Celebrating Mother’s Day When Mama Is Not Here
May 8, 2013
I was mom’s 3rd child and 3rd child to graduate from college (Fair Dillard, N.O., LA!). She was a firm believer in education…thank you, Mama!
With Mother’s Day coming up, the flower and jewelry commercials are in full bloom. Churches are preparing special programs; I even have the honor of speaking at a mother’s day service this weekend. Honoring our mamas is definitely a big part of May. And, as a mother of a precocious and energetic 6 year old, I’m here to say that all of this maternal hoopla in the second week of May is well-deserved and perhaps not even enough –we mothers (and aunts and mentors) work hard!
But, in the midst of our honoring mama, I’d like to share just a few things I’ve learned, gleaned, observed as a woman who has had to say good-bye to mama way to early (is it ever not too early?!) When you lose mama, you are inducted into a special club—one you probably never wanted to join, but regardless, you are forced to pay the dues. So, for all of my friends and relatives who have walked down this road…and for those I may not know…please allow me to share what I’ve learned during the 10 years of living this journey without my mama on Earth. (My pastor evens says that we will measure life before mama and after mama…so true! Life for me is split between pre-May 2006 when life was normal and shared with my first love, my best supporter, my girl who would tell me the truth and give me a hug and a pep talk no matter what AND post-May 2006 when I have been forced to experience mom through memories, tears, and laughs during my tenure of grief).
- Don’t let anyone tell you how you should or should not be feeling. As a Christian, I know firsthand that people want to write away your feelings and jump quickly to: “she’s in a much better place; you’ll see her again.” While I firmly believe that mom is resting and we will live together again eternally, today I live without being able to pick up the phone and audibly hear my mom’s voice. When I visit her house where my dad still lives, I don’t see her physically there although the house still has her designer touch and peach infiltration (anyone who knew my mom knew her favorite color…who has a peach house?) Even as a Christian with hope, don’t underestimate the power of grief and the reality of living today without your mama. That hurts. And it’s okay to say so.
- Don’t be surprised when grief slips up on you. It’s been 10 years for me, and last week (from post 3 years ago) when I walked into the church mom faithfully served for more than 43 years, I cried. She was not there. (and oh, by the way, crying helps! At least for me. Once I cried, I was able to continue praising God with my family…for mom and for my other blessings). When I brought my daughter home from the hospital, I cried…mom wasn’t there to hold her. When I closed on my condo, I walked in and thought: oh, mom would have loved helping me decorate. In the midst of celebration, mom’s absence is felt. Don’t be surprised when you have those feelings during joyous occasions. (And, I scaled down my wedding for this reason alone! I didn’t want to have a huge, grand church wedding without mom there.) Update for 2016: Today I got the news that a friend’s mom had passed. I didn’t know her mom, but I know my friend and I know the pain associated with losing mom and it’s the week of my mom’s death 10 years ago and Mother’s Day weekend, etc…so I cried. Crying helps!
- Therapy is not a bad thing or for the weak. While my therapist (bless her heart; yep, I’m from the South!) never knew my mom or any member of my family… she helped me immensely. We talked, we honored mom, we received breakthroughs that helped me grieve in a healthy manner. She told me not to worry about losing weight during this time (when my grief was very fresh); she made me feel okay about being depressed and told me my mom probably had gone through a similar journey (whether I knew it or not); when I said I felt guilty for not living close to my mom, my therapist helped me see that my mom and my family probably thought I was adventurous for living in a distant land and following my dreams. I know she was right; my therapist gave me a healthy perspective!
- Talk about mom; remember her…the good, the bad, the ugly. It’s okay. If you have a family member you can talk to, share memories. I didn’t think saying I was having a bad day would help me, but my therapist encouraged me to share that with my sister…and I did. And surprisingly, it helped. I know everyone doesn’t have close and healthy family relationships, but you can find someone who just wants to listen. They can’t fix the issue or bring mom back, but they can listen.
- Be a support system for the sister or brother who is on that journey. There’s nothing like going through something like the loss of a mama to give you special empathy with others. No, you won’t have the exact same responses, but you can be a listening support and recall what helped you during this time.
Take heart…we are journeying together.
Please leave any thoughts on celebrating Mother’s Day when your mother is no longer alive or how you can support those who have lost their mamas.