3.5 Years After Mama Jolie Died – An Update

A few days ago, I received an email from a reader named J. who asked for advice on dealing with the death of a loved one and thanked me for the honest posts I wrote following my own mother’s death in December 2008. I still miss Mama Jolie very much, but luckily the sharp edges have faded: the loss is as much part of my life as my (dyed) blonde hair or my love of Pearl Jam, so its familiarity has diminished the sting.

When my mom died, I felt pretty good that first year – much, much better than you would imagine. There were some very dark times, but I also felt a renewed sense of purpose, a clarity about what I wanted to do with my life, and an appreciation for my family and friends. However, I eventually began to feel like people had forgotten about me, forgotten about my grief, forgotten to ask how I was, and as I passed the one year anniversary of her death, that feeling only intensified. It took me a couple of years to move through the darkness and get over the resentment, but luckily I’m fully on the other side now.

It can be tempting to take it personally when people don’t reach out to see how you are–particularly in those inevitable times when you feel angry, sad and alone–but it’s entirely possible they feel awkward and don’t know what to say. I had to remind myself: just because your friends aren’t reaching out doesn’t mean they’re not thinking of you. And, of course, everybody has their own issues to deal with and things to worry about, so while you’re missing your person, they might be wrestling with demons of their own. Patience and the benefit of the doubt work wonders.

Finally, I’m a huge advocate of therapy! (I see Dr. Helen Landon in Santa Monica and she’s great.) Talk it out, hug it out, cry it out, do what you need to do. Personally, I drank it out, though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that path! Assuming you’re open to it, however, life DOES go on, and it WILL get better.

Hugs and love,
Nadine

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7 Comments

  1. Laura

    I have to add to this, since my father died in May. Yes, it is true that one’s friends feel awkward and don’t know the right thing to say, or they feel like what happened to you could happen to them (it will, someday) so perhaps they stay away out of fear and ambivalence, not lack of affection. However, I find that excuse unacceptable. Of course it’s uncomfortable to watch somebody grieve, but it isn’t about you. Please reach out to your friends, even if it’s just a text or a Facebook message. I was very hurt when certain people avoided me after my father died.

  2. Great post. Its hard to be on the other side like you mentioned. As a friend you don’t really know what to say. If the person seems fine, you don’t want to bring something up that makes them feel worse. Glad you are happy once again!

  3. I lost my sweet mother to breast cancer. It is true what they say. Time heals all wounds. I still think about her and I still cry depending on the situation or memory. I read a lot of books about grief and motherless daugthers. It helped in the sense that it made me realize that my sadness was OK and normal.

  4. C

    Nadine,

    Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal experience in order to bring some light to others. I lost my mother just a few months ago and everything is still quite fresh and I find myself somewhere in the middle of your advice and what Laura said above. I know that it can be hard to reach out to a friend when they have suffered such a tremendous loss but a friend not reaching out can be so hurtful, even though that wasn’t what was intended. I called my closest friends when Mom passed and I made a post on Facebook about it. I felt like that was the simplest way to handle it since many of my FB friends live in other cities, not having a way to know otherwise. I got two ”I’m so sorry’ comments. Two. I’ve been the one they call with every breakup or life crisis yet they can’t type two words to me? No texts, no emails or calls from these people either. It’s a battle for me, trying to think maybe they just don’t know what to say, etc, or that they’re just so self-absorbed that they just skimmed my post and never said a thing. It’s been hurtful and I’m working to get past it but it’s hard. It will be interesting to see how far to the ‘other side’ of things that I move two, three years from now.

    I’m sorry for the losses mentioned and hope that we all continue to heal :)

  5. Laura, again

    C – thank you for your comment, and I’m so sorry for your loss and grief. I empathize with where you are.

  6. Laura, again

    and everyone else, too! Please accept my condolences for your losses, whether it was 10 years ago or yesterday.

  7. KC

    My dad passed 10 years ago last month, and honestly it doesn’t get easier to think about but it becomes part of your life. My mom and I met up on the anniversary and were just like, we have made it 10 years, because at the time it felt like time stood still and we were stuck in grieving mode. Luckily I met my now future husband (getting married in a month and don’t even get me started on how hard it is to not have my dad there for that, the dreams/nightmares alone my subconscious is giving me!!) and he was my support system. My old friends fell away since they were awkward, or I had changed too much for them. I made new friends in a new country (oh yeah I moved to a completely new country 2 months after he died clean slate I guess) who didn’t know my history and what had happened so it was tough.
    All in all I know I have grown into a person that I like and I attribute some of that to what I went through earlier on in life, and I know I wouldn’t be with my fiance or be in the situation I am in if my dad hadn’t died when I was 14. Every time I get sad, I cry, let myself continue grieving (I don’t think the grieving process really ends, it just gets easier to deal with) and try to remember all I can about him and remind myself of what I have now and what I have is pretty great. Can’t help but wish he was around to see it all…