Facing the Peaks


One of Life’s big hurdles came along a week ago, tossing me upside down and playing havoc with emotions and equilibrium . . . AND making me an orphan.

Only three and a half years have passed since it last happened, when my Dad – waiting for the coffee Mum was making – fell back on the bed and his life here stopped. The shock of seeing him lifted out of his house and carried away was only the beginning of what has proven to be the steep mountain range of the land that was my life until then. Compared to those slopes, all the previous years have been along rolling hills, beside babbling brooks – admittedly slowly climbing upward – but the foothills of that range have been approached for some time now.

The last few years have been a steep and steady ascent, with few level places, into the mountains, whose peaks seem to disappear into the clouds ahead.

We’ve clambered the slope of Mount Clear-the-House, which stretched previously untried muscles and relationships. At its peak is the Sort-Stuff plain, and the troughs of despair and decision.

There was a brief respite on a gentle downhill undulation called ‘Mum-Moves-To-Retirement-Village’ and we all took a breather. Soon after, however, the ground levelled and started to climb, and we hit the boulders of ‘Mini-Stroke’ slip, and the inside of a hospital ward.

And from that moment on, it has been an unrelenting if gradual climb, past Mount Mum’s Shopping, Mount Caregivers, Mount You’re-the-parent-now.

I must move from this picture now, because it feels too flippant for the situation that so many like me have gone through, or will experience.

I am very aware that – compared to what others have gone through – my own double loss in recent years was remarkably light on pain and rich in grace. Still, the loss of my Mum at Auckland hospital on the day following her birthday (29 Jan, 2016) still has the power to flip me and cartwheel me like I’ve been caught in the surf at Piha beach.

In both instances my parents did not suffer. And I feel very relieved that Mum, who was always young at heart, no longer faces a bewildering future of being old and completely dependent on others. But I am surprised that the numb acceptance with which I got through last week leading up to her funeral, has given way to periods of heaviness and lack of motivation. Waking this morning, I felt as if I had a weight pressing on my chest, or as if my heart was filling a cavity too small for it. The blood seems to have drained from me and pooled somewhere in my abdomen, away from cheeks and lips, and conversely, water is never far from my eyes. I can’t be bothered cooking but I eat food put before me.

Behind me, in my small studio, are boxes, bags, and books of photos and mementos, all of which need sorting, distributing or casting out. Oh that someone would do it for me!

This week my brother and cousin crossed the ocean to be with us, and while they were here there was much laughter, endless talk, occasional tears. It’s the spaces in between, when I’m on my own and the big empty gap inside me where all that care for Mum once filled my thoughts and heart, leaves me almost gasping.

I took myself off to the Garden Centre for lunch today. Looking up, the table directly in front of me was an echo of my own situation in very recent years: A woman and her elderly Mum, enjoying their trip out to the gardens. As they sat in silence eating, and sharing small talk between them, I almost got up moved elsewhere.

And the thing is – I’m not depressed. I’m as full of hope, joy, peace and abundantly aware of grace as I ever was. I just need to breathe in and out, place one foot in front of the other, let the grief be felt and be glad that Mum is free and undiminished. I have no idea how long it will take to feel back on surer footing, but I am glad of the support of so many friends and family, and glad of the wonderful life of two people who were instrumental in bringing my own into being.

What a journey this is!


  1. Lisa · February 6, 2016

    Losing your Mum is an experience with a lot of layers. You describe things beautifully; may this skill help you on days when you cry “about nothing” or on days where you just want to pick up the phone and talk to her.
    Things are different now but you’ll draw on your lovely warmth and you’ll find your way again. Work with the layers of grief and feeling, they reveal the most unexpected things, about you, about her, about you and her.
    I lost my Mum almost four months ago, my condolences to you for the loss of yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jennyjeffries · February 6, 2016

      Thanks Lisa, you’ll know what it’s like for sure then.


      • Lisa · February 6, 2016

        Yes, sadly I do xx
        However now when I talk to butterflies in the garden I am comforted, even if I appear mental to my neighbours 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa Hagen · February 6, 2016

    What I found helpful after I lost my mom was finally realizing that my life was now going to be a different life. I had my life before and after. Basically my world had forever changed and I had to find my place in it. The hurt won’t go away but it will get easier to deal with. I promise ! I also used to not want to see elderly people because I would never get to see my mom that age (she was 57) but now when I see things that make me think of her, I see it as a gift and it makes me smile. It is like she is letting me know she is okay. Please give your self time and take care.?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jennyjeffries · February 6, 2016

    I will – thank you so much. It’s the big gap where all that concern and care for her sat, and now has no place.


  4. Carol Pickersgill · February 6, 2016

    That was a lovely testament to your mom and dad as well as a beautiful, articulate “State of the Jenny” message. I had been wondering where you had got to, and was afraid this might have been the case. My most heartfelt condolences. I’m still on the early part of this journey with my mom, who has just been diagnosed with dementia, and I’m going to print your post and carry it with me for comfort and guidance in the months to come. So, thank you. As for the boxes of things, they’re not going anywhere. Leave them, and go outside. Take care of you and keep in touch. Much love from Florida.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jennyjeffries · February 6, 2016

      Ah Carol, my heart goes out to you facing the journey ahead. I hope my words can be some comfort.


  5. bigdoh · February 6, 2016

    I made that same journey 5 years ago. I had lost my dad and then my mom. I remember the day she died, picking up a piece of her clothing and breathing in the scent of her. it was at that moment I realized I was an orphan. I tried to shrug that off because, after all,I was an adult. The next day, i found a book about Adult Orphans and read it cover to cover. I was so comforted to find that it is very real and most often neglected. I remember going outside and looking up at the sky and feeling that the world was emptier now. Over the past five years I still have my eaks and valleys. There are days that a wave of grief rolls over me and I allow myself to feel it completely, then I move on. I believe that this is a testament to a life well lived and an acknowledgment of her unconditional love. I’ll always be here for you,Jenny whether it’s to laugh or cry. That’s what friends are for.xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • jennyjeffries · February 6, 2016

      I thought my feelings might find an echo in others – and yes, your parents have both gone, so you know what this is like. Thanks for the sympathy, empathy and friendship.


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