Why Am I Not Bawling?

Updated on December 05, 2012
S.T. asks from Sharpsburg, MD
43 answers

hospice comes today to evaluate my little mumsie, and decide how best to handle her last 1-3 weeks. i hope and expect they will care for her in her home. big daddy is afraid they'll take her to a hospital, but i doubt they will. the lung cancer has defeated her alternative treatment, and she's in the process of letting go.
i'm so preternaturally calm. my dh is eyeing me warily, telling me to let it out, that he's here for me, to talk to him. but i'm not in that place. i feel as if i have a big rock in the center of my chest, and i'm very sad. but i'm not wild with grief, nor weeping, nor anxious.
i guess it'll hit me like a ton of bricks at some point. i'm not a particular stoic person, nor do i usually cope with emergencies especially well. i keep thinking the other shoe is going to drop and i'm going to dissolve, but so far it's not happening.
why on earth is it taking me this way?

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So What Happened?

you guys are so wonderful. thank you, for reminding me that grief is individual and unpredictable, and for giving me your warm, wonderful words of comfort.
victoria, you nailed it. i've been feeling oddly guilty about my lack of hysteria, and hadn't been able to identify why it was making me so off-kilter. i told my husband last night that it'll come when it comes (and it will probably be a veritable greek chorus of keening and clothes-rending) and just to hang in there with me.
my little mumsie-wums is so incredibly brave. she always has been. she is prepared, and calm, and ready. my parents have been very smart in preparing for it. they moved a few months ago to a gorgeous retirement community where big daddy will have all the support he needs to get by without her. the wills are drawn up, the funeral arrangements made, right down to the music and just the right dress.
my beautiful mother died when i was 10, leaving 5 kids (including a newborn) and an alcoholic to care for us all. to big daddy's credit, he refused to have the family split up (my mormon relatives swarmed upon us and were prepared to take us all back to utah with them), but in some ways keeping us may not have been a good thing. he was totally unprepared for life as a single father. after a couple of disastrous housekeeper situations, we imported a lass from lancashire to be our nanny. she didn't know what she was getting into, but once she took us on, she never deserted us for a second. not when she should have, not when we wanted her to, not when it would have been the best thing she could have done for herself.
my older brother and i were awful to her. awful. our teenage years were hell for her. she and big daddy fell in love and got married a couple of years after she came, and the resentment was natural but bitter. i did not come to appreciate her until i was an adult. but she never stopped loving me. ever. even when i made her cry, which i did proudly whenever i could.
my little brothers loved her. she was the only mother they knew. and then she and dad had my baby brother karl. they stayed together through big daddy's horrendous first few years of sobriety. they held us together when my incredible brother sam died at 15. and since big daddy retired, they have been playmates, ballroom dancing, riding elephants in africa, strolling along the great wall of china, cruising to greek islands. mumsie's frugal manchester upbringing made her an incredible money manager. she bought a pop-top camper when the boys were little with savings from coupons, and somehow scraped adventure money from big daddy's decent pension and appallingly bad investment decisions.
she was there when i had my babies, and was always there to help when i needed it, and to stay out of my way when i wanted to go it alone. i remember crying to her sometime in my mid-30s 'i thought when i hit 30 i'd know everything i needed to know!', and how she folded me into her arms saying 'oh darling, we NEVER get there. what fun would that be?'
ha! what do you know? now i'm crying! but i can't do it today. i've got a class to teach. i'll fall apart tomorrow. or next week.
thank you all so much. you don't know how weirdly important you are, my beloved internet friends.

Featured Answers


answers from St. Louis on

I found with my mom there was so much grieving ahead of time that by the time it was time we were ready. I guess it didn't feel like her life was ending it felt like her suffering was ending, her life had ended a while back. Who would grieve the end of suffering...

