Posted by: Kathy | May 31, 2012

How Long Am I Allowed?

Dear Mom:

More than 3 and a half years have passed since pancreatic cancer took you from us. How long am I allowed to miss you? My acceptance of your death has been questioned by a friend because I still miss you and continue to write about how your loss affects me and my family. She admitted that she couldn’t really understand what I’ve been through since she still has both her parents, but has pulled away because of my grief. Her words hurt and made me question myself. How long am I allowed to miss you?

I don’t openly talk about you anymore, talk about your illness, your death, or my feelings. There are only certain people I still confide in, tell my deepest feelings to. I feel like I am not allowed to talk about you anymore for many reasons. I know some people feel that since you’ve been gone for several years now that I should be over your loss. But then there are others, those who have lost a parent, who understand why I still feel the way I do. Plus I made a promise to you that I would keep your memory alive for my kids. I tell them stories of our good times together, funny things you did, and, of course, your loving nature.

Sometimes it seems like you were just here with me. I can see your face so clearly, remember something you said to me or something we did together. I miss your presence in my everyday life. I miss our Saturday outings as a family. I even miss you sighing and then reminding me to do something…again. You were the glue that held our family together. You seemed to keep us all in line and helped us to be better people. I know I am a better mom because of you.

How long am I allowed to miss you? I have accepted your death. I know that you are not coming back to us. But my heart still feels your loss from my life. Something is missing, and it’s you. You were a loving and supportive mother, a wonderful and caring grandmother. I am not the only one who still misses you.

But the question that weighs heavily on my heart is how long am I allowed to miss you? You were my mom, a big part of my life for 39 years, and I will always love you. I know that I will always miss you too.

Love,

Kathryn

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Responses

  1. Dear Kathy

    Is it possible that anyone else is feeling the way I have been since my Mom passed away? I recently found your Blog and knowing that there are others who understand is comforting.
    I am so sorry for your loss and for all the memories that your kids and Mom will miss out on making had the cancer not taken her away. Saying ‘I am sorry’ is just so inadequate but I don’t know of any words that will help me and so I don’t know what to say to you. Just know that we are all here and sending you Hugs.

    I have a friend who wrote to me something like ‘I know you are grieving right now. Let us know when you are feeling better and we can get together’. This hurt. Like yours, she also has both parents and can probably not really understand that this is a life event that cannot be gotten over. My life has changed forever and nothing will ever be the same again. My Mom went away 249 days ago on September 8th, 2014 – a week short of her 76th birthday. But even this morning when I looked at her picture, it came to me with a pang that she is truly gone! For some reason yesterday evening when I went home from work, there were couple of times when I thought just for a fleeting second that I needed to call her. But then I remembered…

    Like you, there were times when she would call at work and I would feel just a little annoyed at being disturbed. Even then I used to tell myself that some day I would regret feeling this way; that a day would come when I would wish she was on the other side of the phone and she won’t be. But in those days it never felt real. No matter how hard I tried to imagine how it would feel when she won’t be around but I was unable to feel the full impact of it. All I can describe the feeling as ‘unreal’. How is it possible that she is gone and that I won’t ever see her again. 249 days would turn into a thousand one day and how is it possible to keep on breathing when I thought it was never possible.

    My Mom first got Endometrial Cancer in 1993. The surgery removed it but it was diagnosed very late and came back in 1998. This time she went through Chemo and by the end of therapy got rid of cancer but gained Congestive Heart Failure and Diabetes. The cancer came back again in 2003. This time she went on Medication and was in remission. But Congestive Heart Failure would take her from us in the end. It was so difficult to watch such a vibrant and active person being reduced to someone who wanted to just sit with her eyes closed. Even until late July, she was trying hard to be on her feet. Her worst fear was that she would end up in a nursing home. She would ask us to promise that we won’t send her there. On the last day Saturday, September 7th, she and I sat on her favorite bench outside the house. Her strength was failing and I said ‘ when you are stronger, we would walk up to that end of the street ‘. She said ‘ok – can we go for a drive?’ when we returned after 10 minute drive, she was spent. After that she just faded away. Sitting with her all night, I – who loved her better than life itself – kept wishing that she won’t wake up. Waking up next day would mean difficulty breathing and possibly nursing home which we promised not to send her to. She had no more strength left. No one other than who has been through such experience of watching a loved one suffer for so long can possibly understand how I could ask her to just give up on that night. What a terrible night! With the dawn, she was gone. My Mom was gone! Even though I watched her through all this, why is it so hard? why is it so hard to believe that she won’t ever call me again?

