Six Months Into Grief

by holli on June 12, 2017

Today marks her 6th month since passing away. Everything I had learned about grief before she died is insufficient. It’s a new level of grief I didn’t know existed. I view mothers as anchors now, and I think I finally understand the old cliche tattoo of  “Mother” on a banner over an anchor that sailors have held.

While I’m processing my mother’s untimely and sudden death on January 12, 2017, I find myself jotting down bits and pieces. I don’t know if it will help anyone else, but I hope that someday it will. This “mommy blog” that I started is now dedicated to leaving a digital legacy behind to my own kids. I hope that someday they’ll find all the random stories and recipes helpful and comforting…

2 DAYS after she died.

The nurse took us outside her room.  She asked us if we were prepared to see the pain. If she knew what was to come? Did she know how painful this would be before she said yes to Chemo?

She said this as she struggled to hold back tears. Her eyes were brimming. Her mother had died form cancer. She became an oncology nurse as a result.

My brother and I looked at each other. We looked at her as she spoke.  We nodded as she explained this. Yes, yes, this is what she wants to do. We were sure.

The next day, I stepped off the elevator on a new floor of the hospital. This one she had been transferred to monitor her heart more closely. She had an episode that required a team to restart her heart the day before, and now she was on close watch…As soon as the doors opened, I could hear her long, agonizing groan of pain. It’s hard to describe: It was like the yelling of a child in urgency. It wasn’t like the sound of someone who is in labor with breaks of intensity that contractions bring. It was the sound of unrelenting pain.

My heart rate rose, I walked as fast as I could, feeling my body hit full on “Mama Bear” mode. I stopped beside the nurses desk – it faced the sliding glass door rooms full of high tech machines – this desk was directly across from her room. I could see my sister and brother in law beside our mom. I demanded in an angry voice, “Can’t you help her? Can’t she get more pain medicine?”

I was told they could not. She had to push the button for more medication. If she could, I am sure that she would. The nurse sympathized, but explained that protocol was the law. They could lose their jobs if they didn’t follow it.

When I entered her room, my sister and brother in law filled me in – her pain medicine had a low limit to support her Kidneys. They were suffering from the Chemo. An ultrasound and testing were ordered. She could have more pain medication if those results were good.

That was a very, very, very long day. I remember pressing the button for her. Watching the new machines as they kept track of her heart. Making eye contact and encouraging her to breath through the pain. Rubbing her feet didn’t help. I drank cold coffee.

Once I start remembering any one of her last 12 days in the hospital, I cry. I try not to think about it. I try to remember only her last 6 hours. But sometimes the memories surprise me when it’s quiet. When it’s loud and I’m sitting among a crowd. When I see pictures of her. I can’t stop it. So, I ride this grief. It try to let it just flow through me. Again, as if my Mom was my anchor, I like to think of life as an ocean, and I can either float or duck dive under the waves.

The ocean can be a comfort. Inspiring. Invigorating. Or overwhelming and deadly. All I can do is keep my head above the water, and float. When I’m strong enough, have enough energy , I can start to move through it intentionally. I know I can and I will. I just can’t put a timeline on this experience.

And I think this is the biggest lesson of them all: Grief has no timeline. It just is.

P.S. My mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma on Dec. 2nd, about 40 days later she died. It had metastasized to many areas of her body. She died fighting with one chance – she chose Chemotherapy. While the medicine worked to start and shrink her tumors, her body could not survive the process.  Breast Cancer is highly treatable with early detection and screenings. My mom’s cancer was far too advanced for her to have a fighting chance.


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