Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

How to mourn a difficult mother.

(29 Posts)
getinthesea Wed 29-Jul-15 18:52:09

My mother died in February. We had a fairly distant relationship - I hadn't lived with her since I was 8 (lived with father and step mother) and while she went through some good patches she was often depressed and alcoholic. It turned out when she died that she was living in a pretty grim way too - she hadn't let me in the house for ages but always seemed OK on her infrequent visits here. We did speak on the phone once a week, but not about anything important.

I've spent the last six months sorting out her estate and doing a piece of work rather maniacally. I thought I was coping quite well and it didn't matter that much.

That's all done, it's the summer holidays and I'm not OK: my moods are up and down, I'm crying about all sorts of strange things, have low level depression, high level anxiety and clearly it's all not OK. But I do not have a single idea how to cope with this.

I know that there are repressed emotions to do with my parents divorce (not cleverly handled, but hey, it was the 70s, no one knew how to do these things) and my feeling that my mother abandoned us, but I have no idea what these are and how to process them or what to do with myself at all. I did have a couple of years of therapy about 12 years ago, but don't really have the money to go back (and to be honest it would take months to explain my family to a new therapist and I don't think I've got the energy for that).

So what do I do? I'd quite like to go to bed for a month, or even a week, but it's the summer holidays and I can't. So if anyone has any coping strategies, or even ways that I can find out what I am feeling and get through it, I'd really love the help.

Decorhate Wed 29-Jul-15 19:00:00

Hi. I'm no expert but I've had friends experience similar feelings to you after the death of a parent they had a difficult relationship with. I think as well as the normal grief, you are grieving the fact that you didn't have a happy relationship with her/normal childhood/proper mother or whatever the past did to you and there will never be a chance to have that now because she is gone. So you are also grieving for your childhood.
Even adults with happier childhoods often feel like a small child again when a parent dies.

Crumpet1 Wed 29-Jul-15 19:00:32

Hello, I'm in near enough the same position. My mum also died in February, she was mentally ill and an alcoholic.
I dealt ok with it for a while but can feel it catching up with me now, I could definitely join you for a month in bed, different beds though! All i want to do is get drunk and forget about it all but then I worry that I'm turning in to her.

No big advice really, just wanted you to know you're not alone. Take it one day at a time x

pallasathena Wed 29-Jul-15 19:25:32

Be kind to yourself. That's number one right now. At the moment all sorts of unresolved emotions, issues, what-might-have-beens are rearing their respective heads and you're naturally feeling overwhelmed. It takes time to process.

Worst thing you can do is self medicate with booze. Its a depressant and you need a clear head to think things through.

Take an hour each day to be on your own and have some thinking time.

getinthesea Wed 29-Jul-15 20:02:54

Yes, I think that's spot on Decorhate and Pallas, all of that is true. I think I want to rush through it and be over everything, but of course that can't happen and I will just have to sit with the feelings. But I am afraid of what they might be.

Two things aren't helping at the moment. My DD is the same age that I was when my parents divorced, which would be hard enough on its own anyway. And a financial thing to do with my grandmother's will, which was 15 years ago and I thought long sorted, has reared up again. So I feel that I will never ever free myself from family shit stuff.

Crumpet - hello to you too, and it's good to not be alone. You look after yourself too.

allibaba Wed 29-Jul-15 20:44:36

OP have you thought about contacting Cruse bereavement? They are a charity who are manned by trained volunteers who come to your house and offer counseling.

My DH used them a few years after his mum passed away in difficult circumstances; it was a very complex relationship anyway. He found it so helpful. I thithink you make a donation to them with whatwhatever you can afford.

EnriqueTheRingBearingLizard Wed 29-Jul-15 21:01:53


It's a horribly complex mix of emotions getin.
I haven't experienced what you're going through as yet although I do have experience of something similar.

I am trying to work on just letting things go. It's incredibly draining trying to work out the whys and wherefores and to be honest, I don't think right thinking people have much of a chance in the kind of circumstances you're talking about.

Maybe talking to Cruse would help, or maybe your local church has a group who can also listen, they don't always concentrate on a religious aspect and can be a sympathetic ear.

