You know how most men don’t tend to cry often? Well, there are a few sides to that generalization. For some men, it’s just not a “manly” thing to do. They were raised in an environment that forced them to hide their feelings to avoid a perceived sign of weakness. For others, it’s not that they don’t cry; they cry in private. They either don’t feel comfortable expressing those feelings around others, had the same kind of environment that discouraged crying as the first group, or just tend to their emotional needs in private. Then there are men who truly just don’t cry. They feel a wide range of emotions, but emotion resulting in tears just doesn’t happen. Until 3 months ago, I was in that third group. It wasn’t because I was raised in an environment that discouraged displaying emotion, in fact the opposite. My parents showered me with love, let me see their true emotions, and encouraged me to be as individual as I wanted to be, never to worry about what others might think. Sure, as a small child a scraped knee might have seen some crocodile tears. But as time passed and I grew up, the ability or need to cry just wasn’t there anymore. But something happened a little over three months ago that changed my chemistry forever…I lost my Mom.
I was “prepared” for the loss. Mom spent the last 5 years of her life battling kidney disease and a mass on her spine that left her more and more immobile. I watched her poor body slowly break down and take all of her independence from her. I watched her joy slowly fade, replaced by depression, sadness, and fear. I spent the time angry and depressed that this was happening. I experienced every outlined stage of grief long before Mom ever left this earth. I thought I’d been through it and the next step of her inevitable death was going to be the toughest, but that I’d handle it just like I’d handled the others before…angry and depressed. I’m a planner, a strategist. At least I was familiar with those emotions having always been a little hot-tempered and actively battling depression for the last several years. What I was prepared for was not what I got. No amount of preparation can prepare you for the sadness of loss at this level. I had experienced losing my Grandparents when I was young and friends that were way too young to be leaving this earth. Each bereavement was unique and molded by my life experience and who I was at that point in my journey, as well as my relationship with each person. But this loss was different.
I’ll never forget something a friend commented to me on the night Mom died. She said “Nothing hurts like losing a mom.” My friend is an estate attorney and someone familiar with grief on a personal level, so her words were from experience. Little did I know just how true those words would ring true in the days and months ahead.
From the moment I received the call from Dad that Mom had passed, the immeasurable sadness hasn’t relented a single day. Sadness of this magnitude is different that the depression or anger I was used to. It comes with wild unpredictability and is often accompanied by tears. As a middle-aged man of 40, I had to abruptly learn how to process emotions I simply wasn’t used to on a level I couldn’t imagine possible.
The loss of a Mother is truly life-changing. How can it not be? She brought you into this world. Until her death, I had not spent a single day on earth without her. It’s an extremely discombobulating feeling waking up in a world where you can’t call, text, or visit your Mom. It’s a lonely place even though so many people reach out and try to help and care for you and your grief. But no matter how hard they all try, no one will ever care for you the way your Mom did. No one will ever care about every individual thing you do in life quite like your Mom.
It may sound a bit like I was a “Momma’s Boy”. I proudly was…and an only child to boot. Oh how being an only child is the greatest thing ever until you lose a parent. There’s no one there to understand exactly what you’re going through. There’s no one there to help with the funeral planning, piles of paperwork, or phone calls. It’s just you and your remaining parent in your little blood family circle. I am extremely blessed to have an absolutely incredible wife that held my hand every step of the way. She made phone calls, completed paperwork, and coordinated so much, leaving me with some space to process my loss and grieve appropriately.
Processing my loss has been a wild ride so far. It’s nothing I expected. Grief is a living thing. It moves, it breathes, it changes direction, sometimes too quickly. Some days I’m able to put on a brave face and tackle the day’s tasks with relatively little breakdown. Then something will happen - something will remind me of Mom. It’s amazing how many things, events, places, etc that you associate with someone in your memory, but don’t realize it until they’re gone. They are little “land mines” that are scattered everywhere and anywhere. You have no idea where they are or when they are going to trigger. Sometimes the memory is happy and for a moment you feel joy entangled with the sadness. Sometimes the memory is sad and the rawness of your grief comes racing back in an instant. But regardless of what type of memory, it is always accompanied by tears. For even when it’s a happy memory, you realize there can be no more of them. The loss of your person has robbed you of making any more of those happy memories. You are now forced to survive on the ones you tucked away over the years. For me that’s the toughest part. 40 years wasn’t enough. It’ll never be enough. And for that I cry. I will always cry.