The grieving – is it ever over?

Photo by Kat Jayne on

Did you think it would be over? After the funeral?

The weekend after my mom died, there was my niece’s wedding. And a trip to Cape May to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. And work. And planning the funeral.

My energy poured into planning the funeral, the final thing I would do for my mom. Choosing the songs, the readings. What would mom want?

And then the funeral Mass and lunch following in one of her favorite places – the Dining Car in Mayfair.

But is it ever really over? The grief, the surprise attacks of utter sadness.

I came home from work sick yesterday with a stomach bug. And as I lie in bed, I notice the sounds of traffic outside my condo. Cars, trucks. And I am transported. I am sleeping in the little twin bed in the little bedroom at my parent’s house while visiting them with my children. Outside my window, I hear traffic from the Boulevard, Roosevelt Blvd, a massive 12 lane highway.

The sound of traffic comforts me, reminding me of being at my parents’ home and being taken care of. And suddenly I miss my Mom and my Dad at the same time. I miss them so much.

It’s a stark moment of realty. Both of my parents gone.

Dad’s been gone since 1997 so I’ve had many years of missing him. My mom’s death is still fresh – not a year out yet.

But to acutely feel the missing of them both at the same time, the nothingness that is left because they’re gone, that is a new feeling.

I miss being a child, an adult child, having meals prepared for me and my family, lunch set out on the table, beef stew for dinner. I miss having my dad’s arms wrap around me, cocooning me from the world. I miss the joy on their faces when I drive up, the delight in their voices to see me.

While recently scrolling through photos on my phone, I saw photos of my mom two months before she died, interacting with her great granddaughter. She’s here. She’s still alive. Yet two months later she is gone.

The card table is set up in the living room so my husband can put together the puzzle I gave him for Christmas. He loves putting puzzles together. And then he says, “I remember doing puzzles with your mom.” And my throat immediately clogs and I feel like crying. Just one little sentence shifts my emotional state.

Yes, Mom enjoyed putting puzzles together, too.

Sometimes when we would visit, she would have one started on the dining room table, always beginning with the edges, then filling in the center. I would walk by and add a piece or two. The kids would join in, looking for colors that matched the picture.

I’m looking for a book to take with me on a trip this weekend, a paperback novel, nothing heavy – physically or emotionally. My shelves are double-stacked with books; some I’ve read and want to keep, others I want to pass along, a few I’ve underlined exquisite phrases that I want to keep. And then I pick up a book, a small paperback, and I know it’s one of mom’s. And I think, when will I run out of running into mom’s things? When will all the books be read and gone that I took from her piles and piles of books?

Mom’s bookcases were filled top to bottom with books. And when she ran out of room, she put them on the coffee table, under the coffee table, on the radiator. She would have a bag of books for me to take home when I visited. Her friends and family regularly gave her books as gifts for birthdays, Christmas.

Mom would say, “Books kept me company when I was a little girl.” She would tell me how her mother took her to the library to get books. How she read Nancy Drew and Nurse Ames. She gave those books to me and I’ve read them all too.

She passed her love of books down to me. I spent the summer of 2nd grade on our porch engrossed in the Bobbsey Twins. I was in Vacation Reading Club at our local library with several friends.

Running into memories of mom whether it’s a book, a card or a puzzle brings fresh pain. My mother never got over losing her mother. Never. She was only 30 years old when her mom died. And occasionally I would see her crying out in pain for her mom.

I have two sealed boxes waiting for me that my brother packed up from mom’s belongings. I’m not ready to look. Not yet. I know there will be pain packed in those boxes. Someday I’ll open them up. And maybe it won’t be so bad. But not today. Today I’m not ready.

Angela DiCicco

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