My friend Janet once told me that parents raise their children to be independent and, therefore, they won’t get along all the time. I always thought of this in the years that my mom and I lived under one roof following my divorce in 2011.
I had a house in my hometown in Illinois and we had moved her there the previous year when she sold the family home. I joined her when my marriage ended. And when I had an opportunity to return to New Mexico in 2013, the place that had truly become my home, she wanted to come with me, leaving behind the only state she had ever lived in.
It wasn’t easy most of the time. We were two vastly different people. I move quickly and I have a long list I like to complete each day. I also work from home.
Mom didn’t leave the house for weeks at a time. I often joked she was more likely to go to the airport than the grocery store. I was clear with her that I wanted her to have a life, to do things, to talk to people, but the only social interaction she had was when I had dinner parties or people over to enjoy my swimming pool.
And when she died suddenly a week ago, while visiting my brother in Illinois, I was shattered. I thought we’d have more time together. While she had found out recently she had high blood pressure, she had begun to make changes in her life. She told me, “It’s the period to the end of the sentence” to get her to actually do something about her deteriorating lifestyle.
Instead, I am left here to reconcile what had once been a close relationship but had disintegrated over the past few years.
I have more knowledge about grief than many people. That can work for and against me. I have some idea of the road ahead, especially as she is the third immediate family member in my life to die and, well, she was my mom.
But I must travel this road without having reconciled the difficulty that had wedged between us.
However, what I do know is that my mom is happy now. While I might be looking around my house at her things thinking about what happened, she is with all her loved ones (human, canine, gerbil and bird) that passed before her. She is at peace from the emotional and physical pain.
The reality is that I don’t need to be upset. Her earthly life doesn’t matter in the sense of the pain she experienced here, because she is finally free. It’s up to me to let go of the energy I feel the need to put toward what was, because it no longer is.
I can’t change the past, but I can be happy for her in the present and future for where she is now.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D. has spent two decades educating people worldwide about coping with loss and change, and has served as president of the American Association of Suicidology. Her first book following her sister's death,Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She recently published her eighth book, Conversations with the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope, chronicling her grief journey as she moves forward beyond the suicide and loss field. Learn more about Michelle atwww.inspirebymichelle.com.
Image courtesy of Michelle Linn-Gust