Why March is Hard for Me

I wrote about this last year. I’m writing about it again this year because I can be moody, sad, and easily frustrated this month. March 30 will mark the third anniversary of my mom’s death. And, that’s only 19 days away. I’ll get through it, my moodiness will pass, but it still sucks.

It was hard right after she died because 5 days later my son turned 1. Turning 1 is a big deal, so it needed a celebration. On the heals of losing my mom. Party prep, the party – it was fun, but kind of a blur. I had been hoping, hoping, hoping my mom would recover enough to visit again and see him turn 1. That wasn’t to be. Maybe the saddest thing to me right now is that the two things can never be separated.

My mom was very sick with metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her bones – pretty much through her entire body. She struggled with painful bony growths and went through radiation to shrink them down so she could manage the pain. After the radiation treatments, she decided not to keep up the chemo drugs. It was her decision to make and she made it. I had begged my parents to move closer to me, but my mom was hell bent on living and dying in their house on a lovely lake. I did get them to come out and spend a little over 2 months with us in 2013 – November and December.

I’m going to pause right here. Anyone who gets breast cancer and then sees it go into remission needs to make sure their doctor is following up with all tests. ALL tests. My mom diligently went for her checkups and they NEVER found this bone cancer until it had spread all through her body. They only found the bone cancer because she took a fall and was in intense pain after. Grrrrrr.

While my parents were visiting, I watched my mom get on the floor to play with her grandson. I remember fretting over her health and whether it was a good idea for her to be on the floor at all. I was so focused on her physical issues, I wasn’t thinking about the mental part. That trip was her last chance to do things with him. To touch him, to feel him, to shower him with love. I get it now – she knew it was her last chance. I frequently tell my son how much his grandmother loved him, but I know he’ll never FEEL it. He was too young to remember. We only have pictures and stories.

This past November, we finally held my mom’s internment service. It took a long time because she was interned in a different state from where my parents had lived. It had been so long and yet it made it final for me. Like somehow it wasn’t before? I can’t exactly explain it. I spoke during my mom’s funeral service, but couldn’t bring myself to speak during the internment. It was freezing cold (literally) and yet I was warmed to see so many family members and friends come to give their final goodbyes.

My cousin gave a speech and it hit me that there are so many stories I don’t remember or never knew. Parts of my mom that are unknown to me. I’ve been thinking about that ever since… And, I just listened to a great podcast about the death of a parent. It’s called “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” and the episode is called “Semper Fi.” Nora McInerny’s dad had been in Vietnam and she talked to some of the men he served with to learn more about her father. What struck me was the angle. I really want to talk to more friends and family about my mom to hear stories – the ones I know and the ones I don’t to see what they saw. So I can preserve more of my mom’s memory. Maybe that will be my 2017 goal.

Thanks for reading. Stay happy and healthy!


Death and Grieving in the Digital World

Death, grieving, social media, smart phones… These things have been on my mind lately. On June 15, 2014, Father’s Day, I was on my way to family brunch with my dad, my father in law, my husband and son. On the way, we received a text message that a close friend had passed away. Our friend had been sick and in declining health, and we were on the “notify” short list. My friend’s husband had been texting close friends to keep us informed. The remainder of the drive was quiet and somber. My son was too young to understand why I was suddenly crying.

That day crosses my mind a lot. I miss my friend. And, I keep thinking back to that time and how quickly she had gone from doing ok to being stuck in a hospital bed at home and unable to speak. It struck me again today as I got a Facebook message telling me of another friend’s untimely passing. The message didn’t strike me as badly as it did another friend who thought it was horrible.

So, here we are… Once upon a time, a phone call would have been the only method, and not long ago, a phone call would have been the preferred method. I don’t have a strong opinion either way of notifying someone by text message. It’s fast, perhaps a little less painful than having to talk about it. But, I think it’s social media that causes me the most heartache (perhaps almost literally).

Once someone dies, their social media accounts live on. Facebook, for me, is the best example of this. I get birthday reminders, I see people posting on a deceased friend or family member’s wall… Sometimes, it brings good memories. Sometimes, it brings back grief and sadness.

I’ve always viewed grieving as personal and used to find it jarring to see the Facebook posts. I mean, you are sharing with a lot of people – assuming that person’s friends. Maybe even friends of friends. Maybe it’s public. In a way, it feels like I should look away. I shouldn’t be partaking in someone else’s pain. But, then, it occurs to me that it was intended to be shared grief. That can be cathartic in and of itself.

I recently read a post by Umair Haque about pain and the myth of positivity. I liked the message. When you have pain, you need to acknowledge it. You need to understand it. You can’t push it down… It won’t go away by magic. Your pain can be transformative. It can change your perspective and make you a different person. “Don’t try to stop your pain. Your pain makes you you.”¬†While this may feel tangential, it goes back to the pain of grief, the pain of missing someone. Pay attention to your needs. Grieve in a way that is meaningful to you. Let your pain help you become better and stronger.

For today, I’m still in shock. My friend died 2 days ago. I can’t imagine what her family is going though. I can’t imagine what her 2 young sons are going through. And, at some point, Facebook will remind me of this and I’ll go with it.

Stay healthy!