Granted my mom died of Alzheimers so after ten years we were all ready. Still that was for me why the last few weeks didn't seem emotional.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

My aunt passed away in June. She had been sick for a while and we knew for several weeks that she wasn't going to make it. I didn't cry before she died (I think I still had some hope that she was going to push through and make it). I cried immediately after her death for 10-15 minutes and at her funeral, but that was it. Now, all these months later, I've started crying randomly... Driving down the road, watching a movie (Or worse... A commercial - Do you know how crazy you look, crying at a commercial?), or just playing with my son.

You're not weird for not crying... You will eventually.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I get that way when my son is sick (like not even blinking when they call a code). For me'self, it tends to go one of two ways.

Option A )

We never know how strong we really are, until we have no choice.

Option B )

He doesn't need MY heartache/ fears/ stresses added to his own. So I'm his rock. And we get to enjoy each other. Because I'm with it, and solid... so is he. I'll fall apart later. When he doesn't need me anymore.

7 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Albany on

Ah, S., don't you know? You're holding it together for HER while she's still here. Cuz that's just what you DO, you hold things together for everyone. Geez, I've seen you hold it together for US many times.

I hope you'll write a post about a wonderful memory you have of your mom when she was beautiful and vibrant, so we can all know her too.

So this is me holding it together so as YOU can hold it together and not think there's something wrong with you for doing so.

Thinking about you.


14 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Because you're holding yourself together for your dear mother's last weeks. You CAN'T fall apart now - she still needs you.

In Japan, there's a saying "tsukare ga deta". It generally means "the exhaustion appears" and it relates to the fatigue and falling apart that sets in AFTER you've gone through an ordeal. The ordeal is done, you've managed to survive it, but all of a sudden you're exhausted, emotionally, physically and mentally.

Let yourself feel whatever you feel right now - there's no right or wrong to feelings. And someday, if you fall apart and show your grief through tears, let yourself do that, too. There's no playbook for these situations, everyone deals differently.

I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. I hope you can spend many peaceful moments with her over the next few weeks.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Everyone deals with the various stages of grief differently. Your husband eyeing you warily and encouraging you to break down probably is making you feel guilty that you are in sort of a peaceful (or maybe removed) state right now. Tell him that you are ok right now. No, you aren't great, but you are ok. Tell him you know you are going to fall apart at some point, but that point isn't right now. It's the truth. And there is absolutely nothing "wrong" with it.

Don't feel guilty for not falling apart right now. It sounds like maybe you are managing a lot of details/organizing/planning, and perhaps that is what you need to be doing right now--not just for your mom and dad, but maybe it is what you need right now, too. To be able to function doing useful things, instead of hand-wringing. There are decisions to be made and details to take care of. Those things take a clear head. That is YOU right now. Be glad you are able to deal with them, don't feel guilty for not being a basket case. The time will come when you will have those moments, too. It just isn't now for you, and that's perfectly ok.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Disasters, and eminent demise takes everyone very differently. When I knew of my moms cancer, I bawled like a baby. Then she went on to have 3 more years than the doctor gave her. We just thought she was over it, and nothing was going to get her.
When she got so sick so fast, we thought it was the medications, and when they told us the enormous tumor in her liver, blocked a bile duct and turned her septic. I dont think anyone really understood the implications. It wasnt until they told us she would have no way to recover after this. The infection just shut everything down.
We all grouped together, got misty but no one really cried. We calmly discussed what it was we thought she would want. We agreed quietly and went on with the day. After making the choice to turn her meds off, and take her out of the medically induced coma we all stayed quite calm and collected. It wasnt until the very end, when we knew she was only minutes away did anyone lose composer. It was the grandkids mostly.

I didnt lose it till the funeral and we were picking out the dress to put on her. My sister wanted to put her floor length vest with her teal skirt that she made and was so proud of. I wanted to put on her sparkle black and gold sequin jump suit because she always said that it made her look like a sexy Richard Simmons. When I remember I get most of my humor from her. I bawled and I couldn't stop, I was a sobbery mess after during, and after the funeral and burial. After 4 years I still occasionally bust out bawling when something really reminds me of her. Its coming yet for you, and when it does use your husband. Support is always best.

