My Mother passed away two months ago. It was not expected, although she was 80 and had several health concerns. I don’t know the details of her condition though. I had not seen her in 20 years and our communication was very limited.
Although she was an intelligent and accomplished person, having a relationship with her was difficult. She preferred to isolate herself physically, yet emotionally she exposed what I can only imagine was a complicated inner dialogue. For my self preservation I established boundaries for acceptable communication, hence our contact was limited to emails once or twice a year.
It is because of the status of our relationship that I was prepared for this eventuality. Consciously deciding to exclude my mother from my life meant consistently checking in with myself to see how I would feel about my behaviour when she died. Now I know.
Long ago I let go of the expectation that there would be a special bond between mother and daughter. I definitely have some things to thank her for but there was very little in the way of an adult relationship to appreciate. If there was a gap of some sort, it was long ago filled by the amazing ‘family’ I have in my life.
Having unpacked these thoughts and feelings over time, I found it fairly easy to accept her death. I don’t know how I would have coped if I had not done this work. After processing the sudden news, I was available to conjure up pleasant childhood stories, marvel at her professional efforts and I expressed compassion to the universe to wish her well.
Still, being the first time I had lost a parent, I felt it was important to make room for grieving. I wasn’t sure what that meant considering our relationship. I took time off work, I leaned on my friends to share my feelings, I journaled about the situation and I spoke with a therapist.
Being as conscious as possible throughout this transition made me aware of my limited scope of patience. I found myself being grumpy in meetings and it was difficult to meditate. I was perplexed at how grey my mood was. I cut back on alcohol and caffeine and made sure I had enough sleep.
Now I feel I have ‘come out the other side’. Looking back it appears that a soft blanket was draped over me for about six weeks. It felt necessary to honour my mother, and me, during that time. My optimism levels are now back up and breathing is easier.
I wouldn’t be surprised to discover more layers to peel back down the road. But for now I am ready to move on. I am so thankful for my mindfulness practice and for the beautiful people in my life. Death has floated past me on many occasions, each time providing an opportunity for reflection and gratitude.