They've been there for you, saw the best in you, supported you and loved you.
If they were ill for some time, you lingered between life and death anticipating their final departure. If it was a sudden death, the horror and shock are mind-numbing. The finality of death is surreal.
Can you prepare for such a great loss? At this present time, I'm losing my best friend and confidante, family joker and story teller, counselor, spiritual advisor, my anchor in the storm. I'm losing my mom.
My mom started with health problems when she was in her 60's, possibly earlier. Her condition was misdiagnosed for over two decades. She struggled with a variety of symptoms. She was told she had problems with anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome and that there wasn't anything wrong at all. I know my mom like the back of my hand. The doctors weren't getting it. Until, one did.
Finally, one smart doctor nailed it. She had heart problems. Big problems. She needed a valve replacement and two bypasses. This was far from a shock as cardio-vascular issues spanned across generations in her family.
I'm alone in her care. My dad passed away a long time ago. Her second husband was ill with cancer. I cared for him too, both at the same time. The burden of advocating for both was quite the load to bear.
I determined I'd do everything day and night in my power to get her the surgery she needed and all the top quality after-care she required. She got the surgery at Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, New Jersey by one of the top surgeons in the country. At 84 years old, she came through the surgery like a champ. That was near 9 years ago.
Today, nearing 92, my mom continues to keep on moving. She's failing but is fighting it like crazy. She has a saying about her medical fate "When God is in control, the best doctor in the world can't save you and the worst doctor can't kill you". Typical mom humor. Although her health goes through ups and downs, she's in a period of calm for now. Mild tremors have set in. She's unsteady on her feet and uses a walker. She's losing her vision. Despite all of this, she remains strong and content in her circumstances. It's amazing how she can struggle, yet still have peace about the present and her future. Her faith in God is rock-solid.
My mom is a counselor to all her friends and family. She gets multiple calls a day from all kinds of people to discuss their challenges. When she feels up to it, she's eager to encourage and brighten spirits. She's always had a heart for those who struggle. Her compassionate nature makes her lovable to all who come in contact with her. It also helps that she's just plain funny. She's "got all her marbles" as she would say, and comes out with honest and funny takes on life's twists and turns.
As you can tell, I think my mom is pretty great. Hence, the thought of losing her grips my soul. As I see her days coming to a close, I'm tapping into any and all emotional survival skills she taught me to prepare for her passing.
Here are "10 Mom-Inspired" suggestions to help you manage your grief. I hope they can help you as they have helped me.
1. The first and most important is to know that God is in control. My faith holds me together. Regardless of how senseless losing someone is, God sees the big picture. Their time on earth is nearing or has ended. If they chose a relationship with God, He's calling them to a place where all things will be made new.
2. Plan services. I did this not 3 weeks ago. It was such a strange experience yet oddly, it provided some comfort as all will be in order the way my mom wants it. No panicked calls. Talk to the one you're losing about what they'd like. Ask about the music choices, clergy, burial place, etc. Do it before the crisis.
3. Create and maintain a support network. Make a list of who gets the call after they pass. Ask someone close to you to help getting the word out and assist with arrangements. This person has to be supportive, loving and can get all done. Plan on what you'll do when they go. After taking care of necessary affairs, you might want to go away. Make tentative plans to do something you've always wanted to do. This way, their impending passing won't feature so prominently in your sights. You'll have a life afterwards.
4. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way. Often when we experience difficulties, we try to compare notes with others who went through something similar. Everyone grieves differently.
5. Be kind to those who seek to support you as they might not have the perfect words to say as comfort. Cut them some rope if what they say comes out strange. Receive their words in the spirit it was intended. Be aware that others might not be showing it, but they're feeling the loss too.
6. Take care of yourself. Grief can steal the appetite for all things. You can find yourself not eating or not eating well. Grief can make you not want to move. Get out and walk. A good friend can keep an eye on you and encourage you to care for yourself.
7. Find a grief support group. Often, after the services and everyone has gone home, the sadness hits hardest. Finding a healthy group of people that have experienced a similar loss can be a great comfort.
8. Surround yourself with supportive, kind friends. Funny people are most appreciated when the atmosphere around you for some time has been so heavy. This is the time to be picky about who you hang out with. Protect yourself with a hedge of quality people to encourage you.
9. Distract yourself. If you sit in the house and stare at old photos and belonging of your loved one, you’re going to be miserable. Get out of the house and do things you enjoy. Do you like riding your bike? Hiking? Running with your dogs? Get out and have fun.
10. Know that others have walked this road before. I'm planning on taking my own advice. It won't be easy but we all have honor our loved one by living life to the fullest.