Singing goodbye to my mom: How the five practices of Self-Reg are helping me through my grief

Singing goodbye to my mom: How the five practices of Self-Reg are helping me through my grief

My mom closed her eyes for the last time on a Sunday night last September and she took her last breath almost 5 days later. Over a short series of blogs to follow, I will share some personal reflections on the five steps of Self-Reg as practices that helped me through my grief and how much I am learning in the process.

I grappled with the title for this blog series. I didn’t want it to sound like an expert giving advice on how to get through grief because I can’t offer that. I wanted to tell a story, my story. Part of this story was a song I sang hundreds of times to my mom over the long hours of her time in palliative care – a place she never actually saw with her own eyes. Of course, it wasn’t in any plan I had ever imagined to sound as though I had walked out of a sappy movie about losing your mom. But in the end, that’s what it likely looked like on the outside. A daughter singing Amazing Grace over and over again –the song she’d heard her mom singing to herself thousands of times before.

I can’t carry a tune, nor was I in a state to breathe easily and sometimes the words just wouldn’t come out. So you can just imagine what a sight I was. If you’d have listened carefully you may have also heard my brother joining me and humming along with the very last singing as our mom struggled for and then took her last breath.

We sang my mom goodbye and I know she felt us there.

My mom was a character, complex and struggling in many ways, but always loving. She laughed easily and could be so funny in unexpected ways. Just days before she passed away, she playfully teased the doctor in ICU who told her she was dying, that under different circumstances she’d have thought he was kind of cute.

Self-Reg is helping me with the grief that still reminds me regularly that it has taken up a home in my heart and my body. For me, Self-Reg is a way of knowing, a way of seeing, and a way of understanding ourselves and others a little more in all types of life experiences including grief and loss.

In the vlog below, Susan opens up to Stuart about the loss of her mother. You can watch the vlog below or on our YouTube Channel here.

 

By | 2019-02-27T11:23:13+00:00 February 26th, 2019|

9 Comments

  1. Aviva February 26, 2019 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Oh Susan! Your vlog (and this blog post) really hit home to me. Sending you a very big virtual hug, and so appreciative that you’re sharing this very personal story with all of us.

    Aviva

  2. Marilyn February 27, 2019 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Susan,
    Love this. I hope it is fitting to say ‘me too’ as you describe your grief and stories!
    I look forward to your next vlog/blog.
    Until then, ❤️ ( love and prayers)
    Marilyn

  3. Ilene March 1, 2019 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    Susan,
    Thank you for sharing!

    It is such a huge gift that you have given to those of us who are also grieving.

    My sincere condolences.

    Ilene

  4. Bill Reynolds March 2, 2019 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Susan,

    Thanks for sharing your story of your Mum. I know how challenging it is to articulate your grief but I can assure you that your insights will be consoling to many people. My wife died at home a year ago this coming Wednesday & my grief has consumed me entirely this past year – your post has given me the opportunity to think more clearly about the grief our kids & grandchildren are going though and to share the information on the role self-regulation can play.

    My sincere & heartfelt condolences on your loss. May you find the ‘peace that passeth all understanding’.

    Bill

  5. Tina March 2, 2019 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    Stuart mentioned that grief takes time. The lifting of feeling of that weight being lifted, especially when we share our moments of when we grow. Self-Reg does get easier, and we do have those Red Brain movements.

    Our family expresses our condolences to your family. May our humanness give grace to other people’ who have entered and are going through different kinds of loss. Please be with your ur,
    Tina and Norm Bergman

  6. Corinne Catalano March 4, 2019 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Susan,
    You are such a strong woman to share your grief both in writing and on video so that others might be supported during their own journeys of loss and grief. Your mom sounds like she was such a vibrant soul! It was beautiful to watch your face light up as you spoke of her. I lost my mom when I was 50 as well and struggled a bit to understand which of my physical reactions were a result of my stress, my maturing body or the interaction of these two factors. Thank you for sharing your “human stories” and for showing us how important it is to find strength in a dear friend. I hope you are comforted by your vivid memories of your mom.
    Warm hugs,
    Corinne

