10 Things You’ll Experience as a Motherless Mother

This is my truth about my first year as a motherless mother:

  1. After the birth of your baby, your grief will return with a vengeance. The loss of your mother will sting the way it did when it first happened. You will miss her with the intensity you felt in those first few months and milestones after her death.
  2. You will fantasize about how things would be if she were alive. You’ll imagine her bringing over dinner, taking your crying baby from your arms, and telling you “go get some rest, I’ve got this”. In a strange way, this will bring you comfort.
  3. You’ll look for company and solidarity with other new moms, but will feel sad when they mention what a support their moms have been in those first few months.
  4. You won’t go out much for the first year. Your circle of trust is small and caring for your baby will take all of your time and energy.
  5. A simple trip to the mall will make you sad, as you see endless trios of grandmas, moms, and babies shopping and laughing.
  6. When others shower your baby with love and gifts, it will make you uncomfortable at first. You won’t know why at first.
  7. When your mother in law gushes about being a grandma, it will hurt. In fact, any reference to a grandma will hurt.
  8. You will be so desperate for your mom’s presence, you’ll notice yourself start putting up more old photos around the house. You will want to be reminded of your mother as often as possible.
  9. You will wonder why you didn’t ask her certain questions when she was alive. You will kick yourself for not asking her about the little, mundane, everyday details of her life with you. Did she have a hard time putting you down to nap? How long did she breastfeed you for?
  10. More than anything else, you will wish you could tell her you understand now. You understand the love, you understand the sacrifice of motherhood.

“Because I feel that, in the Heavens above / The angels, whispering to one another, / Can find, among their burning terms of love / None so devotional as that of ‘Mother’” – Edgar Allen Poe

 

 

 

Reflections on the Long Island Medium live show

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Theresa Caputo, aka, the “Long Island Medium” from TLC’s hit show. She had a live show here and since my friend is a huge fan, we decided to make a girls’ night out of it. I’ve seen her show on TV and despite being a bit of a skeptic when it comes to psychics/ mediums, I’ve always gotten the sense that she does possess some kind of gift of connecting with departed souls. I liked her on TV; she seemed authentic, with her big personality, even bigger hair, and love for her family.

No, she didn’t do a reading for me. No, my mom didn’t miraculously send me a message through her. No, she didn’t single me out in the crowd to tell me that my mother loves me and is proud of the woman I’ve become. Nevertheless, here’s a few thoughts from my experience.

My favourite part of her appearance wasn’t actually the readings she did. It was the way she spoke about grief. It’s natural and it’s necessary, she said. It’s with us in our time of loss and long after. There is no expiration date on grief.

Long story short, there were some interesting moments for me. Yes, she was able to pinpoint some key information about people’s deceased loved ones. For example, she knew that one guy in the audience had lost his mom to breast cancer before he could even say one word. Unfortunately, I also found her to be dismissive at times and even cold.

I guess her live shows have become like a challenge to her, seeing how many live audience members she can accurately “read” by channeling their lost loved ones. Maybe one-on-one, her gift would seem more special and meaningful. In a crowded arena of 5000 people, however, she came off as cold and gimmicky.

What made me uncomfortedble was the way she dismissed people desperate for information on their loved ones. She would pick random people from the audience, get the story of their loved one’s death, give them a few words, and then shuffle along to the next person in her glittery Laboutins. It was just weird and uncomfortable. She had one woman recount in agonizing detail the suicide of her 13-year old son. She gave her some generic shpiel about death and grief and moved right along. The sobbing woman was left standing there when the camera man walked away, following Theresa down the aisle.

When my friend and I were leaving, a guy was passing out flyers at the exit. My friend grabbed one, not looking at it until we were outside, away from the crowd. “Oh my gosh, it’s your Mom. She’s sending you a sign, even though Theresa didn’t go a reading for you” my friend said. I looked at the flyer in her hand and there it was – Mama Mia, the musical, coming to the arena in November. Mama Mia was one of my Mom’s favourite movies. She and I had seen it probably over twenty times.

There it was – my Mom was with me. She may not have come through in a “reading” at the show, but all of a sudden, none of that mattered. I felt a sense of peace. She is with me – at that moment and always.

I’m curious to know if any of you have ever been to a medium? How was your experience? I still believe… at least, I really, really want to.

If I can’t have her advice, I don’t want anyone’s

I have a memory that’s been popping up in my head often for the last little while. I am 12 or 13 years old, in that awkward pre-teen phase, when you don’t feel right in your own body and everything either annoys or embarrases you. I am at the mall with my Mom and I am convincing her to buy me a piece of clothing that she doesn’t really like.

“It doesn’t suit you,” she says. “Trust me, I’m your Mom. There is no purer or more honest advice than the one from your Mom. I will always want the very best for you.”

I am annoyed and roll my eyes at her, unable to comprehend at that time the significance of her words.

