic: Grieving for Mum as an adult  (Read 172 times)

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Offline jake1996

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Grieving for Mum as an adult
« on: July 11, 2019, 10:09:56 PM »
Hello all,

Going on from my introductory post, I lost my Mum to meningitis when I was 4 years old. I have a twin who was also 4, a brother who was 2 and a sister who was 13 days old. Mum died suddenly from complications to do with meningitis and potential negligent care at the hospital. Being so young, I think it seemed to me as though she just vanished...I only have one conscious memory of her and that is her and my Dad arguing in the hallway. Now I'm 23 and have just finished uni, but I've had a nagging feelings that things are not 'right' for many years: I thought it was just my personality, I thought I was just weak and always exhausted, I thought that always worrying and thinking about death was normal, and I thought that not really feeling anything but numb was typical...but now I know that all these things are because I haven't grieved for my Mum at all - even posting this I still feel like the denial is there.

I think this has come about because the adults left (my Dad and Grandma) have not truly grieved her loss either...my Dad went into a major depression when she died and has not recovered, despite what he says, so in a way I lost both parents when she died. My family cannot understand that it is affecting me now and seem reluctant to acknowledge that I need to grieve which almost makes me feel like I'm crazy. Yet I know there is a terrible terrible pain inside me that needs to come out and I've felt it, I really have felt it...I've sobbed a couple of times but my mind still isn't convinced that she's gone...how can it be when everyone else is so reluctant to acknowledge how bad I feel? We don't talk about her, we only joke...I am starting to have proper conversations with my Grandma about her which have started to help but I keep feeling it is easier to pretend it hasn't happened, yet I so don't want that and so want to experience my pain and grief because I know that through this pain is my true self and contentment, something that I feel has been shut down since I suffered the trauma of her dying.

I'm just starting this process and am feeling numb, unsure and alone, but thought maybe posting on here would help, because the pain is terrible but I can't get it out and it's affecting everything :(

Offline Emz2014

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Re: Grieving for Mum as an adult
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2019, 07:18:48 AM »
Sending you a welcome hug  :hug:

It does help the process to talk. Talk about memories,  how you're feeling etc so it's great you've started talking with your gran.  Have you thought about putting together some kind of scrapbook or memory box from those discussions? Something tangible you can look at when you need? Xx
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. 
Hold on in there xx

Offline Karena

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Re: Grieving for Mum as an adult
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2019, 12:09:16 PM »
Hi Jake - i agree with Emz talking to your Gran will help and having some-way to look at the memorys of her will too, so maybe you and your gran could put something together between you and that would help her too as she recalls the happier times of your mums life and starts to fix those, rather than the sad ones in her mind.
I think her and your dad have done some grieveing, how could they not, but also they would have wanted to be "strong" for the children and just the practicalities of caring for you all, especially with such a young baby must have taken a lot of doing, which would have given them no choice but to just keep going, but grief is a strange thing and it cant really be put in a box, there are recognisable stages which happen at different times between people and not always the same stages to everyone or any of those stages to everyone
Your dads depression is an example of one, but it could also have been a mask for his anger, which is another common stage, - when we cant express it then we turn it in ourselves, we also find ways to justify feeling guilt, obviousely he wasnt guilty of anything, but that doesnt stop us finding a way to blame ourselves, so his depression could have the been the external face of all those parts of grief in which he got stuck.
So when people use the phrase they didnt "grieve properly" i think its important to understand that there isnt a wrong or right way to do this And while traditionally grief theory and grief therapy has concentrated on cutting the bond between us and the person who died, that doesnt work in reality, and then because it hasnt worked and society and therapists tell us we should be "cured" but we dont feel that we are.  we start to imagine it is a fault in ourselves.

Something which might help you is a book by  Klass, Silverman, and Nickman, called continuing bonds:new understandings of grief - you dont need to read the whole book there are some articles online that sum it up quite well. In  brief it states.
"Grief isn’t about working through a linear process that ends with ‘acceptance’ or a ‘new life’, where you have moved on or compartmentalized your loved one’s memory.
but you slowly find ways to adjust and redefine your relationship with that person, allowing for a continued bond that will endure, in different ways and to varying degrees, throughout your life. This relationship is not unhealthy, nor does it mean you are not grieving in a normal way."

For me, reading it was a big weight lifted off me because i was some-one who thought not wanting to "let my husband go" or "move on" meant i was at fault and i would be stuck for-ever because holding on to him was more important than societys view, and in reality it actually helped me move forward because i could suddenly see that i didnt have to leave him behind but find new ways to take him with me.

For you, being so young and with fewer memorys this isnt so straight forward because it is difficult to continue the bond when you have so few memories to create those stronger links and those who could fill that gap are not able too because they were themsleves struggling with their own grief coupled with trying to continue to care for you and be strong for you, and thats not their fault at all they were doing what they thought was the best thing and always out of love, but for you the more long lasting memorys of her that are missing are keeping that void open.

The memorys you do have also involve her being there and suddenly gone - for your younger siblings she will always be some-one who died and was missing but they probably dont remember her as some-one who was ever there in the way you do, and at four its likely your twin may not have as many memorys as you do, as some of us do remember things that happened when we much younger than others do, - i have memorys of being 3 but my daughters memorys only go back to being around five.
So perhaps that is why you have always felt as though something is missing, more strongly or differently than they have.

