Monday, June 6, 2022

In Grief: Failing to Protect My Mother

Kiss of the sun for pardon. Song of the birds for mirth. You’re closer to God’s heart in a garden than any place else on earth. ~ Dorothy Frances Gurney

A reader writes: I have seen your internet site and found it so interesting. I lost my beautiful mother in 2020 having nursed her at home for ten years. She was wheelchair bound and had dementia but we had a wonderful life together. Sadly I spent alot of time during those years protecting her from Social Services and Continuing Healthcare who were always trying to take her away and put her in a home as the care was cheaper in a nursing home than in her own home and I had to have help from other carers. I was her full-time carer and was on the go all day and many nights at times. I loved caring for her but the endless battle with Social Services left me drained and frightened we would be parted. Social Services tried everything they could to break me down but I had my faith and love to keep me going.

I have spent much of my life protecting my mother from people who have been quite nasty and even as a child I found myself protecting her from nasty people because I loved her so much and she was such a beautiful and kind lady, pure of heart and funny but just seemed to be surrounded by unkind people. I also spent many years protecting her from the medical profession who just seemed to damage her rather than help her so I was always trying to find the right doctor or consultant who knew what they were doing and it's a good thing I did.

I had to take my mother away from [a local hospital] because had I not taken her from there eleven years ago she would have died. She was being left to die because of her age and nobody could be bothered to help her, so I sneaked her out without Social Services knowing. So, you see, I have many incidents of terrible trauma involved in protecting my mother.

Now she rests in a lovely cemetery but unfortunately I've had lots of trouble with the owners of the burial ground - they are monied people and think they can keep changing the rules on what family of the bereaved can plant on the graves. I have created a beautiful little garden for my mother with all the permitted plants but they are causing me a great deal of distress about this and threatening to destroy her little garden. They even removed a lovely little natural Christmas decoration from my mother's grave without telling me.

This garden is the only thing I have left I can do for her so it means alot to me. Since my mother died and in particular since this trouble at the burial ground I have found myself every night worrying and having terrible vivid dreams of my mother. Most of these are trying to protect her and keep her safe and I fear going to bed at night because I know I will only have another vivid dream about protecting her and I am terrified of going to bed.

I really need help as I am so tired and because I believe in God and heaven I don't understand why I should suddenly doubt her happiness - I know she is with God and is happy - I really feel this but during the night it's as if she is trying to tell me she is struggling and this distresses me terribly.

My response: I'm so sorry to learn of the death of your mother, and I offer my heartfelt condolences to you for your loss. Unfortunately there is nothing I can say that will change how the owners of your mother's burial ground choose to operate their property, and I'm sorry about that, too.

You ask how you can stop dreaming like this, and I invite you to read the following:

Nightmares and Bad Dreams in Grief and Coping with Dreams in Grief 

I don't know anything about your spiritual or religious beliefs about life after death, but as I'm sure you know, while it's true that your mother's physical remains still lie buried in that place, your mother's spirit (or her soul, or whatever you want to call her living essence) left her body when she died ~ and in that sense her spirit now resides with you ~ in your heart and in your memories of her, because she is a part of you and you are a part of her, right down to your very DNA. Death ended your mother's life, but not the relationship you have with her, and certainly not the love you still have for her.

It seems to me that, given your desire to provide and maintain a lovely little garden at your mother's gravesite, you might consider finding another plot of ground, perhaps in a corner of your own yard, where you have total ownership and control of that space, and where you can plant and nurture your own memorial garden in your mother's honor. If that's not possible, you can set aside a corner of a room in your home or even just a shelf on which you can place mementos of your mom, a photograph, flowers or a potted plant, and a candle or two. This could also become your special place where you can go to immerse yourself in thoughts and memories of your mother so you can "be" with her in spirit and in your mind.

Might you consider doing something like this ~ for your mom, but most especially for yourself?

Your story reminds me of this lovely poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,

I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain,

I am the fields of ripening grain.

I am in the morning hush,

I am in the graceful rush

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,

I am the starshine of the night.

I am in the flowers that bloom,

I am in a quiet room.

I am in the birds that sing,

I am in each lovely thing.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there. I do not die.

Wishing you comfort, peace and healing 

Afterword: Thank you Marty for such lovely thoughts and words. The poem is lovely and this I deeply appreciate. God Bless.

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Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay
© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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