A New Aspect to Dealing with Death….Learning to Live Without

A reflection as I am deep into the Christmas season on one of the challenges I am dealing with as I struggle to accept my Mom’s death. Learning to live without, and dealing with new firsts. The holidays is making that a reality. I also reflect on how evangelicalism deals with mourning vs. Roman Catholicism. 

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.

Vicki Harrison 

“Grief is the price we pay for love.”

Queen Elizabeth II 

Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4 NIV

My Mom (second from the right) in nursing school at DePaul University in Chicago in the 1950’s  

As I enter the Christmas season and will be traveling in a week, this is a post that has been hanging around in the back of my mind. As I grieve my Mom’s death there are many things that I am learning that make the mourning process hard. There are a couple of other articles I wrote about death and loss. You can read those in “What I Learned About Life From My Mom’s Illness and Death” and “In Dealing with My Mom’s Death, Amidst the Chaos of Modern Evangelicalism A Question: Where Will My Funeral Be One Day?


New Firsts…

With my Mom’s loss I am slowly realizing and dealing with many new experiences in life. None of them I want, and actually if I could I would turn back. I have been realizing and dealing with many new firsts. These are some of them.

  1. Thanksgiving without Mom. 
  2. Not having my Mom’s cooked meals anymore. 
  3. My sister cooking a meal and taking the lead. 
  4. My sister stepping into the role of my Mom. 
  5. Having responsibilities change as I help the family as well. 
  6. My sister taking the car into service instead of Mom. 
  7. My sister doing the laundry instead of Mom. 
  8. Doing errands and stepping up when I was at home for Thanksgiving.
  9. Asking for a table of 4 instead of 5. 
  10. I still catch myself waiting for my Mom’s reaction or to say something in a conversation and then realize that won’t happen. 

Having all these new firsts is deeply uncomfortable. Its becoming a new normal but part of me is fighting that as I don’t want to accept that normal. All these new firsts really reveal to me the role and pillar my Mom was in my family. Even though I am in Washington, D.C. I can still encounter and deal with this new firsts. I am still working through and processing all this, but its something that I am realizing. 


Realizing the Growing Void 

There is another aspect I am realizing as well. Its the void of my Mom. Life gets harder and harder as you move forward. How do you live your life with the key person that was in it for 40 years being gone? I had much more peace with my grandmother’s death then my Mom’s. But as time passes I am realizing how much my Mom was key to my life. News happens and I reach for my phone and I can’t call Mom anymore. I can’t tell her about changes or developments in life. When a warranty covered a major repair that was over $500.00 I couldn’t tell my Mom about it like I would have done. The enormity of the loss is hitting me more as time passes. I am realizing what a tragedy it is when a person loses a parent. A family is going to be deeply impacted and affected by the situation. My family had to choose a headstone. I was the one dragging my feet on the situation. I delayed, deferred and more and avoided the topic. I did not want to deal with the situation. This past Thanksgiving I capitulated because my Dad wanted to get it done. When I was out in Fresno I spent sometime in the cemetery. I laid down on the ground and tried to hug the ground. It was the closest I could do to give my Mom a hug. 


Regarding Cemetery Upkeep and Driving By 

There is another development that is becoming especially sensitive to me. My grandmother spoke about it when I was young but I didn’t understand it until now. I find myself to be especially sensitive about how cemeteries are kept, and maintained. In the cemetery my Mom is buried in, one of the friends of the family is buried nearby. The neighborhood and loved ones will be together in death, as they were in life. When I go to the cemetery I find myself paying close attention to the grass and how it is kept and more. Its a very personal issue. The other thing that also happens is that wherever I am at..California, Virginia, Maryland, or Pennsylvania when I drive by a cemetery it gives me pause. I find myself thinking of my Mom. I also realize how each person who is buried there is someone’s father, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, etc…  Each person is valuable and even in death someone, somewhere is grieving the loss. That makes this so personal in so many ways. Everyone is going to have to deal with this situation. 


How Evangelicals Deal with Mourning vs. Roman Catholics

There is another aspect that I am realizing as well. Having grown up Catholic and having my family be Catholic as well as seeing evangelicalism I am seeing how two different movements react to death and loss. Evangelicalism can be rather cheap and shoddy and doesn’t allow one to grieve. The situation or feeling I get is “get over it and move on.” How can a movement be so cheap about such a life altering form of grief? How can they pass on and move on so quickly? In some of the evangelical churches I know they really don’t even do funerals. In contrast in Catholicism they have held a special mass for my Mom’s memory. The Catholic church my family attends had a special service for all those who lost a loved one. Each name was read and they sang some songs and listened to a couple of songs about death. The one my sister told me about is below. The Catholic hospital St. Agnes in Fresno held a special memorial service for all the people who died this past year. My Mom’s name was on the list. Then there is the funeral home which held a special remembrance service that allowed people to grieve and remember. They also offered tips and talked with people about how to get through the holiday season. But when I think of how the two faith traditions respond to death, grief and loss; well the evangelicals don’t come close. 


One thought on “A New Aspect to Dealing with Death….Learning to Live Without

  1. I think my own faith has allowed me to grieve intensely, but also to ask God ‘not to leave me’ in my sadness, so I have the sadness and the tears, but I don’t feel ‘alone’. I feel supported. I feel cared for.
    I do not know how it is for someone who is not Catholic, but I suspect Jewish people understand grief in a way that resonates with me. To sit quiet next to someone who is very, very sad. Not to speak empty words, but just to be ‘present’ to them. That is something I can relate to, yes.

    I’m sorry you’ve lost your mother, Eagle. The sadness doesn’t ever leave you completely, but after a time, the feeling of sadness seems more to be a recognition that you loved your mother dearly, and the idea of love begins to grow stronger than the feelings of loss . . . . I think grief evolves . . . .

    being Catholic, I can pray for the dead, and can also feel closer to them through the Body of Christ in that they have gone ahead, but they are not ‘separated’ from the rest of us completely, no. So I think it must be different for evangelical people in some important ways of how losing a loved one is faced and dealt with. No matter what religion, the sadness changes us and deepens us as human persons. It is a hard learning. But not without comfort if we ask God to help us. I think it is okay for an evangelical to light a candle in a Catholic church to remember a loved one who has gone on . . . something very comforting about this simple action, at least for me.
    So sorry for your loss, Eagle . . . this Season is a difficult time for people who grieve, yes. I will pray for you.

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