The Death of a Family

On July 11, 2018, my long-suffering mom lost her battle with cancer.

The world lost a lot that day.

I lost my mom.

It’s a weird sentence to say. It’s incredibly surreal even nearly three years later. I’m pretty sure unless you’ve experienced a loss like that, you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Initially when she died, my grief process can only be described as manic. First off, it took a long time for me to say the words dead or died. Second, I didn’t focus on me. I went immediately into planner mode. Who would execute the funeral arrangements that my mom gave to me specifically on her literal deathbed? Well, that would be me. My brother took on the “business end” of the funeral process and I had to take on the personal things….telling people she died, making sure I pulled the outfit she said to, getting food for shiva calls at my dad’s house, and making sure both my dad and my son were ok. My 3.5 year old spent every day with her on her hospital bed until we moved her to hospice and I panicked over how to manage an explanation and also how he’d take it. We opted to not bring him graveside to the funeral and my mom’s longtime friend volunteered to watch him at my dad’s house instead. I took on every project there was…helping my dad clean out things from his house, taking my dad to dinner every week and checking in with him, managing a grown man and ignoring my own grief. The loss of my best friend.

People spend a lot of time telling you they are sorry or let them know if you need anything because they don’t know what else to say. There really is nothing to say. The worst thing was when people told me she was in a better place which made me angry even though they meant nothing negative by it. Then, there were her friends or close relatives who kept unloading their pain and feelings on me as though the person they were grieving wasn’t MY MOM. So, my response? Stop taking any of their calls. Best choice? Likely not.

I can’t even tell you how many times I picked up a phone to call her to tell her something. I stopped doing that daily a while ago, but two weeks ago, I randomly picked up the phone to call her and was in complete shock that I did. I even have rehashed conversations in my head where I got mad at her and rushed off a call and would give anything to go back to every time I wasn't very nice and fix it.

I suffered a lot of depression which led to weight gain and private secret shower crying. I’ve never been one to openly share my private life and even writing this post has taken me a long time to do, so I didn’t want people to talk to me about my feelings or share them which in hindsight was not the best choice.

Here we are nearly three years later. I have never visited the gravesite. I went back there once after she was buried because my grandmother passed away a few months after my mom and was also buried there. I had a full-blown panic attack for the first time in my life. That’s neither here nor there. The biggest loss aside from the mom-shaped hole in my heart is the loss of a family. Yes, I have a family, but not really. It’s a shell. My mom was the heart, the backbone, and the whole freaking body of our family. She was the ultimate hostess, party thrower, and maintainer of relationships. If you saw the amount of people that came to the hospital from all over the day we were moving her to hospice or the crowd at her funeral which was just two short days after she died (we’re Jewish, so we move quick!), you’d understand what she meant to so many. We don’t celebrate holidays anymore. I haven’t had a real Thanksgiving since she died. We haven’t had a real Hanukkah, no Passover or high holidays. I see my dad and sometimes my brother and sister-in-law, but we don’t hear from our aunts and uncles and cousins on that side of the family anymore. If I talk about my mom for too long around my dad, he tells me he doesn’t want to talk about it because it makes him sad. Mother’s Day is gut-wrenching for my brother and I. Everyone is just going through the motions and we all have an “it is what it is” attitude about it. This is the first time I’ve ever said any of this to anyone and I’m totally crying writing this.

I told Melissa, our content manager, that I wanted to write this piece about grief and depression, but wasn’t sure how deep I wanted to go and that I was having a hard time. It turns out, I actually wasn’t having a hard time because all of this just flowed out of me in less than ten minutes. The hard thing is being vulnerable to share this with others (How Bachelorette episode did that just sound??). I think it’s important to speak about these things though because so many of us have lost someone we love deeply and think we are alone and retreat. I know I’m not the first one to lose a parent and won’t be the last. I know I was lucky to have 40 plus years with my mom and she got to see important milestones like me getting married and having my son, but every time he can’t remember something about her, it shatters my heart into a million pieces all over again.

I am NOT a trained professional by any stretch of the imagination and most days I’m not sure if I’m even mentally stable (kidding…kind of), but if anyone else is ever struggling with something like this and just wants to talk or vent over a coffee with someone who gets it, reach out. I promise to respond and not tell you they’re in a better place.