I hated Hallmark the year after my Mother died. Actually, I shouldn’t single out Hallmark, I hated every major company that was running those sappy, heart-warming commercials continuously in the weeks before Mother’s Day.
They, of course, didn’t know that I was barely existing—vacillating between states of numbness and pain. They couldn’t know that I didn’t know who I was anymore now that I wasn’t her child: the child she called everyday and who helped me make every decision in my life. They couldn’t know that I felt alone, now that I was motherless; and that their commercials only intensified those feelings of loneliness because they made me feel alone in being a motherless child. It seemed that everybody, particularly everyone else in their 20’s, had a mom—but me.
Sadly, almost 20 years later, I now know that I am not alone, not the only motherless child. I’ve been the friend, now, countless times: holding a friend’s hair back as she vomits, holding a friend’s hand through the funeral, holding a friend back as he tries to crawl into the casket—needing to be held by his mom just one more time. While normally talkative, these are the times – the only times – when I am fairly quiet because I’ve learned that all the words that have been created are insufficient. So it’s best just to be — simply to be there and let them be.
But later, when the numbness has worn off and the pain isn’t as intense or as frequent; I share these words of advice to my friends on Mother’s Day when their Mother is no longer here:
- There is no expiration on grieving. The first relationship, first bond is with your mother. You will miss her when you are a mother too. You will miss her when you are 80. Allow yourself to be that little girl or boy who has fallen and just wants your mother to kiss it and make it better.
- But is does get better. You will never get over it, but you will day-by-day, year-by-year work through it. There is no end, but the light becomes brighter. In time, you will be able to laugh at memories that used to only make you cry.
- She is still here–just differently. She, Mom, will appear more and more frequently. Suddenly, you will look into the mirror and see her eyes, or be talking to one of your children and hear her words, or be putting a Halloween wreath on the door and realize that’s what she always did. She lives though you.
- And not just through you—through your children (if you decide to have them), through your siblings, through your work. You almost become your mother’s vessel, as she was once yours.
- She’s still got your back. I won’t bring religion into this, but I believe that when a mother passes, you gain someone who is rooting for you, and who has incredible connections.
- Your mother’s death can greatly inform you about life, if you choose to be better instead of being bitter. My mother’s death taught me as much as she taught me in life (or maybe the lessons are simply bigger). I now automatically think about what’s important to me and who’s important to me when faced with choices: both small and large. Her death, has informed every major decision that I’ve ever made. Had she not died, I would have never stayed home with my kids when they were young. I live now as though I’m going to die (soon) and I try to treat people the same. Since my mother died unexpectedly, I really make an effort to do what matters most. If I have an evening meeting, but my son needs help on an English paper—I stay with my son. If I get asked to do something that sounds interesting, I do it because who knows if I will ever have that opportunity again. I don’t save my best stuff for later. And, most importantly, I think everyone I love knows it. I try to let each person know that I appreciate them.
- Be grateful. The main thing that helped me keep walking through this process of forming a different relationship with my mother (because she will always be my mother, we will always have a relationship. It is simply different) is gratitude. Even when I was my angriest, I kept saying “Thank you.” Eventually I actually meant those words. I had a mother, who loved me more than she loved herself, for 27 years. Some mothers die in labor; some mothers are in jail, another country, an altered state because of serious substance abuse, or mentally and emotionally unavailable. My mother wasn’t perfect nor was our relationship; but she adored me. For 27 years, I was granted the greatest love possible—a completely selfless love. So although I miss her terribly, I try to remain grateful for the time I had her.
So, today, I wish all mother’s who live in our thoughts, our hearts, our decisions and our families (which is every mother—on this earth or not) a Happy Mother’s Day.