I am very sorry about your mother and hope her quick and quiet peace in her final weeks. She is very lucky you are doing what you are for her.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her.
~Author Unknown

Dearest S.,

It's difficult to know what to write to you about your sweet mumsie. I can't imagine knowing what one feels, and when they will feel it. Be kind to yourself. I think numbness and strength take hold until exhaustion and reality override. Your grief and tears will come when you least expect it. As with a stranger, or waving good bye to the hospice care takers...

she must have been incredible women to have made you just the way you are!! We are here for you! Peace and hugs!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Greif is a kind of like a series of mini tornados, at least it was for me. I didn't have any warning when it was going to hit. I didn't get to be back home when my dad was dying. I called my mom and spoke to her every day. Calmly making decisions and asking how my dad was. Then one day he got on the phone and I was a basket case. His funeral was rough for me.
I was doing ok for a while afterward, listening to people's condolences without a tear. One day I was sitting in line waiting for my son to get out of school and an aquantence came to talk to me and didn't even know I had lost my dad. She just ask how I was! She got a blubbering broken hearted woman!
If you can figure out greif, you have beat me. I am so sorry your mom is so sick. May God comfort you.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think it's a normal reaction. You will dissolve at the right time.

Sorry you're going through this.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You are this way because this is the way you need to be right now. Once you have real finality (not a word pfffh) you will have the relase you are seeking.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Oh S., whether you're bawling or not, I'm sorry. My sympathy and my condolences to you.

Do you think you could have mentally prepared for this, whether you realized you were doing so or not?

When my Nana (grandmother) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I was a ridiculous bawling mess, all the while fiercely telling myself that of course chemo and everything would work, while scavenging the Internet for experimental therapies, all that stuff. When she passed away two weeks later, I was as dry-eyed as a stone. I hadn't admitted it to myself, but beneath the denial, I was processing and preparing for the inevitable.

Could you have done something similar?

My very best to you S., and if I may, khairete.


7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Ah, S.....I'm sorry.
Your reaction is right for you right now.
Hospice is wonderful.
They'll make sure your mom is comfortable, no pain, etc.
They will be there as much, or as little, as she needs them to be.
Use this time to love on your mom.
Praying for you and your mumsie.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

When my grandfather died of Alzheimer's complications, I felt like I'd long ago grieved his loss. Everything that was "him" was already gone. The body was just the last thing to leave us. So it may be that you've done a lot of grieving already. You do feel sad. You're just not at the external grieving part yet. Tell DH you'll tell him when you need him.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Sending prayers your way! Grief is such a complicated process and so unique to each person. Even if you think it is not hitting you yet, you are going through a lot. Make sure to take it easy on yourself, get enough sleep, and pamper yourself whenever you can.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My mum and I were talking a while back. She was telling me about sitting with my Opa when he passed. She said it was beautiful, and felt much the same as the days when me, my sister, and our children came into this world.

My mom was much the way you describe, when she got the phone call that Opa was close to death. Yes, she had to hold it together, after all she needed to fly across the globe. But also she was just calm. She'd already found resolution with her dad. Their relationship was at peace. My Opa was ready for death and felt it was his time. His body was no longer functioning and he looked forward to his next great adventure.

When he was gone, my mother did cry and cry. Sometimes, when she thinks about him, she'll cry still. But she's real' at peace with it. I think she was just glad she got to be there with him, in his last moments.

Who knows. I guess we all go through this stuff differently. So much love and hugs your way.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

I'm so deeply sorry you are going through this.

I think that perhaps, the universe, in it's infinite wisdom, is giving you the strength not to fall apart just now as your precious mumsie needs joyful, peaceful, and smiling faces around her now.

One very big component to Hospice is allowing people to pass with dignity and peace. Please know that they can also be a very big comfort and support to you when it comes to your emotions. I work with Hospice and I can't say enough wonderful things about them.

