There are certain things that happen after you lose your mom that you can’t prepare yourself for. If you suffer from anxiety, you have a predisposition for getting stuck in your own head, repeating thoughts that are unwanted or harmful over and over again. The following are things I have experienced, and continue to experience, in the first year after losing my mom.
The thought of moving on hurts, so you feel unable to.
Moving on would mean accepting that she’s gone, and you’re not quite there yet. But you have no choice, you can’t freeze or move back in time. So you might go in and out of moments of panic because its like you’re being slowly pushed towards the edge of a cliff, and you don’t have your mom parachute to keep you safe. Everyone will tell you that life moves on, but to you, that’s the saddest part.
Literally everything will remind you of her.
No matter where you are, what you’re doing, and how unrelated it may even be, something will remind you of her in some way. A song might come on the radio that you knew she loved. You drive by a house that you know she would have complimented. Someone says something she used to say. Literally everything elicits a “she would have loved this” or a “she would have hated that.” You constantly think about her, and the things she might have said in any given situation.
Thinking of happier times hurts. A lot.
Whether or not you’re already a nostalgic person, you become one. Only, instead of feeling joy out of reviewing previous times and eras of your life, it burns your heart in ways you’ve never experienced. Suddenly the happy memories are hard to perceive as happy because they hurt so much. They’re dangerous to think about because they put you in a hole that is hard to climb out of. But you can’t help but think about them because you are desperate to see her again, so you think about the times you had with her. You want to go back. You want so badly to go back. Yet, at the same time, at least for that moment, you want to forget so you can stop hurting. But then that thought hurts too, because the time you had with her is so sacred and precious, you want to hold on to the memories for dear life, but staring them in the face destroys you.
Suddenly you remember lost memories.
Conversations, interactions, events, tons of random, insignificant moments from your past that have been long since forgotten, from early childhood to present, will suddenly be remembered. They might be triggered by something, or they can come into your head at complete random.
Most music, if not all, will hurt. It doesn’t matter if it’s music you know she never heard. It will all hurt. Music you used to listen to before she got sick reminds you of happier times, and as mentioned above, that hurts to think about. Music that comes on the radio will hurt too. The lyrics in love songs stop being about romantic love, and become about the love you shared with your mom (minus any sexual content). Break up songs feel like they’re talking about your loss. New songs will come on by artists she loved, and you’ll be sad that she never got to hear them. Songs will come on by artists that she hated and you wish you could trash talk with her.
You’ll still reach for your phone
For a fraction of a second, I’m talking a very instantaneous piece of a moment, you will reach for your phone to text or call her to tell her something, and you’ll freeze in your tracks. You’ll be completely shocked that you just did that. How could you forget? Then suddenly, its like you lost her all over again.
You will have flashbacks.
Seeing your mother, your best friend, the one person on this Earth who understands you more than anyone else you’re close with, go through such a sudden onset of illness from a cancer no one knew she had, waking up every morning knowing the odds are against her in this battle, being with her in the hospital night and day, sleeping in a cot beside her, having doctor after doctor come into the room and deliver nothing but bad news after bad news. Riding in the ambulance with her as they bring her home for hospice care. Seeing her face looking at the sky when they take her out of the ambulance on a stretcher, knowing it was the first time she saw the sky in weeks, and it’ll be the last time. Then watching her take her last breath while you stroked her hair and whispered your goodbyes in her ear… all this is the darkest hell anyone could ever experience. The aftermath in your mind and soul after having lived through such a traumatic event is painful. When its all over, you’re mind and body are still in a type of survival mode, but you’re also trying to process what just happened. Five weeks ago life was completely normal. Suddenly, you saw her suffer intensely and now she’s gone.
Your thoughts will be interrupted by intrusive images. This will happen so often, it will drive you to the brink of a whole different emotional breakdown that you don’t even have the energy to have, but you will have it anyways. They will either be triggered by something, a smell, a song, a sound, a place, or they will be completely at random. You might be brushing your teeth, or at work discussing business with a client, or ordering food. Out of nowhere, they hit you. Sometimes, they take you away from reality, and you find yourself staring off into space. Sometimes they are actively occurring in the back of your head while you are carrying a conversation, and on the outside you appear perfectly normal.
The images will be of her in the hospital, or of her in her hospice bed at home, or the look in your dad’s eyes the moment the doctor’s said there was nothing more to do but let her go. They will be of her face when there was still hope, the moment she came back home for those few days before she took a turn for the worst and went back to the hospital. They will be of the view outside the hospital room, because you looked out that window so much. They will be of the lobby of the hospital when you first walk in, or the elevator ride up to her floor. They will be of the pain scale poster in the room, or the artwork of flowers. They will be of the moment she finally cried, the one time she cried, because she was scared. You’ll never forget that one. They will often, often be of the moment she took her last breath, the sound of your own voice saying “good bye, mom, I love you so much”, then the sound of your sobbing amongst the sobs of your dad and brother.
Sleep is both a friend and an enemy.
After a day of painful thoughts, you welcome the moment you get to turn your mind off, but your dreams can be just as painful. You never know when you can escape those images because sometimes they follow you into your sleep. But, the worst, which will happen the most often, is the opposite of the painful images; you will dream that she gets cured. You will dream that she is suddenly ok, that something was figured out, and that she can go back to living a normal life. These are the dreams that will be the most vivid, the most realistic. These are the dreams where you truly think that this is real life because you can smell that familiar smell of her perfume, and you can feel her when you hug her, you cry and you feel the tears rolling down your face. The most absurd detail is projected in this dream involving all your senses. When you wake up, you experience losing her all over again.
You feel completely disconnected from your friends when they mention their mom.
This one doesn’t need too much explanation. When your friends mention their moms, you can feel your facial expression become hollow as you smile and nod and listen to their conversation while thinking how they have no idea how lucky they are. You’d never admit this to them, but you’re jealous, and you even go as far as being slightly irritated by them.
When much older people mention their still-living mom, you feel like life is incredibly unfair.
You’ll be at work, and a client you’re working with who is maybe 20 or more years older than you mentions their mom. You feel that similar feeling in your face going hollow, only this time the thought in your head is solely focusing on how unfair it is that you will never have what this person has. How could it be that you, at 29 years old, lost your mom, and this 50 year old is talking about having just had lunch with theirs as if life wasn’t fragile. Why does this person get to grow old with their mom and you can’t? Why does this person get to have their mom around to help them with their kids, her grandkids, while your mom will never get to meet yours? Life will constantly rub in your face the unfairness of it all. This will often make you angry, but will mostly just make your heart even heavier.