23 October 2007

Woman to Woman: Dealing With Grief

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For Woman to Woman this week, I am going to share a post about my mother's death that I wrote a couple years ago. It details my feelings towards her and my childhood and her passing so well.

As for grieving, to say that it happens in stages is putting it mildly. Almost 4 years after my mother's death, I still feel the lows. On one hand, I am past it and have figured out how to live in this world without her in it, and on the other I can't let myself get over it. Admittedly there are days when I will myself to think about her and miss her. It is hard to describe - it's almost as if that keeps my heart tender rather than closed off or hardened.



This picture was taken about 3 1/2 years ago. It is my mother holding my second child when he was just a few months old. It is the most recent picture I have of her and, sadly, the last time she was ever in my home.

My mother passed away 2 years ago today. She was found by my 14 year old brother on the floor of her bedroom... with no clothes on, and in the middle of prescription medication and sleeping pills. It had been a few months since my parents' divorce. My father had been newly engaged to another woman for just 4 days. 1 week previous she'd sent all her children an incoherent "last letter" of sorts, which was our only real clue to the awful state she was in.

I still remember the phone call. "Leilani, this is Dad. Where are you? Sit down... I have some very sad news." And I knew. I knew what he was going to say before he said it. Because my mother had been in fast, downward, uncontrollable spiral since I'd last seen her 8 months previous. Still, I cried "What? What?!"

She died a lone woman. Her unknown disease had created a rift between she and every relative in her life by her last day. Our only guess at her ultimate demise is depression and a personality disorder brought on by an abusive childhood. She never got therapy or treatment for these, it is only the opinion of my own therapist. Her cause of death was determined to be an "accidental suicide". Her liver failed due to an excessive intake of prescription drug medication that was prescribed to her for migraines. She'd been refilling her prescription at several different pharmacies, and had been seeing several different doctors for the same diagnosis.

There are oftimes in life when we seek answers to questions, but do not get them right away, or in the way which we expect. For me, these questions were, "Why was I born into this family?" "Why is my mother never happy?" "Why if she loves me does she hurt me?" "Why if Heavenly Father loves me, does he not rescue me?" "Will I survive?" "Will we survive?" "Will I heal?" "Will I ever be able to forgive my mother and move on?" I did not receive an ounce of clairty as to why my mother was the way she was my entire life... only brief moments of peace and reprieve from the darkness that hung over our home. I knew my mother's childhood had been bad, but she never shared the details. I was angry because I didn't once feel like she was held responsible for the abuse she inflicted on others. I prayed and fasted and studied my scriptures and prayed some more. As an adult, I finally realized I just wasn't going to get an answer, and that my only method for survival would be to sever ties with her. And then she died her slow death, unwinding into a helpless child until she just gave up. And I still didn't get my answer, but I got closure and peace, which is just as good. Though she was not in the right state of mind when she passed away, nor had been for quite some time, her life was complete and there was some eternal purpose in the timing and circumstance of her death.

After planning her funeral, after picking out the best coffin (a purple one:)), after choosing a headstone, after writing her eulogy and lovingly dressing her in white for her burial, I knew that she was in good hands... that she was finally in a non-threatening environment where she could trust and heal properly. Would Heavenly Father have preferred that she'd been able to do that on her own on this earth life? Maybe. But I sincerely feel that her death was an act of mercy, that she had come as far as she could on is earth with what she'd been given, that along the way able people had failed her and therefore Him, and he couldn't let it go on.

I loved my mother dearly. Despite her total lack of understanding for the purpose of motherood, she served it and I loved her. I loved her and felt badly for her. She tried so deperately to give me the opportunities to pursue my dreams and have an enriching life. She wanted the opposite for me that she'd had. For her intentions, I am grateful. She sacrificed a lot for me. Although her expectations were unrealistic much of the time, and we her children sometimes paid dearly for it, I know that I would not be half the person I am today without the experiences she provided me with. And I very much like who I am and the things that I am able to do. I believe that despite her mistakes, she accomplished the most amazing feats of motherhood ... All her children are strong in their convictions. They are disciplined and accomplished and stable. She is remembered with only the best memories by all who knew her. There was a tremendous outpouring of love at her funeral service by over 150 guests. It was the most moving gathering I had ever experienced and was testimony to me that I should find the good part in my life with her and not look back.

I know with a burning that I will see her again, and that I will be in awe of her. All the best things about her will be magnified and she will have shed her insecurities and been healed of the wounds from her childhood. I don't know how I know that, I just do. It's an overwhelming feeling! I have forgiven her. While I have a hard time putting it into words, I now at least understand why things happened the way they did growing up in my house and no longer question it. All those awful years in that stifled home - the screaming, the fits of rage, the beatings, the humiliation and degradation, and the confusion were the mysterious ways in which our Heavenly Father works on us... With a combination of testing us and weakening us and making us strong again and again, we are made unmovable.

I'm anxious to read what you all have to say on this subject. I'll be by later today! Don't forget to visit my co-host Morning Glory!

