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(4) The Day My Mother Died

When I got the dreaded call that my mother had been rushed to the hospital, my mind started spinning with many thoughts all at once. What was going on? Would she be alright? My mother was approaching ninety, but I still thought that she would live forever! She had health issues but was self-sufficient until the day she died. She lived in the same house since 1955, took care of her own financial affairs, and was still driving. 

I was having a cookout at my home on July 4th. My  mother was excited about coming and asked what she could bring. It was extremely hot that week, and I told her not to go out. I said that we would pick her up and told her not to worry about the food, since we would have plenty.

My mother never listened to reason and always did what she wanted. Her headstrong determination was sometimes an asset and sometimes a source of frustration. On the day that she died, July 3, 2014, she went to the beauty shop, took a friend home, and went to the supermarket.

As she approached her driveway, something happened. The car stopped, and she began walking up the driveway. Her neighbor saw her, sensed something wrong, and immediately called 911. They rushed my mother to the hospital. She passed away shortly thereafter.

My mother always lived life on her own terms. If she had to die, I think this was the way she would want to go. There was no major drama. She didn’t know what was happening, was not in pain, had no prolonged illness, and didn’t even know she was in the hospital. For me, it was a blessing because I had a fear of finding her lying on the floor. I’m sure that my mother instinctively knew this and didn’t want to put me through the trauma. My therapy bills would’ve been enormous!

I was now faced with the many decisions that had to be made. I was the executor of my mother’s estate. The first thing that I had to do was make the funeral arrangements. I had done this twenty seven years before for my father. It had been an agonizing process, even though many of the arrangements were made prior to his death.

Dealing with my personal grief, the challenging relationships I have with some in my family, and all the funeral details was A LOT to take in, especially for a highly sensitive person! My wife and daughter were incredibly helpful, and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them!

When you’re experiencing a major loss, you really need a strong support system to help you through the many emotions that wash over you, as well as the feelings of overwhelm regarding all that has to be done. When your thought process is clouded by stress and emotion, it’s essential to have a shoulder to cry on and a sounding board to help you figure out how to move forward.

I was also touched and extremely thankful for family and friends who reached out to me during this difficult time, including many I hadn’t seen or heard from in years. While none of us enjoy attending funerals or seeing people at the height of their grief and sadness, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to those who are hurting to know that others care. I was really comforted by this outreach.

As highly sensitive people, it can be tempting for us to want to turn our grief inward and to isolate ourselves from others. While spending time alone to process powerful emotions can be useful, it’s unhealthy if you take this to the extreme.

You never know when you will face difficult times. Do you have a support system to help you? If not, what can you do to have more positive influences in your life? When you’re sad, are you willing to accept support from those around you? Do you ASK for help when you need it, or do you try to handle everything yourself? How have you dealt with major losses in your life? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.

The next post, (5) Give Yourself Enough Reasons To Do Something That’s Difficult, is about motivating yourself to accomplish dreaded tasks.

About Cliff’s Big Move Series: In this series of blog posts, I chronicle a really “Big Move” that my wife and I made to move halfway across the country to be closer to our daughter. This was a HUGE change for us, as we had lived in our home in New Jersey for over 30 years! My mother had recently passed away, and our only daughter had moved to Missouri. It is my hope that this series will motivate you, as a highly sensitive person, to take on something that’s truly important to you. I tell the story sequentially in 23 posts, with each one numbered. It’s best to start at the beginning. You can access all the posts by clicking on the Cliff’s Big Move category in the sidebar.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Lynn

    I’m sorry for your loss. Losing a parent is extremely difficult, no matter what the situation. It’s sad that you didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to your mother, but at least she didn’t have to suffer a prolonged illness, as you mention. I know first hand the agony of watching someone you love decline mentally and physically. Very, very tough! Since your mother lived life on her own terms, it’s lucky she was able to keep her independence up until the end of her life…definitely a best case scenario for her. I’m glad you found the support to help you through that difficult time. I agree that it’s important to accept help from others and to not isolate yourself too much. So true! That’s something I have to watch out for myself. Thank you for sharing your experience. (By the way, the picture on this post is pretty…also very peaceful and calm. 🙂

  2. Cliff Harwin

    Hi Lynn,

    I really appreciate your comments! I’m glad that learned something from my experience. That’s the purpose of this blog. Please tell others about my work.

  3. Cliff Harwin

    Also Lynn….I’m glad that you liked the picture. Isn’t peaceful and calm the way we should all be?

    1. Lynn

      Yes, peace and calm would definitely be a balm for the highly sensitive nervous system!! It’s something I work on every day, even in this chaotic world. 🙂

  4. Kate

    I’m sorry to hear about your mother. I’ve struggled with managing grief, a lot more than most people, it seems. Loss is a normal part of life though it never seems to get any easier! I found talk therapy helpful. I was surprised to find this helped me since I never went to counseling before. I found someone really good to work with. I would also take long walks with my dog in some of our favorite spots. That always cheered me up a bit. My advice to others is to not face things alone and to try many things to see what works for you. Be patient. It can take a long time to move past a major loss.

    1. Cliff Harwin

      Hi Kate,

      Thank you for the personal examples that you gave about coping with grief. You made an excellent point that dealing with a major loss has no timetable.

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