Tag Archives: Death

The Power in Forgiveness and Gratitude


So my mom died.

And there was a funeral.

And I was dreading it.

Not because I couldn’t say goodbye to my mom. She’d been declining for years, had many health problems, and had one last round in the hospital and been released to hospice care. I’d been to see her and said my goodbyes. We parted on good terms.

No, I was dreading it because of who would be in attendance. Namely, my dysfunctional family.

So there’s my dad. He has Parkinson’s, disowned me, seated me with several thousand dollars in bills, and then asked me to take him back into my life to care for him.

Then there’s my sister. Well, half-sister. She disappeared nine years ago and hasn’t made any attempt to stay in contact with me. She got disowned, too, but she’s a pathological liar, morbidly obese to the tune of about 350 pounds, bisexual drug addict who introduced me to marijuana when I was in grade school, and is 17 years older than I am.

And my brother. Well, half-brother. He stays out of touch. He lives in California. He had been silent on Facebook and then started posting conspiracy, right-wing, bigoted, inflammatory spam all over his feed. When I saw my ex had recently friended him, I un-friended him. There was nothing worth seeing.

And lastly my two full brothers. The older, who had always used my parents as a personal cash cow, who had ruined their credit by failing to pay for his car that was in their name, who had worked to move my parents out of the nursing home I’d put them in – behind my back and with no notice to the nursing home, also a bisexual drug addict incapable of keeping a job who had moved to, what? Ohio? Iowa? some random state and finally gotten a job managing a pool supply store. The one closest in age to me had largely been a screen, hiding any facts from me, actively lying to me, and generally pretending that he wasn’t hurting anyone. Yeah, he was the one who finally got saddled with “taking care of my parents.” Such as that was. I have it on authority from the nurses that he had so rarely been to see them at the most recent nursing home move that they didn’t know what he looked like.

Oh, and then the family *I* divorced. My ex-mother-in-law and my ex-sister-in-law, i.e. my daughters’ other grandmother and my daughters’ aunt.

What’s remarkable in all this drama is that, the way it played out with my blood family, there was a detente.  We nodded at each other, and they kept their distance so that I didn’t have to use the sympathy pineapple to bash in the sides of their heads, which was my plan if they tried to hug me. (They give domineering bear hugs. Wet, domineering bear hugs. Crushing, wet, trapping hugs.)

So, they didn’t try to hug me. I didn’t draw blood in the church with my pineapple.

The part that surprised me was the interaction with my ex-mother-in-law. Everything was done. Everything was over. We’d gotten through the viewing. I’d gone and welcomed them and even let them hug me. We’d progressed through the service. I’d gone to bury my mom at the gravesite in the bitterly cold rain. We’d returned to the church reception. We’d made it through to the time when people should have been leaving.

And she attacked.

“So, aren’t you going to introduce me?” she demanded, walking up to me and Fiance-Man.

So I did.

And then she did it.

“I’m her mother-in-law. I’ll always be her mother-in-law.” Those actual words came out of her mouth when I introduced the woman to my fiance.

And I’d had enough.

“Point of order,” I said, choosing to fight this battle. “No, you’re not. I divorced your son. I am no longer married to him. You are not my mother-in-law. You are my children’s grandmother, but you ceased to be my mother-in-law when the I divorced your son.”

And she had the audacity to try to contradict me.

And I think I tore her a new one about the way her son acted and treated the girls and me before some very kindly-meaning friends worked to herd me away from her.

I was so angry at the time, but I needed to be shepherded away because she never would have been the first to back down. I was so livid at being “handled” that I made Fiance-Man upset by implying that I “didn’t need him.” No, I just didn’t need to feel “handled.” Looking back, I know now I needed it. There was no other way out of that forsaken conversation.

And so I apologized and admitted I was wrong.

And I stewed a few days and then called my ex-mother-in-law and apologized for essentially holding her son’s behavior as something she could have any responsibility for. However, really truly thinking about it now, I basically was just trying to get her to see that the REASON I was DIVORCED was BECAUSE of her son’s behavior. And when you’re divorced and moving on, you cut some ties quite legally. But I called her and apologized… and MOVED ON. I was able to let go of that horrible experience, let go of some of the hold that horrific memory has on me.

