Reader Neki commented that it sounded like my last year with my mother was extra special. When I read Neki’s comment, it caused me to reflect. While I was living that last year, I don’t know that I would have described it so. Living that year at my mom’s side was the most painful and most arduous thing I’ve done in my entire life. There were many times when I felt like the pressure of the grief and the stress were unbearable. In reality, though, Neki was absolutely right. That time with my mother was extra special.

As difficult as this past year has been, I would not have had it any other way. If my mother’s fate was to suffer a stroke and decline so heartbreakingly towards the end of her life, I wanted to travel that path with her. Whatever support I could give, I wanted to give. Whatever comfort I could provide, I wanted to provide. Whatever shared joy we could find, I wanted to find with her. The time and effort I spent with her in the past year was my gift to her, but it truly was also a gift to me.

Now that my mother is gone, I am a bit disoriented. The time I used to spend with her and taking care of her needs is now empty. I have a new-found and somewhat unwelcome freedom.

I’m not quite sure how to navigate this new life condition. I feel a bit tender and tentative, as if I am dipping my toe into the water of the part of my life that is all about me. In the days since my mother death, I grasp wildly for activity. I’ve started the processes to finalize my mom’s administrative matters. I’ve gone through most of her possessions. I’ve sent thank you notes to people who sent cards and flowers. My house is cleaner than it has ever been. I plunged myself into a new life filled with new events, new people, and new thoughts. I initiated outings with friends. I began accepting every invitation offered me. I signed up to join a women’s group at the church. I began preparations to survive Hurricane Irma in a manic frenzy, despite my absolute certainty that I would die in the storm. Max and I took a trip to Las Vegas. I’ve been planning a trip to New England to see the fall foliage next autumn. I seem to flit from one activity to another without ever stopping to let my feet touch the ground… or to take a breath.

I do want to try new things now that I have some more free time, but I think this busy-ness is more about not wanting to sit still and feel than it is about expanding my horizons.

The truth is that the hole my mother left in my life is so huge that I am afraid of falling into it. If I stop and stare at that hole, I am sure that it will suck me into its emptiness and I will never recover. My mother was all about light and happiness. Her absence leaves darkness and grief. If I am to honor her memory, it is important that I look beyond this present darkness and grief to find the love she left behind. I can use that love to live in a way that would bring her joy. I can and will be her legacy of light.

The thing is… I’m not quite ready to do that yet. I am still too vulnerable to the darkness to risk getting too close to that empty hole. After so much sadness for so long, my strength is depleted and needs rest to be replenished. So I keep moving and doing, propelling myself far away from the emptiness. I’m sure I will eventually be able to find a better balance between activity and introspection. When that happens, I know I’ll find a way to live more beautifully and meaningfully than I ever have because my mother showed me how. I’ll know my mom will be smiling down on me from Heaven.

In the meantime, I think I’ve earned a little distraction!

What do you think?  Does a whirlwind of activity help us heal after losing someone?  Or is it just a whirlwind of activity?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a pleasantly busy day!

Terri 🙂

16 thoughts on “Busy-ness”

  1. Dear Teri, I interpret grief in your words. And it’s okay to experience grief; a very sad thing happened when your mom died. Grief takes time, measured in months and years rather than days and weeks. You said it – you will be her legacy of light. You also said that you need rest to be replenished, yet you keep moving and doing. Honor your needs. I don’t know about your “hole” but I know of mine. You said exactly what I used to say – that fear of falling into the emptiness and never being able to get up. At this stage in my life I have experienced many losses and know now that I am capable of getting up but first I lie on the floor and wallow in my grief when I need to. We humans are extremely resilient. I have experience in grief support and have seen people rise up after some terrible losses. When I asked these survivors how it is that they managed to engage in life as they did, they all said they got so tired of living in the “hole”. We humans aren’t meant to stay in the “hole”; we’re meant to engage in life. Be kind to yourself. Embrace your grief and your mom’s memory.

  2. Teri, it’s true that we think we need to stay busy but the feeling of your loss will eventually hit you and that is the time to grieve on your loss and from there you pick yourself up and start your new life and just remember your Mother in all of her happier days before the stroke. The family pictures, movies and your singing of track songs is something you can remember that she really enjoyed, at least for awhile, but you enjoyed it with her too. Dealing with the passing of a love one is terrible, but we learn to live each day anew and remember them in so many different way after they pass.

