This last February my mom passed away. In the last seven months I’ve been on a Tilt-a-Whirl of emotions. You may have heard of an ‘emotional roller coaster’ but when my mom died I felt like there was constant spinning with a mix of up’s and downs.
My Relationship with My Mom
In the last couple years the relationship with my mom was especially strong. She had a handful of phone calls and facetimes with my wife and kids each week. I would call her 2–3 times a week on my drive home from work and talk about whatever was going on.
Despite her declining health and limited mobility she traveled quite a bit and was able to see my kids a couple times a year. She sent the best care packages and the most thoughtful gifts in the world. The most notable gift was a book for each of my kids that has her voice recording of her reading the book to them with personal messages to each kid.
These books are truly a treasure.
When My Mom Passed Away
Welcome to the worst club on Earth. The ‘Your mom has died’ club. It’s the worst club ever. It’s the worst because your mom is your mom. And when she’s gone it feels like a hole in your stomach, a hole in your chest, and another hole in you head. It hurts all over.
I got the call around 4AM in the morning. My dad told me my mom just passed away and I just lost it. I mean, emotionally fell apart. I could barely breath. My wife was a wonderful support and helped me gain composure.
After the call my mind was overly alert. No way could I go back to bed. I had been assigned to write my mom’s obituary which I made the mistake of starting on that shortly after the call. Bizarre I know. I just stared at three words on the screen for hours:
Ruth Rasmussen Buchanan
I literally had the urge to just call my mom and ask her what the heck I should write. In the first 3 months after my mom died I’ve reached for the phone multiple times a week to call her. It’s a sick feeling. A spinning feeling.
Somehow I completed a first draft and sent it to my super smart sister Heather to hopefully complete. She smoothed out the edges and the completed version is here if you’re interested.
Family and friends poured in and wrapped their arms around my family. Quite honestly the funeral and burial gave me great hope and happiness seeing all the people that were touched by my mom.
Picking Up Pieces
The week after the burial it was rough. I couldn’t focus at work, I’d have random emotional melt downs, and I had this battle of trying to tough it out vs. feeling the hurt. I’ve learned that feeling the hurt is the solution and toughing it out is an exhausting exercise with very little pay off.
I’ve had incredible support from those who’ve been through the death of a parent. If you’re in ‘the club’ you have a unique ability to be a support and beacon to those just joining ‘the club’. A big help has been to sit down and write down memories, thoughts, and anything that comes to mind about my mom. It helps to get it down on paper to lock it in a memory and for safe keeping. It’s not an exercise to block it out but to block it in.
A Couple Tips on What to Do When Someone’s Parent has Passed
It was hard returning to the office. People stared at me afraid to say something wrong. They ignored me in hopes to just power through the next couple of days to get back to joking around like old times. Don’t ignore people. Don’t treat them like they are diseased with sadness.
There’s a myth that people think we just want to be left alone. For me, I wanted people to come around me and talk to me. I wanted emails, phone calls, visits, and all of the above times three. I wanted to bury myself in people and have conversations. If a visit or call wasn’t good for me I would’ve politely declined, but I was happy to have a flood of interaction.
It’s not really what you need to say, but what you need to listen to. Be a listener to your friends or loved one. I literally had a friend who just gave me a big hug and I cried on their shoulder. That’s all I needed, literally a physical shoulder to physically sob upon.
Food is absolutely key. As we made plans to travel to the funeral and burial, friends dropped off food as we scurried around. When your friend tells you someone has passed in their life, bring food. Don’t ask them what they need. We don’t know what we need. We take it 15 min. at a time and food is often neglected.
Two phrases to avoid:
“I’m sorry for your loss.” I don’t get too worked up about this one, but we technically didn’t lose my mom. She’s buried in Price, UT. She did pass away though.
“Was your mom’s death expected?” Hmmmm yeah… I guess? Aren’t we all expected to die? My mom had pretty bad health for many years. We did know a month prior to her passing that my mom had a very steep decline in health and we were able to visit her with the kids. It’s never expected though, think of something else to say please.
Keep the Emotional Boat Steady
There will be times, especially on Sundays, where I’ve broken down in front of the kids. They ask my wife why dad is sad and if it’s because ‘mimi’ died. We don’t brush it under the rug, I usually look them square in the face and tell them that is why I’m crying.
I want my kids to know that I am sad sometimes that my mom passed away but how thankful we are for her and what great memories we have.
I’ll be driving my car to or from work and the smallest little thing will hit me and drive me to tears. I’ve found it’s important to feel it. It’s hard to feel it but it does matter. Just today I was eating alone at lunch. Half way through eating I lost it. Luckily I had my sunglasses which I quickly pulled over my eyes as I screeched out of the restaurant.
Because Your Mom is Your Mom
I’ll always remember all the great memories of my mom. She really worked hard for us six kids to have what we needed growing up. A month before she passed away I sat down with her and recorded a 45 min conversation of her telling stories and talking about her life. I’m about half way through editing it to share with my siblings, but every time I go to listen to it I lose it.
We have these struggles in life for a reason. I have learned a lot these past 7 months. While I wish my mom was still around I’m grateful for the time she got to know her grandchildren and build all the other great memories we have together.
I now have a weekly ritual of going to Olive Garden to get soup and salad, one of my mom’s favorite thing to do, I always go alone and take the chance to catch my breath. I squeeze my kids a little tighter these days. I strive to listen a little more. I have more life talks with my wife. If your mom has passed away you may know what I’m talking about; Because Your Mom is Your Mom.