    I have dreamt of her only twice. I wish I would see her more but she doesn’t come. I miss her so much and not many understand. I know she is in a better place and at least is not suffering. I am not religious and so I don’t know whether she is somewhere or not. I just like to think that she is. I like to send her balloons on special days. First Mother’s day without my mother has come and gone. So many more will come and go. I don’t think that I will ever lose the ache that is in my heart – I don’t even want to. That is all I have left of her – and her memories. I like to think that she lives on in my heart.

    This is one time I regret not having children. My mom will be gone when I am gone. It is wonderful that you talk to your children about your Mom. Some day when they are older, they will read your stories and will keep the memories of their grandmother close to their hearts.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Sandhia

  2. my dad has been gone less than 2 months, but i already know that i will miss him for the rest of my life. you never stop missing someone that you loved, i think you just get used to them being gone…. & the longer they’re gone, the more you miss them. -sigh-

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree. My mom is not part of my life anymore and I’ve gotten used to it, but it doesn’t mean that I like it. She was such a big part of my life – it’s hard not to miss her and all that she did for our family.

      • Do you ever really get used to them not being there? I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to my mom not being physically here. I might be able to accept her absence (I have to) but get used to it? I just don’t know. I think there might be a very fine line between those two.

      • Good point JC. I guess with the way things have changed in my life, I had no choice but to “get used to it”. But that doesn’t mean I won’t always wish my mom were still here with her family.

        • Amen!

  3. While your friend may have assumed her honesty was helpful, she was insensitive and rather selfish. Since both her parents are alive, it is obvious she has a limited capacity for empathy and is clueless about this kind of loss.

    I lost my mom 2 years and 4 months ago, and like you, I watched her slowly lose her battle to stay with us. She fought for every breath and I was by her side when she took her last one. I miss her EVERY day….

    I talk about her with my family, but am cautious about sharing my grief with others. I do know this: I will miss her for as long as I want and grieve my loss any way I want. And I will try to honor her memory and unfulfilled dreams by balancing my grief with joy.

    We know now that life is short and it makes us cherish time in a new way.

    Keep writing..you have friends out here you may never meet, but we are reading and we understand.

    • Thanks Angie. I think about my mom every day, in some way. I try to live my life to the fullest in a way of honoring my mom. My mom’s death made me realize the true importance of family and I am grateful for the family I have. This blog means more to me than I can put into words because I’ve found people who understand what I am going through and help me to realize that what I am feeling is okay. Thanks for your comment and your support.

  4. Kathy – there is no prescribed time when grief is supposed to end. It is such an individual emotion for which no one has the right to demand and end. In My article, “A Time to Grieve”, I address the grieving process that is so personal and intimate. http://babyboomersandmore.com/2012/06/01/a-time-to-grieve-alzheimers-reading-room/ I hope it provides some sort of benefit to you during this extended period of grief.

    • I agree – grief doesn’t have a timeline. There will always be good days and bad ones. The loss will always be there. Thanks for the article. I will definitely check it out. I appreciate your support.

  5. Kathy, I will always understand what you are going through and like you, I don’t believe that grief has an expiry date. We just start grieving differently…I too sense from some friends, their inability to completely understand loss, that’s because they haven’t experienced it, or if they have, simply are more interested in moving on……it’s a matter of respect and sensitivity…..keep your mom’s memory alive Kathy and do what you have been doing. I’m doing the same thing, even if it means dropping some friends…which I am doing gladly! hugs, Wendy

    • Hi Wendy: Thanks for your comment. I agree, everyone grieves differently and in their own time. I didn’t start really grieving for my loss until a year after my mom died because I was worried about my dad and my kids. Plus I think I needed to get over the shock of everything, what we went through, before I could even begin to grieve my loss. I will never forget my mom and all that she did for our family. I’m going to make sure her memory stays alive for her grandkids.

