At the time of this writing, it has been 9 months since my dad’s passing.
The shock, grief and disbelief that come in tsnami-sized emotional waves when losing a loved one are, at times, overwhelming. As daddy’s little girl, it’s almost impossible for me to accept that my father is gone and that I’ll never see him again this side of heaven.
For my mom, the emotions of losing her husband are astronomical. My folks were married for over 5 decades. Together, they raised us 4 kids, had 6 grandchildren, friends, extended family members and countless memories. They had each other to share life. But now that dad is gone and the emotions left behind threaten to block out even the happiest of days for her.
Nothing I or my siblings or her siblings say seems to bring comfort or change. She’s walking around in a fog so thick, I’m not sure if she will survive the overwhelming grief.
The “widowhood effect” is what researchers call the phenomenon of the increased risk of a widow(er) dying within the first 3 months after a spouse dies. Honestly, with each passing day, I’m not sure my mom is going to beat the odds.
I hate writing those words.
Just typing those words brings tears to my eyes. My heart breaks. My stomach knots.
I’m at a loss as to how to help my mom. This isn’t a life situation I know how to handle. If it were something as easy as buying or selling a house, updating banking accounts or finding new doctors, that I can do. But getting her through each day? How? What words of comfort can I share? What words of support and encouragement bring her strength?
Everyone in the family are doing what they can to help my mom manage her grief by helping her connect with a grief counselor, encouraging her to volunteer, help her look for a part time job. You name it, we’ve tried it.
The truth is, none of know what she’s feeling. We’ve never lost a spouse. One day I will or maybe my husband will. One of us will die. The one left behind, will try to pick up the pieces of the newly shattered life and do their best to make sense of it all.
I’ve taken to calling her in the morning before I head into work just to let her know that I’m thinking about her, worried about her; asking her what’s on her agenda in hopes of getting her to engage in life again.
Most days she answers with a few to-do items for her day. Errand that used to take a few short hours, now take her all day and at the end of the day, she’s exhausted. Spent.
The emptiness in her voice scares me most.
Mom goes through the motions of each day as a way to keep her mind from going back down the road of grief that threatens to completely engulf her.
So how do I help her? I don’t know. When we do talk she eventually breaks down in tears. I fight back my own tears. As an adult child to my surviving parent, I’m lost. How do I help my mom while I’m grieving myself? Sure I can offer loads of information for grief counseling, ideas on how to get better sleep, encourage her to see her doctor, check on her, help with the confusing bureaucracy of the Social Security department or a million other ideas trying to get my mom to engage in the living portion of life.
As far as the faith element, for us, that’s a tricky situation. I must tread extremely carefully in this area. Our faith walks look vastly different and so, I must hedge this part of our conversation gingerly.
After one of our recent conversations, I could tell she was pacifying me. Giving me rote answers so as to appease me so as to not got too in depth on the topic we were having. Eventually the conversation moved on before we eventually said goodbye for the evening. When I hung up the phone, it hit me, she’s dying. She is really grieving herself to death.
Now let me follow up with that last sentence with the fact that I have worked in senior health care for the last decade and I know what it looks and sounds like when someone is giving up.
My fear is that I’m hearing it in my mom’s voice.
After I hung up the phone that night, I couldn’t get the hollow sound of her voice out of my head. Over and over, I could hear it. She was courting death.
I spent that night and early hours of the next morning praying. Praying for my mom’s heart and her grief. Later that morning I called her and told her that I heard the sound of her giving up in her voice; she broke down and cried.
I told her, that for all of everyone’s best intentions, our hopes and words of encouragement to help her through this, none of us had a clue. None of us kids had lost a spouse. None of her siblings had lost a spouse. She was the first. She was alone in this pain. With one exception.
Christ knew what it meant to feel deep sorrow. Christ understood what it meant to feel alone. Christ understood what it meant to grieve. Christ faced death.
Jesus gave His life for her sorrow and mine. He gave His life so that my mom, and everyone else would know just how much they are loved and that they never need to feel alone. God understands firsthand heartache, grief and death.
For this, I reminded my mom, she was not alone. Jesus is right there in the midst of her pain, every step of the way. Every moment of the day, every breath, every tear.
As I stumble through my own grief and keep a keen eye on my mom, I am in constant prayer for us both, knowing that God loves His children. He waits for us to pour out our hearts to Him so He can carry us through the pain and into healing.
My prayer is that my mom will do just that. I pray through her pain she will reach out to the Lord, allow Him to heal her heart and show her His purpose and plan for her life.
In the meantime, I pray He would also heal my heart and give me the heart to help my mom take each day as it is given.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Until next time,