Tag Archives: death of mother

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When Mother’s Day Stings

When Mother’s Day swings around I usually have mixed emotions.

I’m grateful that my own mother is still with me, along with the other ‘mothers’ I have the privilege to still enjoy…my Aunt, my Godmother, and my friend Jeanne, all who really ‘get’ me since I’m anything but conventional in my thinking.

But my heart is with women, today, who are reminded that ‘motherhood’ hasn’t worked out quite as they’d expect. And I’ve met many who have had these experiences; some have had a few.

Like the lady who has lost a child, something she never anticipated. Perhaps her only child or all her children have died. The one who never knew her mother because her mother died before she was old enough to meet and enjoy her.

Or the woman who never had the honor to even becoming pregnant for a whole host of reasons. And the one who is still able to bear children but can’t keep a pregnancy.

We look at loss in many different ways; we see things others don’t see on these types of occasions. We don’t bring it up in conversation, instead we simply let it remain buried deep inside where a lot of that pain still sits.

My mother has graciously gotten to the point where she’ll wish me a Happy Mother’s Day with the caveat, ‘because you are a mother to many’ which is her way of soothing that wound and I’m at a place where I might well up with a tear or two but at least it’s not the piercing pain that I once had years ago.

Sometimes it’s not an actual loss of a mother, for some, that is difficult to grieve. It can also be what hasn’t occurred that can sting on a day like today.

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Grieving Children Helping Grieving Children

I received this note from 20 year-old Maeve last evening…

Mary Mac,

Hello, my name is Maeve. I am 20 and I just recently lost my aunt to cancer. She was the mother to four children, two sets of twins. The older two and girls, aged 13. The younger two are a girl and boy, aged 12. I worry about them knowing the struggles and pain they are enduring and will endure. I am traveling tomorrow (Friday) to see them and to attend my aunt’s funeral (Saturday). I am not sure what I should say to them, what will resonate or what will not sound genuine, so I look to you for guidance on this tough time. Thank you for all you do. All the best.

~~~~~~~~~

My Dearest Maeve,

I can’t imagine the pain you are enduring just now having experienced the death of your beloved Aunt, more than likely at a rather young age herself. And to have four small children who will grieve their mother’s death, is tragic as well.

When death strikes our life, whether it is anticipatory, as in the case of cancer and illness, or sudden, as in the case of murder or suicide, the finality of it all is still jarring and fills us with struggle to know what the right thing to do is when we help our fellow mourners.

First of all, may I say, that for a young woman of your age to reach out to me in her own grief, seeking answers as to how best to help her cousins in ‘their’ grief, tells me you are an amazingly compassionate woman. And because of this character trait that you possess, I am certain you will exude deep empathy and care for them.

But there are a few things you may wish to know.

Every child (and adult) grieves in a different manner.

So it will be unlikely that each of your cousins will deal with this in the same way. For example, one may wish to be pensive and sit alone to deal with it. Another may be the gracious host to greet those attending the services. Another may wish to give the eulogy as their act of remembrance, while another may wish to write notes and tuck them into the casket.

What you say and how you touch a person at this time can be anchored in their mind for a very long time.

When we are in a highly emotional state, sometimes subtle things stay with us. So it’s important to be careful with our words.

Well wishers who attend the services and funeral sometimes think it is their job to come up with some ‘pat’ phrase which will ultimately make them feel better but actually causes the grieving person more harm than good.

Phrases like “It was God’s will” or “Well at least she’s not suffering any more” or “At least she’s at peace” or “God never closes a door without opening a window” or “Just give it to the Lord” or “Everything happens for a reason” or “It’ll get easier with time” all leave me with the horrible inclination to smack someone. Sorry…

Maeve, the most appropriate thing to say are words that cannot sting. Words like, “I’m so sorry.” “I can’t imagine what’s you’re going through.” “I wish I could take away the pain.” “I’m going to miss her.”

Speak from your heart. Don’t try to make it perfect for the other person because you can’t. This is one thing you absolutely cannot fix. You don’t have any control over the death of your Aunt, nor over how your cousins and other relatives will feel, but you do have wisdom to not make it worse.

Be with them.

I know this sounds like such a simple thing, but the most powerful thing you can do when someone has died is to actually be present with those who are mourning. And that includes you.

Spend time together in silence. Not saying anything may feel strange at first because you feel the need to fill in the gaps of silence but don’t. Let the pain be present. Let the moment go where it’s going to go.

Let the sorrow be felt. Let the tears come. Don’t try to hold them back. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to make it all right in some manner, because you just can’t.

Allow whatever is going to happen, happen. Have the faith that each of your cousins will have the experience they personally need to have to deal with their Mother’s death.

But by you being genuine and kind and loving, they will always remember your compassion. They will always remember how you took the time to travel so far to be with them at one of the most devastating times in their life.

So ultimately, my dear Maeve, it’s not the words as much as it’s about the love. The care. The tenderness. Your presence.

Attend to their needs. Ask them if you can get them anything. Bring them water at the funeral home. Make life easier for them when you can.

Talk aloud about their Mother.

When you all get together for a meal, or back at the house, don’t be afraid to bring up her name out loud and speak about wonderful memories you may have experienced with your Aunt. Even though folks may cry, it’s ok. Nothing is more precious than sharing stories which will make others feel better.

“Do you remember when Aunt and I did this?” “Do you remember when you and your Mom did that?” “I will always remember when Aunt gave me that beautiful bracelet for Christmas.”

Lastly, share your grief, too.

It’s perfectly fine to say things like “I will miss her so much” or “I wished we had lived closer so I could have spent more time with all of you” or “I’m glad she was my Aunt, she was a magnificent person”.

Remember, Maeve, as much as you want to be there for your cousins, you are grieving also. Feel your feelings, too. Give yourself permission to grieve, also.

Mary Mac

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We, the Patriots

Whenever I think of this holiday, the 4th of July, I prefer to think of the additional title it holds…Independence Day. I have many fond memories of this day in years past.

I also think of the movie “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson, as he encouraged his neighbors to fight together for their freedom. I don’t usually enjoy what was truly a violent movie, yet I found myself engaged in their pursuit of a new life free from oppression in this new land we call America.

Mel Gibson’s character experiences the death of a wife and son, his surviving children a mother and brother, his son loses a wife and her parents. And while their quest dually involved revenge and freedom, I found myself no longer focused on the blood and violence of the movie, but the compassion these broken people were able to give each other, throughout this tragic time in their lives. I couldn’t imagine living in such a continually unsafe environment. Yet millions all around this world do every day.

Regardless of whether you like the way our political parties are running this government, I find myself more focused on the fact that in the end, men and women in government come and go. This country stands forever.

It is the patriots of our fine country who fight for its freedom…not politicians. It is the patriots who rise up to defend her when she needs defending, whether at home or overseas. It is our patriots who risk life, limb, mental strength, and spirit to go around the world to defend and rise up oppressed peoples.

We may not receive the recognition we deserve…true. Not everyone thinks as we do…true. But I know of no other country who defeats its enemies, as in the case of Germany and Japan in World War II, and then returns to help them rebuild their land instead of possessing it.

Only the honorable people of a great nation do that. Willingly.

So on this Independence Day, I focus on all the good our nation has done for the peoples of the world. All the good its done for our own people, our own Patriots. And I know, absolutely know, that no matter what the politicians in this land do to enrich or harm it, America will always stand. For its Patriots will expect no less.