Last night there was an interesting discussion regarding guilt and how it affects us. It naturally flowed into conversations about our mothers, which I pointed out, and found very interesting in the correlation.
Naturally I thought of my own mother and shared a very painful time in our relationship. I respectfully submit that the Catholic Mothers can go toe-to-toe with Jewish Mothers.
My mother occasionally could be nuts. She had many things on her plate including a great desire to be perfect in the eyes of HER parents. She came from a long line of women that were strong-willed and expected perfection. She was dealing with the death of her beloved father, her ailing mother, her youngest daughter finally stretching her legs with independence and just life in general. The normal angst that occurs between mothers and daughters in the girl’s teen years didn’t occur with my mother until I was 21. That is enough said about that time. It’s over, it was resolved, and we moved on.
After my Dad died, my mother was never really the same. My sister and I spent a great deal of time with her for those 2 1/2 years. I was typically at her house 2-3 times a day as I lived close to her. I often cooked for her and had dinner with her. She was lonely and alone for the first time in her entire life.
I shared last night that as much as I miss my parents, and I miss them every day, I am grateful that they didn’t have to face old age with all of its perils. We never had to face assisted living, or dementia, or all those things that others face. But the death of your parents is a double-edged sword. You miss them, you love them, but you are released.
Two days after my mother passed, after I was sad and mournful, I awoke and realized I was free…I didn’t have to check on her or make sure she was ok or cook for her or drive her. And then I felt terribly guilty. I resented her for dying so suddenly. It was a mixed bag of emotions.
I have worked through all the phases of grief for both parents and the older I get the more I learn about them as individuals and as normal people. I see them now not only as my parents who loved us unconditionally and provided for us, but as people. I understand why they were the way they were….and how some of the blame on how they interacted with me as a young adult should be on my shoulders as well. I just let all that “stuff” go.
One of the last things my mother said to me before she died was “I just want you to be happy”. I think of that often. She and I were seated on the bar stools in her kitchen, facing each other, tears in our eyes, and she put her hand on my knee and said, “TC, I just want you to be happy.”
What I do know is the guilt dissolves, the happy memories are foremost in your thoughts, and the feeling of mutual love warms you. I know that my parents are with me and watching over me. When I am in distress I pray to them for help. I’m sure my Mom is bending God’s ear. At least, I truly hope that they are surrounded by all those that have gone before me, and looking down on those of us left behind. I hope they are the guardian angels on our shoulders.
To the woman in such distress last night over the loss of her mother in November….it does get better, but you have to work through it. It takes about two years…and you are left with love and memories and forgiveness and understanding.