The Loss of Family Members: A Personal Journey

It’s the holiday season again and for my family, it was our first Christmas without our mother. I am a psychiatrist and through the years have helped many people who have experienced the loss of family members. But, as we all know, it is a personal journey and is unique to each one of us. I have come to see that even within my family the loss of our mother, and our ongoing experience of the loss, is quite different.

Personally, I was struck by the release I felt just after her last breath. I experienced a closeness with her that wasn’t possible while we were both alive. She now knows my every thought and feeling. She is with me quite literally always. Recently, my father found the “Eagle Necklace” she wore after my parents helped me become an Eagle in the Boy Scouts. It now hangs over the rearview mirror of my car symbolizing she is with me wherever I go.

My three brothers each in their own unique manner have responded to our mother’s death in ways that impress me beyond words. In her last few days, the openness of their love and the many kindnesses they shared with her were truly humbling. Even now, the commitment they have shown my father has taken the love that has always been there to a new level.

And then there’s my father. He and my mother married when she was only fifteen and he a very young 20. As with most marriages, they had been through heaven and hell, particularly given the challenge of four rambunctious boys. Through it all there was a connection they shared that I wasn’t fully aware of…until now. While she is our mother, she is his wife, his girlfriend, his life mate, his lover and now, his spiritual partner.

An Unceasing Love

The depth of their love was again made clear as we all got together for our Christmas Eve dinner. My brother asked that we each make our Christmas cards this year. In my card to him I wrote, “She lives because of the love the two of you shared. Thank-you!” But again, the expression of their love had another surprise for us.

We were just about to starting eating when he began preparing a “to go plate”. More than a little confused we asked, “What’s up?” He told us that he was preparing a plate for our mother. You see, our mother is buried on a hill overlooking our homes and he often “leaves her a snack” after he visits her. So, we all got in our cars, went to her gravesite which he had beautifully decorated for the holidays. We all said a prayer, wished her a Merry Christmas and left her a plate of food. It was beautiful.

The love a couple shares is precious and an inspiration to all who know them. The deep sharing during the journey of two hearts knows no bounds and follows its own rules. It also serves as witness to what is possible even with, and maybe because of, life’s ups and downs.

This is a call to all the men in the world. Draw your honey a little closer and realize, she may not always be here for you - unless you want her to be. And if you do, let her know, always!

8 replies
    • Michael Seng
      Michael Seng says:

      Pat,

      Thank-you for sharing the love that you carry for your father… every moment… of every day. It serves us all…

      Take Care,

      Dr. Seng

      Reply
  1. mark seng
    mark seng says:

    What a gift you have for words, what a gift you gave me this morning. The pain of loss made beautiful by loving memories and the tight bond of family. I shed a tear for my Mother this morning. Love is endless. Thank You, Your brother Mark

    Reply
  2. Kimberly Wilson
    Kimberly Wilson says:

    What a wonderful story to share with us. I’d like to add my experience after my brother drowned when he was 14 and I was 11. He died in August and Christmas was a few months later. We drove to southern Ohio to visit my grandparents for the holiday. It was the first holiday without him. I silently cried during the whole ride to and from the visit – a 4 hour ride. I tried to hide my tears from everyone, but my sister discovered them on the ride home. Of course she announced it to everyone in the car. I really had nothing to be concerned about since there was no reaction of any kind from either parent. Loss of a loved one at any time is so difficult, but when you are a child, and don’t understand, and just feel the tremendous loss, holidays are torturous. I felt like everyone acted like by brother was never even with us. I think even saying a simple prayer together for him at Christmas time would have done a great deal to help me feel that he had not been forgotten by other family members.

    Reply
    • Michael Seng
      Michael Seng says:

      Kim,

      Each family… each soul… handles the death of a loved one differently. What I discovered was that I too experienced the death of my mother quite differently than I would have predicted. So much so that I wrote about it several hours after her death so as to share it with everyone who is concerned about their experience. Your experience is warm and telling. I’m not sure we can predict or change the way we experience life. But… clearly you are open, growing and offering your journey to others so that they can grow too. Thank-you!!

      Namaste,

      Dr. Seng

      Reply
  3. Patty Coghlan
    Patty Coghlan says:

    Dear Dr. Seng,
    Thank you for thinking of us, and sharing your thoughts.
    You have meant so much to us all.
    A beautiful tribute for your Mom. Blessings and comfort to you and your family..

    Reply
    • Michael Seng
      Michael Seng says:

      Patty,

      Thank-you for reaching out and letting me know how you feel. I’m sure my mother would approve!!

      Take Care,

      Dr. Seng

      Reply

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