Getting Through the Anniversary of a Parent's Death

10 Nov 2014

This Sunday is the anniversary of my mom's death. Although I've pretty much healed over the past 6 years, I have never gotten through the days leading up to the anniversary of her death, the day itself, or the days after without crying, or sometimes completely breaking down, Six years have passed since my mom died - I think of her in some way every day and I miss her.

 

TV vs Real Life

I love to read and get lost in a good book, but I also enjoy watching TV and there are numerous shows I watch each week. I admit that I do watch some reality TV, mainly competition-based shows like Top Chef, ANTM, Project Runway, and Hell's Kitchen. In many of these shows they get to the point in the competition when those remaining are visited by their loved ones, oftentimes their parents. The first time I saw that type of episode on one of these shows I broke down in tears - how I wished I could see my mom again. Recently, I watched a show where one of the contestants was visited by his parents, and with tears in his eyes he said "sometimes you just need your mom." I am a wife and a parent, but there are times when I still need my mom.

And then there's the show Resurrection. I was uncertain about watching this show, but curiosity got the best of me and I watched all of season 1. During the second show of the first season, Elaine's father, Caleb, who's been dead for many years, walks out of a garage. The scene was heartbreaking, as a crying and confused daughter embraces her long-lost dad in a hug.

What would it be like if I walked into my parents' house one day to find my mom sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea and working on a crossword puzzle? Healthy. Alive. Here again with her family. To be able to reach out and touch her, to hear her voice, give her a hug, and tell her all the things I wish I had before she died. There are no words to describe the joy I would be feeling. How I wish I could spend just 1 more day, 1 more hour, even 5 minutes with my mom. But now I'm lucky if I even see her in my dreams.

Anniversaries Hurt

Truthfully, anniversaries of the death of a loved one, especially a parent, are hard. Days, weeks, and months go by and you find yourself at the first anniversary of a parent's death. I believe it is one of the hardest anniversaries to go through, as the pain from the loss is still fresh and emotional wounds are still healing. Years pass by, along with the anniversaries. For me, some years have been harder than others. Last year, my dad and I spent the day at a high school football game, as my son's high school played against my dad's high school. This year, the days match the year my mom died. It's the first time this has happened since I lost her and it makes this anniversary just a bit harder to deal with, as I will remember the little things about the days and hours leading up to my mom's death in greater detail, along with the days leading up to her funeral.

Sometimes, the littlest and simplest of triggers can unravel me. Two years ago, the anniversary of my mom's death came and went with a few teary moments, but no complete breakdown. The next day, our puppy broke and dislocated her front leg. Given the choices of euthanasia, amputation, or major surgery, I quickly got on the phone to apply for a loan so she could undergo surgery. During the call, the loan agent said the oddest thing to me, especially since she had my birthdate right in front of her and knew I was married. She said "if you want to apply with a co-applicant like your mom..." and that's all I heard. I whispered "my mom is dead" as tears ran down my face and I felt the all too familiar pain of loss. I didn't want to talk anymore, so I told the agent I would apply online and hung up. For about 5 minutes, I sat on the sofa and sobbed over the loss of my mom. A few simple words said by a stranger broke me.

Yesterday, I was IMing with a coworker about how I would not be spending the anniversary of my mom's death with my dad this year. In previous years, my dad and I have always spent the day together, remembering my mom. Sometimes I feel like it's the only day that I can really talk to my dad about my mom in any great detail. I miss talking about my mom, the times we spent together, things we did as a family, and I'm sad that I won't be spending Sunday with my dad. As I was IMing with my coworker it suddenly hit me how much things have changed - changes that I have to just accept. I realized how different life is without my mom in it and I broke down in tears. Fortunately, I work from home.

Although I am a lot stronger emotionally now than I was when my mom died and in the years leading up to this anniversary, the day my mom died is never an easy one to get through. I used to get angry at myself when I "lost it," but now I let myself cry and feel the grief and the loss. I've accepted the fact that my mom's death still affects me and that no matter how much time passes, the days leading up to or right after November 16th can be difficult.

What I Lost When My Mom Died

On November 16, 2008, I lost my mom. The only mom I will ever have. Below is one of my favorite pictures of my mom holding me as a baby. Looking at this picture, I can feel my mom's love for me.

 

Over the years, I've realized some of "basic" things I lost when my mom died:

  • Unconditional love
  • Good advice, even if I didn't always listen
  • Someone who was always there for me, ready to listen or help
  • A true believer in who I am and what I can do
  • Guidance during times when I have no idea what to do
  • Sharing a book with my mom
  • Saturday outings as a family - my mom always knew of somewhere to go or something to do
  • Going to see a movie with my mom
  • Answering the phone and hearing my mom day "Hi, Hon"
  • Hugging my mom and feeling her love for me
  • Watching my mom play with her grandkids

Another thing I lost when my mom died is seeing her dance with my son at his wedding - a dream she held on to as she tried to beat pancreatic cancer, even though my son was only 9 years old.

When my mom died, I lost a way of life. There were things I knew for certain and now so much has changed. As I said in a previous post, I needed to learn to live without my mom in my life, a new normal, and that wasn't easy. Even after 6 years, I am still adjusting to the "new normal" my life has become.

I MISS HER

I miss my mom. Some days there is a physical ache in my chest as I wish she was still here with me. But she is always with me in some way. I wear her clothes, or the cross she gave me, or the pendant I bought in her memory when she died, or one of the many rings she owned. And when I am not wearing something that reminds me of my mom, she is in my heart. Her love, the way she cared for others, is what I miss the most.

Yes, I would give almost anything to see my mom again, to be able to spend time with her, and to tell her just how much she is missed and all that she added to my life. But in a way I think she knows. I talk to her sometimes. I tell her about the kids, my life, or just tell her that I love her.

I honestly don't think you ever completely get over the loss of a parent. You just learn to live without them. 



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