I think I figured out part of the reason I'm dealing with my mom's death differently than my dad's. I was expecting both of them to die but somehow I have a very difficult time associating the word 'dead' with my mom although I have no problems associating it with my dad.
With my dad I knew he was going in for a major operation at that he may not come out of it alive. A few days before his surgery I sent him an email thanking him for passing on his work ethic to me, his reverence of Mother Nature to me and the drop of cynicism that colored his vision also colors mine so I don't feel too gullible. Also, several years beforehand we were talking and he told me he knew he wasn't the best dad in the world. I had that opportunity to tell him I'd forgiven him years before for that. When my dad went in for his surgery I was honestly a bit surprised when I was told he was in recovery. I really thought he'd die on the table. As it was he died a few days later, after I'd been able to look at him and privately tell him I loved him, even though he wasn't conscious. There was a lot of opportunity for closure for me.
With my mom, her death was a bit of a surprise. She'd been making Christmas plans, had purchased gifts and made plans for when my sister comes up for her visit. While I knew she was depressed and lonely I really thought she was getting a bit better. When I did occasionally think of a good way my mom impacted me, I didn't at any point feel like I could safely tell her how I felt. She was mean a lot of the time and manipulative. I'd learned over the years not to give her ammunition and so I kept what was important to me close to my chest. I would have liked to tell her how she shaped me in a positive way...but I felt like she would have resented the statement, taken offense at it thinking it was a veiled insult, or would have been sad over it because it wasn't what she'd intended to happen. The memories I have are tarnished by how much she hurt me in the later years. And now I feel bad that she felt lonely because I pulled away because she acted like she didn't like me.
So while I feel like my dad's death is compartmentalized into files that are stored safely in a cabinet, I feel like my mom's death is a large pile of stinking crap. I know there are good bits and pieces in that pile, but I have to dig to find them and they emerge stinky and dirty. Maybe some day I'll be able to separate the crap from the good bits and store things away in boxes. But for now it hurts to find a good bit and it hurts to look at the pile.