Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grief

My mom just sent me this e-mail today, which I just now read, about her recent trip to Germany to bury her sister Barbel. I only met Tante Barbel three times, when I was 4, and 12, and 18. I can't explain how nice she was, not just on the surface, but the kind look in her eyes, and how kindly she treated everyone, how at-home she seemed to be in the world, even after the tragedy of her husband's suicide and her only daughter's early death. When I was around her, she had many close friends, she radiated peacefulness and kindness. And then now I read this, my mom's report:

"She died as she had lived these past ten years - alone. I did not realize the full extent of her depression until I read her notes (a diary, of sorts). When we had talked in the past, she would always emphasize how content she was living by herself and being independent. And I believed her. I was aware of the physical pain, but unaware of the extent of her mental suffering. She never opened herself up to anyone."

My heart is just broken for her, just broken in general. I can't stop crying............

Here's more of my mom's e-mail after coming back from Germany yesterday:

"My journey to the homeland was a hellish experience. Well, what else can one expect when the last link to one's past has died? I was totally overwhelmed by everything - the sad death, the burial preparations, the bureaucracy.... A three-week nightmare. Tante Baerbel apparently died in her sleep, but was not found until three days later. In a heated house. Due to decomposition having set in, I was unable to see her one last time. She died as she had lived these past ten years - alone. I did not realize the full extent of her depression until I read her notes (a diary, of sorts). When we had talked in the past, she would always emphasize how content she was living by herself and being independent. And I believed her. I was aware of the physical pain, but unaware of the extent of her mental suffering. She never opened herself up to anyone.

The funeral home assisted me in arranging a small memorial service with a wonderful speaker, who brought almost everyone to tears. Afterwards a small catered get-together for friends and family at the house. A few days later burying of the urn in pouring rain at the cemetery - with only me and the professional bereavement speaker present. And that's it. 82 years gone, 51 in the same house. Furniture being sold, photos in the dumpster...."

2 comments:

Jane Galbraith said...

I was touched by your mother's email. I feel very strongly about grief and the way our society deals with it. I found it quite disconcerting after my mother's death. I am a nurse working many years with palliative and hospice patients so I thought I was prepared. I wasn't.
So I wrote a book - which from the comments I have received so far has helped a lot of people at least feel less crazy with their grief and less alone. It was written for Boomers losing their parents but it is a general book on grief.
You can read the introductory chapter and foreward online at www.trafford.com/05-2319.
I hope your mother can cope through this difficult time. All the best. I love New York too!!!

Jennifer said...

I'm sorry for your loss. It's always hard when someone passes, and it can be hard to know the right thing to say. I don't really know the right thing to say, but just wanted to let you know I'm thinking about you.