Tag Archives: Mourning

I’m back

Our family gathering in Berlin

After an intense period getting used to being pregnant, passing the anniversary of my mothers death, witnessing my fathers wedding, I have the head space to start writing again.

We have been very busy preparing our home to receive another child, making sure DS will have his own space. Building an outside play house, making toys, preparing to bring rabbits into our yard, preparing to change our spare room into a play room, making our master bedroom (all 9 square meters of it) into one giant bed for the family and generally just investing in our home space.

Passing the first anniversary of my mothers death was an enormously important date for me. I feel like a different person and have the motivation and determination to get back to building the life I want.

I can’t wait to bring this blog up to date with all that we have been busy making and doing, as well as DS’s potty learning and how smoothly it has been going so far.


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And life moves forward

I miss her

have slowly been getting used to the idea that my mother is no longer with me. I have been fretting about our second child (still to be conceived) and worrying about how I will handle a new born together with DS and alone, without my mother. Our plan had been for her to come out for a period of time after the birth. I had hoped that it would be up to 3 months, but we had not spoken on the duration of the time.

So, I need to do this without her.

Add to that, my father has met a woman. A woman who makes him so happy, I can just hear the happiness bubbling out of his throat.

This woman sounds very special, and certainly worthy (!) of my fathers love.

I had imagined him finding a different partner at some time. In my fantasy, it would be a woman for him to go travelling the world, to see theatre, movies and concerts. To share the good life he was supposed to be able to share with my mother in their older years.

This woman is herself a mother to young girls (12 and 14, I think). She is 8 years older than me and significantly younger than my father. Which I don’t really have a problem with, her being younger. It’s more that it means she is in a different stage of her life from my father and by being with her, he becomes part of another family raising children. I am very confused about him becoming a part of a totally different family. I feel like I will loose him. And I feel like I am loosing any semblance of my family life that was left after my mother died.

My brother assures me that dad is much happier and has come back to life, so to speak. He was just going through the motions and not finding much point to life. So, for that, this new woman certainly has an important role to play in my fathers happiness.

Her and I are in touch via email. And she is amazingly open and honest with me, and I really do feel like there is a wonderful potential not only in her relationship with my father, but also with me.

Just right now, knowing that she and her girls are away in the mountains with my father, as both ‘sides’ get to know each other hiking, braaing (BBQ) and lounging in the pool makes me accutely unhappy. I do not know if I am ready to let go of the image of our family together as it was when my mother was alive. I do not think I have even fully accepted that my mother is dead. And now I am being forced to.

My parents honoured each other for 34 years and kept their fidelity. While that is not being threatened just yet, it is so hard for me to think of the family unit that I grew up with falling apart. It is just my memory of it for now, but that is shaken knowing that in the future, my father will no doubt join his life with this woman’s. And a new family dynamic will start.

And together in all of this, is my deeper questioning of my relationship with my mother. My trying to fathom who she was as a person. And in some ways being intensly angry at her for dying and leaving us with such a gaping hole.

Our last hike together up behind my parents home

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Living away from family

My father too has been missing my mother intensly and we have shared how different music is so evocative. Over the phone.

I miss him terribly and feel the pain of our distance so accutely. And I wish it were not so.

I live in fear of hearing of my fathers death and us never having shared quality time together, with him in his role as grandfather. I dread this.

To that end I keep trying to figure out a way to make it work so that we are all together, and everyone is happy and has what they need. But it just can’t be like that. There is no perfect solution. Right now it is not viable for us to be in South Africa, it is not viable for him to be here. We can visit each other. And this wrenches my heart like little esle. I have to make peace with the fact that my life is far away from my family. It is not like I would have chosen *not* to marry my husband if I had known that my mother would die when she did and I would not be able to be with my father. I am happily married and love my husband deeply. I cannot imagine having given up on our relationship so that I could be close to my family. And we started out life together in Israel, not South Africa. That is just the reality of it.

Anyway, I am tyring to find a way to be at peace with not being near my father at this time. I know there is nothing we can do for each other, other than be together and share meals, music and walks together. Just be together. And for now, my best contact is the phone. We have not skyped since the day before my mother died. The last time I chatted with her and that we chatted as a family.

While I would never want to give up on having met my husband and marrying him, it would be much simpler if I have fallen in love with a local boy and lived in driving distance of my family. Although, the local boys really were not all that enticing. DH really is a gem.

