I could not even begin to tell you how I spent my first Mother’s Day without my mother.
When she passed away, two weeks after my 16th birthday, I lived my days immediately in a fog. I did not know if I was coming or going, nor did I care. I’m sure I acted like nothing was bothering me, and probably did not even shed a tear—knowing how I was back then: a headstrong, stubborn teenager.
I shut off all emotions and the reality of her death did not hit me until years later. I do, however, distinctly remember the first time I truly felt the pain of not having a mother on Mother’s Day.
I had been waiting tables and had requested to work that Sunday so that I could keep myself busy. Little did I realize the trap I had set up for myself. In came family after family, the restaurant flooded with teenagers, children, young adults, and of course: their mothers.
It was not until I came around a corner and stopped at a table that the first real torrent of grief overcame me. I looked at a woman with plump pink cheeks from rounds of steroids or chemotherapy, just like my mother had taken for her cancer. The rest of her face was otherwise sunken in and grey, and she had a scarf wrapped around her head with fine, short brown hairs sticking out from underneath.
Her eyes were sullen, yet the pupils remained a bright brown. She was frail, yet I could see strength in her and I could tell that she was fighting this disease with everything she had. She had the look of courage across her face and most likely for the one thing sitting in front of her in that booth: her daughter.
She looked just like my mother in the last days of her life, and I immediately was taken to a place I had repressed for so long. I was flooded with memories of my mother, and I realized that this lady may not be there the next year.
I immediately felt devastated—for both myself and for the young girl sitting in that booth who may face that same loss as I had one day. I ran away and hid in the back kitchen; another server took over the table, as I cried in the stock room for what seemed like forever. It was then that the reality hit me: I not only would never have my mother back again, I would never have a mother on Mother’s Day. It wasn’t fair and I felt like I was alone.
For years, I never wanted to feel that way again, so I suppressed my emotions with alcohol on Mother’s Day. I would buy enough wine or beer or liquor to stay in a drunken haze all day, all as a way of avoiding the reality of her not being here with me and also as a way to pass time. If I could make it through this day without a breakdown and just get through it, I would have made it through another year.
Of course, the alcohol always left me emotional and depressed, and in the end, I would be left in a ball on the floor, crying to whomever I could reach on the phone. I spent this day that way for years. Many of us have spent days, with the assistance of substances or sadness, balled on the floor, sobbing for our mothers. Angry at the world, at God, at whomever, that she was taken away from us. Angry that we are alone on this day, even if in the company of others. Angry that we carry this loss like a badge and must face days such as this, which makes the wound that much bigger.
As I approached my 30s and got older, I began to accept my mother’s death more and more. The only reason I can point to is quite honestly, I was tired of carrying the burden of depression and anger on my back with me everywhere I went. I was tired of looking for reasons to explode in anger, just to alleviate some of my pain. I wanted to be free. I wanted to accept her death.
I have learned that this is only something that comes with time and it happens differently for each person. I cannot say that we all grieve in the exact order of the four stages of grief, or if there even are four exact stages. Some may accept their mother’s death early and come to peace with it much sooner than others.
I found an outlet through writing. I began writing memories of her, both good and bad. I began searching deep within my soul, finding those raw emotions, and letting them flow throughout me. Rather than have drunk, sloppy tears flowing, I had pure, real, crystal clear emotions flowing out of me.
The way that I was able to finally find some peace was by not suppressing myself anymore.
Not by blaming others, or running away and hiding. It was by realizing I wanted to lead a happy life by accepting the hand life had dealt me. I have opened myself up to others, talked to my friends, and told my story in the hopes of helping others. I’m using the pain as strength.
Even with all of that, however, the sadness never goes away. It will follow you for the rest of your life, whether subconsciously or consciously. It is only when you try to find that raw emotion in yourself, through meditation, religion, helping others, writing, or reading that you can find a way to get through the days better. That you can wake up on that Sunday each year, and smile knowing that you are going to make it.
I know that this day is horrible for us; it may even be for those whose mother is still alive, if we are estranged from her. I know that you may want to run and hide from the pain and emotion. That you watch the commercials of giving gifts of necklaces and flowers, and I know the tears that flow down your face all too well. I know that this day can hurt so damn much because I feel it too, but we can make it. We are warriors, we really are, and we have fought one of life’s hardest battles.
It’s what you do with that strength that differentiates you from all the others, and I can only hope and pray that the strength you find within yourself can help you conquer Mother’s Day, birthdays, and anniversaries of her death—and above all, help you conquer the pain within yourself.
Author: Elizabeth Wade
Editor: Travis May