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Hi. My mom died 1 1/2 years ago.....July 23 rd 2002 at 9:30 pm to be exact. It seems like I went through this incredible sadness last year at this time as it was that time of year in 2002 that we found out that nothing else could be done for her cancer and then the slow down-hill slide began. Six weeks before she died, I had to be hospitalized because I have Chron's Disease and needed an emergency surgery to save MY life. There was just the two of us and here she was dying worried about me and me worried about her. I was her support person and think I did a decent job.(My real profession is Social Work) However, I became very task oriented and took care of everything as though it was a case on my caseload and I managed very well, on the outside although I would lose it now and then when in bed asleep at night. I tried to take care of her at home for as long as I could, but I was too sick and had to have her hospitalized about 5 weeks before she died. I still feel guilt over that. I can still see her face when we had that conversation.....

So, where I'm at today is angry. Really angry. For the last 4 weeks, I have been angry at my boyfriend for breathing, at my cats for purring (you get the idea) and generally, a pretty miserable person to be around. I am acting controlling and bossy and today, I finally made the connection.....When Mom died, there was "too much to do" to grieve. I thought that I had grieved throughtout fighting her cancer with her and that I had 'dealt with most of it'.. I haven't dealt with much of it, I can tell you. It's like there is this huge hole in my life that I am trying not to fall in to. I am afraid to 'go there'. Any suggestions???

Thanks for listening, Tracey

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Dear Tracey,

I'm so sorry to learn of the death of your beloved mother in July of 2002 and the difficult circumstances you found yourself in at the time. Even though back then you did everything humanly possible to take care of your mother and hold yourself together, you say that now, nearly two years later, you’re still consumed with feelings of guilt and anger and don't feel as if you’ve ever really dealt with this grief of yours. That's the thing about grief. If we don't give it the attention it demands at the time of our loss, our grief doesn't get resolved -- it simply goes underground and waits for us to take care of it. And sooner or later, out it comes, just as if the death had happened yesterday.

Grief produces all kinds of conflicting feelings, most commonly those of anger and guilt -- which over time can become quite distorted, unless we share them with someone else (a trusted friend, a relative, a neighbor, a co-worker, or a grief counselor). Feelings exposed to the light of day can be acknowledged, examined, evaluated, worked through and resolved. Feelings that are stuffed just sit there and fester, making us feel miserable, crazy, sick and alone. You may have heard that "time will heal all wounds" but I'm sure you've learned by now that the passage of time doesn't do anything to heal your grief – time is neutral. It's what you do with the time that matters.

You vividly describe your grief as a huge hole you’re trying desperately to avoid – but think of all the energy you’re expending in your efforts to do that! No matter how hard you try, there is no way to avoid that huge hole – you cannot go under it, over it or around it. The only way out of that hole is to go through it. Experience teaches us that grieving successfully requires the hard work of confronting, expressing and working through our pain.

So I strongly encourage you to find someone to talk to about all of this, Tracey – someone who knows something about the normal grieving process and who is willing to listen to you. Find a grief support group in your community. Read all you can about grief in general and the grief specifically associated with losing a parent, to learn what is normal and what you can do to manage your own reactions (for suggestions, see the Articles and Books page on my Grief Healing Web site, at http://www.griefhealing.com/columnsbooks.htm and if you’re interested, take a look at my on-line e-mail course on grief, at http://www.selfhealingexpressions.com/cour...overview_8.html

Find and read some of the wonderful books written by other women whose mothers have died; this will help you see that you are not alone, and will give you the hope that if others managed to get through this devastating loss, then somehow you will find your own way, too.

The good news, Tracey, is that it is never too late to do the work of grieving. That's because, as you’ve already discovered, unresolved grief doesn't go anywhere – it just lies there waiting for us to deal with it – and when the pain of grief keeps coming up for us despite our diligent efforts to ignore it, we are wise to pay it the attention it demands.

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T

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