How to go on–after a mother’s death
You never really get over the death of a beloved one; you just learn to live with it. It becomes a part of you, like a scar. It fades, but it’s always there.
With Mother’s Day almost here, my thoughts return to the painful last days of my mom.
Rosalie Rodriguez, my mother, died three years ago. I saw how colon cancer ravaged the body of my beautiful and caring mom. It was particularly traumatizing because of the terminal nature of the disease. My mother slowly became weak and emaciated, she wilted before our eyes. Her skin turned sallow and yellow.
She battled cancer for two years. There were good days and horrible days. My mother fought a good battle, and with dignity. She was considerate to her caregivers (us) to the end. She never shouted at us or complained about her situation, no matter the pain.
Close to the end, my mother confessed that she was ready to die. She wanted us to move on. To go on with our lives. She told us that she was content with her life, and that she was already craving for release from the pain of cancer.
She was really brave to admit all this. Even with the pain she was experiencing, she was still thinking of us. Cancer brought out the best in her, however weird that may sound. That damnable illness showed me the true character of my mother. She was caring, loving, fierce in battle. She was, in every sense of the word, a saint.
Her death, admittedly, brought us a measure of relief. Seeing my mom in such a horrible painful situation was an agonizing experience for me. I was her baby. I’m a momma’s boy. What else is there to say?
I never thought I would experience arranging funeral services for a parent that early. I was 27 years old, and my mom was only 61.
Before cremation, her body was laid on a metal table in a private room in the mortuary. Seeing the body was the only time I bawled, as I never had.
Long after my cousins, aunts, uncles, my only sister and my dad had left, I stayed behind, just me and my mom. I lost track of time. Then I kissed my mom’s forehead to say goodbye. She was frozen cold.
No longer her
I realized then that the body before me was no longer my mother—not the woman who carried me when I was little, the one who would playfully chase me around the long corridors of our house, not the woman who literally jumped with joy when she learned I passed my entrance exams at Ateneo.
She loved to whisper to me, in conspiratorial jest, as if to tease my older sister. She and I would go malling for hours, check out new restaurants, and I would listen to her silly stories about my dad.
No, that body was no longer her, I realized. She would live within me, I resolved.
The process of grieving is not easy. But accepting death, then letting go, is essential for anyone to move on.
I spoke recently with Todd B. Peyton, a licensed counselor with a master’s degree in Depth Psychology, when he gave a talk at Dr. Joven Cuanang’s Pinto Academy for Arts and Sciences.
He discussed how the subconscious mind could process trauma, and how dreaming was essential to healing.
Dream healing happened to me. Months after my mom’s death, I dreamt about her several times. The scenarios changed, but the theme was constant.
In the dream, my mom was alive, everything was well. We would do routine things, like doing lunch or going to the mall. But then I would suddenly realize that I was just in a dream—what is called “lucid dreaming.” I would realize in my dream that everything was OK now, she was alive but would go through the same thing again as when she was diagnosed with cancer. I certainly didn’t want that. I would then panic, and the dream would end.
In Peyton’s theory, the act of dreaming is a catharsis for the mind. In a dream, our brain attempts to process the trauma we experience. After sharing my dream (I actually think they were more like nightmares) with friends and family, I was able to decode the message my brain was trying to tell me. It was telling me to let go.
My subconscious mind is telling me that my mom is in a far better place, where she is beyond pain and suffering. Wishing her alive again is selfish.
Upon realizing this, I was able to move on more readily from my mom’s death. Letting go is essential.
I seldom think about her now, which is sad, but such is the price of moving on. This was unlike before, when not an hour or day went by without me thinking of her—it was debilitating.
But time really does heal, and our mind devices its own ways to cope with the trauma.
Sometimes I would daydream about my mother. I would imagine her childhood days in Zavalla Street, Sta. Rosa, Laguna, how she would play around the huge mango tree in the backyard of our ancestral house. She might have played with the Silva family or the Perlas family inside the Relova house. Or, she might just have sat down in the sala, with its capiz windows and antique dusty wood chairs, dreaming about the future, a smile on her face. I would smile as well, concluding these musings in my brain, then I would go on with my day. —CONTRIBUTED
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