We all have a unique experience when we lose a parent. If you have siblings, not one of them will be going through the same experience as you at the same time even though you had the same loss. It’s not just because of the timeline difference. It’s because our mothers have unique relationships with each of their children. We make different memories that stick. And when our mothers die, we reminisce in a particular way.
When I lost my mother I was 14. She had taught me a lot of things but at that age, she wasn’t yet my friend. She was the person who picked me up from after school events or friends’ houses after she got off work. She was the person who bought me clothes. She was the person who told me “no” when I needed to be told it. She was the person who taught me to apologize when I was wrong. She was the person who taught me to forgive. She was the person who showed me how to rise out of the ashes of a bad experience, own my part in it and move on. She was the person who took me to church and to picnics and went on long country drives with my dad and me just to enjoy how beautiful our mountains are. She was a lot of things to me, but when I lost her I didn’t lose the same person the other people in my family lost.
She was the woman that held the key to my father’s heart. He loved her sense of humor. He loved her smile and her laugh and although it took him some time to adjust after he retired from the Navy, he loved her independence. He once told me “Cookie, I was a one- woman man. I never wanted or needed anyone else after I met your mother.” And I always thought that was such a perfect way to describe their relationship. All of us kids knew it. I know she knew. She walked like she knew it. He always had her back and we knew she had his. They really had a once in a lifetime love. And he had a once in a lifetime loss.
My older siblings knew my mother differently than me. They were old enough to have gotten to know her as a friend. They had taken her advice more times than me, listened when she told them stories about who she was. Revealed their broken hearts in her confidence. Gone on grand adventures with her. They knew her as an adult. So they grieved for our mother as well as the friend they had lost. I can’t speak to their particular pain.
And my little brother lost his Mommy. He was only 6 and her last baby. His pain was different than mine. His loss, in my eyes, more substantial and frightening than my own.
I say all of that to say, I know that my singular, narrow viewpoint falls short of describing everyone’s grief. But also, maybe it might be a comfort for others to know that they’re not alone in the uniqueness of their loss. One of the most unfortunate things about parental loss is that you don’t stop needing your lost parent. Things happen in life. Babies are born or lost and you need your mother. Marriages happen. Divorces happen. Life happens and you need her. And she’s not there. And you didn’t get to ask her advice and you wish so much that you could. Then the loss and the feeling that you got slighted by the universe rears it’s head again.
So, as I celebrate Mother’s Day this year as a single motherless daughter, whose children have no grandparent to cherish them. Who has no husband to encourage their children to honor her today. I want the other single motherless daughters who are also mothers to know that you are not alone in your sadness today. It’s ok to feel a little off and to do a little grieving and remembering. It’s ok to let go of that mommy guilt for the day and celebrate yourself, even if no one else will. Because I know that you grew up with your children and didn’t always have someone to give you the advice you needed or watch them so you could take some time for yourself. I know you didn’t always have the help you needed. I know you tried asking other women for help, like a mother in law and she made you feel bad about needing her. I know you stopped reaching out eventually because other mother figures in your life dropped the ball the way your own mother would not have. I know eventually you stopped asking for help altogether and carried all the weight on your own. I’m just asking you to set it down for a few moments today and give yourself a little credit. You are a warrior.
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