My mom passed away last year on May 28th.
This past year has been fraught with grief over her loss, guilt over not feeling like I had done enough for her while she was here and trying to find a place for my complicated feelings.
It has only been recently that I have felt the heavy fog of grief begin to lighten.
While the loss of someone we love never goes away, our resilient souls eventually come to some understanding of how to process that grief.
My personality is such that I want to get “through” difficult things quickly. I’m sure that attribute is not exclusive to me.
Over the past week, I honestly did not think all that much about Mother’s Day and how my loss and grief might feel fresh and raw again when the day approached. I considered it just another day on the calendar. Toward the end of the week, Mother’s Day suddenly descended upon me like a fly on a carcass.
Articles about moms started popping up online and in social media. Friends texted and called to see how I was handling the impending holiday and to express sympathy about how this “would be a difficult one.”
By Friday, I had a heavy feeling in my chest. My simmered down grief was starting to become a rolling boil again.
Yesterday, when I had a little time to myself, the tears and sobs rolled in dark and stormy like a pop-up thunderstorm in the middle of a sunny afternoon. I was drenched in emotion. Then the storm passed and I went about my day even though I could still hear thunder in the distance.
The day turned busy with breakfast, out with my son, and a Mother’s Day party to attend. I had little time to dwell on the fact that my mom was no longer here. I returned home completely exhausted. I tucked myself into bed early, only to wake up a few hours later feeling as if I had lost my mom only yesterday.
My mom’s health declined rapidly over the last few years, before her passing. I did my best to balance taking care of her with raising my son, going through a divorce and a complicated living arrangement, carrying a full-time job and building a new relationship.
There were many days where I was stretched entirely thin. I felt tired, sad and overwhelmed a lot. I carried, and still carry, a lot of guilt that I could not help my mom more during her final years. Intellectually, I know I did what I was capable of doing, but our intellect does not always communicate properly to our hearts.
So tonight, while I can’t sleep, I will think of all the things my mom taught me for which I am thankful.
She taught me how to be classy. My mom was always dressed well, well-spoken and made sure we respected others and knew our manners. My mom had a 7th grade education and we were stretched thin financially, but it’s true what they say ––manners don’t cost a thing.
She taught me all about strength. My mom was bipolar, so she faced many difficult challenges around the stigma of mental illness. She always held her head high regardless of the opinions of others.
She taught me how to be creative. We had little money, but there was always an unlimited supply of crayons, markers, paper, glue, scissors and the makings of creative things stored in the large, bottom drawer in the kitchen. To this day, I rely on creativity to express my emotions.
She supported me in her own way. Even though she did not understand my need and desire for running and fitness, she showed up at my races and cheered me on, even it if was with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth.
She taught me how to love. My mom was complicated. Since she was mentally ill, her love was complicated, as well. Most times, my mom was deeply kind, understanding, patient and loving. She possessed a warmth and compassion that was genuine. She was able to reach people on a deeper level. I like to think she imparted a little of that goodness in me.
She taught me how to be a mom and how not to be a mom. Her illness made it difficult for her to be a good mom, at times, but the majority of the time, she was an outstanding mom. I have taken the outstanding mom lessons and discarded the not-so-good mom characteristics in my own mothering.
She taught me how to be a kid. She let my six brothers and I explore our small town inside and out. We climbed trees, got dirty, fished, built tree houses, played games, chased lightning bugs, brought home baby bunnies and kittens that needed care. She let us have the type of freedom that is no longer available to kids today.
She taught me about unconditional love. She patiently stood by me through some difficult things in my first marriage. She let me make my own mistakes, even though I am sure they were not easy to watch. She was always available for a phone call or a chat over tea at her kitchen table, regardless of the time.
She taught me how to laugh. My mom had a fantastic sense of humor. She never let trials in her life douse her laughter.
I have spent a lot of the last year feeling like I lost my history when my mom passed away.
I lost my dad when I was just 21, so no longer having parents left me feeling adrift at sea.
I pictured my brothers and I bobbing in the rough ocean without our parental boat.
I am only now beginning to understand that is not the case at all. My mom is here with me in a thousand little things I do or don’t do every single day.
Author: Jeannine M. DeHart
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock