It has been a year since my mother passed (September 30, 2006). Dealing with the dreaded "Anniversary Effect" is like dealing with a blow to the head. Somewhat unexpected and hurts like hell.
The anniversary effect has forced my mind to travel down to memories that are painful and somewhat dark. All the events from that time have come flooding back without strenght to deal with them.
Death and the dying process of a loved one is painful to watch. There is one thing that upsets me still and causes confusion is when people ask at a death, "Were you close (to the departed)?"
Eh? What type of question is that to ask the bereaved? I would like to point out that asking the dynamics of a relationship with the dearly departed is making an already painful event more painful. I don't care to discuss relationship dynamics in general with people, and discussing them of the deceased shortly after departure seems like the most inappropriate time possible to ask. Also, who's business is it anyhow? Does death make asking inappropriate deeply personal questions appropriate all of a sudden?
I will state for the sake of this post that my mother and I were not very close at times. In a nutshell, we had very different views about life and at times, we could not be more different from each other. However, she had a fierce love and devotion to her two daughters and would have given her life a thousand times over before allowing any harm to come to her daughters. For me, a mother-daughter bond is very unique and can never be replaced. Nothing can patch the void she has left in me.
If I tell people that my mother and I were not close, does that make me less deserving of sympathy then? Would I be more deserving of sympathy if I tell people that we were close? My worthiness of sympathy and condolesces should not be measured on how close I was to the departed, no?
Death also has a way of making one feel guilty. It is part of the bereavement process. Things left undone and unsaid take a toll on one's mind. You go back in time several times and wish that there are so many things you could have done differently. By asking if you were close to the departed only serves as a painful reminder of things you could have done better. It is like twisting the proverbial knife in one's heart.
I realize that death in our society is uncomfortable process. So much about death and dying seem shielded behind a curtain. We have to look behind this curtain unprepared when death and dying occur. I understand that at times, people are at a loss for words when death occurs. However, a simple, "I am sorry for your loss" is simple, heartfelt, and most of all, appropriate.