  6. Hi I know I’m quite young compared to you (I’m not saying you’re old though). I’m 14, and as much as I’d like to say otherwise, I understand what you’re going through. Cos similarly , my father passed away four years ago. And yes, I do still miss him. (worst still, i never got to say goodbye. He was fine one day and gone the next) It’s normal for us to miss our dear ones and I’ve come to terms with that. But as much as we miss them, we have to move on with our lives and stop dwelling on our past. And we have to keep in mind, that many people suffer much more than us. My mum was ALSO diagnosed with breast cancer a year after my dad’s death, and im 14. Don’t dwell on it too much and you’re fine 🙂

    • I’m sorry you lost your dad at such a young age. I truly hope your mom can beat breast cancer and that you have many more years with her. I’m sorry you have to go through all of this at such a young age. Do you have other family members for support? You’re right in a lot of what you’ve said. I do need to keep moving forward, and with 2 kids I do. I have good days and bad ones. I guess I really need to understand that it’s possible to keep moving forward, but to still miss my mom, and that’s okay. I was just hurt by the comments made to me by my friend, they were surprising since we haven’t really spent much time together over the past few years, Because of that, I don’t think she sees how much I’ve grown and moved forward from this. I wouldn’t say I dwell on the past, I just miss my mom’s presence in my life because she was such a big part of it. I wish you all the best. Take care.

  7. I also took a picture of my mom sitting with my son a couple of weeks before she died. I don’t know why, but I needed that picture and look at it quite often. She looks absolutely skeletal. I think I took the picture because I always want to remember what she went through. I also want to remember how she left this world.

    I am terrified of getting cancer. My mom took a genetic test, and it came out negative, but I am still scared. Today, I don’t feel very well, and I immediately think…do I have cancer? Since my mom was diagnosed and then passed on, I actually shake during my physical. Do you ever feel this way?

    • I never realized how much my mom had changed until I compared that last family picture of her to one taken just 6 weeks before on her birthday – the change was drastic and shocking. I am petrified of getting cancer, especially pancreatic cancer. My mom had no risk factors for this disease and cancer does not run in our family. So why did she get it? I would never want my husband or children to go through what I went through.

      • I feel the same way. My mom got her breast cancer from hormonal replacement therapy. At the time she took it, there were no studies yet about its relation to cancer. After 20 years, there you have it 😦

  8. It has been almost 10 months that that my mom passed away, and I hope that I will always feel strongly about her, never forget her, and remember how her life and her death has affected me. I will never forget what cancer did to her. It is very hard to accept that she is gone, and I often feel an overwhelming sadness. I just can’t believe it. I still shake my head in disbelief that this happened, and tears spring to my eyes when I think about what she went through.

    In her last few days, she had to sign legal documents, say good-bye to her children, husband, and grandchildren. She couldn’t walk, swallow, and only weighed about 70 lbs. I have a vivid memory of her asking me to comb the little tuff of hair that had grown back days before her death, the hair she was so proud that had grown back. I have another one of her sitting with my 8 year old son, telling him that in a few days she was going to die and that he would always have a guardian angel. I have yet another memory of my sister crying, ripping off the price tags of some clothes she had bought on the last ever shopping trip with my mom; clothes my mom never got to wear… My sister giving them to the men who came to take my mom’s body out of the house she raised us in; my Dad holding her hand and telling her not to be afraid as they carried her out the door wrapped in red velvet. These moments in time were so intense, and there are so many of them. How can I ever forget? When I remember, it is like replaying the saddest movie I have ever watched. I wanted to save her. We all did.

    Only another woman who has lost her mom, or another loved one in this manner, can possibly understand why, after three years, you still grieve hard and write about your mom. You miss her, but you are also haunted by what happened. You watched your mom die. You loved her, she was a part of you, and now she is gone. You will never get over this, but only learn to live with it.

