by Sonja Bochow | December 17, 2017 10:24 pm
They say death is the ultimate curtain between our world and the next. But sometimes people believe they can breach that barrier. Debra Parsons is one of those people. Debra’s mother, Doreen, passed away last May of an obstructed airway when she was ill. Doreen was cremated and her ashes were divided equally between her three children. One of those children, Debra, was so distraught at the loss of her mother that she began to devise what she believes is a way to once again feel close to her deceased mother. Debra eats her mother’s ashes, one small spoonful at a time. That’s right, she ingests her own deceased mother’s ashes as a way to restore the feeling of having her mother present with her each day.
In years gone by, this behavior would have warranted a psychological evaluation and a trip to the sanitarium for observation and counseling. Now? It just gets reported on like it’s nothing, like it’s normal, like it’s expected. But it isn’t normal or natural to desire to eat a loved one’s cremated remains. It’s not mentally healthy, nor is it reasonable. And if this woman’s family wants her to be emotionally stable again, then they had better pay close attention and get her the help she clearly needs.
This will be Debra’s first Christmas without her mother and she believes about eating the ashes that, “It is the only thing that will get me through my first Christmas without mum.” Okay then. That just isn’t a psychologically stable outlook. Debra adds by way of answering criticism, “People might think I’m mad or that it’s not a very respectful thing to do but I just can’t stop myself. I see it as a positive thing – allowing her to be close to me and also involving her in the family day.”
Debra also said, “I feel like she can live on by being inside of me because if she is part of me she can breathe through my body. My breath is her breath. It will be my first Christmas without her and I want her to be involved and this is the only way that feels right to me.” If that’s the only way that feels right to her, to honor her mother’s memory, then it’s time for her to rethink her beliefs about right and wrong. It’s not right. It’s clearly wrong.
Describing how it came about, she said, “I don’t know what made me do it the first time – it was just an urge. I can’t describe it. I opened the box and licked my fingers and just dipped them into the powder. Before I knew what I was doing they were in my mouth and the chalky, salty taste was comforting. I felt confused by what I had done to begin with but the feeling of comfort and closeness it brought was the first bit of solace I’d had since her death.”
Sadly, Christmas is also a reminder to Parsons of the tragic stillborn death of her son in 1996. So Christmas is doubly tragic. She elaborates, saying, “But Christ-mas has always been a really difficult time of year since the anniversary of my son’s death is December 28 and as it gets close this year I feel the urge even more. Christmas is a special time of year when you want to be close to the ones you love the most and I feel the loss of those that aren’t here more strongly now than ever. But I don’t want to just eat the ashes on my fingers – I’d like my mum to be a part of the celebration this year so I will have her with my Christmas dinner. We will have a place laid for her and a picture of her on the table so she can be with us on the very special day.”
Here’s hoping that Parsons finds the comfort she seeks, but that she also is given the help she needs. This behavior is not normal. Grief is so very hard to endure, but she needs to be taught a healthier way of handling it. May her loved ones gather round her this Christmas and envelope her in the warmth and solace she needs. And may they be sure she receives some professional help going forward.
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