Q. My mom passed away 9 months ago; 1 month after finding out she had pancreatic cancer. I miss her so much. I know she is happy and not suffering in Heaven and that comforts me, but I feel like I’m going crazy sometimes with her not here. I am not looking forward to the holidays since for the last 41 years we’ve always been together. I cry constantly and no one else seems to be affected like I am. I feel trapped and don’t know what to do? Carol in FL

A. I’m sorry for your loss. Holiday times are especially painful after a loved one’s death. You’re not sure how to celebrate the wonder of Christ’s birth and yet feel the sorrow of missing your mother.

Nine months is not a terribly long time after someone’s death to be concerned that you are not handling your grief properly. Everyone grieves differently and just because yours is more intense than other members in your family, it does not necessarily mean that you are not handling it. However, when you state that you are cry constantly,that may signal that your grief has moved more into depression and some counseling and/or antidepressant medications may be of help.

Are you sleeping? Eating properly? Getting exercise? These are a few things that would be very beneficial to you right now. Your own body has been through a shock and you need to take good care of yourself. If you’re not sleeping well, see your doctor. You can’t function well emotionally when you’re sleep deprived.

One of the things you must learn through this process is that grief isn’t either/or but it’s both, and. In other words, you can feel both the sadness at missing your mom, and the gratefulness that she’s now with God and not suffering. You can feel the pain of her passing, and the pleasure of looking forward to new things. I find that sometimes grieving people feel guilty when they feel more positive emotions, so they supress them. That somehow, if they feel them, they are not sad enough or missing them enough.

The other thing you say that concerns me is that you feel trapped and feel like you are going crazy. Those words indicate that you’re feeling anxious and fearful. I’m wondering if you might have been too dependent upon your mom and now that she’s gone, you’re finding it difficult to navigate your own life without her presence?

If that’s the case, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, honor your mom and her input in your life by living your life well. A mom’s job is to work herself out of a job. In other words, to raise her children so they can function emotionally and relationally without her. That may be a tough pill for you to swallow right now because you want her back, but looking forward and building your own life is the best tribute to a mother’s love, not getting stuck in your grief, unable to move on.

Lastly, I’d encourage you to find a grief support group that helps bereaved individuals work through their loss so that they can move on. Many churches offer them at low or no cost. Listening to other people’s stories and knowing you are not alone can be of great comfort.

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