CognitiveIllusion Wed 29-Jul-15 21:04:59

My mum had a difficult relationship with her mother and I know that she struggled when her mother died. Sorry I can't think of anything helpful to say except that time is a great healer. My mum eventually came to terms with not only her mother's death but also their relationship - in a way she had never been able to do while she was alive. I hope that you manage to find the same kind of peace, OP.

JT05 Wed 29-Jul-15 21:23:33

I'm probably older than you, my parents divorced in the late 50s when I was 7. My mother was described, by the court, as an unfit mother, having left the family home.
Although I went to live with her when 12, she didn't really like me.
Fast forward 40 years and she died, living abroad.
I mourn for the mother and relationship I did not have.
But you have your life and have to live it now. Make the life you want rather than living in the past. Focus on what you hold dear.

getinthesea Wed 29-Jul-15 21:51:01

I'll look up Cruse, thank you, and see if they are here (small town). Although that will probably have to wait until September before I can actually do anything.

Enrique, I agree about letting go - and what you say JT is spot on. I want to live in the present, I really do, but right now I just don't know how to do it.

One of the things that also freaks me out is that it was when her own mother died that my mother really fell apart. DH keeps telling me that I am not like her, but I am still afraid the same will happen to me.

JT05 Thu 30-Jul-15 14:14:02

getinthesea, you are in early days of mourning. It is easy and part of the process to see yourself as inheriting traits from your mother, but you are not her and can control your own life.

Cruise will help, but what happens in our young lives does affect us and sometimes it does take a lifetime to deal with the feelings.
It might help, before you go to sleep to think of all the positives that the day has brought.

I wish you well on your journey.

LazyLouLou Thu 30-Jul-15 14:27:10

DH wouldn't contact CRUSE so I had to stand in and encourage him to talk about his feelings. Lots of bile, anger, resentment had to be negotiated. His main question was always "Is it alright not to have liked her, let alone loved her?". His StepD died just weeks afterward and he then had to work his way through "Is it OK to have loved him even though he was a complete bastard?" Eventually he worked his way round both sets of emotions!

13 years on and he can now talk about them both, good and bad, without getting tightly wound up and angry. We try to avoid avoiding mention of them, if that makes sense.

It takes a long time if you try to cope. So please do contact somebody who can help you work your way through everything that is rattling around in your head.

suchafuss Thu 30-Jul-15 14:44:25

Same for me OP DM died 9 years ago this August and did not cry for her but when i think of the little girl that i was and how i was desperate for her love and attention then that makes me cry. I am often angry, down and have difficulty in finding the joy in things and it doesnt help having ab 8y DD. I read up about attachment theory recently which i found helpful. Otherwise i am watching with interest to see if anyone has any helpful suggestions.

Lottapianos Thu 30-Jul-15 14:59:34

OP, I'm so sorry you're going through this. What you describe feels absolutely dreadful but it sounds like entirely normal grief to me. Both my parents are still alive but I have been grieving for them for the last few years (I've made the decision to go very low contact and now don't really have any meaningful relationship with them).

The exhaustion is dreadful, both physical and mental. What has helped me is trying very hard to take good care of myself - eating good food, cutting back on sugar and booze but still allowing myself some treats, taking exercise, getting outside, staying well hydrated and getting as much sleep as I can. Reminding myself that this is normal, as awful as it feels, and it will pass. Reaching out to people who understand - not easy when you feel like crawling into a hole.

I see a psychotherapist which I know you feel is not a possibility for you, but speaking to another professional person (CRUSE or similar) may be a very good idea. Take it easy - you're dealing with a lot x

Yarp Thu 30-Jul-15 15:11:03

OP, it's well known, and well-reasearched that the grieving process is more complicated and painful for those who have had an ambivalent or difficult relationship with the person who has died, so you are not alone in this. It's the loss of the potential to make it better, and as you say, the rising up of emotions that you've had to suppress to survive when you were younger. I think also that society expects grief to be one thing (straighforward feeling of loss), when actually it's a mixture of less 'acceptable' emotions like relief and anger too./

Yarp Thu 30-Jul-15 15:14:29

I second contacting Cruse. Ask to see someone who knows about the loss of a parent with whom you've had a difficult relationship.

