“But it’s been over a year…”

That’s the phrase I hear people thinking when I tell them I’m still dealing with my mother’s death. Most folks have stopped asking how I’m doing with my grief. Those who haven’t experienced a significant loss assume death is like a break-up — something you just get over. But you don’t get over it so much as learn to live with the loss, and most of us grievers bumble through that learning curve quite badly and have a bitch of a time getting our lives back, myself included.

I left my life in Los Angeles to move home and take care of my mom while she was dying, and now that I’ve returned I’m still jobless and struggling after two years. Grief derails you (so does a shitty economy), and though it feels like after experiencing such a bad thing you deserve the basics (job, rent, love) to go your way, life doesn’t do us any favors. There is only luck, and sometimes unlucky periods of our lives stretch for years.

But then there are the people who “get it.” They make forward movement possible.

Cary Tennis of Salon.com qualifies. His “Since You Asked” column always offers useful advice. He told this to a woman looking for ways to support her grieving daughter-in-law…

Just never forget. She may be grieving for a long time; let her grieve as long as she grieves. There may come a time when other people have moved on and yet she is still raw. Three years from now, five years from now, a decade from now, everyone else may have moved on, yet her wound may still be fresh. It takes as long as it takes. Keep doing what you are doing, remain alert to her fragile feelings, and remember that her sadness will last a long time…The one thing you can do is remember when others forget.

Others do and will continue to forget. It’s not their responsibility to remember your loss. But it’s your job to remind them, and to stop beating yourself up for not feeling like your “old self.” That person is gone. There is no getting her back. And if you could, would you really want her?


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11 Responses to “But it’s been over a year…”

  1. Gillian says:

    A heartfelt thanks for this. I lost my younger brother to leukemia last year in April (he was 23). And although it’s been over 18 months, my grief still feels raw. I can talk about our childhood and stuff just fine, but I can’t talk about the last six months of his life without crying. “It takes as long as it takes”….well for me, I think it will take a little bit longer.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • I am so sorry to hear about your brother, Gillian. Be patient with yourself — 18 months is nothing. You’re just at the beginning of it. The best thing I heard was that grief is not a linear process — it washes over you like waves. Some days there are lots of waves. And that’s OK.

  2. Your posts are heartbreaking but I really relate to them. I’m fortunate that I still have my parents, but I’ve lost a beloved godfather and I’m definitely not over it two years later. Like you said, I’m learning to live with the loss.
    Have you read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking? For me, it really captured all of the irrational thoughts that go along with grieving. It’s a devastating book, but helpful in a way.
    I’m so sorry about your mom.

  3. lenorahoward says:

    I’m finding myself going back and reading your older blogs (Congrats on being FP, and I’m so sorry to hear about your mother). I really want to write about the grief that’s in my life as well but I’m afraid of what others might think. My husband’s grandmother is dying rapidly of dementia. (she raised my husband and is more a mother to him than a grandmother). I know she’s not my real grandmother, but my grandparents were all gone by the time I was twelve. She’s been there for me more in the last six years than most anyone in my real family. She welcomed me into her family, spoiled me rotten, visited me in the hospital when I was ill and had surgery, helped me bury my sixteen year old cat and held me while I cried about it. But I’m losing her and we live far away now. This will probably be our last Christmas together, and it breaks my heart. I want to write it all out, but his grandfather checks my blog…and I don’t want to upset him. She’s still alive but I feel like I’m already mourning her. She’s so far gone that she’s not the Nanny that I knew. I keep thinking about all of the things that I will never do with her again, and the fact that she will not be here when my husband and I have children. (which was so important to me). It almost helps a little writing this secret comment on a blog that the family will never read.
    Any advice on losing someone who’s basically terminal?

    • You have two options: You can either create a new blog just to deal with the loss of your husband’s grandmother or you can give the grandfather a head’s up that you are feeling very emotional about her declining health and are going to write about it on your blog. Warn him if reading about that will upset him to tune out for awhile. I think you’ll find people find it comforting and touching more than upsetting…at least they have for the most part for me. My grandmother on my father’s side has dementia. It’s very stressful watching her decline. I feel for you. *Hugs*

      • Oh and to answer your question, I don’t have any particularly useful advice but to accept you are already in grief because you’ve already lost so much of who she is. Accept you are in grief and be gentle with yourself.

      • lenorahoward says:

        Thanks, I really appreciate it. I think I may just blog about it on my own blog. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have the right to be sad about her because she’s not my blood grandmother, but people keep telling me that, that’s just silly. Keep up the blog. I think you’re really helping people going through their grief know that they’re not alone and maybe help them not be so afraid to admit to their grief.

  4. donzwebb says:

    Hi Nicole! Thanks for sharing…. I lost my mom when I was 12 and my brother just 7 years ago. Everything is still so vivid even after all these years. I still question things from time to time. No matter how much time goes by, I never forget. But I try and focus on the good times rather than the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Easier said than done. There is no time frame on grief. After 21 years, I still break down whenever someone mentions my mother. After 7 years, I still get flashbacks from the day I found out my brother had taken his own life, I’ll never forget the phone call. I remember switching between being really angry (how could he just leave us behind?) and really sad. I often find myself asking why he had to die so tragically. You’ve inspired me to blog about my feelings. Thank you and you’re in my thoughts…

    • Your blog is wonderful! You are so strong and have experienced so much. I am so sorry about your mother and brother. Your positivity inspires me. It always stays with you but hopefully, we can learn to live with it. There’s no guidebook for this. Only feeling your way. Happy to hear you survived your cancer. You seem very strong. Thanks for writing!

      • donzwebb says:

        Thanks for the kind words Nicole:) I’m just taking things one day at a time. That’s all we can do. I’m trying to live my life, do all the things I’ve always dreamed of doing. Thank for inspiring me…I wrote the blog post just today. It took a lot out of me but it was worth it! Looking forward to keeping up with your posts.

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