March 2010


Again, I’m writing a post at 3:30 am, but this time I’m not crying. Since this blog exists so I can purge what’s on my mind, I’ve decided to write in hopes that it will allow me to sleep (however much time I still have left).

I’ve come to feel, over the past month or so, that we lost much more than just our mother. We lost our family as we know it, and the dynamics have completely changed. This was to be expected, I guess, to a certain degree, though I honestly didn’t think about it when she was dying.

But we’ve lost so much more. The family and friends of the family who we would see on a regular basis (at least a few times a year), who we have seen once or twice, for example (excluding my mother’s memorial, since that doesn’t count as fun). I promise that I am not angry – I know that my immediately family doesn’t not own exclusive rights to mourning my mother.

With all the good intentions possible, and as much as some people keep in touch (and others really don’t, and I don’t care, for the most part), once the initial mourning period passed, everyone had to go on with their lives. This includes us, of course, and my mom’s friends and other family members.

The thing is, that along with the dreams of having my mom at my wedding and babysitting my kids, a few other dreams have died. People who would have us over – basically since birth – at least a few times a year for little celebrations, holidays, or just because, suddenly overlooked us during these events this year.

It’s OK – no one owes us anything. We aren’t their children or their responsibility. However, my dreams used to include many of these people, and I’ve come to realize that these dreams have passed with my mother. This isn’t out of cruelty – having spoken to one of the people today, I fully understand her pain the hard year she’s had in losing her best friend. On our side, however, it feels like we have been gently pushed away because dealing with my mom being gone is hard.

I’m the last person who can be angry about this – I have pushed away many people this year. At least, in the few months before she died and the first few after. Again, I am not complaining about anyone’s actions – I doubt anyone had the intention of purposefully shunning us from their lives. However, not being invited to birthday parties, brits, and other family events has definitely contributed to the sense of loss.

If my mother’s death can be seen as a pebble thrown in a pond, each ripple around it is one more aspect of our life that has completely changed as a result of her loss. Her physical absence, with all that comes with it, followed by changing family dynamics, family who has moved on without us, friends who don’t know how to talk to us, and there are probably more ripples that I have yet to discover.

I’m very lucky, however. With all that I’ve lost, I know there is so much I’ve gained. I have a great family who, despite everything, is still very close. We may not see our father as often as we’d like to (his new wife lives far from us, so they split their time until her 17 year old finishes high school), but when it comes down to it, there’s no doubt in my mind that he will be there when we really need him.Plus now we have 2 brothers. We always wanted brothers. 🙂

People who used to provide emotional support have been replaced with others. I have wonderful friends who, luckily for me, did not give up on me when I stopped talking to the world. And lastly, but totally not least, The Boy and his family, who couldn’t possibly treat me as more of a family member, including the teasing, calling when I’m sick to see how I am, and buying me random gifts because “she saw it in the store and thought of me.” That’s a really big gain.

And no, I’m not trying to be Polish here (it comes naturally).

It is 2:20 am and I am, once again, unable to sleep. If my sleep deprivation can be divided into two categories, one being insomnia, the worst is the one I am now: Sadness.

When you don’t sleep because you just can’t, it’s annoying. But when you can’t sleep because of so many (depressing) thoughts running through your head, your exhaustion just exasperates your sadness, and it becomes an on-going cycle that only ends if you’re lucky enough to just crash into sleep.

Tonight, I am unlucky. Each thought perpetuates another. If I actually reach the point where I replace a thought, the replacement grows to be worse than the original; I find myself wishing for the first. And each brings more tears.

It’s not that I lay down and decided it’s time to think about my mom. Just the opposite. What got me through the 1 year anniversary of my mom’s death was the knowledge that exactly one month later I would be celebrating my 1 year anniversary with The Boy.

We’re planning on taking a trip up north and doing some hiking. So here’s the thought process:

1) Find a cool place up north

2) Have a wonderful weekend

3) Think how incredibly unbelievable it is that I have been with someone for a year (not to mention such a great one)

4) Think back to how lucky I am that he has such a great family

5) Think back to the first time I met them

6) Think back to me crying in front of him for the first time because he wouldn’t get to meet my mom

7) Think it’s not fair

8) Cry

9) Sniff

10) Sit up because I am choking on my years when I am lying down

11) Pick up the picture of my parents from about 10 years ago that is, probably, the best picture of my mom, other than from her wedding

12) Cry

13) Sniff

14) Think it’s not fair

15) Stare at the picture of my mom, trying to animate it, unsuccessfully

16) Miss my mom’s smell

17) Think it’s not fair

18) Blow my nose and hoping I’m quiet enough that I won’t wake The Boy

19) Look at the clock, realize it’s 2:45 am, and know I’m headed for another day of exhaustion

20) And I haven’t even been close to sleeping yet.