  7. Linda Garofallou March 8, 2019 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Dear Susan,
    I was moved by your warm and tender blog and vlog about your grief around the loss of your mother. I was especially pleased that you opened this conversation because it seems we’ve lost many cultural supports for comfort during these tender times. It may not be the same in Canada, but certainly in American culture we can’t seem to even accept the aging process, much less death, which leaves us with few avenues for a healthy grieving in our busy worlds. For millennia there have been explicit cultural rituals that gave a form for public expression of grief so it could be shared openly and communally. I think the loss of those aspects of the grieving process in the social and prosocial domains have had reverberations across all the domains of Self-Reg. With our cultural emphasis on controlling our emotions and keeping our grief private it often leaves us adrift with how to process those emotions or allow a cognitive understanding of the deeper and broader issues inherent in these profound losses. The beautiful expression of your own sentiments are a lovely model.

    I was getting acupuncture from a Korean doctor when my father died many years ago and I remember her saying at the time:
    “your country doesn’t understand the grieving process. You go to a funeral and perhaps people weep or cry but then you
    think it’s over and you are expected to move right back into life. In Korea we have a ritual of active mourning that goes on
    for 10 years.”
    It gave me a new lens to look at death and mourning. My husband and I are of an age where we have lost many cherished family elders since that time and I have come to have a deep respect for the whole process surrounding death and believe that it is as sacred and even as miraculous as birth, even though miraculous may seem a strange word to use in the context of death. None the less, I think it is. When there is a birth or death in the family, we are truly not in the world in the same way as we do the inner work to process it all. I even came to understand the old tradition of wearing black or black arm bands after a death. Not that I started wearing black, but where I once saw a maudlin cultural tradition, I now understood it as a way to have an outward expression to show that we are not in the world in the same way as before.

    I was especially touched with how simply and movingly you spoke of how your grief has “taken up a home in my heart and my body”. It reminds me how Dan Siegel speaks about “e-motions” as energy in motion. Quite naturally, those energies take up residence in the tissues and muscles. I’ve used this quote in my presentations before so you may remember it, but I love the way Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes of this (in Women Who Run With the Wolves). “The body uses its skin and deeper fascia and flesh to record all that goes on around it…the body remembers, the bones remember, the joints remember, even the little finger remembers. Memory is lodge in pictures and feelings in the cells themselves.” Here again, the ritualized outpouring of emotions that were a part of the earlier cultural traditions allowed for the movement of those emotions. Especially the forms of ritualized weeping, wailing and even guttural shrieking that are part of those traditions, where voice and sound and movement all give the opportunity for full body expression and processing of the grief. And, in the process, probably keep those energies from getting stuck in the body. Even years and years after my father’s death I have the experience that my body remembers the approaching anniversary of his death before my mind registers it.

    My husband is Greek so I’ve been immersed in the Orthodox tradition of mnemósynon or memorial services that are held at 40 days, 6 months, 1 year and then yearly for 10 years after a death. It’s a simple and loving tradition. As I became more interested in the old cultural traditions I came across one primitive tribe that, after cremation, actually ground some of the bones of the loved one and put them in a soup that they drank. It was their way of insuring that the loved one stayed a part of them. Initially I was shocked to read of what, on the surface, sounds like a barbaric practice. But when I thought about it, the metaphor matched what I feel is truly a type of “digestive process” that goes on after the loss of a parent or dear loved one, where the mourning process allows us to “take in” the many complex aspects of our loved ones so they remain with us in a deep and abiding way.

    Thank you again for the wonderfully warm and open way that you shared your loss with us! Holding you and Siena in my heart and thoughts.

  8. Shareen March 16, 2019 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    Hi Susan
    Thank you for sharing, I just came across your blog. My heart goes out to you but your mom sound like a fun person and its great you have the love and memories to hold on to and share with others. Keep her memory alive. My mom lives with me and we sure do have some fun family times and these moments are precious. Take care
    Shareen

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