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I put on some old Crosby Stills and Nash this morning and was taken back to my mum through the song Teach Your Children. I sang it at school and also sang it at home with my dad on the guitar and me and my mum singing together.

The moment my father told me my mother had died is so starkly imprinted in my mind. My world stopped spinning for that moment. It just stopped.

I am still trying to make sense of this reality – that my mother is no longer in this world and that I no longer have that base of support. I recently received some photos from my dad (included in this post), and I just broke down. I was crying for the missed opportunities and the unmet potential. As I cried I knew that it was pointless. She is gone. And what about celebrating her life instead of being miserable about all that was not perfect. The photo that actually was unbearably painful for me was this one. It looks so perfect. A part of me wants to believe there were moments of perfection. But I also know it wasn’t all that perfect.

My family outside our home on a biodynamic farm - a moment caught unaware


I have been thinking a fair amount about my relationship with my mother and the pain that that memory evokes.

We never really got to know each other. We never really understood each other. And she still remains elusive to me.

I have also been thinking a fair amount about therapy and why I am happy to be giving it a break.

I had the feeling like my therapist was interested in helping me understand how the important relationships in my life helped mould my experience of myself and my life. And when I was able to see my mother through critical eyes, I had the feeling like my therapist felt he had done his job. My mother was no longer a mythical figure in my life.

And yet, I have been feeling in this time of mourning that his job was not done. He could have taken it a step further, towards encouraging me to find the tools to take what I had learned about my mothers shortcoming and weave that into a compassionate attempt to heal the rifts. This was ultimately my responsibility, and I missed the opportunity. And that hurts. Some want to comfort me by telling me that our relationship is not lost and that I can indeed work towards that healing even though my mother has died. I do not see how this can be. I wish it were so, but it eludes me.

And this all ties up with my IL’s too. I have to have some sort of relationship with them. And more importantly, I want my DH to heal any rifts or hurts that he carries with him. That is after all such a huge part of life – being at peace with life and the people in your life. So when I rant and rage about how completley inappropriate my IL’s are, I know that I need to be somehow taking it a step further….

My mother with me in 1977

Mum, I miss you and our potenital so very much. I hurt that we can never go out for another tea at our favorite cafe next to the sea in Kalk Bay – that we can never share what it means to be Mother – never know each other as a person. I still need you.

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A little more on death and mourning

I am still functioning as a mother and my son continues to grow and blossom. I will get back to writing more about him and my mothering.

However, a friend of mine lost her husband to cancer a week ago. In the Jewish tradition, spouses, siblings and parents sit Siv’ah, a week of their community paying respects and supporting the family. Today was the last day of the Shiv’ah, and I was finally able to get out (we have had more than a week of a nasty stomach bug here at my home) and spend some time with her.

In 11 months she lost her husband.

And we shared some of what it means to love and loose someone, whether it is expected or unexpected. What you feel, what you experience.

I can still hardly get my head around my mothers death, it also seems so unreal that my friend is now mourning her husband. It really really just boggles my mind.

And yet, from our conversation, the huge importance of being able to live your life in a true way, expressing yourself freely – not living up to the expectations of others. Knowing who you are and being true to that. These are the things that seem to matter when you consider no longer being alive. And being grateful for what you do have.

Make good use of your life. Celebrate your life.

And yet, a part of me knows that it is useless to write these words. I think people already know this and written words aren’t going to make it new, or they don’t know it, and written words won’t make a difference. The intensity and passion with which you live your life is important. Your life is unique, special and valuable. Do not waste it. I had no honest grasp of this until my mother died.

I was speaking with my friend about my poor frustration tolerance and loosing my temper at things like something falling off the roof of the car when I have balanced it there while I put my son in his carseat. It is just too much for me to handle sometimes. My friend was surprised that I would be so frustrated. I guess it seemed out of sink with an attitude of living life with passion and being grateful for things that comfort me.

And yet I feel both. I do not have the energy to deal with small mishaps. I need things to go according to plan right now. I do not have the emotional reserves to deal with the unexpected. And at the same time I feel an urge to live my life fully and honestly.

To close off today on the rather disjointed entry, I am thinking of finding a way to express my mourning and grieving in a way that makes it real for me. I am still searching for the reality in what has happened and feel I need to connect. I am thinking of covering my hair for a period of time, as a way to honour my memory of my mother and not let her death be swallowed up in the continuity of life just yet. I’ll get there. In the Jewish tradition, children mourn their parents for a full year. I think there is wisdom in that.

