Devastated by Grief

My mother died last April, six months after she was diagnosed with cancer and I can’t stop crying. My mother was my best friend and my constant support. She helped me raise my four children when I was building my career and had been involved as a guide in every important accomplishment in my life. After the cancer diagnosis, I took a leave from my job and spent a lot of time with my mother. I feel haunted by my memories of powerlessly watching my mother fade away before my eyes. I feel ashamed when relatives and friends praise me for being a good daughter because I cared for my mother when she was ill. I can’t stop blaming myself for my mother’s death and keep trying to remember early signs of her illness that I should have taken more seriously. I can’t forgive myself for not pushing her to see a doctor before the disease became untreatable and terminal. As you can imagine, everything in my life is suffering because of this. I’m unproductive at work and I don’t participate in anything social or fun with my family or friends because I’m so sad. How can I feel better?
Linda T. Evanston, IL

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Dear Linda,
My sympathies to you on the death of your mother. Losing a parent is difficult at any age. It sounds like your mother was a very important part of your life and a strong source of support. It’s understandable that you would feel overwhelmed by this sad and rather sudden loss. While sadness is at the very heart of grief, it also often includes a complicated and somewhat conflicting combination of emotions such as relief, guilt, fear and even hopelessness that you will ever feel good again. Grief is an individual process. No loss is typical and the process of healing through grief is not linear. Our western society places enormous pressure to get over loss and there is an expectation to quickly return to normal functioning. Grief can be a lonely experience that isolates us from those around us. Often friends don’t know what to say or how to help. Two books that I often recommend to those struggling with grief are:

‘On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss’ by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler
‘A Grief Observed’ by C.S. Lewis

You may find a grief support group helpful, a place where you can feel free to cry. Support group participants provide each other with comfort, permission to grieve and encouragement to move back into life after the loss. If you’d prefer to do your grief work privately, some sessions with a psychotherapist or a clergy person can be very helpful. I wish you the best as you journey through this loss and I hope you find joyful ways to keep memories of mother alive in your life and the life of your family.

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