In light of recent events, I’ve been hearing a lot about earthquakes. I learned that geologists have a difficult time predicting the frequency and intensity of aftershocks — sometimes for years to come. Seriously, that description felt exactly like my experience with grief.
My mom passed away in 2008. I’m often hesitant when speaking about her death. Not out of shame or guilt but because I fear that people remember her death more than her life. But one of my truthiest truths is that my mom committed suicide. I had the privilege of my mom seeing me earn my graduate degree and get married, so honestly, one of my first grief-blurred thoughts was, How am I going to become a mom without my mom?
I can’t help but wonder if some of you are experiencing (or have experienced) the same thing. Maybe it’s not because of a death. Maybe broken relationships keep you from being able to call her up and say, “Does this look/feel/seem normal?” Perhaps you just really thought your relationship with your mom would look different at this stage of your life and you’re experiencing some major disappointment or hurt.
Or maybe you have an AMAZING mama but she just lives a significant geographic distance away and can’t be there for all the extraordinary ordinary moments in your kids’ daily lives.
I want to legitimize ALL those versions of sorrow and hope my story might encourage you to know you’re not alone in your experience.
There were four years between when my mama passed and when I became a mom. In that time, I went to a lot of baby showers.
“Oooo! Looks like Grandma bought the biggest present!”
Who is going to buy my hoped-for babies all the things they need?!
“Someone’s gonna have a built-in babysitter!”
Will I ever leave the house after I have kids?!
I will admit — I was scared that I wouldn’t be an adequate mom without my own mom backing me up. And I was jealous and not sure I could get that part of me together. It’s not like I didn’t want my friends to talk about their awesome moms/grandmas. I love my friends being loved on! But as any of you who have watched your friends experience something you can’t experience knows, it still stings.
My experience has been that people tend to check in around the anniversary of a loss. Sometimes that day comes and goes and I’m fine — really, I’m good.
But sometimes, I look into my little guy’s green eyes and see that they are the same shade as hers.
I laugh my belly laugh and remember my boys won’t know I sound just like her.
Or I’m feeling awful from something I caught from the kiddos and I just want my mommy!
In those moments.
The tribe that finds you.
Thankfully, I’ve got some amazing women to turn to when I lose my stuff.
There’s really something to the idea of sharing your sorrows and drawing a tribe of like-sufferers to oneself.
The ones who get that, for you, Mother’s Day didn’t feel like a simple celebration of your own motherhood.
That it was filled with more questions…
Do I celebrate my own mother? Do I mourn her?
Do I celebrate my own motherhood?
Do I let the boys see me sad when death is beyond their innocence and age?
…and that ever present taste of bittersweet.
All that being said, I don’t want you to discount yourself from being a good friend and support if you feel like you haven’t experienced the same loss. We don’t have to fully understand to fully love.
So if you’re a bottom-line lady and want some suggestions on how to love a mama who doesn’t have her mama, here are some of the things that have blessed my life:
- If you know an expecting mama, don’t assume someone is throwing her a baby shower or that she knows what she’ll need. Ask. Offer (if you can). Listen.
- Same thing with birth/delivery/transitioning home. Coordinated meals were a huge blessing to our family.
- Share resources. Your mama friend might not know where to go to ask those “does this look/feel/smell normal?” questions.
- Remember her kiddos’ favorite things or recent milestones. I’m not sure if I can articulate why, but this meant the WORLD to me.
If you’re a mama without your mama, be honest with yourself about where you’re at (and if possible, be honest with a close friend or two).
Be open to help.
They won’t replace her — nothing will — but the love can pour in.