We find it hard to talk about death and mourning in our contemporary culture. It isn’t just our parents that we’re losing. Spouse, colleague, neighbor, so many of our friends are dying. Ten thousand baby boomers are turning 65 every day for the next decade.
In Memoir of Mourning: journey through grief and loss to renewal, Claudia describes with perception, courage and compassion, the stages on her journey from her bedside vigil as her mother lay dying, through her months of deep sorrow as she mourned, to her eventual acknowledgement that she has reached a new, more hopeful place in her life. Her experiences have the power to guide and inform our lives as we care for aging loved ones and offer condolences to bereaved friends and acquaintances. Her story assures us we’re all connected in our need to share our sorrow and be comforted.
Memoir of Mourning serves as a thoughtful companion piece for hospice and end-of-life support programs and palliative care training for medical and health professionals and volunteers. It is a useful resource for any organization committed to supporting individuals and families experiencing the loss of their loved one. Students in palliative medicine and doctors and nurse practitioners in established practices benefit from its candid and practical descriptions of how the hospital system deals, often inadequately, with the dying and their families.
The book is divided into three parts: Dying and Death, Mourning Mom, and Journey toward Renewal. Three distinct strands are woven together in the weave of the story: the narrative of her personal experiences leading up to her mother’s death, mourning, and moving on; poems to illuminate internal reflections in contrast with her outside persona; and research materials and quotes from literature on death, grieving, resilience, and post traumatic recovery.
Claudia retells her mother’s vivid stories of her experiences in Germany and the Netherlands during the Second World War, meeting her future husband who was a soldier in the Cameron Highlanders and part of the Liberation Forces, and crossing the ocean to arrive as a war bride and outsider in a small town community so distant from her previous life.
She describes her mother’s struggles with cancer and mental illness and her frequent stays in psychiatric hospitals and clinics as she deals with bipolar disease. Claudia searches through literature to gain insights on her mother’s resilience and strength in the face of family deaths – losing her three brothers and her parents, and the diagnoses of cancer and bipolar disease. She makes reference to her reading of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, and Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, as well as research on post traumatic renewal.
Her journey takes her through the stages of grieving – denial, acceptance, and life continuing on in a state she terms renewal. She emphasizes the importance of celebrating family and community traditions and remembering to remember, the importance of mementos, commemoration, and remembrance. She writes of coming to terms with her mother dying, her own mortality, and her search for a new role with the passing of her mother. She highlights the difficulty of communicating sorrow, grief and loss especially in today’s culture where the traditional rites of a wake, funeral, and burial are often masked by our fear of confronting the reality of death.
She emphasizes the power of sharing our experience of loss which each other and through communication achieving comfort and solace.