Losing your mother can be gut-wrenching, so how does one cope?

Subhasish Das

The strongest, the purest and the most selfless relationship we have during the entire course of our lifespan is with our mother. She is the universe from whose substance we were formed.

The true unsung warrior in our lives who endures excruciating pain during parturition, spends numerous sleepless nights feeding us, takes care of us when we’re indisposed, she not only provides physical, emotional and psychological support till she’s around, but also offers a financial crutch to her children and family, whenever needed.

She is our first teacher who instills values in us, shapes our character, molds our conscience, builds our personality, driving us from infancy till the person we eventually become.

True to her nature, every mother is a multitasking champion who also plays additional roles of daughter, sister, spouse, daughter-in-law, grandparent etc. and dazzles in each of them.

She’s that indispensable glue that binds the whole family together, the nucleus around which it revolves and functions effectively.

A mother is also one who’s always taken for granted and never gets her dues, whose wishes often get sidelined, aspirations ignored, desires trampled, expectations unfulfilled, suggestions snubbed.

Yet, a smile never deserts her face, nor does ardour ever ditch her, as if she’s accustomed to accept disappointments as a way of life.

Losing a member in the family is perhaps the most difficult phase in one’s life. The loss and the pain associated with it can only be felt by the family members whose lives get upended while the rest of the world carries on ‘business as usual’.

The pain and grief can be unbearable when that person is none other than your life-giver, your mother. The loss happens in a moment, its aftermath lasts a lifetime. If you haven’t lost your mother, you can’t truly gauge the dark abyss of distress one plunges into.

The pain is paralyzing and hits you at random moments. One moment you might be okay and the very next minute you could be sobbing inconsolably.

I lost my mother a few days back to the dreaded stage IV pancreatic cancer. Like a true warrior, she fought valiantly till her last breath but succumbed to the progressing disease, as it eventually overwhelmed her.

It was detected precisely ten months back and the doctors confirmed she didn’t have much time, perhaps a year at best.

Every event/festivity ever since gave a brutal reminder that this was the last time she was accompanying us. For the family members, the intervening period from detection till she passed away was filled with shock, disbelief, fear, anxiety, anger, depression, helplessness, each emotion playing a mental game, leaving an indelible scar behind that would perhaps take years to heal completely.

That she had about a year’s time to live, did give us some time to spend with her, take her to places she wanted to go, listen to her stories, do things together she liked, cook her favorite meal etc.

It also engulfed us with a flawed belief that we’re getting better prepared to face the eventuality. When the moment of truth came, however, we realized it’s never possible to prepare for the death of a close one, more so of your mother.

In the first two weeks after death, life seemed to be moving on a ‘fast-forward mode’. You barely have time to grieve as planning for the ensuing rituals, connecting with relatives, consoling family members and taking care of other essential tasks occupy most of your time.

It’s only later when the people start leaving and you return to normal life, you realize how the absence of a person has altered the course and the meaning of your life for good.

Your mind gets inundated with the thoughts of how she sacrificed her everything just to see you happy without ever wanting anything in return. The guilt of having failed umpteenth times to tell her how much you loved and cared for her shall haunt you for the rest of your life.

The death of a parent catapults us to a world we had thought about but could never really prepare ourselves for. We are suddenly traversing new territory, feeling vulnerable as if the ground underneath has been pulled out.

Figuratively, it really has been, but life needs to be lived and not merely spent. At some point, you’d have to find reasons to get on with it and smile again.

After all, losing your mother is a fact of life that each one of us must experience someday. I am not too sure if the old saying ‘time heals all wounds’ is entirely true because I don’t know if the heartache of losing your mother is ever healed. The pain, albeit, gets more bearable over time.

Remarkably, as we hobble through grief, healing brings us closer to the person we loved. A new relationship emerges. We learn to live with the parent we lost.

However, the truth that I watched her take the last breath, just as she watched me take the first, shall forever remain with me and be a source of both anguish as well as contentment for the rest of my life.

The author works in an IT company that specializes in data management and is an occasional writer.

Views are personal.

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