Coping with Loss/Death and moving on

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Question
My beau and I are 42, his mother is being placed in hospice care in her home. I have never met her - she lives near Arkansas and me along with my young children live in Boston. (too expensive for all to travel and I have no family here) She is unfortunately in her last days and he is realizing this. I have expressed to him that I'll be there for him in whatever aspect he sees fit. But when the day comes, I really have no idea what to say or do to help him move on. He's given up everything to care for her (no job - apartment) and I'm thankful that I have someone in my life like that.
I lost my father in 1998 but that's very different from losing your mom. I love him and want to spend the remainder of our lives together, but I need to know how to help him and what to say when he calls me to give me the word of her death.
I'm not verbal and things of this sort gets me very emotional.
Please help

Answer
Hi Marilyn,

I'm so very sorry to hear about your beau's mother.  So many people make these big transitions, like giving up job and apartment, to give their parent's the best possible care at the end of life.  Your family is not alone in this -- your beau is not alone.  

One thing you can do is just give him as much time as possible.  Be as present in each moment with him as you can.  The impatient world will tell him, implicitly or explicitly, that when the funeral rituals are over, it is over and time to move on.  But the reality is that he has loved his mother his whole life...it took years or months or however long it took for him to unwind his life to be her primary care giver...he needs time to reconnect to the world at large.  To realize that though his physical relationship with her is over because she is dead, his love has not died.  He'll need time to figure out how to redirect that love, time, money, energy that he was giving her, into something else.  He'll need to figure how how he wants to remember her into his life after death...how will he share the stories of her, the photos, the values and gifts she leaves as a legacy for him -- and next generations.  Though death comes for us all eventually, that doesn't mean we get erased from the family tree.

It just takes more time -- and yes, more emotional vulnerability -- than the "world at large" wants to give.  So if you can be the one space to give him that -- and to help him find other resources to support him -- well, that will be such a gift.  There are a few resources I can point you toward as starting points for you as well as for your beau... take what makes sense and leave what doesn't:

The Centering Corporation has many wonderful books and even host a whole section of materials for adult grief after the death of a parent -

http://www.centering.org/index.php?page=book&id=85

Susan Reynold's has a wonderful book out called "Room for Change" which was about how she approached the physical space of her home after her husband died.  I don't know if your beau will continue living in the house where he is with his mother now, but if so, this kind of resource can be helpful for exploring how to look at your physical space after a death has  happened.  Susan's ideas are shared in this great video which is an intro to the book:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdSR0wJ6vj8

Even Oprah magazine has included articles about "When a Parent Dies" from the perspective of adult children:

http://www.oprah.com/spirit/When-a-Parent-Dies-Dealing-with-the-Death-of-a-Paren

An article about exploring our ideas about "how much time it *should* take" to mourn vs. what the reality can be for some:

http://www.stephaniebaffone.com/2010/08/when-an-adult-childs-parent-dies-how-lon

You might also explore your own local hospice and funeral homes for information.  Many of those spaces will host things like grief support groups or have free materials, like books, they can offer.  

I think the key to offering our support though, really, the bottom line:  be present.

Allow your beau to have his experience -- whatever that is, however long that takes, and just be present with him.  Avoid imposing the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" stuff on the situation.  So anything you read, see, hear that imposes "rules" or timelines that don't match his experience -- don't tell him he "should" be doing it differently.  Understand that materials are generalized.  His experience will be his own, uniquely his own.  The only "big book of grief rules" that exist are the rule we impose on ourselves or allow others to impose on us.  Give yourselves permission to know that the rules are really just opinions.  Be gentle with yourselves.  Give it lots of time and love.

I hope this is a helpful start. Feel free to write back with follow up questions if you like.
Miracles to you,
k-  

Coping with Loss

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Kara L.C. Jones

Expertise

My specialty is using creativity to address grief, loss, and death issues. Creativity is not necessarily about being an artist, but rather about being willing to let go what we think we know and get a different perspective using creative tools such as writing, drawing, body mapping, painting, smashing, wrecking, mosaic, heART journal,and many other techniques. I can answer questions about how to have permission to grieve in your own way, how to become your own best advocate as you learn to live life again, how to approach a creative way of being even when you think you are not creative. Afterall, it takes a lot of creativity to find reasons to get out of bed the day after someone you love has died. I am glad to answer any questions about how to embrace that creative approach when we otherwise feel totally tapped out by the grief experience.

Experience

For 14 years, I've been studying grief and creativity specifically and have been part of bringing the emerging field of grief and creativity to the fore in our world. I worked for a decade with the MISS Foundation offering support to families around the world who are enduring the death of a child due to any cause from miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, accident, disease, suicide, whatever the case. I also co-founded The Creative Grief Studio with Cath Duncan from Remembering For Good as a brand new vision on the training, accountability, and development of the Grief Coaching and helping professionals fields. And probably most important, I've endured the death of three of my own sons and am always learning to live creatively with that reality. For more information, see: http://www.motherhenna.com/about.htm

Organizations
The Creative Grief Studio, Grief & Creativity groups on both LinkedIn and G+

Publications
See: http://www.motherhenna.com/seen.htm

Education/Credentials
Graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Three-year Mentorship with Fred Rogers and Hedda Sharapan of FCI producers of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, Certified Reiki Master-Teacher, Certified Whole Systems and AI Coach (key model being The Hero's Journey)

Past/Present Clients
Confidentiality and a sense of ethics will not allow me to share private client information ever! If you are interested in testimonials from people who have worked with me and given full permission for me to share their experiences, please see: http://www.motherhenna.com/grief.htm

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