Wednesday, June 4, 2014
A Mommy Without a Mother
It's been awhile since last I wrote. A long while.
A hard while.
You'll have to forgive me if this post isn't as eloquent as I'd like for it to be. I've been writing it for a month now, but it still didn't come out the way I wanted it to. Perhaps that's because it's not a post I wanted to write at all.
The last time I blogged, I had a mom. The last time I sat down to write I knew that my mother would read it- she always read anything I wrote and then called me to tell me how proud she was of me. I knew that there was the possibility that she would leave an eye-roll-worthy gushing comment for all to see.
The world was different. I was different.
Yesterday was one month since the last time I saw my mom. She had come over to have "Grammie Night" with my kids. (Once a week for the last seven or so years, she would head over with Happy Meals, ice cream, popcorn, and a movie in tow and kick my husband and me out of the house. It was a sacred night for my kids and their beloved Grammie, one eagerly anticipated by all.) When she arrived, she gave me a hug and said, "I miss you." I sort of scoffed. I see her all the time. My husband and I didn't stay out that long on that particular night because we had just gotten a new dog the day before and were still trying to get acclimated to a two-dog lifestyle. I returned home to find my kids on the couch, snuggling with their Grammie. I let them all stay up a bit later, but it had been a long couple of days and they were tired. They kissed her good-bye and went to bed. I waved from across the room, tired and looking forward to having my house to myself, and thanked her. "Text me when you get home!" I said, like I always do. She did. "Home safe. Love you!"
And that was it.
Two days later- one month tomorrow, less than a week before her 57th birthday and Mother's Day (on the same day this year)- I got the call that she was gone.
It has been a heart-crushingly hard month for so many reasons. So many things hit you in a new way when someone close to you dies... but there is something different about losing your mom. Everyone has or will lose their mom at some point, but it is still a very singular feeling. Even if they can relate, they didn't lose YOUR mom. You are alone in your grief in a way that no one- not your spouse, not your friends, not even your siblings- can relate to. No matter your relationship with your mother, the loss of her is immeasurable. Add that to having to tell your children that their Grammie is gone, or watching your father grieve, or planning her funeral, or experiencing your first Mother's Day without a mom... and, well, it's just been a hard month.
I wish that there were more articles out there about how to deal with losing your mom in your thirties. There are a ton of articles about mother loss in childhood, or mother loss as an older adult... but I am only 31. I am not old enough to not have a mother. It's a tragedy at any age, but there isn't a lot online to help you through the pain of losing your mom when you should both be in the prime of your life. There is nothing that tells me how I am supposed to be coping, no encouragement about how others made it through. So I am sort of going it alone, figuring things out day by day while I live in this new reality of a life without my mom.
So much of you is wrapped up in your mother. She represents your history, your past, your first example of how (or how not) to be a mother to your own children. She holds the family together in a lot of ways. Holiday meals often center around her recipes, and she pulls everyone together for celebrations. She is the plan-maker, the memory-giver, the helper in times of crisis. She gives you a link to your extended family, past and present. Mother/daughter relationships are often wrought with negativity but, for a lot of us, our mother is still this beacon of stability or at least consistency. To have that yanked from you is to have the world shift beneath your feet but without anything to hold on to to remain balanced. Part of you dies with your mother. You become a different person. I've been a mommy for nine years, but now I'm a mommy without a mother... and I just don't know what to do with that.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking irony of losing your mom, whether it is suddenly (as I did) or after a long illness, is that the one person you most want to talk about your mom dying is your mother. In all of the sadness, that is the truest and most real thing I can feel. So many times in that first week I just wanted to be able to call her and say, "I feel so sad right now," and listen to her calm voice reassure me that I'd get through it. Even in the times when it doesn't feel final, I know that I can never talk to her again. How can this be real? How can it be REAL that I can't just call my mother and complain when my children are driving me nuts? How can it be REAL that she won't call me and say, "I miss you and the kids. Can I come over?" How can it be REAL that she's not going to drive me crazy anymore with her weird comments and irreverent sense of humor and well-intentioned parenting advice?
Grieving has been a difficult process. I expected the first few days/weeks/years to be difficult. What I didn't expect is the way that grief washes over me at unexpected times, receding and then crashing once again. Some days, especially the days when I stay busy, I am okay. Life proceeds in this new version of reality, and I keep going. Then something random- a song lyric, an inside joke, a passing thought- will remind me of the loss, and it is like a physical pain runs through me and I can't breathe. A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a restaurant with my husband and I saw a couple sitting with a very elderly woman, obviously the mother of one of them. It was so precious... but then I REMEMBERED. I almost lost it right there in the middle of a crowded restaurant. You know the specific things that might trigger the tears (anniversaries, favorite songs, people mentioning her), but it is the unexpected things that are the hardest.
The way my mom's picture pops up every time my sister comments on my Facebook posts and, for a split second, I think it's my mom.
The way I will see a deal on Groupon that she would like, and remember that I can't send it to her.
The way her name is still listed in my Favorites on my phone but I can't bear to remove it, even though it has resulted in some accidental phone calls.
The way Fridays are the hardest days simply because Grammie night was usually on Friday.
The way I couldn't call my mom when I saw that my cousin had had her baby.
The way I can't call her when I need someone to watch my kids for an hour or two.
The way I will remember that I didn't get her recipe for lasagna, or fried chicken, or a million other things... and then remember that she won't ever make them for me again either.
They way I have to consciously use the past tense when I refer to her.
That's why I haven't been able to sit down and write in the last month. I will think I'm okay, but then something will remind me that there is this huge hole in my life... and I will be a mess all over again. Grieving is a process, and grieving your mother is something that never ends- but it is the first time in my life that I just haven't had the right words.
I think she would've gotten a kick out of that.