What the f*ck are you looking at?

On The Death of My Mother (Or, So Now What the F*ck Am I Supposed To Do?)

Mom young

My mother is dead. My mother is dead. My mother is dead. Every day now, these words swirl around in my mind and in my mouth until they don’t make sense anymore. It’s like when you stare at a word on a page for so long that it starts to look like nonsense and it makes you laugh because you know you know this word and yet it suddenly means nothing to you – and then, because of its foreignness, it means everything. And then you have to look away because you know you might lose the word forever if you don’t. And when you look back at it with fresh eyes it all makes sense again and it’s just a word on a page. A word that you know. But these words – My mother is dead – will never make sense now that they are true. They will never be words that I understand. I say them, over and over again, to remind myself. But that is not the same as understanding.

The last time I heard my mother’s voice was in the parking lot of a Buffalo Wild Wings franchise. This small indignity of this is a stain on my heart and memory which will never come out, ever. My mom had called to say that she was having a “routine procedure” the next day. Outpatient. One that would make her feel better and have more energy to do things she was enjoying again.”If I get dead,” she began…this was something she said constantly – whether she was boarding a plane, going for a manicure, taking a nap – and was usually followed by some inane instruction: “Don’t forget to refill your washer fluid.” “Don’t forget about the smoked salmon in the refrigerator.” “Don’t forget that anything below the waist is vulgar in polite conversation.” This was our routine – and holding up my end of the ridiculous bargain, I mocked her as I always did. “OK, Mom. If you get dead I promise I’ll remember that most people from Nevada are degenerates.” And that was it. The last conversation I ever got to have with my mother. In a fucking parking lot.

She never woke up. There it is again, the nonsense noises in my brain: She never woke up. My mother is dead. Anything below the waist is vulgar. Again and again. Round and round. Nothing. It simply cannot be. These are not real words. Are they? Because if they are, it is the end of everything. If they are, I am rudderless, and I am alone. If they are, I am an orphan. I am an orphan. I am an orphan.

I have always marveled at how, despite the magnitude of any personal tragedy, the world keeps spinning. Life around the loss just goes on. Days keep coming, nights keep falling, stores open, TV shows air, subways run, dogs crap on the floor, mail gets delivered. Nothing, it seems, can kill the mundane being of things. Even my own body seems oblivious to my loss – it continues to wake up, to walk to the shower, to eat, to sleep, to cry, to WORK. How do they do this, the world and life and my body? Don’t they fucking know that I am an orphan? Nothing should work anymore. My mother is dead.

People don’t know what to say. They try. But what they don’t know is that loss like this changes you on a cellular level. That the world will forevermore be divided into categories ofย  “people who understand” and “people who don’t.” What they don’t know is that no matter how much we get that it’s said with love, if we ever hear the words “thoughts and prayers” again, we will fucking break something. And it will probably be your face. Say something different. Something that will help. Like, “Wow, that sucks harder than a cow on a kitten teat.” Or, “Want to get drunk and cry?” I am grateful, believe me, for the incredible outpouring of love from friends, no matter what form it takes. But I guarantee you that those on the “people who understand” list are not saying things like “thoughts and prayers.” They are saying things like, “I have marijuana. I will bring it to you.”

Words were supposed to have been my gift, but now they fail me. Intake, output – my words don’t work anymore. I can’t find the ones I need and I can’t lose the ones I don’t want. She never woke up. I cannot describe the emptiness of my heart and the brokenness of my being in a way that makes sense to anyone else. I cannot describe the way that I wholly mistrust my decisions without my mother around to approve them. Or the secret fear that my brothers don’t like me much at all and that with our Mom gone, they don’t have to pretend anymore, ever. I can’t properly report the way I feel physically crushed beneath the weight of the aloneness. ย I simply haven’t the words.