Well, fast forward about twenty years. She’s gone now, taken too soon at 51 years old. It’s funny how mothers always turn out to be right in the end, in one way or another. Her advice was the best. It was the most honest and pure. Now that I am a mother myself, I get it. 100%. There is nothing I could ever suggest to my daughter that didn’t reflect what I feel to be the very best for her. There is nothing I could tell her that didn’t put her first in its context.

Since my mom’s death almost four years ago, I have a lot of trouble asking for help or advice from others, even those closest to me. I feel like if I can’t have her advice, I don’t want anyone’s. My husband has been my rock throughout so much and he is my best friend. He knows more about the (sometimes scary) inner workings of my brain than anyone else. Except my mother. Men are different, though. They think differently and are wired differently. They are problem-solvers and solution-seekers. They want to fix. Sometimes I don’t want to hear about possible solutions to my problem. I just want the truthful opinion of the listener, even if I don’t like it.

I have a decision to make and I can’t make up my mind. We are going to Europe later this year to visit my family and introduce my baby girl to my grandmas, aunts, and cousins. My husband only has a couple of weeks of vacation time and I don’t know if I should stay a bit longer with the baby. Should I risk a potential nightmare 16 hr. + journey home alone with the baby? Or, should I come home with him and risk not spending enough quality time with everyone? I want to ask my Mom’s opinion so badly right now. Yes, I could ask a friend. Yes, I could ask my mother in law. But it’s not the same. Their advice would be helpful, I am sure. It would be good advice, fair advice, but not advice custom made for me.

I hope in time I get past this feeling of being alone in the world. The truth is, I am not alone. Far from it. But my mother’s absense has changed me. I’ve built such a strong and impermeable wall around myself. I guard my inner strength now more than before. I know where I’ve been.

I didn’t just lose a family member the day my mother died. I lost my foundation.

Advice is a funny thing. You almost always know the answer you want to get when asking advice. Ironically my mother’s advice, the one I didn’t always agree with, is the one I miss so badly now. The other kind, the nice, pleasant advice is available to me now, but I have no desire to hear it.

I miss the honestly that only a mother’s words can provide.

Grief is not a problem that needs a solution

You can’t fix grief. You can’t take it away from someone or erase it from their life story. A griever will always miss their loved one. They will always be devastated. They will always wonder what could have been.

A griever will grieve forever. And that’s okay.

Our society doesn’t understand grief. To most people, it’s a scary and uncomfortable topic. They would rather talk about the weather, about anything else, than talk about grief and loss and sadness. Our society is obsessed with “fixing problems“. The thing is, though, grief is not a problem. It’s a reality and a permanent state.

It’s been almost four years now since my mom passed away. In the first year after her death, I would get constant messages and calls from friends and family checking up on me, asking if I need anything, or offering a distraction or an ear. That’s gone now. I can’t remember the last time I was asked if I am okay in regards to the loss of my mother. I guess people assume I am. And I am, for the most part. I live my life, I am a mother myself now, and I do the best I can without mine.

At first when I stopped getting the “how are you doing’s”, I was hurt and confused. I wondered how those closest to me could assume that as time passes, so does grief. How could they think that while the first Christmas without my mother, I would miss her with such intense pain and rawness, but that the second Christmas, I wouldn’t? It doesn’t work that way. I still needed those “how are you doing’s” on the second Christmas, second Mother’s Day, second birthday. And the third and the fourth.

For those that have never lost anyone, they just don’t understand. They don’t know what to say or what to ask a griever months or years after their loss. Or worse yet, when they do ask or offer some words, they are inappropriate and misguided. They do more harm than good to the griever. Phrases like, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “It’s made you stronger” can be dangerous in their insensitivity and emptiness.

Grief is not like in the movies. It doesn’t end after a month or a year or even a decade. What does end is our fragility in our moments of vulnerability and our everyday lives. The uncontrollable crying while sitting in traffic ends. But grief as a whole doesn’t. It’s like an invisible tattoo; it’s a marker of where you’ve been and what you’ve lost.

I recently stumbled upon this very beautiful and honest piece of writing by Tim Lawrence about grief and the insensitivity of others. It really affected me in a profound way because of its rawness and truth. Here’s my favourite passage:

Let me be crystal clear: if you’ve faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.

Grief is brutally painful. Grief does not only occur when someone dies. When relationships fall apart, you grieve. When opportunities are shattered, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses wreck you, you grieve.

So I’m going to repeat a few words I’ve uttered countless times; words so powerful and honest they tear at the hubris of every jackass who participates in the debasing of the grieving:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. 

These words come from my dear friend Megan Devine, one of the only writers in the field of loss and trauma I endorse. These words are so poignant because they aim right at the pathetic platitudes our culture has come to embody on an increasingly hopeless level. Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed.

They can only be carried.

I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn’t. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we’ve replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence.

