good grief, bad sadness

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” from Jack Kornfield’s Buddha’s Little Instruction Book (1994)

Pretty soon after my mother died, I wrote about it; it’s what I do, I write. One of the things I wrote was a description of her dying and death. I’m glad I did it then, I couldn’t do it as fearlessly now. I was manic then and it was still all far too real. Corporeal. Now its visceral, of course. It’s almost two years now and still hurts like a something that hurts more than anything else in your life. Childbirth or a migraine, I suppose.

“There is no task as urgent for us as to learn daily how to die, but our knowledge of death is not increased by the renunciation of life; only the ripe fruit of the here and now that has been seized and bitten will spread its indescribable taste in us.” Rainer Maria Rilke

(Despite his beliefs being light years from mine, I love René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke’s mind a lot. And he wrote a fair amount about death.)

It’s the ripe fruit, that I have lost since she died. I have renounced life like an emo adolescent, because the world without her still feels wrong. Longetivity is pretty good in my family, I always thought she’d very likely make 90 … well she didn’t make very old bones at all; she didn’t even see 70.

We had a tumultuous relationship, the way that only mothers and daughters can. I cursed her, she despaired, I angered her, she hurt me. She loved me like a tiger and would have stopped a bullet for me. Nextofkin and I were that loyal to her too. It was just the three of us, in so many ways. And yes, in some ways it still is, but it’s so, so lonely without her.

I can’t write this stuff without pauses and tears and unpaused tears.


I am a hell of a lot like her, we could finish each other’s sentences. We used to say that we only had one brain between us. Words, writing and reading came to me via her and my grandfather before her. It must be genetic. I lecture people the way she did, whether they want it or not. She was brave, tough and didn’t like herself very much at all. We loved the same poetry, we usually loved very different books.

We were chalk and cheese, she was far more ruthless than I and held more grudges. She was revoltingly good at Scrabble (I am simply horrible at it) and ferociously good at learning.

She left diaries that nextofkin and I have barely looked at, and I contemplate burning them every once in a while. She left a scrap of paper with her dreams written on it and died with them unfulfilled. She accomplished a lot, travelled a lot, loved hard and knew so much that you’d swear she knew everything.

We were absolutely clean and clear with each other before she died and what’s even better, is that we reached that point before she started dying. That fact is the greatest of fortunes and consolations. Another great joy is that she was my mother. An enormous tragedy is that dhe never forgave herself for my childhood. A truly good thing is that she died with what was left of her family around her, at home.


Death Experience
Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Cliff Crego)

We know nothing of this going away, that
shares nothing with us. We have no reason,
whether astonishment and love or hate,
to display Death, whom a fantastic mask

of tragic lament astonishingly disfigures.
Now the world is still full of roles which we play
as long as we make sure, that, like it or not,
Death plays, too, although he does not please us.

But when you left, a strip of reality broke
upon the stage through the very opening
through which you vanished: Green, true green,
true sunshine, true forest.

We continue our play. Picking up gestures
now and then, and anxiously reciting
that which was difficult to learn; but your far away,
removed out of our performance existence,

sometimes overcomes us, as an awareness
descending upon us of this very reality,
so that for a while we play Life
rapturously, not thinking of any applause.

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battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

18 thoughts on “good grief, bad sadness”

  1. Thank you for writing this. I have not experienced grief like this. I know that I cannot prepare for it, and can only hope to live life in a vivid way, experiencing those in my life as much and as truly as possible. This makes me appreciate my mother more for who she is, and for who she is through me as well. I used to hate her (my teenage years are not too far behind me). So glad we’ve come around. Thank you for writing, as always.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks lots. I’m glad you and your mom get on better too. I mean … I’m not saying losing a mother is the worst thing in everyone’s life, just that it has been for me. Yanno?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That is one of the most beautifully heartbreaking pieces I have ever read from you. I have been reflecting on how much I may have fucked up my own kids in my queered way and I wonder if they would mourn me with such pain and passion.

    Great poem too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks ghost. Yeah your kids very likely will. It’s an enormously powerful thing, that much as we choose our families too, blood counts. Priorities shift. It’s huge.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope so because at the moment I am unable to overcome the mixed regret over having children. I know they gave me purpose at one time and I am so proud of my daughter but my challenges with my son (and we are so alike) tire me out.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Maybe I can provide some perspective… My mother passed away from cancer last year and I’m the son that got left behind. Unlike blahpolar, we never really managed to reach a point where everything was clear between us before she passed away. We had different outlook on many things and there just wasn’t enough time. But I bet she was also thinking that maybe she fucked me up, she knew about my depression. The truth is parental influence is limited, maybe a third of who we are as adults are due to our parents, we get plenty of influence from our peers and also plenty from our own inner thoughts and experiences. We, the younger generation, make our own mistakes and we can correct ourselves too (or not, if we are unwilling). Don’t overthink that you messed anybody up, a person is influences by so many factors, it’s not up to a single one.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Man it hits close to home, but you know. I just wish we could have reached the same point, where everything was clear between me and my mother. We got fairly close, though. I also have her old letters and also contemplate what to do with them. I don’t want to read them.

    Your mother seemed like a cool lady, and the coolness rubbed off on you :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hugs … and you know she loved you, right? My mother and I probably had outstanding business (actually I know we did), it just didn’t matter in the end. Am glad you met my ole lady :)


  4. It is okay to grieve – in fact, it is normal and expected. There is no time period where grieving stops.
    Some days you will be fine, others knock you on your ass.

    Please don’t burn her journals. You have a chance to relay her legacy to others who loved her too. It is also pieces of her.

    Right now, it looks like it is too painful for you to read them. But wait – you have time. When you are ready, you will read them. When you do, it will be like she is talking to you again.

    Much love and I am sorry I don’t have much advice. Hang in there, I know you are strong. And KEEP WRITING! <3

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I finally had quiet time and strength of mind (well, kinda) to read this incredible account.

    Ever since my father’s “deathiversary” (there’s no word for it, right?) on Jan. 9th, I’ve been more off than usual. I can’t think about him too much, or else I spiral down. Grief comes and goes, even seven years after losing him.

    As you know, the greatest regret of my life is that I wasn’t with him when he died…

    While the death of a beloved parent sucks shit no matter how you look at it, you were lucky to be with your mother until the end.

    This is one of the most moving, beautiful, heartbreaking, well written blog posts I’ve ever read. I felt understood by reading about your experience. Thank you for helping me feel less alone in my grief/sadness.


    1. My mother’s deathiversary is coming up next month – big hugs for yours. We weren’t with her at that moment; it happened in the hour we slept. But I know what you mean and we were so lucky to be there. And thank you Dy, because you make me feel less alone too. And that’s been a very unexpected relief somehow.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. the fact that my experience has helped you feel a little less alone is a seriously ginormous compliment! thank you so much – you help me because you are almost the only person in my world (both virtual and IRL) who has been through this type of loss, and who can relate to my grief. When next month rolls around I’ll be there for you if you need to unload…

        Liked by 1 person

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