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My First Lesson in Grief

This beautiful woman is my mom.  Mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 4.  She passed away when I was 14.  She was my first teacher in grief.  When she was alive and bedridden, I grieved for my lost childhood.  I grieved at having to be a caregiver.  And when she passed away, I busied myself.  I picked her casket, her gown, helped my Aunt pick flowers, talked to my boyfriend’s mom to have her sing at the funeral, made sure my sister Lynda could handle the viewing on the way home from the airport, I did all I could to ease other’s work.  I felt the weight of her death on my grandparents.  My grandmother almost passed out when the casket was closed for the final time.  I knew that a child, no matter how old, should ever precede her parents in death.

I didn’t cry for 3 weeks.  I’m fairly certain that no one really noticed, and that was fine with me.  When I did cry, I did so alone, in my bed, in the middle of the night.

I look back and I think that my grieving process could have been helped along.  I am certain that my mom’s death changed me forever, more than it should have.

Honestly, though…  I had been the caregiver for my mom since I was 9.  Feeding tubes, urine bags, the whole bit.  I was the girl, and that was a role I fit into.  I did not feel like I lost my mom at 14.  I felt like I had lost my mom at a much younger age.  And at 14, I lost a patient.  That sounds cold.  But it was my reality.  We were not a touchy feely family.  We did what we needed to do.  I am certain that from the moment my mom became ill, we all went into survival mode.  My grandparents gave up everything to take us in and take care of mom.

And because of these feelings, I lived with guilt for many years after Mom died.  I never wonder what my life would have been like had she not had MS.  As I’ve shared before, I know that every event in my life has made me who I am.  Since Mom was my first teacher of grief, I guess it can be fair to say that from her death, I learned the signs… I learned what I experienced in my denial, and I learned what to look for in others.  I know how to see the feelings that go unspoken.  I know all the words that need to be said… to help through the process.  I will forever be grateful for all that she taught me.

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