I tell myself that I am brave. I tell myself that I can live without her. I tell myself, as I reach for the phone without thinking, that I don’t HAVE to call her anymore –ย  that I can just think and she’ll hear me. I tell other people that I am “hanging in there” or “taking it easy on myself” or some other nonsense that I expect they want to hear because it’s easier than knowing the truth. But the truth is that the final, tiny piece of me that wasn’t broken before is broken now. The job is done.

She never woke up.

My mother is dead.

I am an orphan.



April 30, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Well, there it is. You’ve summed up what I have been feeling since 1997. After you lose your mom, nothing will ever be the same. I am one of the ones who understand. Thank you for writing this.

    Comment by Amy Zitzer | April 30, 2013 | Reply

    • I could have guessed that you were. Hugs. <3

      Comment by Marie | April 30, 2013 | Reply

      • <3 I haven't got pot, but I can send you cookies. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Comment by Amy Zitzer | April 30, 2013 | Reply

  2. My dad died from pancreatic cancer in 2003. It’s been 10 years now and it feels like last month. Living without part of you is never easy, just the new norm. Chocolate and wine party?

    Comment by Biz | April 30, 2013 | Reply

    • I’m sorry, Biz. So much pain – my parents, at least, both went suddenly and it was over fast – I can’t imagine watching them suffer like that. So sorry. Yes to wine and chocolate! A thousand yesses!

      Comment by Marie | April 30, 2013 | Reply

  3. Thanks for writing this. I miss my Dad everyday. Occasionally I have a Gibson Martini in his honor. Maybe you will find little ways to remember your Mom and Dad. It’s the little things that help me.

    Comment by Ed Payne | April 30, 2013 | Reply

    • Your dad was awesome, Ed. A huge part of my childhood, and I remember him vividly. I will have my next martini for him.

      Comment by Marie | April 30, 2013 | Reply

  4. You said it all for so many of us. Your Mom and I discusses our same feelings after the death of my Mom in 2008 (only about 10 months after your Grandmother passed away. I’m one of the “understands”.
    And yes……. I will say some prayers for you……………. over our wine!!! Love you, Baby girl.

    Comment by Deborah Thomas | April 30, 2013 | Reply

    • Love you too, Auntie D. And your mom was amazing – I remember her well and fondly. xo

      Comment by Marie | May 1, 2013 | Reply

  5. Funny, I happened on your blog about a year ago when I was going through a difficult time (also involving loss) and your humor really helped. Turns out that we actually went to the same high school at the same time….small world!!!!!! Anyway, since your words helped me, I felt compelled to say something to you, realizing, of course, the simultaneous gravity and meaningless of words at the moment. Anyway, what I wanted to say is that you’re not alone. And I don’t mean that in the very obvious, literal sense. I mean that there are people in the world that read your blog and know EXACTLY how you feel and their hearts are breaking because yours is. So that is my feeble attempt at providing some comfort. Not sure if it worked but, my thoughts and prayers are……..NEVERMIND!!! Love.

    Comment by Erika Deusinger | May 5, 2013 | Reply

    • Aww, thank you, my dear. It does help. It helps in many ways – mostly that others understand and that there are people who have been through it and lived to tell. Thank you for reaching out – you’re a doll. MKA alum??!!

      Comment by Marie | May 5, 2013 | Reply

      • Yes is the answer to your question from like a month ago. Sorry about that. Didn’t graduate from Kimberly but did attend before moving to North Carolina. I believe I was a freshman when you were a senior. Love, love love our blog!!!

        Comment by Erika Deusinger | May 24, 2013 | Reply

        • your

          Comment by Erika Deusinger | May 24, 2013 | Reply

  6. I have “understood” since I was 14 when my mom died in 1985. After 10 years of breast cancer, she never woke up one day. Dad told me a week before “ya know, Mom could die from this, it’s getting pretty bad.” I replied with “I know, but she won’t, cause moms just don’t die.” No one else’s mom had died so why would mine. I have marijuana. I can bring you some. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Comment by Kim Kerr | May 13, 2013 | Reply

    • Aww, honey – I’m sorry. I did know about your mom but I don’t think I knew you were so young. I can’t imagine. Big hugs.

