Losing your mother leaves an irreparable wound.
I can remember overhearing the therapist tell my dad in the hallway, “losing a mother between the age of 7 and 11 is the hardest time, research shows. That particular age range predicts the worst outcome.”
If you’ve seen the movie, you might remember this saying from Fight Club, “The first rule of fight club is that you never talk about fight club.” I’ve always thought that the same rules apply when you’re the child of a deceased mom: The first rule of dead moms’ club is that you do not talk about being the child of a dead mom.
In my adult years, I’ve learned to talk more about my mother. Even though she is absent, talking about her makes her present. I share the characteristics and stories I know of her, with my own children, and it gives them a sense of knowing her. And it’s become rather therapeutic for me.
I’m so incredibly drawn to people that knew her. They talk to me about who my mother was as a woman and wife and mother and always follow with, “you are the spitting image of your mother,” which makes me want to spread my wings and soar. Why? Because that woman was adored and admired – like a moth to a flame, people wanted to be around her. So, if I emanate any ounce of her, I’m honored.
Growing up, you don’t know why you have a void in your heart, but it exists. There is a piece of you that always feels unusual. It’s like you’re always in mourning. Always longing.
When you get your period, kiss a boy for the first time, learn how to be a woman, learn how to put on lipstick, graduate high school, get married, have babies, breastfeed…the most thrilling and exciting of times, and you’re left wondering why you feel like something is missing. All the while, deep inside, you expected your mother to be by your side and you didn’t even know you had the expectation. Does that makes any sense?
That’s not to say I didn’t have the utmost magnificent surrogate mothers…my grandmother, sister, aunts, friends’ mothers, boyfriends’ mothers even – they all took me under their wing and poured their love over me. But, for lack of better words, it’s just not quite the same.
The biggest obstacle, which I continually strive to overcome each day, is breaking down the barrier I built up around me all those years. Preventing people from getting too close was something I did best. I kept relationships rather superficial, so as to not experience another profound loss as I did with first my mother and then my grandmother. Nevermore would I have the rug pulled out from under me, or so I thought. The idea of loss – even in friendship – was just one more person gone.
When you’re the child of a deceased mother (especially at a young age), you’re told continuously how strong you are. To the outside world, you have conquered the most intense thing there is to overcome. But on the inside, you lack all the things really needed for survival: self-esteem, confidence and a place to really belong.
So instead of breaking, I became the therapist to everyone who needed it. From my teenage years to present, I get calls or emails at random, from friends who need help. Knowing that someone could so effortlessly rely on me gave me a purpose, something to feel good about. I grew up so fast and am an old soul but deep down I'm still fourteen, still looking for someone to take care of me. I think that’s another thing none of us lost kids ever want to admit. That we need someone else’s help because if we do, if we lean on someone too much, they’ll leave us. We can admit we’re in a bad mood, but we never want to say: I just miss my mom.
Questions that arise in me at times is how much of my life can I blame on my mother dying and how much do I take responsibility for? Truth be told, I’ve always held myself accountable. It wasn’t until recent years that I have really identified that that incident truly affected me and my choices and my feelings and my responses. (And I hate that I just used ‘incident’ like it’s something that can be healed. Sure, time allows pain to fade, but it never diminishes.) I was so incredibly adamant about proving that therapist wrong – I wasn’t going to let “that little girl who lost her mother” define me. I was social and fearless and could talk to anyone I wanted, and be anything I wanted.
Several years ago, I was advised to read a book called Motherless Daughters. I read a few pages and stopped. I got busy maybe. Or perhaps I convinced myself that I didn’t need it -- I was perfectly okay -- I’ve had a rather successful and happy and fulfilling life. But I eventually finished the book, and I’m so glad I did. For the first time, I felt as though I was in a room with every child who has lost a mother (no matter what the age) and had people to understand like no one else ever could.
I’m not sure this blog post really has a point, except that it would be nice to broadcast out a message, hire a skywriter, wave a flag on a plane passing over a beach that simply states: Dead Moms’ Club: We all feel like dirt sometimes, and you’re not alone. I learned that this week when talking with one of my besties -- no matter how old you were then, no matter how old you are now, the bad days come, the good days remain and who we are because of this isn’t something to shy away from, but something to embrace, to talk about, to grow from it. Losing my mother might always be a stigma attached to my name and my personality...
...and I’ll always miss her on a random Tuesday or Wednesday or July.
Song: If I Rise Artist: Dido & A.R. Rahman