    1. Thanks, Susie. I’m sure there are difficult moments ahead. There have been a few already. I wouldn’t change a thing about my relationship with my mom, even though our closeness brings sadness now along with the joy.

  3. Grief is so individual and yet so universal. When my mother’s mother died she was well into her 90’s and my mom in her ’70’s. And I remember my mom saying she didn’t know how to live in a world that didn’t include her mother. But she did eventually process the grief and learn to live with it, sharing happy memories of my grandmother again.

    My mother is now in her mid-80’s and I know she won’t live forever, although she is currently in good health. But I think of her reaction to my grandmother dying and absolutely dread the day I have to part with her. She talks about it regularly and seems very comfortable with it. Me…not so much.

    Be kind to yourself and you will know the right thing to do. Grief is different for all of us. You are doing what you need to do. Wishing you all the best…

    1. Thanks, Laurel. I understand exactly what your mother meant. Mostly, I feel happy to think about my mom and all we shared. On the other hand, I am often disoriented when I think about a world without her. Nothing seems to make sense or flow easily. I have to rethink a lot of my approaches to the day. It is kind of like when my computer would go down while I was working. Yes, I could keep working and get stuff done, but I had to keep interrupting my regular processes and routines to “work around” the computer outage. I can still live my life and do stuff and be reasonably satisfied without my mom by my side, but nothing is natural and nothing feels quite the same.

  4. Terri, other writers have beautifully expressed moving through grief, so I’ll just talk about “busy-ness.” When I fully retired a couple of years ago, I knew I would need to fill the retirement “hole” and also kept very busy with lots of things: tutoring, book club, water color painting, dog training classes, some travel, training for and competing in masters’ track and field events, trying new recipes….whew. Though I was running from one activity to another, I did find that I wanted to stay with some and drop others. So even if you feel like a chicken with its head cut off, you’ll probably find some activities that are genuinely enjoyable, at least for a while. At our stage in life, we have the luxury of experimenting with what we truly want to do, or not do, and following or developing our interests. All the best,Joy

    1. Thanks, Joy. I think I’ll try to just enjoy the distraction for awhile and see how things organically unfold.

  5. Terri…I understand…I lost my father 15 months ago and my mothe 2 months ago. It feels like I am doing fine, staying busy….then “The Wave” hits me and carries me to the place of sadness. I ride the wave until it settles and then it hits again….often so unexpectedly. I was doing better with the waves farther apart after Dad died, then my mother passed….and now we have started again. I am holding onto all the wonderful things we shared…..memories. I have kept so “busy” with all their affairs that needed and needs to be attended to. I find I have that empty feeling often…and I think that is normal. We will never forget the loss but we will rebound. The things that hurt now will probably be the memories that give us the most joy down the road. I am trying to find things to fill my new “free time”….but sometimes they feel just busy. But I do think it is important to be busy….but also to let myself feel the sadness…but not dwell on it. Someone told me it would take at least a year after my father passed as you will need to experience all the seasons and holidays without your loved one….but I know each holiday will always hold them in my memories….but perhaps each will get easier. They live on in our hearts always!

    1. Thanks for your encouraging words, Linda. I’m so sorry for the loss of your parents. How difficult it must have been to face losing both of them in such a short time. 🙏 to you.

  6. The loss is really a change and you adapting to it. I feel she is more with you then before. You must go thru the loss. It is the burden being lifted, the guilt that you can still experience happiness, but it isn’t without her. She is there holding you, allowing you to sleep. She will come to you in dreams, in an old movie, in a song. At first you will cry, then it becomes a smile, a cherished thought. The running around is really running away, allow it to happen. Cry the cry. Such is life💕

    1. Thank you for the beautiful comment, Louisa. “Cry the cry….” what a soothing concept! I love it.

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  8. Dear Terri:
    This is a time you will never forget and will always remember her for who she was in your life. You are right to begin to look for activities you can be a part of, but do it slowly. Your church should have a group who gather to discuss how to go on after losing a loved one. But if not, you are doing the right thing to get involved in activities with others. but go slow….you have to heal and that takes time. I do pray for you and know with time, you will heal. God is able to heal.

    1. You are absolutely right, Lois. I know God heals. I was sure He would heal my mother either in this life or the next one. I know she is now happy and healthy and living everlasting life in joy. I know God is strengthening me and healing my bruised and broken heart. You are also right about slowing down a bit. I feel kind of tired after running around maniacally for the last few weeks. I think I need to ease my foot off the gas a little. 😴

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