Apologies To Freud

The psychopathology of everyday life

Living with Loss

What's the best way to remember a loved one?

"And every day will happen without you":
Living with Loss

Special Guest Post by Daisy Florin


The anniversary of my mother's death--July 24--just passed and for the eleventh year in a row, I found myself unsure how to mark the occasion. This year, the day passed with the usual busyness and at night, as we were getting ready for bed, my husband asked me, "Isn't today the day your mom died?" I nodded and immediately felt guilty. Shouldn't I have done something to mark the occasion, called someone or raised a glass in her honor? Shouldn't I at least have mentioned it?

A few weeks after my mother died, I went to see a therapist. I was so worried that I would bury my feelings about her death and never "deal with them" that I sought out help. It seems so pat now, like I was searching for an expeditious way to process my mother's death so I could move on with my life. But I like to think I knew myself well and feared my ability to shut out bad feelings, not unlike my mother. The therapy helped, but letting the anniversary of her death pass by without doing or saying anything makes me feel like perhaps I haven't dealt with anything at all.

But should I really think of my mother more on July 24 than on any other day? The anniversary of her death may be useful for other people to remember her, those who aren't impacted by her death on a daily basis, but for me, the day only means that
another year has gone by without her. The reality is that the loss of my mother and her permanent absence from my life is such a pervasive force that I don't find the anniversary of the day she died--which had nothing to do with the way she lived--that much different from any other day. There's a wonderful line in a song by Dar Williams that says, "And every day will happen without you," and I think that comes closer to the truth than anything else.

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More than thinking about her on certain days, I find myself thinking that things would just be better if she were around. A party would be more fun, an occasion more festive. Thinking about my children knowing her--and vice versa--rather than learning about her through incomplete stories or faded photographs is devastating to me on a daily basis. Celebrating my brother's wedding without her had a tremendous impact on me and, I'm sure, on him.

From time to time I visit the church where her ashes are interred, but there is nothing about seeing her name engraved on a cold piece of marble that makes me feel close to her. I feel her presence more deeply when I drive by her apartment building or see the pharmacy where I picked up her medication during her illness. When I stumble across a note she wrote me, I am reminded of how she used to be my mother before she was my mother who died.

I discovered pretty soon after my mother died that life is for the living and that any kind of memorial is woefully inadequate. My children will never know her, no matter how much I talk about her, and as much as I like to believe she is looking down on us, the realist in me knows this is probably not true. When my five-year-old daughter cries because she is afraid of dying, I comfort her by telling her stories of heaven as a beautiful place where we will all be together again. And sometimes, lying in the quiet of her bedroom on the edge of sleep, I can even believe it.

Daisy Alpert Florin has a Masters Degree in Education.  Read more of her work in her blog, "Days Like This, and other things Mama Said," at www.daisyalpertflorin.com.

Stephanie Newman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, as well as the author of Mad Men on the Couch.

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