For those out there missing their moms, I thought—as a woman who no longer has hers—I’d share a little of my own journey with you in the hopes it’ll bring some of you comfort, or perhaps give you a new perspective. And if you’ve not read the book Motherless Daughters, definitely pick that up. You’ll find in its pages voices who feel just like you, and that’s comforting, too.
Also, all the photos of my mom in this post are pre-cancer. She’d be horrified if the few photos we had of her looking that bad were on public display (it’s why we have so few pictures of her after she got sick in the first place).
Many motherless people, especially motherless daughters, have a rough time on Mother’s Day. But every Mother’s Day for the past three decades, all I’ve ever thought is, “I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore.”
I used to think this made me a horrible person. How can I just sit here and be relieved that I don’t have to participate in this? For years, I felt like there was either something deeply psychologically wrong with me, or that I was just an incredibly selfish, unempathetic person.
Then I figured it out. Mom got sick when I was eight and underwent a long battle with cancer, ending in her death when I was fifteen. She was horrendously sick during those years, and despite the fact that we were told just pray really hard and be really good and Jesus will save her, I knew better. I think we all did. Mother’s Days, when she was alive, were torture to watch. I remember giving her presents and making her favorite meal and thinking, ‘is this the last Mother’s Day?’ They were joyless, terrifying, and sometimes ruined because she was just too sick. Mother’s Days in our house were, in short, totally traumatizing. It was a bunch of people in a room pretending we all didn’t see the giant elephant while we plastered on our fake smiles—Mom included. I can see in old Mother’s Day pictures how absolutely tortured and depressed she was, trying to put on a show for everyone else. Her eyes hold nothing but pain.
There was nothing psychologically wrong with me in feeling relieved. Good Lord, there would probably be something more wrong with me if I didn’t.
Do I miss her? Of course. Read the rest of this entry
This past April 18 was the 25th anniversary of my mother’s death. I was only 15 and she was only a year younger than me now when she passed, and I can’t lie and say I wasn’t holding my breath to see if I’d make it to forty.
When I did, something strange happened. I was able to open up that door and really examine what little I remember about her and what our relationship was like (not great overall, in case you were wondering). And while Mother’s Day has never bothered me—actually, most years I don’t even know when the hell it is and don’t care—this year I felt some weird compulsion to not only know when it is, but to share some thoughts with those of you (women, mostly) who have lost your Moms and may really be feeling it this coming Sunday.
My Mom’s death was my first real heartbreak, the kind of heartbreak that emotionally paralyzes you and contorts your insides with such physical pain you can barely move, focus, sleep, hold down food or get through one more day (in my experience, for many people the first is when they lose the great love of their lives). Over the years, I’ve had a couple of other severe heartbreaks, but honestly, none as bad as that. It occurred to me that I’m lucky that I experienced it at such a young age—so many people never have, and I have a couple of friends in my life who are experiencing it for the first time just now who can’t understand what it is they’re feeling, much less have coping mechanisms. So when it comes down to it, I wouldn’t trade the experience, the suffering, the depths of despair for anything, not even to have her physically back. It has not only made me who I am, but enabled me to help so many others over the years—and maybe that’s part of what I’m supposed to do while I’m here.
So, if you have lost your Mom and need some comfort this Mother’s Day, here are a few things I can suggest.
Honor some very close sister-or-mother-friends instead (whether they are Moms or not): send a card, go out to lunch, a lecture or for a mani-pedi. Or just call, e-mail or Facebook and tell them how much you’re glad they’re in your life. I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t had such close female friends. They stepped in and took over that mother-role over the years, giving me advice on everything from career moves and when to dump that jerk to nail polish and nylons.
Spend some quiet time: light a candle, walk outside, eat your Mom’s favorite chocolate, listen to her favorite music, or go through some scrapbooks and relive the good times (yes, even I had some of those, like the day she made fun of the way my father hung up his pants or the many days we sat there and ate a whole gallon of ice cream no matter what time of day it was when The Poseidon Adventure was on Channel 11). Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, your Mom is always with you—all it takes sometimes is a memory to revive her.
And last but not least, there is always some characteristic—physical, habitual, emotional, behavioral, mental—that you inherited from her. Keep in mind that when all else fails, sometimes all you need to do is look in the mirror.