Grief over mum who died 35 years ago

(36 Posts)
CreamFirstThenJamOnTop Thu 11-Feb-21 14:42:51

I’m posting to try and get my thoughts and feelings out really, and wondering if anyone else has experienced similar?

So my mum died just over 35 years ago when I was 5, she had just turned 41. Today I’m a day older than she was when she died.... I’m 41 and also have a 5 year old daughter.

I can barely remember my mum, being so young when she died. Just very occasional fleeting memories but nothing concrete. I still had a positive childhood with an amazing dad and very supportive family. I’m fortunate that I’ve grown up to have a happy marriage, wonderful children and a job I love.

Whilst I’ve always been sad that my mum died, when I was little I don’t think I really understood and then when I was older it was just my normal. It really has only begun to affect me strongly in terms of grief since becoming a parent.

I think knowing how devastated I’d be if I found out I was going to die, and not get to see my precious children grow up, has given me so much sadness for how she must have felt. And also looking at my daughter and how much she needs and loves me, I have so much empathy for myself as a child if that makes any sense.

In some ways today, I feel so grateful that I’m here, I’ve survived longer than my mum did and my children have. But I’m also full of sadness for my mum and a bit of me stills fears getting unwell and facing what she had to.

Has anyone else suddenly been hit by grief such a long time after their loss? I don’t think I was expecting it and it’s a bit overwhelming.

OP’s posts: |
CreamFirstThenJamOnTop Thu 11-Feb-21 14:45:37

*my children have me, that should say.

OP’s posts: |
Romanmurals Thu 11-Feb-21 14:46:49

I’m so sorry about your Mum. I don’t have experience of bereavement like yours but I’m about the same age and am struggling hugely with issues from my childhood all of a sudden. I won’t go into any of it here but I wonder if it’s a mid-life thing? Things that we’ve learned to live with rearing their heads again.

GlitchStitch Thu 11-Feb-21 14:53:10

Yes, my Mum died in her 30s when I was a toddler. I found it very strange when I passed the age she had been when she died. My family life was quite difficult growing up too and I wasn't given any opportunity to grieve so when it finally hit me it was very unexpected. Having children compounds it too, the idea of leaving my kids at the same age is awful. Be kind to yourself.

Unfucked Thu 11-Feb-21 14:53:13

I’m so very sorry about your dear mum, and that you’re feeling so sad.

It’s completely normal to feel this way, and it’s something grief counsellors deal with all the time. I supported a friend through something very similar and she’s feeling really great now, having got the help she needed. We’re not meant to deal with big emotions alone.

Broceliande Thu 11-Feb-21 14:58:49

I'm really sorry about your mum. Same as previous poster, I don't have any direct experience but my DH (primary caregiver as DM worked days and he worked nights) left when I was five, and I found my feelings of anger and abandonment resurfaced very strongly when I reached my mum's age with similar-aged children. As you describe, it was an increased empathy for a situation that as a child I could not really comprehend; triggered by reaching the same stage in my own life. It was almost like I had to process the feelings all over again (or rather process them properly, as I don't think I actually did when it happened) and I was shocked by how much it affected me. The circumstances are different and the death of a parent is obviously much worse than a parent simply leaving, but I think there are similarities in the emotional response.

If you can afford it, I would recommend seeing a therapist to help you come to terms with it; you can do it via Zoom at the moment. It really helped me flowers

CreamFirstThenJamOnTop Thu 11-Feb-21 14:59:28

Thank you all. I’ve been thinking about contacting a grief counsellor so it’s reassuring that this is something that they come across often.

@GlitchStitch sorry to hear that you also lost your mum so young and experienced the same as an adult. I guess it must happen a lot but I’ve never met anyone else in real life who it’s happened to.

I had kind of planned to go to her grave today to put some flowers out, but it’s a very long drive and decided not to. So I just took the day off work to have a bit of space and time to reflect.

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MummytoCSJH Thu 11-Feb-21 15:02:03

My Dad passed away when I was 6. My son is 6 now and I know he would not understand if it happened to me, I think about how young he still is and how little I really was when it happened! I've always been okay with it for the most part because as you say it was just the norm - people always wondered why I was so blasé about the whole thing when it came up.

justanotherneighinparadise Thu 11-Feb-21 15:02:33

I remember watching a radio program about this. It was very interesting. I’ve googled and I wonder if hearing other women’s experiences might help you.

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1PWZsw4NVG3mkRpcDyXv0Kt/outliving-mum-how-it-feels-to-reach-the-age-your-mum-was-when-she-died

justanotherneighinparadise Thu 11-Feb-21 15:02:58

*listening to a ..... that should have said x

CreamFirstThenJamOnTop Thu 11-Feb-21 15:03:11

@Broceliande thank you for sharing your experience. I think regardless of whether a parent left or whether they died, their is still a sense of loss or grief to the child left behind.