I've lost many people I love. Yes, I have mourned deeply. However, it's really helped me to remember that these people loved me dearly as well and they would never purposely do anything to hurt me or break my heart.
They can't help leaving this journey to begin a new one. It helps to remember that they take part of us with them. And, because of love and strong bonds, they never truly leave us.

This philosophy has been a process for me over the years.
Remember that people grieve differently.
Remember that mumsie, in her final weeks, might be further burdened by your anguish. Let her see your smile as you kiss her forehead, rub her feet, read to her, give her comfort.

Your time for mourning will come. For now, just be a part of the comforting process for her.

Hospice cares about the whole family. Lean on them if you need to.

~Prayers and very best wishes to you at this difficult time.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers. When it's time to let go and let it out, you will. Hugs.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

You are still in business mode. There's usually no room for tears or even emotions when you know you have decisions to make, people to talk to, arrangements to be made.

So sorry for your family.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Everyone responds differently. For me, it usually hits after.
When my dad, was unexpectedly on his death bed, I book a flight. As I was preparing to leave the house, my mom called and told me he had passed away already. I managed to hold it together, make that flight and stand strong for my mom. It wasn't until much later that it became reality. It's been a year, and I still get hit like a ton of bricks in just the littlest things when I realize he's really gone.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

S., I understand totally. I was like this with my dad, though I was across the world and talking to family every day on the phone. He passed 5 hours before I got to him (ironically, while I was changing planes. I didn't call because I was afraid to know before getting to the hospital.)

It happens afterwards, S.. Do yourself and your father the favor of taking care of all the particulars now, if no one has done them yet. Obituary, papers gotten together, insurance papers, car titles, her will, etc. List all of the accounts with her name on them. Get it all ready. It will give you something to do. The funeral home has a list of things that will help you. It has to be filled out anyway - might as well do it now. Get together beautiful pictures of her and make an album to show at the funeral. Pick out her dress. Choose her portrait for the paper.

All of this is part of letting go and saying goodbye. When the tears come, they will come. Don't force it. You won't have to force it. They will come to you, maybe when you don't expect it.

Hugs to you, S.. I'm so sorry about your mom.


5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Sometimes, we become the calm in the storm, so to speak. I agree that it may be that you are in shock, and in 'just handling things' mode. That's happened to me before, during a horrible time-- I was able to grieve later, but staying relatively calm and detached during that critical time was what helped me to be able to function, period.

Some things just feel so enormous that we hang out on the margins for a while before diving in. Self-preservation is nothing to feel badly about.

Hugs, H.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think I understand. I was the same with my Mom. Very calm. My loving husband tried so hard to be emotionally supportive, but I didn't need any, not even when Mom passed. I'm sure I was too matter-of-fact about this. This made it hard on him. I can see that now, but at the time I was just doing my best for Mom and my sibs. The good news for my husband and me is that I have needed his support since Mom has passed, and I think he now understands that I was just at peace that Mom was going where and when she needed to go. I wish you, your Mom and your husband all peace.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

My dad died with lung cancer, they moved in with us the last few weeks so I could help out as I had the children and couldn't go over to their house. My dad just was so calm about dying, talked about things with us until the last 2 days and I think that calmed us all. We also believe we will see him again in Heaven so that was a comfort as well. When he died I was holding one hand and my mother holding the other. It was peaceful and we were calm although sad. It was after that I was able to sob and cry and that was just because I missed him so much. There is a loss, a separation from someone you love. It's okay to cry. I think also for the sake of others we sometimes can not show that sorrow until after it's over. I'm so sorry you have to go through this but glad you have hospice. They came to our house to help out and were such a great help in talking with us and especially with my mother. I would think if you prefer your mom at home they would be happy to come to the home.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Everyone deals with these things in their own way. I would guess though that you are not to that point yet because this is not something that came on suddenly. You have had time to adjust to the idea of losing her and time to process all of your emotions while she has been fighting the cancer. The reality that the time has come will hit you at some point but you will most likely not completely fall apart like you would had this been a sudden tragic accident.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Bellingham on

I was like that in the last weeks of my father's life. It can actually be a beautiful time, especially if they are at home. The women in his life sat around his bed, talking, telling stories, singing songs. He was in my arms when he died.