So while memorys are a way for many of us to continue the bond with our loved ones there are other tools in the box  - for some that is religion  they think of the person looking down from another place or in many cultures honoured tribal elders whose wisdom can be conjured up or is known through stories passed down, but whether we have religion or not  for others it is still through ritual - that could be visiting a headstone, or it could be something more personal, a place we visit that we associate with them,planting a tree and revisiting the tree to see how it has grown and how in spring it proves that life is always renewed in some way, we are all different but finding something which appeals too us either through our own cultural norms, adopting another cultures or creating our own  but which  is done in a way dedicated too them is still a way to keep the bond with them.I have a place we loved going and planned to retire too which i cant do, but i go back now every year and i bring bck a pebble off the beach - no-one seeing me knows what i am doing and no-one at home knows what the pebbles in a particular place in the garden are about, its not something anyone questions, so it doesnt have to be a big drama, just something you do as a memorial too your mum which exists only between you and her.

Another tool in the box is to live your life in honor of some-one - which means considering them in everything you do, your code of ethics for example or standing for a cause they believed in , supporting a charity they supported, etc - again as you didnt know her in that way, that is going to be more difficult for you but not impossible.

So definitely continue to write here, and also continue to talk to your gran so you can gather as much information as possible even if she is reluctant to create a memory box or help you do so, what she says is still a record which you can use to get to know your mum better even though she isnt here.
Perhaps you could write a letter too your mum - or a series of letters in a diary form, and also tell her about the things she has missed - your schooling, your college, your hobbies and interests - i know it sounds a little crazy but again no-one need ever see it, but i think it is something that could help, because had she been there you would have told her all that and so in a way you would be inviting her back into your life even without her being physically present and that could be  a way to close the gap in it.




Offline jake1996

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Re: Grieving for Mum as an adult
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2019, 04:19:44 PM »
Hi Emz and Karena,

Thank you both for your replies and thank you for such a detailed response Karena, it really does help. I think Grandma is now going to pull out some photos of Mum for me to hang on to me for my own personal keeping which is really kind and should help me build up my memories of her and bring her to the forefront of my mind. I'm also planning to meet up with some of her old friends who remember her and ask them about her too...so that should help me, have also been having a couple of cries these past couple of days but nothing to reflect the grief and pain I feel as of yet. Still doesn't feel all that real and it's hard to talk about.

I think you're right and they have done some grieving; reading your response I noticed that I actually felt a very powerful anger in my chest. I've never really got angry before and think it's something that I have pushed very far down, 1) because the anger I feel is probably huge and 2) my dad has an explosive temper and this used to show a lot when we were younger, which was very scary for me and so I'm afraid of anger, but I know I do feel angry and I think from my reaction to what you've said Karena about my Dad having grieved I'm most likely very very angry at my Dad for not being there for me. I know that sounds very callous and cruel but emotionally we were all abandoned after mum died and whilst we were physically provided for (which is fortunate), the emotional support to guide us through our grief was not there so I think we all pushed it down. On top of this, Dad relies on us, his children, for emotional support because he doesn't talk to anyone else, which is hard to bear when I have my grief but cannot talk to him about it because he denies it exists. I am angry, though writing this I only feel it in my chest, it's almost like it can't come out because I've internalised it. I'm sure I'm also angry at my mum too for leaving me...I hope it doesn't sound like I'm being horrible about my Dad and Grandma but I do have these feelings but I am scared to engage with them because it's easier to feel guilty for having them than the true anger I know is in there. It's complicated but I need to make friends with and accept that anger I feel if I'm to move through this process. Does that make sense? And thank you for pointing out that there is no right way to grieve, I have heard that and think my way of coping is trying to put it all into a neat pathway for me to walk down but I suppose it's not going to be that easy...

Thank you for the book recommendation, will check that out. Luckily I'm a big reader so will have a good crack at it! Yes I think it is dangerous the messages that society tries to give us about how to grieve, this is new ground for me so your guidance really is appreciated Karena - I'm not sure what else to say at the mo but I think I'll revisit this post when I have thought things through. Hearing your experience helps me and thanks again for taking the time to lay it out in detail. This is a confusing time so all that helps. I am struggling because I don't want to be cruel but I also don't want to deny my feelings any longer...I want someone to tell me what I feel is okay and not unforgivable really. But thank you very much and ultimately I do know all my Dad and Grandma's actions were done out of love, i just need to make sense of it...no one meant to hurt me but there is a lot of hurt in there, so time for a bit more reflection I think. Thank you both.

Jake

Offline Emz2014

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Re: Grieving for Mum as an adult
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2019, 09:47:45 AM »
Sometimes just having a safe place like here where we can express what we are thinking can really help process those emotions.  Getting it out and 'saying' it can be part of the healing, rather than just holding it inside and you don't have to worry about family fall out here and people here will understand and often recognise what you are feeling. 

Having a journal or diary can also help - having the chance to offload what you're thinking/feeling can help us make sense of things and find ways to move forward from those painful emotions too

I feel quite estranged from my wider family now since I lost my dad - it is really interesting how things can change and fall apart in family dynamics after a key loss

We never lose our connection to our loved ones, I agree with karena, they continue on with us whether it's in how we behave, our mannerisms, beliefs etc

 :hug: xx
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. 
Hold on in there xx