I’m Not Motherless, She’s Just Not Here

Dealing with the loss of a Mother on Mother's Day

This is my 10th Mother’s Day without my Mom.

Ten years ago I established a space at How To Make A Life sharing the journey of loss from the perspective of a grief counselor. Initially it was about infertility and loss, the death of my mother and then the caregiving for my grandmother and her death. I wanted to help others see that it is possible to rebuild a life after a loss that can feel so destructive there is nothing left. Writing about my grief was therapy for me.

Over time I have written less about grief.

I felt others might be tired of hearing my story. I’ve shared it many times. It has been told. Yet, I also remind myself that there is always someone new joining a club they never want to join. Portions of this post are from a piece I wrote six years ago. Today I felt the need to share again with a perspective of 10 years.

For anyone new to my story, I am well versed in the world of grief. My Father died when I was 10. This was followed throughout the years of what felt like someone in the family dying yearly. I have learned to not be afraid of death or grief. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt the pain.

I do not define myself by the losses I have encountered in life. There are days in my life when I am not consciously thinking about my loved ones who are no longer with me. However, holidays have a wonderful way of reminding one of what they do not have. Today I feel the need to address how  some women who no longer have their mothers observe Mother’s Day.  

As happens every Mother’s Day, there is a plethora of articles written by women who no longer have their Mother. Motherless Daughters has become the name of this club/sorority that I never wanted to pledge. I occasionally read the articles and comments often to only become upset. “The pain never gets better.” “It’s been 15 years and it feels like yesterday.” “I’m an orphan.” I ask myself how these comments make anyone feel better? It creates a level of connectedness, but not one of hope. This weekend marks four years I will not be with my Mother. Although not all have said it, some have referred to me as a motherless daughter. I understand the title, after all I am someone’s daughter and neither my mother or grandmother are with me. However, I disagree with this title.

I am not a motherless daughter, my mom simply isn’t here. 

The title is taken from the book Motherless Daughters by Hope Edeleman. I even read a passage as part of my Mom’s eulogy.

Nonetheless, I didn’t feel comfortable with the title before I lost my mother. Now, I am even more uncomfortable with it.

My mother and grandmother have been gone for ten years now. When I wrote my first Mother’s Day post after the death of my Mom, I knew I would also be without my grandmother soon. I had hoped to have her with me for a few more years (I was supposed to have my Mom with me for another 20 -30 years)  but there are times when life does not end up like you wish.

These two women are not physically with me. However, they are a significant part of who I am. As a child I was loved, cherished and spoiled. As an adult, I knew that either of them was only a phone call away. These two women were strategic architects in the life that I now live. They taught me to love, to be independent and I learned from their mistakes and their victories.

I did not suddenly lose these parts of myself upon their death. Although I do not have the luxury of picking up the phone or sitting across the table from them, I was able to learn from them while they were living. As a result, they continue to live on through me. My husband sees my Nanny in me through my sense of humor and sassiness; I recognize my mother in myself when I meticulously sort my laundry and cook.

Even 10 years later, they continue to mother me with the wisdom they left me.

I find myself talking to them in my prayers or as I go through my day. I receive responses in the way of a solar light that quit working nearly a year ago (a gift from my Mom) that suddenly began to glow. Windchimes blow when there is little air to move them and cardinals and robins land by me, unafraid of my movement, often staring at me as if they are delivering a message.

None of this is to say that Mother’s Day is (sometimes)difficult for me.

The difficulty in not having my Mother here is that the media makes it a point to constantly remind me of what I can no longer touch or speak to. On this day, Mothers will be glorified everywhere. The fact that I was unable to become a mother myself makes this day one I would like to pass over. The commercialism of the day constantly points out to those who are not mothers or are without a mother that we don’t fit in anymore. We are misfits on this holiday..

I have acknowledged Mother’s Day in different ways over the past few years. I was initially numb after my Mother’s death and dealing with the sudden diagnosis of my grandmother. The next year, we returned home from a week in Jamaica. We now celebrate with my husband’s mother. This will be the first year we no longer have his grandmother who died at 103 last year. Even though I am grateful my mother-in-law is here, it is not the same for me.

However, I am not motherless. They were here. They existed and I am part of their legacy. To say I am motherless would be taking away the years of love and lessons they provided me. I am a lucky one. Although I feel too young to be without them, I realize there are many others who lose their mother’s as a young child, teenager or young adult. Those individuals do not have the luxury of the years that I did.

The reality is, there is never an appropriate age to lose your mother. We always want and miss them. We always need the love of our mother. 

For those who are new in their grief, it is important to recognize that the day may be difficult. It is important to consider what one needs to make it through the day. I will likely never attend church on Mother’s Day as most churches do not handle the day well for those who are grieving because of the loss of their mother, their own child or infertility. I no longer visit the cemetery where they are buried for I feel they are not there. .I am not one who feels the need to visit but also struggle with societal expectations that I should at least do something in memory. In time, just as I have learned with the death of my father, I am finding the holiday feels different.  Although grief is life long, there is an ebb and flow to the journey.

I am and have become more comfortable with my grief, as I knew that I would.

For anyone reading this post who is in the raw stages of grief, please hear me say the following:

You will NOT always feel the pain you are feeling. It will not and should not always be as intense as it was immediately after the death. Yes, you will always miss your loved one but grief triggers are normal around holidays, birthdays and other special events. I become fearful when I read articles by those who state the pain is the same. Healing does and can take place if you choose to work through your grief.

It is important to care for yourself when grieving. Grief requires work and taking action to cope. It is the grief work that we do that leads to healing.

Although the years feel equally short and long, I have developed new routines in my life without these wonderful women. I have also been given the gift of older women, who could never replace but who have become mentors and more than just friends. I have been blessed with those who I could call for advice and at times simply validation. They have become tangible mother figures and I am forever grateful. 

I will never be motherless, for I was loved, molded and guided by two beautiful women. I may be unable to no longer hear their teachings but I continue to feel their presence.

Our mothers never truly leave us. They just are no longer physically here.

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