Question: Dear Luise: I lost my mother on the 31st of August this year, 54 days ago. I am a physician and was the person who admitted mummy at the hospital where i work on the 17th of august with just vomiting and weakness. and then..she deteriorated within hours..i had to get her on ventilatory support.my co doctors took over mummy’s treatment from that point onwards saying i was too emotionally involved and its true . i never felt that helpless before. my dad and brother could only arrive the next day as they both work overseas. Mummy was unconscious in the ICU for 11 days and then she woke up, recognized us and spoke to us, improving day by day. I was on leave and with mummy for 14 days non stop. Finally on the 31st of august , mummy made me join work again saying that as my office was in the same building and that if needed i could be at her side in minutes. i remember going down to the opd and calling in my first patient. thats when the icu called. i had stepped away from mummy for just minutes when mummy had a cardiac arrest..she just left. and I don’t know.. its as if i’m the one who died. mummy had such grand plans for this year..it was my birthday in a week and my wedding date was fixed for Christmas. I’m from India, female and 30 years old..My mother had been dreaming about my wedding from the day I turned 21 and she was the one who found mr. perfect(her words) for me and got me engaged this july. I went along with everything she said because it made her so happy. She kept saying that she would personally ensure that mine would be the best wedding ever. I quit my job and that hospital.I gave up medicine altogether.I dont believe in god or prayers any longer.and I dont want to be married anymore forget getting married this december.All of these were mummy’s dreams.I can barely find the energy to get through each day. I constantly blow up at whoever is there for absolutely no reason. I dont sleep or eat properly and even then i usually wake up in an hour or so and throw up whatever i ate.just looking at my mothers photo or walking into her room makes me want to cry my lungs out. I think i’m going crazy. She died alone, when I was trying to treat some stranger. i keep thinking it would have made a difference if i’d stayed with mummy instead, if i had treated her myself instead of letting other doctors treat her.She was my mother and i couldn’t keep her alive. all i can remember is the way she looked when she died. I dont even remember her usual voice, i can only remember the way she spoke in the icu..in a totally weak and hoarse tone and thats not the mummy i knew. she was my best friend. our entire universe. we all grumbled when she told us her dreams for us and then we made sure they happened so she’d be happy. no more dreams, ambitions..nothing. i dont even want any of that but I wish I had at least stayed with her when she died and told her one last time how much I loved her. R.
Answer: Dear R.: You are where many of us are two months after losing our moms. We have no reality concerning life without them. They have always been there and even though we all know the time will come, the time to die is never right, nor the circumstances. At two months we are awash in acute loss and unbearable guilt. We need to know that it is not the time to make any life decisions…we are too unbalanced. Grief does that.
We all have different belief systems regarding death. Many do not hold up well when we have to face the loss of a loved one. What I eventually fell back on when I lost my mom at age 27 was to continue to fulfill her wishes. I say eventually, because at first I couldn’t really think or act. It was a while before I was sane and operational again.
My mom was proud of me and of what I had accomplished in my life and of what she had contributed to my success. We had a wonderful partnership that transcended her death. I came to see that what mattered most to me was honoring her dreams for me. She never would have wanted them to die with her. In a way, carrying on was my memorial to her.
I have no idea if any of this applies to you. Right now, it seems to me that your job is to survive the pain and let go of planning or destroying your life. I would suggest that you find the best grief counselor you can. When you once again feel and value the gift of life that your mother gave you, I think you will start rebuilding it, out of respect for her. Blessings, Luise