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A brief note on mourning

I am not fighting the mourning process, and like birth, it is such a huge and life changing event that it takes time to get your head around it and make sense of it.

I still feel numb or devastated when I think of my mother and the fact that she is no longer here with us – but I am also starting to feel a little bit alive – a little bit at peace. This morning my son woke up and snuggled his cheek to mine and I felt a moment of happiness. This after some nights where I was going crazy with the invasion of my privacy by a needy toddler looking for some midnight comfort. I am glad I did not decide to night wean in a moment of desperation.  Although I realise this option is still on the table if that is what I need. I see no benefit to suffering through breastfeeding if that becomes an all too frequent occurance at night.

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On the Death of my Mother

Photo credit :http://www.norwalkhosp.org

29 days ago my mother died suddenly. She died during an asthma attack, but from her heart stopping, not from lack of breath. In the last 5-6 years she had been able to manage her asthma with diet, supplements and lifestyle. Only in the last 6 or so weeks of her life did she start to struggle again, to the point that she needed her nebulizer after years of it being stored away. The night before she died she was watching her favorite drama at the theater, The Mysteries put on by a South African director, his name eludes me. The day before she died she booked her ticket with my father for a post retirement trip to Zanzibar. Me and her also compared our knitting projects over skype. It was such an ordinary chat – nothing to prepare me for the phone call from my father the next morning to tell me that my mother had just died.

In many ways my deepest fear has been the loss of a parent. I just could not fathom managing that. My heart has always gone out to friends and aquaintances who have lost a parent/sibling, and I have never known what to say or do. It just seems to be such a huge injustice and I cannot fathom ever getting over such a loss.

Now I am on the other side. I have lost my mother. And while our relationship was far from perfect – it is still a mind boggling, numbing experience to loose your mother.

Now I know what to do when someone looses a loved one. Just acknowledge the death. Be there in an open way. If the recently bereaved want to talk they will, if not they won’t. Don’t push or deny or try and make it all better with some profound utterance of spiritual or philosophical magnitude. Of all the responses I have had around me, the most supportive have been an acknowledgement with an offer to help and a willingness to do whatever it is that is needed in that moment. No one can make it better or make the pain go away. But an acknowledgment goes a long way. The most distressing responses have been profoundly ‘stupid’ condolences about the order of life and heaven an profoundly happy experiences of death and dying.  But that is me. A sincere open ness to life beyond death is certainly not out of the question, but I dislike the platitudes.

I learnt so much about my mother as a person. I had always wanted to know more of who she was as a person, as that has eluded me. She was my imperfect mother.

I learned to see her through the eyes of her many friends and colleagues. I saw how profoundly important she was to so many people. I saw a beauty in her life story that has eluded me until this moment of gathering memories in a tribute to her life.

There are two things that I am deeply grateful for. One, is that my mother died at home with my father there. There was a flurry of activity to resuscitate her when the ambulance arrived after my father had tried to save her for 20 minutes. But beyond that brief interlude, my mother was surrounded by the people who loved her. Her husband and a bit later her son (my brother). The woman who came to prepare her for her coffin was a close friend and her piano teacher. At all times she was treated with dignity in her death. That comforts me. It makes me think of homebirthing, and what a blessing is must be to die at home. What a gentle way to go, just as it is a gentle way to arrive. I also found myself wondering who cares for her on the other side. As I received my DS I took on the responsibility for caring for him and helping him make sense of this world. I wonder who plays that role for my mother as she enters into a new experience.

The second thing that I am grateful for is just what a profound experience of love my mother experienced in her life. My father loved her so completely and so wholeheartedly. It makes it easier for me to think of her life when I know how deeply she was loved. It also eases my pain to know that she had time with her grandson. She wanted so badly to be a grandmother, and she did have the experience. At the same time I am heartbroken for my father, for his loss. What an experience to loose your dearly beloved life partner.

I think my deepest regret is that me and my mother never learnt to communicate in a healthy open way. My father shared with me that my mother felt this lack in her life too, and was opening to the idea of working on our communication and touching her sensitive spots in an effort to heal our relationship. That is beyond huge for my mother, and gladdened me. It eases the pain of the imperfections in our relationship.

The hardest thing for me is the loss of my family. I still have my brother and my father – but my family unit is now fragmented. My mother glued us together. We are still a family unit, but our loss is very real. I can only guess that with time it will heal and we will rebuild a new and different family dynamic.

My mother never knew what it was to loose a mother. My maternal grandmother is still alive at 91. My mother died at 62.


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