    Like you, I still talk to people about my mom, her life, and I also talk about her death. It was so significant. It was so important. It changed me.

    The three and a half years that your mom passed away are short ones They have likely flown by for you, and when you sit and think about your mom, and how cancer stole her from you, I am certain that it feels like yesterday. Significant events in people’s lives stay strong in their minds forever.

    You also miss the carefree days you had with your mom when she was healthy, and there were many of those. I am sure that, at the time, those days felt like they would last forever. Life is so fragile, isn’t it?

    Please know that we all relate to your feelings of pain and loss. I really hope that there is a God above, and that our moms are looking down on us, or better still, are floating around us. I hope my mom IS my son’s guardian angel, as she said she would be almost 10 months ago. I do know that our moms are no longer suffering. They have daughters that loved them, miss them, and that will never forget them.

    • Wendie: You nailed it – it’s not just grieving my mom’s death, it’s also healing from watching her die a painful death and knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it. I felt helpless and there are memories from that time that still haunt me.The fear and sadness I felt in those final weeks when I realized she was really going to die, and then the fear I felt on her last morning that she would continue to suffer. My son was 9 when he lost his grandmother, my daughter only 2. It’s sad that my son had to watch the grandmother he loved so much die in such an awful way. I have a picture of all of us taken about 2 weeks before my mom died, Cancer had reduced her to a walking skeleton. I know my mom is watching over us and has come to visit, so I believe that your mom is watching over you and your son too. Thank you for your words of support and understanding.

    • Kathy is right! Thank you for sharing, Wendie. I think what you said encompasses all what we, daughters, feel after having lost a mother we all so loved dearly.

  9. I think I will miss my mom forever. The eternity of this is overwhelming. All things come to an end but I will carry this with me until I pass on too. Keep sharing with those that understand.

    • Yes, the fact that this loss is forever, at least until I die, is overwhelming at times. My mind and heart know that my mom will never again be part of my life on this earth, but knowing and accepting doesn’t take away the feeling of loss. My mom was a huge part of my everyday life, and her death left a hole that no one else can fill. Thanks for sharing your feelings.

  10. Oh, Kathy. I’m so sorry your friend was so insensitive. Because that IS what she was. And sadly there are so many people who allow their own discomfort (they don’t know what to say to you, or being around you reminds them that death and loss is real and they can’t handle that yet) to turn otherwise good friends into unsupportive ones. It took me so long to understand that this was their problem, their deficiency, and not mine.

    Here’s what I will tell you, from the bottom of my heart, just as a friend told me: you have permission to grieve every single day if you want to. It’s true. And the only people who would question that, or ask you why you haven’t “gotten over it” are people who have never been where you are. She was your mother. You may not always cry, or hurt as you do right now, but you will always miss her.

    Big hugs.

    • Hi Loni: thanks for your comment. I do know that there are people who won’t understand, I was just surprised by the comments that were made. I never realized that she had felt this way for so long and then wonder if there are others who feel this way too. I know in my heart that it’s ok to miss my mom, but now my mind is questioning everything – major conflict. I appreciate your thoughts on this.

  11. Kathy, I really feel like we are true soul mates in our loss. I 100% identify with your feelings even though my loss is still new – 4 months on June 10 – but I can see myself having the same feelings 3 1/2 yrs from now as you do.

    You ask, “How long am I allowed to miss you?” It’s indefinite as you and I will always and forever miss our mothers and some days more than others.

    I also only talk about feelings of my loss with a very select group of people and I continue with my grief counseling on an as-needed basis. Have you tried counseling? It at least allows you to unload without any judgment from others. It’s one thing to come to terms and accept a deep loss like this intellectually, it’s another thing emotionally.

    I wish you only the best as you continue on. Your mother will always remain a warm and loving memory deep in your heart. Hugs.

    • Thanks for your comment. This has been troubling to me ever since my discussion with my friend over a week ago. I’ve never been to grief counseling, although I’ve spoken with my pastor about various things at different times. I may try grief counseling, maybe a grief counseling group, since there will be others there who will understand. Thanks for your support.


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