Bereaved Mother: ‘Why Can’t I Cry?

Sherry writes in: I’m not sure what to say, but feel compelled to write something. My 38-year-old daughter, Colleen, died May 20, 2008. I spoke to her that morning. She was feeling better than she had for two weeks. I was in another state with my younger daughter. She and her husband were to adopt a child and I was helping with the their two small boys. Less than three hours later, my husband called and said Colleen is gone. She died of an asthma attack. She had asthma all of her life and felt she could handle any situation. Her children were just coming home from school. The paramedics did not reach her in time. We had a service and lots of loving people said kind and wonderful words to us. I smiled, thanked them, never shed a tear, and in my mind and heart did NOT believe, and still don’t believe, she’s gone. We are blessed to have gardianship of our two grandchildren, ages 7 and 9; they make us happy. Why can’t I cry? I start to and then I won’t let my self. Four months before Colleen died, my mother died, and I didn’t cry. I am so hollow inside. We went through Hurricane Katrina, lost our home and business. Used all of our savings to rebuild our home; I didn’t cry. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!!! I am numb. It’s like I can’t focus on any one thing; my mind just jumps around. The only thing that keeps me going is the children. I am falling apart inside, but outside I look fine. MY DAUGHTER CAN’T BE GONE, IT CAN’T BE. I see her standing in the hall looking in at the children in their bedrooms. Am I crazy? Please someone give me something to help. I can’t not have my daughter in my life.

Dr. Gloria Horsley responds:

Dear Sherry,

I would say that you have been through more than most people go through in a lifetime! Just the loss of a home and a business is enough to put most people over the top.  Loss of a mother and then loss of a daughter is more than the mind can wrap itself around.  That hollow empty feeling is something that we who have lost our children are very familiar with as are those feelings that we are going crazy.

Taking on the care of your grandchildren is a wonderful gift but also entails the physical burdens of cleaning and cooking and being there for projects and homework.  As a grandmother, I can not even imagine the hurt of losing my child and also knowing that the little ones will grow up without their loving mother. Wow! So hard and so much.

My son was only 17 when he died, so I was able to spend more time than you are taking care of myself.  I had time to cry and spend time dealing with my loss.  Sherry, I would suggest that you find some time of your own to contemplate your losses.  You need to write about them as you have today.  You also need to talk about them in order to get them into some kind of perspective.  I know you want to be strong for the children, but you must also find places for you to be a bereaved child and parent.  I would suggest that you find a group that meets on a weekly basis.  Contact your local Hospice or hospital to find a bereavement group in your area.

I would also suggest that you find a Compassionate Friends Group in your area to attend on a monthly basis. You can also consider a professional therapist or someone in your religious community who is willing and available to listen to your story on a weekly basis.  I know you are probably thinking I don’t have time to think of myself.  I would say you must take the time.  Christ said it best, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Show love to yourself so that you can better take care of others.  Please keep us posted on your journey and listen to some of our radio shows. We have been there and know that you can make it.

Fondly, Dr. Gloria

Neil Chethik

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Neil Chethik is an author, speaker and expert specializing in men's lives and family issues. He is the author of two acclaimed books: VoiceMale: What Husbands Really Think About Their Marriages, Their Wives, Sex, Housework and Commitment (Simon & Schuster 2006), and FatherLoss: How Sons of All Ages Come To Terms With the Deaths of Their Dads (Hyperion 2001). Previously, Neil was a staff reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat and San Jose Mercury News, and writer of VoiceMale, the first syndicated column on men's personal lives. His writings have appeared in hundreds of print and web publications. He is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Ky., where he lives with his wife, Kelly Flood, and son, Evan. Reach Neil at: [email protected] 121 Arcadia Park Lexington Ky. 40503 859-361-1659 Neil appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Men and Loss.” To hear Neil being interviewed on this show, click on the following link:

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