Working Moms: Series on Grief
I work for the National Cremation Society. It’s not an industry that I could ever imagine I would be involved with, but now I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I lost my job as a service coordinator in the golf cart industry, and had no idea what I was going to do next. I was devastated that I’d been let go with no explanation, but I couldn’t sit around and feel sorry for myself because I’m a mom… babies were depending on me. I put on my big girl panties and updated my resume and two weeks later was starting a totally new career path. It happened super fast, and I have always felt it was fate.
I wasn’t new to the subject of death. In the last ten years, I’ve lost my father, step-father, grandmother, and fiancée. I went through vastly different forms of grief with each loss.
Introduction to Death
My father committed suicide when I was nine months pregnant with Gage. My brother and I hadn’t had much of a relationship with him throughout our life, so the loss was more confusing. I was sad… but it was more surreal. The hardest part was that I’d told my ex-husband earlier the day we learned the news that “my dad could be dead and I’d have no idea.” I felt a lot of guilt at a time when I was highly emotional anyway. We later learned that he had lung cancer, so we can only assume that he was very weak and in a lot of pain. There was no note, no explanation… nothing. It took a long time, but I’ve made peace with his decision. I can’t imagine being in so much pain that suicide seems like the best option.
My stepfather and grandmother’s deaths didn’t cause as much of a shock. They both had been sick… it was just a matter of time. It didn’t make it easier… I just had more time to prepare. My stepfather had stopped eating. The doctors told my mother that he had acid reflux. He went into the hospital, was diagnosed with cancer on Saturday, and passed away on Tuesday.
My grandmother had dealt with health problems for as long as I could remember. She’d had a car accident when I was little, and from that point on, I remember her being mostly in bed. I do remember her going out (we’d joined a weight loss group together for a few months), but for the most part, I just remember her suffering with disabilities. Towards the end she was having a lot of problems with her memory, as well. One Christmas, she made a comment that someone else at our family gathering had five kids (this was before Michael was born) … I gently explained to her that she was the other one with five kids. She passed away when I was seven months pregnant with Michael.
My fiancée’s passing was the hardest to accept. It’s not that he was the picture of health… he was an alcoholic, so I should have seen it coming… but I didn’t. He was such a close, permanent fixture in my life that the loss was harder. He slipped outside our home and hit his head on the concrete. He had a massive cerebral hemorrhage. The first week he started to show improvement, but then had a second massive hemorrhage. After that, the neurologist told us there was no hope.
With the other losses, there was a small part of acceptance, which then grew into full acceptance. With Mike, it was different. We’d only been together for two and a half years, but it was still hard. We’d been through so many obstacles. He’d been there through the deaths of my step-father and grandmother, and I’d supported him with his fight with alcoholism. He’d been hospitalized six months before his death with pneumonia, and went through detox. I fully believed our future was improving when, all of a sudden, he was in a coma… and then gone.
I fully felt Kubler-Ross’s five stages phases of grief (https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/) when he died.