I can get therapy or counselling funded through work so may well arrange something. My DH is a great listener but I think it would help to talk to a professional.

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CreamFirstThenJamOnTop Thu 11-Feb-21 15:07:46

@justanotherneighinparadise Thank you so much, I will take a look at that link.

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CreamFirstThenJamOnTop Thu 11-Feb-21 15:13:33

@MummytoCSJH thank you for sharing. Your experience sounds similar and that’s it, when I look at DD I think how hurt and confused she would be if I was suddenly gone.

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Twinkie01 Thu 11-Feb-21 15:17:11

I'm sorry to hear about your mum. It's hard grieving someone you never really knew. My mum died at 19, I was under a year old so never knew her and like you I was a bit wobbly around that age as it all of a sudden dawned on me that I was older than her when she died.

Have you thought about counselling? It may help, it's hard for others to understand this sort of grief if they've not experienced it.

lifestooshort123 Thu 11-Feb-21 15:19:20

I'm so sorry you lost your mum at such a young age and it's perfectly OK to feel sad about it. My dad died 55 years ago and I still get great washes of grief - I think it's more that I've missed not having a dad rather than him in particular as my memories of him have faded unfortunately. I missed having a dad to give me away or to worry about me and boyfriends! I used to be envious of friends who still had their dads and felt a big hole in my life but I can go for ages without even thinking about it until there's a trigger. I think talking it over with a stranger might help you get your head round it - not to stop thinking about her as that's the greatest gift you can give her, but to feel at peace with your thoughts. Good luck 💐

dottiedodah Thu 11-Feb-21 15:19:52

Im sorry to hear about your Mum ,41 is no age to die is it? Like you my DF died when he was 53 and I was 8 .After all this time I still find it hard .When my DC were born ,I was always thinking DF would have been this age by now and asking DH if he felt OK! (Dad died suddenly in the night you see) .I also feel that many children find it hard to process grief as a child .I kept thinking he would " come back" one day ,as though he had been on holiday! As PP said counselling will help you .This helped me a lot when DM died more recently.Somewhere I read that a bereavement like this sort of follows you around like a "tail" ,I find sometimes if we are tired or low it feels worse somehow .LD doesnt help thats for sure!

BiarritzCrackers Thu 11-Feb-21 15:22:30

I experienced a resurgence of grief for my father's death (died when i was 7) in my 20s, and it went on for years. I couldn't speak about him without crying, the weeks building to the anniversary of his death were always awful. I don't know when it stopped, but at some point in my later 20s, I stopped crying about it, stopped the feeling of longing for a having a father, and have felt far more at peace with it all since (tearing up a little as I type this, but 15 years ago I would have been in floods).

I don't know to what extent if any I actually grieved as a child when it happened - it was a time of instability, shock, and upheaval.

Some therapists say that both a) your own child reaching the age you were at your parent's death, and b) you reaching the age of your parent's death, might trigger the types of feelings you describe. Think I am my dad's age now, but I'm not entirely sure.

Grief doesn't ever necessarily end, even after therapy, and it cycles back around again, and can affect you unexpectedly. It's really valuable to explore those feelings though, and you sound like you have pretty good insight already, identifying the empathy you have for the younger you. Counselling could be helpful with exploring this, so if it's on offer, I'd take it.

52andblue Thu 11-Feb-21 15:27:20

Ah God love you yes this is totally normal.
To feel 'odd' once you've passed the age your parent died (esp if young) - yes - my Father died at 23, so when I became 24 I felt very odd.
And yes, to 'miss' someone you hardly remember (I was 14 weeks but I have 1 precious pic of him holding me and feeding me a banana!)
And yes, to look at your lovely 5 yr old dd (like looking at yourself) and to think how confused she'd be if you died and how heartbroken you'd be if you knew you had to leave her.
It's quite a powerful combination you are being 'hit' with.
I agree that some professional (or voluntary if £ is an issue) grief counselling might be useful. You can still speak to your H and friends but a professional (keep at it till you find the right one) would be a great resource too, to help you process these powerful feelings.
Grief isn't linear, and it can often 'hit' us many years or decades later.x

cakebythepound1234 Thu 11-Feb-21 15:27:46

Sorry to hear about your mum. I know where you are coming from. My mum died when I was 8 and my DB was 6. She was 34. I spent the vast majority of my teen and adult life thinking I was absolutely fine and had come to terms with it all. But in 2019 I had a bit of an anxiety meltdown, had to take time off work and was put on anti depressants and started seeing a therapist. In a nutshell - I was not fine about my mums death and had been storing the trauma away for years until it burst. I don't think it's any coincidence that this all happened in the year approaching me turning 35 and my son turned 6. I spent a lot of time worrying that I'd die at the same age my mum did and leave my son behind at the same age my brother was when our mum died. Turning 35 and realising I was now older than my mum ever would be was pretty devastating for me and made me realise just how young she was and just how traumatic it had all been for me. Luckily I had an excellent therapist who made me see just how awful the whole experience was and that underneath my bravado was an 8 year old girl who had never faced up to the enormity of what happened. So I know how awful you might feel and how tough it all is. If you are struggling with it all then I can't recommend therapy enough - it's incredibly tough to do but has made the world of difference to my mental health and helped me face up to some hard truths.

elp30 Thu 11-Feb-21 15:33:42

I lost my mother when she was 45 and I was 10 in 1981. So, this June will be 40 years that my sister and I have lived without her. Our father died in 2011 so going on 10 years there too.

