It feels like a lot of my friends have lost one or both parents in the past year. Whatever age we are when we lose our parents, I think it is hard. Are we ever “ready”? Even if our parent has been poorly for a long time, or we have been caring for them when they don’t remember us, a part of us still finds the transition to being without them difficult.
A lady in her eighties commented to me that she hadn’t been “ready” when her mum died at the age she is now. They had been told she had 3 months – she surprised them by leaving this world far more quickly than that. I can quite see how it can still be a major loss if your parent dies when you are in your sixties. Your mum is still your mum, no matter how old you are.
Still your parents
This will be the 26th Christmas without my Mam. I have a wonderful father and a fantastic step-mum. She makes Christmas for us special, and asks us what we used to do so that she can follow our family’s traditions. My little boy is confident that Grandma Liz will welcome him into the spiritual world when he dies, and that they will know each other, even though they have never met.
I can’t be sure I think about my Mam every day any more. There was a time, not so long ago, that I knew I did. I’ve been reflecting on something that happened to me a short while after she died, and wondering whether I would have talked to her about it then. I wasn’t one of those teenagers who shared everything with my Mam, but I think this might have been one of them. I don’t usually mourn her loss at Christmas these days, but it’s coming on thick and strong this year.
“You don’t get over losing them, you just get used to missing them.” I heard this said on a soap opera in the 1990s, and it feels so true. My Mam said to me that she was sorry she wouldn’t be there for my children’s births and to help me when they were little. I believe I am fortunate that we knew she was dying as otherwise we might not have been able to have these conversations.
As adult children, we also don’t want our parents to be alone at Christmas. It’s the second year without my father-in-law, and we are taking my mother-in-law to be with my family, whether she likes it or not. A friend who was recently bereaved said he would have been “fine” at home on his own, but his children won’t allow that to happen. Do we find the thought of our parent being alone harder than they do themselves?
My strategies this Christmas: tell my family I love them. Treat this Christmas as if I knew it to be the last. Make the most of the time we have together, whether I am enjoying it all or not. Remind myself that the people I love are still with me in my heart, even if they can’t be there in person. They are probably closer than I realise.
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