No one asks you if you want to be a member, there’s no right way to become a member, but here we all are; living life without our mothers. It’s not fair, no one deserves this, whether it was a choice to remove a toxic mother relationship from your life, or if your mother is dead, or if she’s never been in your life, my wish is for every daughter to have a wonderful mother for a lifetime.
Since that wish can’t come true for many of us, we’re all bonded by this feeling of loss, and have to stick together as we navigate this world without the guiding light of our mother’s advice. Or, more realistically, without being able to call her at all hours of the night to ask about the ingredients for that casserole you thought you could make on your own, or which insurance to choose at your new job. We don’t have our mothers but we do have an unspoken bond with so many other daughters who have lost their mothers too.
For me it happened in one unexpected, terrible, cold-cock hit to my entire being; in a flash she was gone from this world forever. There was no drunk driver, no terrible disease, no goodbye scene, it just seemed like nothing to cling to for answers for weeks. How does someone who worked all week, followed by 45 minute gym classes, just slip away from us? Well, I’ll tell you. After years of being the strong, single mother, superhero, matriarch of our little family, and putting every single other person’s needs before her own, she pushed through what probably felt like a bad cough and chills and continued to work hard like she always did until she finally took a day off, went to sleep, and didn’t wake up. Results came in; double Pneumonia was the cause of her early departure.
It’s so easy to delve into a dark place of self-pity, over eating, depression, sadness, empty wine bottles, and guilt, and I won’t lie, I still have those moments, but I feel so grateful to have had my mother for 27 years. There is no number of years that would make this loss any easier, but 27 years filled with invaluable lessons, memories, and love, are years I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s much more difficult to keep reminding myself how lucky I am to have those wonderful years because I wanted even more.
What’s harder to deal with is some of the behaviors and thoughts within myself that manifest that don’t always seem directly related to loss and grief. Why do birthdays feel like so much work now? It shouldn’t be work to get excited and celebrate a new year but at certain moments, it really is. Will big life events always be tainted with this feeling of something missing? Why does guilt still creep up on me occasionally when things are going well? Did I say the right things to someone who is experiencing a similar loss? I don’t really have answers to those questions or any of the others that sometimes come up, I just know that I can put one foot in front of the other and do everything I can to keep moving forward.
My experience still feels fresh and raw after almost two years — I keep hearing time heals all — and I’m hoping that this all becomes a little easier eventually. Certain human moments seem to rip back the scabs that my heart is trying to build up in order to deal with this loss so I’ve found ways to feel less alone in this whirlwind of rewriting the life I always assumed I would have. Twenty-seven years definitely gave me some time to grow up and make my own choices but there’s no better way to feel confident about a choice than getting mom’s stamp of approval. Finishing my degree, making new big goals, figuring out what my next big move could be, were all things I simply expected to talk over with my mom. Also, I am unabashedly that girl who has dreamed up her perfect wedding since I can remember, and a huge piece of that was doing it all with my best friend, my mom. Now, those parts all look differently no matter how my life ends up.
I’ve read some books, connected with friends and colleagues who have suffered loss, looked into support groups, and found creative outlets that help me keep my head up. At the end of the day, I wish my mom was here with me and she’s just not. I find solidarity and comfort in knowing that there are other daughters moving through similar challenges with me. Maybe we’re good friends and talk all the time, maybe we’re strangers and have only connected via the internet, maybe we haven’t talked in years but see each other going through a similar tragedy, maybe even someone famous has experiences similar struggles or portrayed them in a film, no matter who we are or how we are connected we are all in this together. Together we are stronger than we can ever know.