Monday, December 10, 2012

'Tis the season to be ... jollyish

It’s a funny thing, grief. At first when Mum died, I think the relief at her being out of pain and discomfort lessened my sadness that she was dead. But now weepiness overcomes me from time to time. It’s not the old-lady Mum that I miss so much – though she leaves a big hole in my life because I was very involved for the last ten years or so in looking after her, to an increasing degree. But more and more I remember what she was like when I was a girl. We were very close and used to laugh a lot together. I miss my younger Mum.

Today I went through the cards and letters we were sent when she died. There were 65 of these, which is quite a lot for a 90-year-old most of whose long-term friends are already dead. It was interesting to reread them – I really didn’t take them in at the time – but it was upsetting too. I’ve kept a few - the ones that said insightful things about her - but have firmly thrown most of the ones that just (kindly) expressed sympathy. We’re trying to cut down on clutter.

Part of the difficulty of this sort of grief – grief for someone of her age – is that it feels unreasonable. Being orphaned at the age of 62 is not exactly headline news. I was lucky to have her that long. But it’s more complicated than that. I’m sad because I miss her but also because she was still interested in life and didn’t want to die and also because of the sad fact that we must all die. It seems a poor system, though – yes – better than the alternative, I know.

And missing one’s children (sorry Anon, if you’re still reading) hurts because it’s unreasonable too. Of course they must fly the nest and of course they must be independent because Mr Life and I going to die one of those days and it would be terrible if they couldn’t cope on their own.

Well well. I like to spread a bit of Christmas cheer. (I think this has come on partly because of the imminence of Christmas without Mum. Also, we got delivery of a double bed today for the room that was Daughter 2’s and then Mum’s and now is just another spare room. Which will of course be useful when most of the family comes for Christmas. My brother and family used to stay with Mum and now will be with us – and that will be nice. But different.)
Meanwhile, more jollily, here's Daughter 2's gift to us today. Ho ho ho. 
And here's ours to her. Why the match? (It's actually a pen.) Does she smoke? No, but I thought it was mildly amusing. Much like a gingerbread man wearing a Santa hat.
Now back to the piano practice, which as ever is driving me nuts. Why am I doing this? I could be lying in a nice warm bath reading a book and eating chocolate instead of making a big hash of Silent Night, which my teacher probably thought would put me in a Christmassy mood. Ha ha ha.


  1. I think it must be a part of the whole process of grieving somehow. Quite often I realise that the person I miss so much is actually the younger version of my Mum. And there's nothing like a festive season for highlighting the things that are no more. Unless, of course, I am just turning into a grumpy old woman - which is also a very real possibility!

  2. My folks are mid-80's and are both getting a bit forgetful and mum particularly is getting quite crotchety....when she and I had a few words the other day, I remarked to a friend that I didn't like this new one - I wanted my old mom back.
    I am sorry you had an emotional day Isabelle....this Life business is, for me anyway, quite perpexling.

  3. My mother lost a lot of her playfulness as the years got on, but it seemed to come back to her in her last few days. My brother and I looked on in amazement and wished we had grown up with 'this mum'. I still wish we had been closer and had had more fun together - that is what I miss.

  4. My Mother died in the summer and though it was expected it was hard, but life goes on. Then I walked into a store decorated for Christmas and started crying realizing that I'd never have another Christmas with her.
    At first all of my memories were of my sick Mom, but as time has gone on I remember her younger and that's the one I keep in my heart.

  5. Isabelle, I do completely empathise with all this, being at pretty much the same stage in life, having recently lost my mother - you did kindly visit - and children no longer in the nest. To add a new layer of complexity and mixed feelings, my ex-husband has remarried and I too now have a new partner who has grown up children of his own, all now part of our big extended family, but all bringing little bits of heartbreak, along with the joy.

  6. Life is so bitter-sweet sometimes.

  7. The gingerbread man, looks rather like grandson...smiling and round faced and cute, arms outstretched for a hug. A jolly little person.
    So sorry you are sad for your Mum all over is no consolation that it will always be there that sense of loss.
    It annoys me when I want to tell my dear departed something or see something I know they would have enjoyed. I just quietly tell them anyway.
    Hugs From NZ where it is quite warm!

  8. I think what you are feeling is quite normal considering the recentness of your loss...And it took me a long time, two years, to "get over" the death of my mother...It's five years since my husband died of early Alzheimer's and I still from time to time am overcome with grief. But more and more time comes between each time. Grieving is work. And it takes time. It should not be rushed. I think you are doing very well. The most helpful book I found after Paul died was Grieving Mindfully.

  9. {{{hugs}}} from over here, Isabelle. I think Christmas time is the most difficult period when our parents have passed away, because we (mostly) have heaps of happy memories of Christmas Days gone by, and suddenly it dawns on one that the parents won't be there again to celebrate with you.

  10. Christmas always brings back powerful memories of past times especially if the people are no longer here. You have written very movingly of how the aging process interats with the grieving process.

  11. I've been missing my Granny more recently. She passed away a year and a half ago at age 94, it all happened quite suddenly but she didn't suffer a long protracted illness, which was a mercy.

    My theory (as a wise old woman of 32...) is that it's unreasonable to expect to be in a state of HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY all the time. That these aches of missing absent, distant and dear-departed friends and family, show that we love and are loved and are alive. While I do suffer from depression, the sadness from missing my Granny isn't depression, it's missing a lovely woman who was a big part of my childhood and life. Is it really strange to say that it's a happy sadness? That's what it feels like to me. It hurts, but it can be a good pain.