      Comment by Marie | May 14, 2013 | Reply

  7. I’ve never read such a compelling description of the loss of one’s Mother. Wish I could send a bag of hugs, weed and vodka. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Comment by Todd Burns | June 16, 2013 | Reply

    • Aw, thanks. Said bag would be welcomed with open arms and mouth and lungs. ๐Ÿ˜›

      Comment by Marie | June 16, 2013 | Reply

  8. I found when my Mum died that there’s a ‘grief club’. There are people who’ve been there and know, and the rest of the world trying as hard as it can to believe that no-one ever has to die and in fact there’s no such thing. It’s like death is even more of a big secret than sex – it’s the most taboo thing. Having someone close to you die is like no longer being a virgin – it’s a transition into a whole new world of knowledge (but less nice). I think I’ll blog about it at some point.

    Comment by eleanorjanebirdy | July 2, 2013 | Reply

    • Thank you for this. You are one of the “understands.” Hugs <3

      Comment by Marie | July 17, 2013 | Reply

  9. When my dad died I lost my champion. My husband is fabulous and supportive and sweet, but he calls me on my shit, and my dad never did that. He just smiled and made me believe that no matter what, I’d be ok, and I’d get through whatever was in front of me, that I’d surpass even my greatest goals in life because that’s just how capable I am. Losing that unconditional love and support was like feeling a tether to the earth cut, permanently, and it took me years to catch my breath. He passed away 15 years ago, and I still remember getting the phone call in our hotel room in Disneyland that he was gone. Ask me if I ever want to go back to THAT place?! You will begin to breathe again at some point, you will. I promise. But life will never be quite the same again, ever, without your Mom, it just won’t. You’ll just somehow find a way to cope. It sucks, it’s true. One thing I’ve found is that by embracing my Dad’s qualities in myself and honoring them and enjoying them…I help him live on. Perhaps that will work for you? No matter what, big hugs, lady!

    Comment by Stephany | July 19, 2013 | Reply

    • Thank you, love. It always helps to know that other people not only understand, but have found way to cope and breathe again. It gives me hope that I will, too. Loves.

      Comment by Marie | July 19, 2013 | Reply

      • One more thing..when you start feeling better, you’ll feel soooo much better. And then, beware of sudden dips into sadness that just pop up. I’ve found they don’t always tie to obvious triggers like birthdays, the holidays, and that kind of thing. Sometimes..a song, a smell, food, a movie…can coax poignant memories out and then there you are, crying your eyes out at a company meeting wondering how in the heck the new marketing launch could possibly have done that to your outlook! You’re not crazy, you’re grieving. And it will get better. More hugs!!

        Comment by Stephany | July 19, 2013 | Reply

  10. It took me three years to be able to put my mom’s picture back out in my house, 5 years later and I still cannot visit where we put her ashes BUT I can talk about her now without getting tears in my eyes and that ugly guilt stuff doesn’t chase me around quite as much as it used to. I can’t say it gets better, but I can say it gets different and if not easy then at least…less than it was.

    You’ll be ok.

    Comment by Jessica | August 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks, dolly. I have all of my mother’s voicemails saved on my phone, and cannot envision a day when I’ll be ready to listen to them. I hear her voice in my head every day – but I don’t know if I’m ready to hear it in my ears just yet. Or ever. xo

      Comment by Marie | August 25, 2013 | Reply

  11. I’m here from the bloggess, and am so glad I found you. I’m about to lose my mother, and this really hit home. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by stacycurran | August 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Aww, sweets – so sorry to hear. All I can say is to take the gift of *time* and say everything you need to and everything you think might ever want to. While sudden death is more merciful for the dying, it’s absolute chaos for those left behind. And though the lingering of one who is suffering is harder on them, it truly is a blessing for their loved ones – nothing has to go unsaid. Take the time you have left with her and erase every regret, right every wrong, and love her harder than you ever have. It will hurt more now. But less later. Big hugs from here. You’re not alone. xoxo

      Comment by Marie | August 25, 2013 | Reply

  12. I’m sorry ๐Ÿ™ Everything changes, life is split into before and after. My mum isn’t dead, but I know well that gap between those who understand and those who don’t.