I completely understand where you are coming from.

My sister and I have had seriously difficult times where we have been filled with grief for losing her at various stages in our lives. Obviously, for the big events like marriages, motherhood, divorce and especially when we lost our Dad. But it's the every day things that really makes us feel sad. We spend so much of our lives wondering what she would have been like to have grown up with her and to have seen her grow old.

My long-standing friend who knew me at age eight said that when my mother died, I put on this sort of "coat" that I wore from that day on. I was apparently the most serious ten-year-old at school and this "coat" was my bereavement that I couldn't take off because it was a part of me. I found that accurate and well-put. It did indeed feel like that.

My sister and I always worried about dying young and there always seemed to be a looming clock that heralded the day that we finally outlived her. Our mother was 45 years and 218 days. On that day for my sister, we grieved our mother's death. On her 45th year and 219th day, we celebrated. We did the same on my 45th, 218th day and the next day. You want to know what, OP @CreamFirstThenJamOnTop
I felt as though I was able to stop wearing my "coat". I felt sad, obviously, but also a sense of calm. My sister said the same.

You've reached that moment too and I hope that you feel a sense of calm soon too.
I wish you all the best for your new future.

iluvnettletea Thu 11-Feb-21 15:37:50

I was a teenager when my mum died and now I am the same age she was when she died, and I have a daughter who is a teenager. I think a lot about whether my daughter could handle life if I died, what my mum might have felt like worrying about me (she had a terminal illness), how much I didn't understand back then, how I don't feel like I am 'old enough to die'. Some of the bad end advice she gave me and why she might have said those things. It just goes on and on. But it's not all terrible. It's reflective and in some ways, I feel I understand her better now.

Vytol Sat 13-Feb-21 15:10:22

I read your post last night OP and immediately felt tears prick my eyes and a familiar feeling sweep through me.

I was almost four when my mother died and she was also 41. I started grieving properly when I was about 18/19 and at uni, then another wave when I became a parent. I started having counselling for it when I passed the age she was when she died - as that was another significant point. A sense of deep loss has always been there (although I rarely showed it) but it was at these key times that I felt it most keenly.

I can't say my family handled it very well, from my perspective anyway, I've always felt very alone with it. I've managed to marry into a covertly dysfunctional family (to be fair my DH did warn me) and that made me feel the loss even more, especially when I became a parent myself.

I think I've found peace with it now - as I have fully accepted that it was a profound loss and one that will always be with me.

flowers

Chocolate908 Sun 14-Feb-21 20:29:57

Very similar to you. My mum died 35 years ago when I was 5. Like somebody else mentioned, I counted the exact days of her age when she died and couldn’t wait to get to that age. Same with my child; I freaked out when he reached the exact age that I was when my mum died and then it was a bit of a relief to pass it.
I’ve never had proper therapy; as you know, it wasn’t really a thing back in the 80s. I don’t know what’s stopping me doing it now. I guess I don’t like talking about it as it was very hush hush when I was growing up. We still don’t ever mention what happened in my family.
Hope you find some peace with it all. Happy to chat if you’d like to.

ArseInTheCoOpWindow Sun 14-Feb-21 20:42:56

There a fb group called ‘Chikdren bereaved as Children’ I’m in it, it’s really really helpful. I think Winston’s Wish have a similar thing.

My dad died when l was 8 ( he tried to kill himself when l was 4) l think it gets harder as l get older and so do other people in that fb group.

I’m 57. I never knew him. In my late teens early 20’s l used to watch children and fathers and wonder what it was like to have a dad. I’ve seen my Dh raise our Dd with love, making her feel valued and worthwhile. I wonder what that feels like. I’ve known friends laugh and enjoy their dads, been given away at weddings. I wonder what the feels like.

The older l get the more l feel the missing part. Like I’ve lost something important all the time, but not sure what.

This has led to a lifetime of inner emptiness that no pills or therapy has ever addressed.

I totally get you OP. Absolutely understand x

ArseInTheCoOpWindow Sun 14-Feb-21 20:48:41

These posts are 💔.

It seems to be a subject that gets no publicity. You’re just meant to get on with it. And it comes back to haunt you again and again.

That FB group is really really helpful.

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