Yarp Thu 30-Jul-15 15:22:02

The number for Cruse is: 028 9079 2419.

It also occurs to me to wonder whether Al-Alon run groups for bereaved relatives of alcoholics

Yarp Thu 30-Jul-15 15:22:14


DuchessFanny Thu 30-Jul-15 15:25:32

I know how you feel ! I had a very difficult relationship with my DM.
It wasn't helped by her MH issues and alcoholism. She died this January and I've been shocked at my level of emotion ! I've been a mess !
I think * Yarp* has it right when they say it's the loss of never getting the chance for a better relationship.
There are also all the memories of tough times growing up, as well as the good, my Mum did love me and we loved her, but it was very hard.

I wish I had some answers in how to cope better, but time and talking about it helps I think .

Be kind to yourself and follow the process < I'm hoping this will work for me >

Lottapianos Thu 30-Jul-15 15:30:39

'I think also that society expects grief to be one thing (straighforward feeling of loss), when actually it's a mixture of less 'acceptable' emotions like relief and anger too'

That's so true. And there's a lot of pressure to put a brave face on things, and to be seen to be 'coping', which just adds another layer of pressure at a time when you're struggling with really unpleasant feelings.

hereandtherex Thu 30-Jul-15 15:34:26

Another with a dead, alcoholic mother.

Mother was bad when I lived with her. Left at 16.
She got worse.

I'm sad she died but I'm glad she's no longer alive.

I was sad when she died but Im getting angrier with her as I think back and remember what an total fuck up she made of her and her families lives.

iknowimcoming Thu 30-Jul-15 15:47:05

Agree with pps about getting some counselling if possible, but in the meantime you could try writing down your thoughts as a way of offloading them if that makes sense? I wrote letters to both my parents after my fathers death (which ultimately lead to me going nc with my mum), which I never intended to send but made me feel loads better. I did them on my laptop so that I could add stuff as it cropped up in my mind. May sound a bit odd but it was really helpful for me, things like I love you because you're my dad but x makes me so angry when I think about it, I don't understand why you behaved that way etc. Almost like a list of the bad stuff I suppose, I found it really cathartic. It doesn't have to be in the form of a letter mind, it could be just random notes about how you feel at any point, or a diary of you thoughts written down each day. Hope that helps and I'm sure other will be along with more ideas, take care of yourself thanks

Yarp Thu 30-Jul-15 15:50:13


That's a really good idea

And some people have a little ceremony when they are ready to destroy what they wrote.

I am a big believer in getting what's in your head out of your head, by writing it down. That's part of what counselling is - just hearing yourself saying something and coming to an acceptance or understanding of it

getinthesea Thu 30-Jul-15 16:54:40

Thanks everyone, and sorry to all of those in the same position. And I will contact Cruse - our ones are only open in the morning, so will have to wait until next week.

I do write a diary most days, and meditate (although that's hard in the summer holidays) and eat well. I think part of what's bothering me is the sense that I have to work so hard just to hold myself together. And it only just does. In a funny way, it's much more cathartic to write things down on here, partly because I am sharing the emotions, but also because I have to explain myself properly, which forces me to think. I might try the letter too. But it's almost impossible to get angry with her because her own life was so fucked up by her parents in turn, that I can't blame her at all, just feel sad for what I didn't get.

I felt that very strongly yesterday. DD won a day out as part of a competition (for something she's quite good at but doesn't often get singled out for), and had such a lovely time. I came home feeling desolate, as though I had lost something. I never had anything like that in my childhood, never felt valued and recognised after my parents divorced and I'm so pleased to give it to DD. But now I am really feeling the loss of it myself.

Lotta and here - it's really good to hear what you are feeling too. Oddly - and I could never admit this in real life - I was relieved and almost manically happy for the first few months after she died, relief I suppose. Then very tired, and now this.

twentyten Thu 30-Jul-15 17:04:19

It sounds as if so much is coming to the surface now so no wonder you are exhausted. And trying to hold it all together. Write away here- you will be heard and validated.
You seem to have great insight- and it's ok to feel it's not fair- that you can give your dd what you never had but deserve. Can you make treats for yourself- because you deserve them?
Acknowledging this is tough but many others can recognise and empathise. Keep writing. thanks

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now