    Comment by sarahkreece | August 28, 2013 | Reply

    • Thank you, sweetie. <3

      Comment by Marie | September 1, 2013 | Reply

  13. Ms Marie, I want to first say, I am SO Sorry for your loss, and for the stabbing pain of the void that never seems to go away… Mine started 8 weeks ago, when I watched and felt my mother pass away right in front of me of complications from Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. Today, I am having a very difficult time…I am angry, I am sad, I am bawling my eyes out here at work hoping no one comes by cause I don’t want them to see me, and yet I am here suffering, not wanting to be alone, trying to just get thru the day…

    I went to Google and typed “my mother died now what do I do” and came upon your blog. Ironically, we seem to have the same mindset and similar sense of humor… I related to your article in SO Many ways… and like you… let me tell you… If one more person tells me to “Be Strong”… I will do just that… Right in their Fucking BabyMaker, just so they can feel the MINUTE Sense of the Pain of what you and I feel. I will be sure to “Be Strong” one for you too if ever given the opportunity.

    Thank you for putting your feelings into words that I can relate too and for making feel a little less alone and isolated for even a moment today… Now if you will excuse me, I need to go find a hornet’s nest and put it in the office of Mary Sunshine ass-crack – whom I REALLY dislike for no apparent reason – with my cell phone set to vibrate 10 min later underneath it…. I am sure you get the picture. I’m hoping it might just be entertaining, well, for me at least… and make me feel a little better to get through the rest of the day…

    Sending All My Bitter Love…

    Comment by Brant | November 5, 2013 | Reply

    • Oh, My Dear. So very sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. I’m glad you found your way here for many reasons, but mostly just so that you can feel the tiniest bit of comfort knowing that others know how you feel. They might not be in your office with you or people you see every day, but we’re out there. YOu might even be surprised by the people in your life who’ve been through it. It’s hard to reach out when what comes back is “Be strong” or “thoughts and prayers”….but one day you will, and what will come back is a hug or a shared tear or words of kindness from someone who actually knows. We’re out here, I promise. And the only thing I can say is that while it’s awful that you had to be there to see your mother’s suffering and her ultimate passage, perhaps if you start to think about it like you “got to be there” with her – because that is a great privilege – it might help a little. It’s a great gift that you gave her, to be with her when she transitioned….and it’s a gift to you as well. I know it probably doesn’t feel like it, but I think you’ll eventually be grateful you were with her because whether you realize it or not, going through it with her was the beginning of your healing and will a part of *you* for the whole rest of your life. And so will she. Much love to you, my dear. xx

      Comment by Marie | November 6, 2013 | Reply

  14. ok, I am sorry. I can’t read all the comments. I was lucky to make it thru the post. I get it. I am an orphan too. I also used those exact words. I am an orphan. I understand all too well. Shit. Now I’m crying. I made it all this way fighting the tears and here they are. again. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the hurt never goes away. I gets a bit more managable, but it is still there just under the surface threatening to make you cry when you read about someone else having to travel that road. I know they haven’t left me, but I can’t hug them anymore. or maybe they can’t hug me anymore. Maybe it is all about me. It doesn’t really matter much does it? it hurts.

    Comment by Julie | March 20, 2014 | Reply

    • Indeed, it does, sweet pea. There’s nothing like it and there’s nothing I can say to help except that I *know.* Hope you have lots of people to lean on, and I’m very happy you found your way here to our little freak show. Much love to you!

      Comment by Marie | March 21, 2014 | Reply

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