Hole in My Heart

The following guest post is by my wife, Karen.

Two weeks ago today, my mother died. When people have asked me how I’m doing, I’ve said okay. Until now, I thought I was. But I’m not.

I have a hole in my heart.

I miss my mom in ways I never thought I would. When I hear someone else mention their mom, I am jealous that I will no longer have that story to tell. When I hear something funny or interesting that my mom would like, I then remember that I’ll never have the opportunity to tell her. Because of my mom’s death, I am really missing my dad, too, who died 21 years ago. I guess it’s because my best memories of them were as a couple and us as a family. I am missing my security blanket and my safety net. I didn’t ask my mom for much, but I knew she was always there to help me if I needed it.

My husband’s parents are both gone, too. It is a daunting feeling to be left with no parents. It reminds me that (hopefully many years from now) we are in line to be next. I worry that it will happen to someone else.

The healing will take a while. People who have lost their moms tell me that eventually, it gets better. But it never goes away. It shouldn’t.

What is paining me right now is the reactions, or mostly lack of, from others. I guess I expected something more, or something different.

Don’t get me wrong; I really like social media. Facebook has reconnected me with people from many years past and brought me closer to those that I only get to see occasionally. I’ve also developed some great Facebook and Twitter friendships with people I have never met in person, but know through mutual friends or interests. That said, I was overwhelmed at the number of people who reached out to me electronically during my mom’s illness and after her death. It was warm and comforting when my smart phone was my constant companion.

But I guess I was looking for a Hallmark moment. You know, someone dies, you send a sympathy card, you stop by the house, you make a personal phone call, you give me a hug at work. Many of you did, and it meant the world to me.

I just don’t understand why the rest of you didn’t. The ones I thought I had close, personal relationships with, not just electronic ones. The friends I would help in the middle of the night. The people I would give my last dollar to. The extended family that I hoped would reach out.

I realize that death is pretty icky. People either want to talk about it (mostly older people) or they want to run from it, glad it wasn’t them. I realize that everyone has their own lives and agendas: kid’s sports, new babies, surgery, work, relationship issues. I realize that what is happening in my life is pretty inconsequential to your own.

I have a birthday every year. I have a bad day every few months. I have exciting news once in a while. I don’t care if you acknowledge any of that stuff. But my mother – the only mother I’ll ever have – is only going to die once.

Maybe you don’t quite know what to say. HINT: Say anything. It’s better than nothing. Maybe you’re giving me time and space. What you don’t realize is that my days have a lot of space now that I’m not constantly on the phone with caregivers and my sister and making arrangements. There’s too much space right now. And no one is trying to fill it.

I was hopeful, even certain, that my mom’s death would strengthen my own relationships. But I feel like it has distanced many of them that I was counting on to help me get through this. I’m hurt and I’m angry.

See, I know that you know. You’ve posted “Sorry about your mom” or “I’m drinking my third cup of coffee this morning” or “My dog is wearing a party hat.” You don’t hide on social media. And if you’re not on social media (and obviously not reading this), I know someone told you.

They say funerals are not for the dead. They are for the living, for us to grieve and remember. They are ceremonies to help us move forward.

Even if you never knew my mom, you know me. And you know me well enough to know that I’d be there for you if it were your mom. You wouldn’t have to ask.


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