Hoop Dreams and Mom - What I Learned About Grieving
Yesterday, I took some time off to watch the Big 12 Menâ€™s Basketball Tournament which pitted Texas Tech against Colorado in the first game. As I watched Techâ€™s win, I was struck by how many years have gone by since I would watch these games with Mom. You see, Mom was a big fan of menâ€™s college basketball, and she especially loved to cheer for two teams - Duke and Texas Tech. We would sit side by side during the 1990s and indulge our passion for watching college hoops while sipping margaritas. Even after Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimerâ€™s and was placed in the nursing homeâ€™s locked unit, I could always count on her to enjoy watching these games on TV with me.
After the Tech game was over yesterday, I took a little time to think about what had happened since Mom and I last watched an NCAA tournament basketball game in the nursing home. (Mom died from Alzheimerâ€™s disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in September 2007). Here are my take-aways based on my experience with the grieving process:
-Â Â Â Appreciate the attention from family and friends right after a loved one dies, but know that it will end. One friend with whom I spoke soon after Momâ€™s death told me of her experience when her mother died. She described receiving an outpouring of sympathy from friends and family members for several months after the funeral, but noted the attention eventually ebbed. Sure enough, I had lots of calls, notes, and offers to get together from a wide variety of friends, but a few months later they went back to their lives and I was left to focus on what was next in mine. In retrospect, their love and support was important in helping me get through the first days without Mom, and their attention also gave me a foundation of support to tap into when thinking about the next phase of my life.
-Â Â Â Mourning takes time â€“ and sometimes, a new friend can help. Itâ€™s easy in our fast-paced world to think that you have a time limit to mourn a loved one. Thatâ€™s not been the case for me. For the first year after Momâ€™s death, I would find myself regularly waking up around the time when she died (around 2:15 a.m.). I also didnâ€™t totally realize it, but I was walking around somewhat in a daze. This fog actually lasted for longer than a year; in fact, I periodically can still feel its effects, although my energy level and interested in life has returned. Probably the biggest help in getting me out of my blues was adopting a new young dog, Noel, who has a great personality and a zest for life (and walks).
-Â Â Â Begin to decide what you really want. I remember having a dream about Mom within a few weeks of her death. In that nether-world conversation, I remember telling Mom that I didnâ€™t want to go in a direction that she wanted us to head. When recounting this dream the next day, a friend suggested that perhaps I was saying that I wanted to make my own way in life instead of relying so much on othersâ€™ input. He had a good point and I began really thinking about what made me happy and what I wanted my life to be (instead of what others wanted me to do). That new-found introspection continues to have an impact on my life. For instance, I decided to sell a painting that I bought with the encouragement of a friend several years ago. When I stopped to really look at the painting, I realized that although I liked the painting, I really didnâ€™t love it. On the other hand, I missed the interaction of a group of good friends talking about what weâ€™re reading that I had enjoyed 10 years ago. So I talked a few friends into forming a book group. And this year, I realized that I really missed watching college basketball; thus, my TV will be tuned to the Big 12 Conference Tournament, although â€“ sorry, Mom â€“ I wonâ€™t be rooting for Tech.