However, the evening he died, about an hour after, a felt a pressure welling inside me - it was physical. I told my family not to be disturbed by what I was about to do, and then I went outside and let loose. It was keening, and I couldn't control it. But it let the pressure out. Apparently it did sound distressing to my family, but it was a great relief to me. Luckily we were at my parents' farm so the police weren't called by the neighbours!

Just goes to show that we all deal with it in our own ways.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

So sorry S. T. Your are pulling on that inner strength we don't know we have until we need it. Reminds me of the saying "let go and let GOD". You will mourn in your way, do not judge it or second guess it.

Sending prayers and more strength your way.............

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Mum4ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am going to remember that one!!!!!! Thank you! Its SOOOOOOOOO true!

S., it will come. Friends looked at me strange when I never cried at the funerals of either parent. I did so much crying once the body left the home hospice (our family home) that I cannot go back to it. My adult sister brags about how she has updated and remodeled the home. Good for her. I don't want to see it--I want to remember it as mama and daddy left it--old fashioned and comfy.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I am so sorry! I will keep you and your sweet momma in my thoughts and prayers.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I was the primary caretaker for my dear aunt last year. She was only 61 and was dying of a combination of leukemia and a genetic lung disease. Because she took me in at the age of 14 and basically raised me she truly was like my mother, so I know where you're at.
I was also very calm when hospice came. I knew the end was near, which meant I knew the end of her suffering was near, so I think that's why I felt so peaceful (?) I don't really know.
I can tell you that I never really "lost it" until the moment of her death. I was alone with her in the room, and it was not a gentle, peaceful passing. I won't go into the details here (you can PM me if you want) but let's just say it was NOT like it is in the movies :-(
Hang in there, be strong, and like I said, PM me if you want.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

You're in shock right now. It's the first stage of grief. Even though you know what is going to happen, it just doesn't settle in for a while. Besides, she's still with you, and a little part of you knows that you have to be strong.
I'm so sorry. :(

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I am sorry that the treatments did not work for your mom. You and your family have had a chance to deal with the upcoming end of mom's life over a period of time. During that time you guys have had a chance to say your farewells in different ways to her and to yourselves. Most of all you want to remember her the way she was before the diagnosis. This is fine but just remember that what she is going through now is part of that ending process.

If you can gather up all of the photos and get them in a book and take the last pictures of all the family around her as a send off to a better place. Be at peace with what is happening and embrace it knowing that it is for the better. If she can say or write anything record it for the future.

When everything settles down you might suddenly come unglued and need your hubby or more. But right now you feel that you have to keep it all together and that is understandable.

My thought and prayers are with you and your family at this time. Please do take care of yoruself during these last few weeks/months with rest, food and exerciise for yourself.

The other S.

PS The hard part is the waiting and when or is this it?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

because you are a momma thats why.

please know that when you are ready there are lots of moms hear who will be able to offer you support and a safe place to let it all out.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Sorry you are going through this. Just feel whatever you're feeling in the moment. Maybe you know deep down that you have to be strong this time for your mom, so that you do not miss any last precious moments. There will be time to fall apart once she's gone.