24 comments:

Morning Glory said...

Lei, I can't even find the words to comment on this magnificent post. Your insights are rich and your healing is so wonderful. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

My admiration of you continues to rise.

Amy said...

wow!! You truly have come full circle in forgiving your mother and letting Heavenly Father heal her and be ready for a glorious reunion with her. What an amazing peace to have in your life...that I'm sure came over a long period of time.
Thanks for sharing such a personal thing with us

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing your story & your testimony.

MommyK said...

So many women would have come out of a childhood like that with a deep dislike or even hatred of their mother. Kudos to you for still being able to see the best in your mother.

Yvonne said...

That is absolutely incredible. You are an amazing woman with an obvious understanding of the power of the Atonement. You are absolutely right that sometimes there are no answers.

Becky K said...

Lei, I am so glad I was able to read this post. It is beautiful. It is amazing that you were able to write with such poise about this definitive moment in your life. I know you will see your mom as well, and it will be a joyous reunion. Thank you for sharing this.

Belladonna said...

It has been over 20 yrs since my mom's death and I am STILL trying to make peace with our turbulent past. I've read this post several times and used it to look long and hard at what may be possible for me at some point. My peace with my mom is still a long, rocky road away it seems. But I am ever so grateful to you for showing what is possible. When love comes draped in brutality, indifference and scorn right along with sweet islands of nurturing, clarity and humor it turns the world all topsy turvy, as you well understand. Thanks for your willingness to so eloquently open your heart and share with the rest of us who are still struggling to find our way.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Even though I have read this post before, your thoughts and insights still amaze me. Thanks for taking the time to share your story. It helps to know other people grieve, too.

Linda said...

What an amazing story. I am so glad you have made peace with your Mom and your childhood. Thanks for sharing such a deep and personal story.

Lucy said...

Wow, Lei. I hadn't read this. This is really powerful. This post actually explains a lot about you and it couldn't have been easy to write or share. I think that your example of forgiveness and acceptance could be very beneficial to others who may have gone through something similar. You continue to amaze me.

Angela said...

Lei, what an outstanding post today. I am so glad that you have found healing,forgiveness and peace with your past. The only way we can survive an abusive childhood is by looking at the good and try to have an understanding of the how and why this happen to us. I think that it took me dealing with motherhood first hand before I found the healing, forgiveness and peace to move on with my life.

Thank you for sharing your story in such a loving and graceful way.

Have a wonderful week filled with lots of love and laughter.
Angela

Kasie @ ~The Art of Life~ said...

I just want to give you a ((Hug)) and say "Thank You" for sharing such a touching and personal part of your story. It truly touched me. You are an amazing woman and an inspiration to me.

Mary said...

A heart touching story. I will keep you in my prayers.

Blessings,
Mary

Our Family of Five said...

Wow, this is a breath-catching post. I don't really even know what to say other than that. God bless you, and thank you for sharing.

Misty said...

Lei, What a absolutely beautiful post. Words can't express how I felt when I read this. My heart breaks for both you and your mother. Although different outcomes, the abuse you described was mirrored in my own home growing up. What a blessing it is to have the Savior who is able to work a marvelous healing not only in you now, but for your mother, in her afterlife. And what a touching reminder that I need to continue on the good fight, and continue to break the chains of cycles of abuse that have been cast around me. Again, words cannot express - - how beautiful.

Dawn said...

What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I have experienced so little grief in my life so far that I didn't feel that I had anything to contribute to this discussion this week. But I know my day is coming. I have experienced the grief of unrealized dreams in the lives of my children, but God is working on those as well!

Lara said...

Truly beautiful words. Uplifting and insightful. Thank you so much for sharing and for making me think today.

Holly said...

Beautifully shared. Thank you. It's been 5 years since I lost my dad and it's still a difficult thing for me. Your strength is an inspiration.

Lee said...

I have been offline all week. So sorry I didn't join in. This is a wonderful post. And my heart goes out to you.
Also I tagged you on my blog.

Tracey said...

I am so sorry... I have only a little time to post, but I wanted to convey my sympathy for you....

meta said...

you have such a loving heart - your children are lucky to call you mom. thanks for sharing such tender thoughts and emotions.

Anonymous said...

Lei,I am so touched by your words; I have written these words in my mind over the years but could not commit them to a space that was real. Our mothers sound identical and reading yours helped bring me a sense of new healing. After years of therapy, you are a blessing; thank you.
glenda

Cmommy said...

Lei, I am so moved by what you've written. I tuly hope we will get to meet in this life. {{}}

And, I'm sorry I missed this topic. hugs, C

VTOldie - said...

Wow you said so beautifully the reality of so many peoples lives. Separation from an abusive family is hard but necessary to live full and meaningful lives. I am not sure I would want to give up the manipulative abuse of my family... because it made me into the caring intuitive human being that I am... but lord I was tested. Thank you for sharing your pain and transformation. Marilyn