Full article: http://www.timjlawrence.com/blog/2015/10/19/everything-doesnt-happen-for-a-reason

Life events, milestones, and the transformation of grief

No matter what you’ve read, what advice you’ve been given, or what your expectations are for your future after the loss of a loved one, one thing becomes very clear as time goes on. Grief doesn’t end. It changes its shape and direction, but it has no end. Every major event in your life and every milestone will cause your grief to re-emerge in a new form and you will feel like you are starting your journey from the very beginning. You will feel like you are right back in that very moment when you experienced the loss of your loved one.

Motherhood is the second and most intense milestone in which I experienced the transformation of my grief. The first was when I got married and those first few months of being a newlywed.  In the months that followed, filled with writing thank you cards and basking in that “new family” feeling, all I felt like doing was picking out sheets, dishes, and other meaningless objects, which only a mom could have the patience and excitement to go shopping with you for.

Motherhood has caused my grief to come back with a vengeance, which is something I have posted a lot about in the past. My experience has really verified for me the notion that my grief will never leave me. It will always be with me, re-emerging in different shapes and forms. It will always have a grip around me, whether it be a tight, suffocating embrace or a soft and gentle wrap around my shoulders.

After my mother’s death, I tried reading a few self-help books that explore grief and mourning. I was looking for a solution of sorts, a “how-to” for feeling better and being happy again. Looking back, I now realize my approach was the wrong one. My “situation” isn’t one that can be corrected. I don’t even know if acceptance is what I am after – will I ever accept my mother’s death fully and whole-heartedly? Will I ever think of her with peace in my soul and a smile on my lips? Will I ever remember a moment in our time together without that ever-present little pain in my tummy?

Grief is unfair for so many reasons. It’s especially cruel because it re-creates itself in a brand new version just when you have begun to make peace with its previous presence in your life. I made peace with the version of my grief in which I was a twenty-something newly wed, just beginning my career and adult life. I had accepted that my husband would never have his mother-in-law to joke about. I had accepted that my mother would not witness us buying our first home or celebrating our career goals. I had accepted that I would never go shopping again with her or watch American Idol together.

Then, I became pregnant. And my grief returned, with a new intensity I wasn’t prepared for. There were now so many “what will never be” tears alongside the “what I miss and once was” tears. My daughter is almost four months old and I think about my mother and her absence every single day. I have thoughts big and small – from wondering what my mother did about diaper rashes, to wondering if she was scared and nervous about raising a girl and passing on the wisdom that a mother gives to a daughter. In a strange way, I feel like my mother has just died. I am back in August of 2012. I have accepted so much along my path of grief over the past three years, but all of a sudden, I am bewildered and shocked all over again that my mother is actually gone. That she’s not physically on this Earth anymore.

When I have one of those dark days when I can’t stop thinking sad thoughts, I remind myself that nothing I feel or do will ever change the situation. This rationalization of my feelings really helps me get clarity and a grip on reality. She’s gone and nothing can bring her back. I think of what my mother wanted for me and it’s not tears, regrets, or sadness. If she’s watching over me now, which I strongly feel she is, she would want nothing but happiness for me. Happiness is the goal to strive for.

Grief & the healing power of motherhood

I recently started reading Hope Edelman’s book “Motherless Mothers”. I am always in search of connections with others who have gone through similar experiences of loss. I am especially interested in hearing about other women’s experiences with the loss of their mothers during a transitional time in their lives when their futures were starting to take shape, like my own was when my mother died. I was 25 and newly engaged.

IMG_0378

Recently having become a mother myself, I really connected with the following excerpt from the book. It’s interesting how Hope weaves grief, motherhood, and healing together. She talks about the healing power of motherhood and the effect it has on a motherless daughter. It’s too early for me to tell what the true effect of motherhood will have on my grief, as my baby girl is only three and half months old. I don’t know what the future holds for my grief, but I do know that it has taken on a new shape.

“…What is it about motherhood that’s so healing for a motherless daughter, mending something inside her in a place deeper than scalpels or medication or therapy can reach? Many of the women interviewed for this book spoke of motherhood as an experience that restored their equilibrium, their self-esteem, or their faith. “Having my kids is like discovering the missing link,” explains thirty-five-year-old Sharon, a mother of two who was eleven when her own mother died. “There’s a completeness in my life that wasn’t there before.” 

“The first time my son put his hand in my hand when we were walking,” remembers thirty-eight-year-old Corinne, who lost both parents by age eleven, “and the first time he ran to me and threw his arms around my neck, showing that he preferred me over anyone else, for him to love me back so uninhibitedly and unconditionally, filled some part of me that I didn’t expect would ever be filled again.” 

It paints a rosy view of motherhood, but there’s more than just a simple idealization going on here — although God knows our culture tacks enough of that onto mothers these days. For these daughters, motherhood is the final repair in their process of mourning and recovery from early mother loss. What was broken in their pasts is once again made whole; what was subtracted has been added back again. 

When motherhood interfaces with the long-term mourning process, the result is exponential. Becoming a mother can give a motherless daughter access to a more enhanced, more insightful, deeper, richer, and, in some cases, ultimate phase of mourning for her mother, one that may initially be painful but eventually leads her to a more mature and peaceful acceptance of both her loss and herself…”