And then this morning I wrote thank-you notes to the ladies at the church who had done all the things to make my mother’s service a lovely event, a celebration of life, a true memorial of her vitality. It felt so good to express all the gratitude in my heart. It was the only other time I truly cried.


Good grief


Grief comes in many forms: there’s the grief over your spilled coffee when it was the last of the package of Red Velvet coffee from World Market, there’s the grief over the loss of a pet, the grief over the loss of a once-possible future, grief over the end of a relationship, grief over the loss of a loved one, a parent, a friend, a child, a sibling, a grandparent.

I’ve known many of these, and today I am re-experiencing the grief over the loss of my mom.

My mom died in her sleep last night after struggling with pneumonia and problems swallowing and a whole host of other medical problems. She’d been on hospice care for about three weeks after being dismissed from the hospital, so it wasn’t unexpected.

However, it hit me anew today.

I’d already been through a grieving process because my parents had disowned me a few years ago. They had lied to me, sent bill collectors (for their bills, mind) after me, cut me out of all communication, hidden their whereabouts from me, and then… used me. Used me as a way to store their hoarder’s house, used me as a way to deal with all their messes, used me as a permanent address when they didn’t want to give out their nursing home address.

My brother tried to use me as a way to take care of Mom and Dad over the holidays, tried to use me as a responder when they had a health scare, tried to use me as a way to not have to deal with their hoarded stuff.

Last year, my dad asked if he and my mom could come back to live with me.

I had to tell them no.

No, I couldn’t open myself up to that much hurt any more. No, I couldn’t expose myself to the lies, the deceit, the recriminations. No, I just physically and financially couldn’t take care of them any more (I am still paying off their stay in the first nursing home).

And in all this time, I grieved.

I racked myself with guilt for not being the dutiful daughter, for not pursuing them, for not maintaining a relationship with them, for not giving of myself, my time, and my resources to support them. I felt guilty for placing them in a care facility even though it was ultimately their choice. I felt guilty for a number of things. I felt guilty for the angry words I said. I felt guilty for living in their house when they disappeared.

I realize I grieved for the loss of a trusting filial relationship.

Some of that guilt stuff was just a mess, just something I didn’t really need to take on to myself because they could have made different decisions, too. They could have told me that they wanted to move back into their house and take care of themselves and send me back to my own house. They didn’t. Instead, they lied and conspired and treated me as a contemptible outcast – until they needed something. I was a tissue – to be used and discarded – and maybe used again if there were no other likely tissues when the need arose.

I have lived with that guilt, that resentment over the situation, and the grief for the loss of my parents for years.

And now, today, I have good, clean grief. It’s honest grief. My mom died, and I grieve her loss.

But it’s odd because I’ve already been in the grieving process so long that it’s not hitting me like a sledgehammer. It’s not knocking me out and incapacitating me.  Instead, it’s just stealing in and quietly mugging me, draining me of energy here and there, sporadically making me exhausted.

Oh, I had my ugly cry this morning. I cried and sobbed and snot ran down my face. Then I got over it. I got up, started breathing again, and finished out my yoga practice and went home and got my kids ready for school and got dressed for work and showed up on time and did my job. Yes, I took a nap over lunch when it snuck up on me, but otherwise, it’s not this overpowering darkness today.

Perhaps it helps that, in reality as well as in my mind, she died last night. It wasn’t today. There was nothing I could have do. There is nothing I can do. So there is no reason to get overly worked up over it.

It also wasn’t sudden. She’d been on hospice care.

We also weren’t close any more. She’d done more than distance herself from me over the past few years.

I think the saddest parts are when I think back to how close we were. When I think about how she helped take care of my daughters as infants, when I think of the phone conversations, how she helped me go to college, to Europe, to get my braces done, how I took care of her after her heart attacks or stroke, when we were best buddies, those are the times when I feel the loss.

But in the end, we weren’t. We weren’t best buddies. We were distant acquaintances. She knew nothing of my life and I nothing of hers.

I’m not going to kid myself and think her death will have no impact on me, but I think I may now be over the messy, guilt-ridden grief. I may now know how clean good grief feels.