Since I lost my mom suddenly only about four months ago, I often want to speak up when I see or hear someone struggling with their parental relationships. Especially if that relationship is between a mother and a daughter.
I am lucky, because my mom and I resolved our biggest issue (which all boils down to pride, really) a few years before she died.
Many don’t get that chance.
But I feel this strange compulsion that I’m having to fight back—it’s one where I want to approach whichever party is doing the talking, about how frustrating or hurtful or sad the relationship is, and I want to say things like…
- Do whatever you need to do to fix it.
- One day they’ll be gone—and then it’s too late.
- Set the sword down.
- Have you tried humility?
- Have you tried setting aside your pride?
And then I quickly get myself in check, before I make a total ass out of myself.
I wasn’t expecting to have this kind of compulsion. I guess it’s a save-the-world mentality, or maybe it’s because I would do anything to have my mom back, and it feels childish and stupid to see other people mistreat the ones they love so much, and I bet they wouldn’t take those people for granted if they suddenly died, so why can’t they stop taking them for granted right now?
And then I have to walk away, because it’s still sad, it’s still hard, it’s still devastating.
I put myself on guilt trips for not calling my dad every day anymore. For about the first month or six weeks or however long it was, we spoke daily, whether I called him or he called me. We both needed that—somehow it was easier to check on each other than it was to check on ourselves.
But that immediate emergency time is gone, and now no one is offering condolences because it’s old news (to everyone but me, my sister, and my dad) and we’re all just supposed to move on with our lives.
But there’s no “right” way to do grief, and for me to judge myself or anyone else is a waste of time and energy. And I know that, but I still do it (until I realize I’m doing it, and then I stop myself).
I read an article recently that talks about emerging research showing that cells from children stay in the mother’s brain for the remainder of the mother’s life. (It’s here, if you’re interested.)
What that means is that a part of me quite literally died when she died.
The thought of that is unbearable…
But it’s also true.
I want to fix it all. I want the pain to go away, I want to stop missing her, I want to have just one more conversation with her. I want to hear her voice, smell her, see her hands… something—anything—to connect with her again.
And it just won’t happen. There’s not a thing I can do about it, except try to fix all the other people around me with broken relationships, and that doesn’t work either because you can’t fix anyone and it’s not only pointless to try… it’s downright arrogant.
Everyone is on their own path, and for me to attempt to intervene or judge is wasted energy—not to mention, people don’t like it when you try to fix them.
So because I can’t do that (nor would I try, in any other place other than the inside of my head), I have to deal with my own emotions, my own life, my own stuff.
It’s just a weird time. Some days are better than others. Sometimes, I break down into tears because of something I would really like to ask my mom. Sometimes, the reality hits me all over again, and there I am standing at the hospital with the chaplain, my dad, and David.
I am at least going to work every day and I am mostly a productive member of society. Whole days go by when I don't cry. And even though I am grieving, I can also laugh and feel joy, and I most definitely appreciate where I am and what and who I have.
On the flip side... I am behind on a very long list of “to-do” items, not the least of which are thank you notes for all of the amazing things that people did for my family when my mom first died.
When I think about that… I immediately feel overwhelmed. Writing thank you notes means addressing that that time has passed. It means it’s real. It means the initial shock has worn off, and I am accepting this new reality.
And because I can’t seem to do anything half-ass, I am not one who would write a non-specific note for one of the most deeply edifyingly excruciating experiences of my life.
So, no, I haven’t yet written any thank you notes.
But if you think, for even one iota of a second, that I am not grateful… you’re wrong.
I am grateful. And what's strange is how the depth of my gratitude has grown over the last four months.
This life is precious. As far as I know, it's the only one we get.
Even though I feel sad in this moment, I am still doing and feeling everything possible to life my life wholeheartedly.
Some days, that's a little messy.
Today is one of those days.
And that's okay.