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Why the death of a mother is the most difficult to get over

By Bunmi Sofola

I lost my mother six months ago and I’m still devastated” – wrote a reader.

“She was my best friend as well as my mum and since her death, I haven’t been able to cope.  I’ve been put on sleeping tablets but I still can’t sleep I am a single mother and my mother was very supportive when the father of my child didn’t show any interest in my daughter, and I never wanted for anything.  I haven’t got many friends, so I don’t know who to talk to. I can’t talk to my dad because he is also grieving and is really bewildered. As things are now, I feel as though I can’t carry on without my mum”.


With the passing on of one’s mother, the shape of a family changes abruptly. The children are in shock, and the father, even though he’s expected to be strong, is most of the time bewildered.  With time, the pain might be dulled, but the grief resurfaces from time to time over the years.   “When I was in my teens”, remembers Aweni, now 36; “my mother was strict and controlling … She forbade me to wear make-up, attend discos and go out with boys. I used to seethe to myself a lot bust |I had no choice but to comply. When my mother died in a motor accident, I was 19. Although I felt really sad, I felt like I could breathe again – was free to do whatever I wanted. So I stayed out, went to parties a lot, and my father turned a blind eye. With time though, I realised my liberation was double-edged. I felt like I finally belonged with my friends, but I was still in pain because I missed my mother so much.

“We had so many arguments that I didn’t get the chance to make up with her, and I felt so guilty and just behaved the way I wasn’t allowed to before. Things got really bad when I was getting married and there was no mum to help with my plans”. Some decades ago, when I was editing Happy Home magazine and doing the Love Story slot, I remember asking a particular husband the question: If you were to choose between your mother and your wife, who would you choose?  Without batting an eyelid, Femi, the husband replied: “My mother”, ignoring the pained expression on his wife’s face right there by his side, he went on about the fantastic sacrifices his mother had made for him.

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He came from a polygamous family, he alleges, and it was his mother who made sure he had the best food and education even when she had to beg and borrow money!  I wondered then how he would feel if his mum passed on. Years after, his mother died, I had the opportunity to seek the views of both of them.  “After my mother died”, recalled Femi, an only child and spoilt by his mum,”I became adamant I wouldn’t do anything that would let her down so I never drank and I never touched a cigarette because she used to disapprove of me doing those things. It took me a long time to face the fact that the situation I was in was unchangeable. I had to make myself face the fact that I’m not supposed to have a mother any more. Even now, I still find myself talking to her, but knowing she will never be around for the most important landmarks in my life. Her death was as if a huge part of me was ripped off. I still hear her voice to this day”.

Femi’s wife, on the other hand, was glad to see the back of her mother-in-law. She said: “She was very over-bearing and was always threatening me with substitute wives whenever I fell out with her precious son. I was running a fashion house that he set up for me and she was always around like the proverbial bad penny. When Femi began looking into my business’ takings, she backed him up. Whenever he was ill, she would be around like a shot, sleeping in his room whilst I slept in the guest room. The relationship was very unhealthy and it eroded any respect I had for my husband. He was actually lost when his mother died. Unfortunately, he lost his job too and I had to relocate abroad with the kids as they’re all British citizens.  In the end, he graciously agreed to join us there but when he started being heavy-handed all over again, I gleefully kicked him out.  Let him go to his mother’s grave an ask her what he should do with the rest of his life!”

No matter how sad you are at the death of your mother, a sociologist advises you should console yourself with the thought that she lives on in the hearts of all that loved her. According to her: “You feel her influence in caring for people he raised and on her grandchildren’s faces. You will continue to live with her values and to judge yourself as she might. When you feel down, be as kind to yourself as she would have been to you. Whatever a grieving child does she should remember that her father needs consoling more than ever. Allow yourself to show you love him.  He may not want to talk about his grief, but a part of him very much needs to. Just popping over to ask him how he is and to volunteer to help with the cooking or shopping will permit him to feel that he is still loved, rather than isolated and bereft.  Lastly, when your dad feels ready to pick up the pieces of his life by committing to another woman, don’t interfere.  It’s his life after all, and you should let him get on with it!”


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