I don’t know how to get rid of these thoughts. All I can think of is how unfair this all is. It’s unfair that she died so young and is no longer part of our lives. It’s unfair that she won’t be around, and won’t hug us anymore.

Its unfair that she won’t be able to dispense invaluable advice, such as what type of washing machine not to buy and what detergent for sure gives me hives.

And, man, how I miss her smell. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed your moms have a smell (everyone does, duh). But it’s just different. I don’t know what it is about her smell that makes me miss it so much, maybe the comfort that comes along with it.

Before she died, when she was basically gone and no longer knew what was going on around her, I hugged her when I was leaving the hospital, and I accidentally “sniffed” her and realized that her smell was unique. I don’t think it was something I had noticed before. But from that day on, I always “sniffed” her before I left, fully knowing it could be the last time.

Something about the combination of the feeling of her skin with her smell, which was clearly not related to perfume or soap at this point, was still a comfort of sorts, even with the knowledge that it would soon be gone.

I know it sounds weird, but it’s just there. Next time you hug your mom, sniff her, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Rachel Dagani KleinThis is the conversation I had with my sister, exactly 1 year and 11 hours ago, probably verbatim:

Sister: Mom’s dead

Me: OK

Sister: We’ll call in the morning to tell you when the funeral is

Me: OK.

Sister: Dad and I are going to identify the body at the hospice

Me: OK.

Sister: Bye.

Me: OK. Bye.

Just as a bit of background, this conversation took place the night/early morning between March 2 and March 3 last year. In December the doctors said there was nothing else to do and that it was a matter of days to weeks until she would die. In January we put her in a hospice. By the end of the January, she didn’t recognize us anymore, didn’t understand what was going around her, and basically only opened and closed her mouth and eyes.

By the time this conversation happened, we were just waiting for it to end. We were no longer under any type of illusions that my mom would suddenly wake up and be OK. If, in December, my mom was suddenly able to say one of our names or momentarily remembered how to use the TV remote, we hadn’t had any type of hope in weeks at this point.

I know it sounds harsh, but when you know it’s going to happen, and all hope is already gone, you just want it over. You want to finish the pre-grieving and stress, and move on to the grieving and sadness.

Dealing with sadness is so much easier than dealing with stress and anger. Before my mom died, I would go almost every morning to the hospice before work, to make sure she would eat, and to spend some time with her. But every day was more and more difficult. I swear I can close my eyes now and smell the halls at the hospice and see my mom’s terrified (and then immobile) face, and it totally keeps me up at night.

Don’t say it’s been a year, get over it (yes, I have heard that from more than one person). The images in my head weren’t placed there in 1 year, and can’t be expected to leave in that short of a time, either.

I have long since stopped crying to my friends (and The Boy) when I am feeling very down because I feel this incredible pressure of “get over it.” It’s not coming from my friends or The Boy in any way. If anything,  The One Who Calls Me Balls Balls, told me I shouldn’t expect to be OK after a year.

Yet, Judaism has its own form of grieving, which I have heard many say is great and special. And it is, in a way: You spend 7 days at the home of the deceased and people visit with you. There are certain things you aren’t supposed to do during that time so you can concentrate on your grief, both during the shiva (the 7-day mourning period),and the year following the death of your loved one.

For example, you’re not supposed to attend a wedding in the first year after they died. You aren’t supposed to go to concerts, either, and you aren’t allowed to get married during that year (unless you were engaged before the death, in which case you are not allowed to put it off – Judaism is very strict about not postponing a simcha – a happy event – because of a death in the family.

I personally didn’t follow any of these rules (except the not getting married part, not out of religious conviction, but because it was not relevant during this year). I went to a Madonna concert in Barcelona, and I attended a couple of weddings. My mother’s death made me miss on so many things; It’s ludicrous to believe I need to miss a friend’s wedding, or a concert I want to attend, because of religious writings.

I’d like to point out, however, that I have the utmost respect for anyone who does follow these rules. I don’t because I don’t personally feel like I need to miss a friend’s wedding to remember my mom died; I remember that every day. Every time I dry my hands finger by finger I remember my dad telling me that my mom did it that way. Every time I see my niece and nephew I am reminded that my children will never know her. Every time I break a nail I remember she used to bite her fingernails.

Every time I manually write, I see her handwriting, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in English or in Hebrew. I have even taken to changing my capital K and my gimmel (Hebrew letter) because hers were distinct – and mine are the same distinct. When I got my first watch, I put it on my right wrist because my mom did, so now I can’t wear a watch because it makes me think of her.

Even when I start crying and I cover my face so The Boy won’t see me (in the rare times when I let him drive), I am reminded of her because I have her mannerisms.

So you see, I don’t need religion dictating what I can or can’t do while in mourning. But for some inexplicable reason, I let it dictate how public my mourning can now be.