GRIEF WITHOUT DEATH

I miss my Mum. I miss her so much.  A death you would think.  No, my Mum hasn’t passed away, but she’s had a severe stroke and has been in the hospital for nearly three months now. I miss her presence in my life – she was always there to talk to when I had problems with my children growing up and always in these later years when I’ve been battling with my mental heath.

She used to support me through everything and as the years ticked by, I was the one supporting her (and rightly so). We would talk on the phone for many hours, putting the world to rights and putting each other to rights. We rarely had a cross word.

I have to confess, there have been times when it’s felt a bit of a chore to have to phone my Mum every day, sometimes twice a day in more recent years.  I would, perhaps, think, “I want to spend more time with friends” on that particular night or “I’d like to spend the time writing my blog”.  Worse still, I’d be keen to text a good friend for a heart-to-heart or get that email written that I’ve been meaning to do for days.

Now, the evenings come, and I find myself thinking,  “I’ll just phone to see how ……….” – My sentence is cut short by the stark realisation that my Mum is not occupying the same space as she used to do. Something else is in her place – a horrible silence broken only by memories of how our relationship used to be.

Gone are our chats, our shared laughter and our mutual support. There are no long discussions about what she had planted in her garden that day with the full expectation of seeing her little seedlings and shoots develop into strong, tall plants. She’d tell me how she’d tied them up with green, garden twine against bamboo canes and watch them develop and bloom.

She won’t go back to that house again, nor her beloved garden that was her sanctuary, her escape from the world when life got difficult – not now. She could never manage the stairs, feed herself or live without 24-hour care and yet she’d managed independently since her separation from my father. She had lived in our family home for over sixty years. And to think the grass was being cut by her only two weeks before she had her stroke.

The damage to her brain is so extensive that she’s still unable to communicate verbally or in any other way,  and any hope of further improvements is met with serious doubt by the doctors and consultants.  The physios, the OTs and the speech and language therapists are not hopeful either.  I try to talk to her on the phone when I can’t get there – hoping to get a response but my questions always have the same replies – nothing – it’s heartbreaking.

I’m still travelling up to the City by train to see her at least once a week. The journey is always tough, fraught with difficulties and exhausting but I need to be there. I need to retain that little bit of hope. However, she isn’t even able to acknowledge that I’m there and I wonder where she has gone inside that broken shell of a body.

I feel I should not be grieving as she is still present with me. But I am – I’m grieving the loss of the person that my Mum once was; her presence in my life, her faded personality and her love, care and affection. She is no longer there.  But grieving when she is still alive; is that right? Is that acceptable? It is simply grief without death.

10 thoughts on “GRIEF WITHOUT DEATH

      1. It’s not the same as your experience but when my grandfather had Alzheimer’s I remember a similar feeling – you’re grieving and that’s okay. Be gentle with yourself.

    1. Thank you so much, Mick. That means a lot to me. And I will try and at least catch up with some of your posts even though I may not have time to leave comments. I’ve missed WordPress and blogging but my posts may be sporadic for quite a while x

  1. I’m so very sorry to hear about your mother, Ellie. I remember from previous posts how close you were. I think your reaction is a very natural one and completely understandable.

  2. Remember that she can still feel your love. It will help you not miss her so much if you focus on how you can shower her in different ways each time you see her. Hope your Christmas was wonderful. Was thinking of you.

  3. This is heart wrenching. My father in law had a stroke a few months back, and while he is nothing close to incapacitated, it’s still difficult to watch his loss of independence and his uncomfortable reliance on others. It’s really wearing on him. I’m now fully immersed in that stage of life where my parents and in-laws are becoming increasingly reliant on their kids. Both of my brothers live close to my dad, so they take the lion’s share of that responsibility, and Susan and I live close to her parents, so that becomes an ongoing negotiation with how much we can give. We wish it could be 100%, but the reality is that we are enmeshed in our own lives, our kids lives, our jobs, etc. Plus, her parents fight getting support tooth and nail. This all crept up on us during the pandemic while we weren’t watching. I’d like to at some point see stats on how the pandemic effected the very aged. In February 2020 my father was playing racquet sports. Now he can’t walk without a cane.

    I’m sorry you went through such a tough period with your mum. It sounds like you lost a best friend.

    1. It’s so hard, isn’t it, to watch our parents or elderly relatives who we’re close to declining with age. It must be difficult for your father-in-law to come to terms with his independence gradually being lost after his stroke. Difficult too for you to see that happening too. Families often live further apart these days, unlike in our parents’ and grandparents’ times. It must be hard for you to give your dad and Susan’s parents the time needed when you have your own family with dependent children to think about and care for. And, of course, you’re working too, which adds more pressure to your daily life. I’m so sorry that Diane’s death has brought you so many painful memories and thoughts.

      Yes, my Mum was like my best friend. She lived miles from me, and I was unable to see her for many years as my mobility issues worsened because there was a steep flight of stairs at her house, so not accessible to me. Mum had severe agoraphobia, too, so was unable to leave the house. We didn’t see each other for years which was very tough and painful, and it wasn’t till after her stroke that I was able to visit the hospital in London. I’m very grateful that we, at least, had that time together. I can never get those years back again, though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s