Let­ting go

New Straits Times - - Pulse -

AFEW weeks ago, a dear friend, Noor (not her real name) lost her daugh­ter-in-law to child­birth. It was the young mother’s third child, a long-awaited daugh­ter after two beau­ti­ful sons.

No­body saw it com­ing. The moth­erto-be seemed fine. The birth was nor­mal and so was the baby. Then dis­as­ter struck. She didn’t stop bleed­ing and de­spite the doc­tors’ best ef­forts, she passed away.

It hap­pened so fast. Ev­ery­thing after that was a blur; do­ing the need­ful in the midst of shock and pain.

There was the funeral and the baby to at­tend to. For­tu­nately, this fam­ily is strong and united. Ev­ery­one seemed to know what to do and all ar­range­ments went smoothly.

It was only after the funeral that ev­ery­one had a tough time pick­ing up the pieces and re­turn­ing to a sense of nor­malcy. The de­ceased was much loved by all. Her two lit­tle boys didn’t un­der­stand death even though they kissed her good­bye and went to the funeral.

They’d ask: “Where’s baby?” That was easy to an­swer. The baby was at the hospi­tal un­der ob­ser­va­tion. The next ques­tion was a lot tougher: “Where’s mama?” and the adults would fum­ble with their an­swers, try­ing to muster up all the metaphor­i­cal words for death, even­tu­ally telling them their mama had gone to sleep for a long time.

The boys nod­ded like they un­der­stood. The adults knew that the chil­dren didn’t re­ally un­der­stand, but were quite con­tent to leave it at that. How­ever, ev­ery time a car drove up the porch or when the front door opened, the boys would run to the door shout­ing: “Mama!”

The look on their faces when it was not their mother was more than what any­one could bear. Ev­ery­one was griev­ing over the loss of this loved one, and see­ing the chil­dren’s re­ac­tions com­pounded their mis­ery and broke their hearts all over again.

Get­ting back to the rou­tine of ev­ery­day life even­tu­ally gave them some sem­blance

of or­der. The vac­uum and empti­ness were still there, but ev­ery­one strove to get on with their lives. Noor felt that she had to be there for her son and his chil­dren. So she would go to their house to bring them food, stock up the fridge, tidy up the house and even do the laun­dry.

She felt that do­ing things that her late daugh­ter-in-law did at home would some­how ease her son’s troubles. That was when she dis­cov­ered some­thing about her son and their re­la­tion­ship that she wasn’t aware of in the past. This lit­tle fam­ily unit was in­de­pen­dent and close. He pulled his weight at home by do­ing the cook­ing and clean­ing.

At first he didn’t say any­thing for fear of hurt­ing or of­fend­ing his mum be­cause

she too was griev­ing and she just wanted to help. In the end, he sat her down and gently ex­plained to her that he would much pre­fer to grieve qui­etly in his own home.

He wanted to re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing the way it was. He wanted to cook for his chil­dren their fam­ily favourites and he wanted the laun­dry folded just the way his wife used to, not the way his mum does. He also didn’t want a fully stocked fridge or left­overs.

Noor was nei­ther hurt nor of­fended. How­ever, it jolted her to learn that her son was not just the strong, young man she had raised but had been a good, sup­port­ive hus­band as well.

She was proud of this dis­cov­ery, but it also made her heart clench even more to see him lose some­one he loved so much. Noor had the grace to laugh this off by of­fer­ing to send help to mop the floor or wash the bath­rooms and her son gra­ciously ac­cepted her of­fer.

Noor shared her ex­pe­ri­ence with me, say­ing she didn’t re­alise that ev­ery­one grieves dif­fer­ently and the process may be longer for some. It’s some­thing you know but it doesn’t re­ally reg­is­ter un­til a sit­u­a­tion like this hap­pens. We al­ways tend to as­sume that ev­ery­one shares our val­ues, es­pe­cially when that some­one is your child. After all, we raised him, didn’t we?

Our child may al­ways be our baby in our hearts and minds, but they do grow up and form their own ways and habits. As a mother, that part of let­ting go is truly dif­fi­cult. Sud­denly you see your child as an in­di­vid­ual — an adult do­ing things his way and not yours.

With the death of her daugh­ter-in­law, she was now wit­ness­ing a man mourn­ing the loss of his wife. He needed the time and soli­tude to come to terms with his loss. He needed time to con­nect with his boys and his baby girl. Noor could only do so much for him, but this was his own jour­ney, to un­der­take alone and in his own time.

As much as it hurt her to watch him mourn and grieve, she re­spected his re­quest and gave him all the time and space he needed. No mat­ter the dis­tance, she would al­ways be there for him.

Once your child be­comes an adult, you have to let him or her do things their way, not yours.

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