“For me, it didn’t feel like mom was really dying, until I saw her dead.”
”I felt her hand. I touched her face. She had been dead for a few hours.”
Guest blogger, Laura Brownstone, LCSW has been a grief therapist for over 15 years. Her mother passed over seven years ago, but emotional memories endure. Her experience is a reminder that despite knowledge and professional skills, grief is a journey, not a destination.
“Mom had struggled during the night and had fallen back to sleep. She never woke up. I remember when she got a first and second opinion. Did she have ALS? The doctor’s told her probably not, but they gave her medication, just in case. She went through a battery of tests of what felt like pin pricks which, she said, made her want to jump out of her skin. She went to Mayo Clinic in Arizona for the final opinion.”
“I spent more time with her when her health declined. I worked only three days a week, so I could take her to TJ Max or to radiation. Oh, yes, she had breast cancer first. I remember a few days before she died as I held one hand while my sister held her other hand. We pulsed with her hands “I love you.” It was something I taught her to do. This is something I learned from Anna, my youngest daughter.”
“One day we held her hands, she had her nails and hair done for her 70th birthday party. Her best friend, Jill flew in from Ashville to take care of her for her party. I remember that she glowed like a pure white light in her linens.”
“She had told me once that she didn’t want to meet Oprah. She was embarrassed she could no longer speak. I guess Oprah had invited people on her show who had ALS. Mom wore wire-rimmed glasses because she could no longer wear contacts. She hated to be embarrassed. By having this disease, she had to cope with inevitable embarrassment and learn to love and forgive herself.”
“Everyone heard her when she used her Ipad or Iphone. She had a few choice words ready to go. “Fuck you, Go to hell. Thanks, I love you. “ Some days when I am just waking up, I have to remind myself that she is not here and she won’t call me. She won’t write postcards from the road.”
“What I found helpful initially was going to an ALS support group and being told what was normal. Trauma Therapist Robin Shapiro wrote that ‘grief is crazy making’. The waves of intensity can come suddenly in the grocery store or in the shower. Let it come. You will not go insane. When you hold it in and put away all the pictures, grief goes inside the body and calcifies. We want to be able to release it from our emotional system.”
“Here are a few tips that I give my clients:
- You are not going crazy.
- Figure out creative ways to mourn your loved one.
- Realize that you may receive a gift in death from your loved one. (I received persistence from my mom.)
- You can still talk to them. They may come in a whisper, perfume, a bird, or light.
- Seek refuge in the peaceful memories with them as well as seek connection with the living. Try not to isolate yourself too much.
- Practice self –compassion everyday.”
Below is a list of resources:
Grieving: A Beginner’s guide, by Jerusha Hull McCormick
I am Grieving as Fast As I Can, by Linda Feinberg
Rules of Inheritance. by Claire Bidwell-Smith,
The Way Men Heal, by Thomas Golden,
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion,
Motherless Daughters, by Hope Edelman
On Grief and Grieving, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Laura Brownstone is a psychotherapist who practices in Chicago. She likes to write about empathy and relationships. She is curious of about life. She is certified in EMDR Therapy and is Trauma Informed. She helps clients become more self compassionate and aware of how they operate in the world. https://urbanbalance.com/therapist/laura-brownstone-lcsw/