If you ask me about my mom, I’ll tell you she died in 2012. If you are interested, I’ll tell you she was diagnosed with a brain tumor out of the blue when she was still in her late 50’s. I’ll let you know she had emergency brain surgery to remove the tumor, but it didn’t matter because she was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)*, so it was inevitable to return. And I’ll probably tell you all this without getting too emotional about it.
Grief is a funny thing. I’ll be going along with the daily routines of my life, then…bam! It hits me squarely in the gut. It’s as if my whole body knows and prepares itself to feel this feeling, yet I’m the last to know. It doesn’t register in my mind. Physically, I start to ache.
I get angry at my husband. I’m sensitive to everything he says. Even innocuous statements are thrown at me like a jab in the side. My irritation brims to the surface, slightly cooled by my logical mind telling me to take our dog for a walk to relax. Sometimes I think it must be PMS. Other times I think it is just my selfish emotional needs rearing their ugly heads. I tell myself I need to be nice and to be grateful for everything I have. What is going on with me?
Then, it hits me. I miss my mom.
Although I love Mother’s Day as a mother myself, it is also a very bittersweet day. It is the most glaring reminder that I don’t have a mom anymore. On a day to day basis, I can usually scroll past social media memes of things like “No matter how old you get, you’ll always need your mom” without letting it bother me. However, on Mother’s Day, my feed becomes too much. Not that I begrudge anyone for posting about their mom: I completely understand it. Social media is a wonderful platform to recognize our loved ones in a way that extends over geographic limits.
In all sincerity, I don’t feel jealous or resentful that others are enjoying and celebrating their mothers…I just miss mine. My children, as well as my nieces and nephew, are missing out on basking in the inevitable glow of my mother as a grandmother. I feel the injustice of her sunset years left unlived and I can’t help but grieve them for her.
Being a counselor for most of my adult life, I am familiar with the textbook stages of grief. Admittedly, I’m still learning how I navigate my own. I’m as guilty as our society is for glossing over loss. We long for a connection to our lost loved ones, but we feel too overwhelmed or uncomfortable to talk about it. There seems to be a pressure to “get over it” after a certain amount of time. In my case, I tend to block it out until I physically can’t do it anymore. I’ve learned that practicing self-care is an important part of going through the grief process. I’ve learned that there is no time limit, no “should’s” in grieving for a loved one. And I realize how important it is to celebrate her.
The truth is that the pain never goes away, it just becomes more familiar.
My mother was the glue that held our family together. Undoubtedly, I want to reflect her dedication to her family and be that for my sons. I can only hope to be their comfort, their home base, their place of safety whenever they feel less than or defeated by life. I also aspire to teach them that grief is not a sign of weakness, and that talking about your feelings is a healthy expression of love.
On Mother’s Day, I hope those of you who are grieving let yourself do so, and then do something to take care of yourself. For me, that means avoiding social media and connecting with my siblings in order to remember our mom. It is healing for us to talk about her personality traits coming alive in each of us as we age, what her reaction might be to certain life events, and recalling her insistent “ok, just half a glass more” during summer nights on her patio. We also each have a child born in April, our mother’s birth month, which is a pretty cool divine development.
Those of you who are lucky enough to have an amazing mother in your life: I hope you do something wonderful for her and recognize her on this Mother’s Day, whether it be in person, in a card, or online. A mother’s love is a unique gift, one that should not be taken for granted.
*(GBM is the most aggressive type of brain cancer, in which only 20% of patients survive more than one year).