Prayers for you!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I am so sorry. I had a terrible summer. Long story. Best friend who I cared
for for two years, spent 5 weeks in hospice hospital (had to be that way), my
other friend was in another hospital dying. I am sitting with my dying friend
when nursing home calls and tells me my aunt is very sick on on way to
ER. I fly from hospice to other hospital, spend the whole night there. In the
meantime, my one dear friend passed. Then my bestie who I cared for and
who lived with me passed. Twenty four hours later, my aunt ended up at
the same hospice hospital. Made plans to take a long weekend away. As we are leaving another friend called to say wife passed. Plans cancelled.
Off to funeral. Finally come home and get away. Away for 12 hours and yes my aunt passed. I had full care of her too. Back home. Thru all this,
the driving from hospital to hospital, the commute to the hospice hospital
for 4 1/2 months every weekenday, the meetings with docs etc. I just kept
going. Never did I fall apart. When my bestie passed I was so good. Did
everything she wanted. Then at the luncheon after the funeral, I completely
lost it. Sobbed and sobbed. Had to keep going. You will have your moments
later on. Right now you need to be strong and you are. Not easy, but we
do what we have to do. The sadness will come when you least expect it so
be prepared. I am wrapping my arms around you and giving you hugs.

Several years ago, my good friends daughter was murdered in our small
town. My daughter was the EMT. This was her best friend. We had just
gotten into Denver for vacation. Flew back immediately. Helped my friend
with all plans etc. My daughter was a mess. Got thru everything. Five of
the saddest days of my life. I held up, just kept going. At the end of the
day I had to go grocery shopping. Well, I had been backing in my driveway
for 33 years. This time after shopping, I hit the tree. $1000.00 in damage.
I then fell apart. When my husband calmed me down he helped upack the
groceries. I had Oreos, chips, milk, etc. Comfort food only. So you see
grief comes in all different ways. Ate a lot of Oreos that night and then
slept for 13 hours.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Hi, S.:

When life is ending at one point in our lives, we continue to go through the motions to get through the loss.

You are in a state of shock. This a natural phenomenon to help us deal with the process of letting go.

Take one step at a time and you will recover in time.
Here's healing balm for your sorrowing heart.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Well, first off, hugs to you S. and so sorry you're going through this. I watched both my parents suffer -- dad with emphysema and mom with strokes -- and I can't say that I ever really bawled my eyes out. I'm an only child and I had to take care of things like obituaries, holding my mom up when my dad passed and staying strong for her, and things like that. They both had good lives, and my mom was a very unhappy person so in some ways I was happy for her release into heaven.

I do miss them. But it didn't hit me with either one of them like you're wondering about. You will be ok S.. Just soak up this precious time with her and your dad and make sure things are in order for him... in order to keep your mind busy.

You'll be in my prayers.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Hug to you, sweet mama. Keeping you, your little mumsie, your big daddy and the rest of your family in my thoughts and prayers. Adding my energy to yours to lift you up & forward.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

Wow, it sounds like the Sound of Music come to real life! How fortunate to have a beautiful soul such as your Mumsie in your life. Fortunate for you, your siblings, your father and her. So much love in your description even through the tough and trying times. Your tears will come in their own time. I imagine right now you are keeping it together for everyone else and trying to manage the "business" of dying - arranging hospice, etc. There is actually a lot more work to it than I ever realized. I found that out when my own mother passed. Give yourself grace through this awful, awful time. My condolences to you and your family.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

So sorry about your mother. Take it easy on yourself. Everybody grieves differently, and you might also be in a kind of shock right now. You have my deepest sympathy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Right now you are in "survival, get it done, keep things going, take care of everyone mode". There are no rules and no one wrote the script for your life. You just have to improvise. Please let yourself feel what you feel and don't look back. Enjoy your time with her. She sounds awesome!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

Because you still have hope.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Roanoke on

So, so sorry - I am sending you hugs. I see you have lots of replies, but your post hit a nerve with me. 2 years ago I had to put my dog to sleep. I loved this dog with all of my heart - somehow he had really gotten into my heart more than any other pet I have ever had. And when we left the vet I felt calm. I wanted to cry, felt guilty/confused for not crying, but I didn't. I don't know why. I do know that now, years later, I still cry about him sometimes.

Please don't take offence that I am talking about my dog when you are talking about your second mom - I just wanted to say that I had the same reaction to the loss of a loved one. So while I can't help you explain it (I don't even know why mine happened), you aren't alone.

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