Posted by: Maureen | 2012/11/13

When is this pain going to go away?

Dear doc, my 80-year old mother passed away in January this year, and I simply cannot get to terms with it. My friends and family tell my that my mother reached " a ripe old age"  and had a long happy life, and would not have lived for ever, etc etc, and then I feel as if something is wrong with me that I mourn her so much. We did not have a good relationship in my teenage years, but became very close later on, and especially so when I became a mother. Sometimes I miss her so much that it feels like physical pain. She had Alzheimers towards the end, and I thought I was prepared for her death, and was therefore not prepared for the terrible loss and pain I''m feeling. Please help.

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Our expert says:
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Grief is really hard work, if one had any genuine relationship with the person we lost. It takes at least 9 months, and often more. And unfortunately, many of the prosaic, well-meaning things other people say to us only make it worse. There is nothing wrong with you for mourning so much, though if it is lasting a bit long and to the point of interfering with your ability to enjoy life, work and other relationships, seeing a counsellor experienced in helping with grief, could be very useful.
Where a relationship was at one time ambivalent or difficult, actually often makes it more difficult to work through one's gries. Alzheimers can be an especially ugly and tragic way for someone to die - unpleasant for the person left behind ; mercifully, it is probably that the person themselves is broadly unaware of their downhill course, and it might be a more peaceful way for them, which is what one might wish for them - but still difficult for us.
Unfortunately it is too easy to feel inappropriately guilty ; even if there was actually nothing we might have done to help more, we wish there was, and regret not having managed to do the impossible. Don't go through this alone ; share this with other family and friends to the degree that they are willing to be supportive, and do share it with a counsellor to help you move through the grtief rather than getting stuck in it.
The aim is not, of course, to ever forget the person we loved, but to move through grief sop you can remember them with fondness and joy rather than with pain and regret. Move to being able to celebrate all that they were, not only focussing on the fact that they are not physically with you at this time.

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