I want to start a conversation about the things we rarely talk about. I want to talk about the conversations we long to have openly but the unwritten rules of society and life in general dictate that we either remain silent or keep these subjects audible at a level no higher than a whisper. I want to know what is it that we rarely talk about..what you rarely talk about.
I recently ranted here on this site about my journey last year turning the same age as my mother was when she passed away. That was a miserable experience facing down my mortality ..facing down who I twisted myself into from the ages of 16-49 ..facing the fact that I felt like I was losing my mind and no one understood where I was. It’s hard to explain how lonely and isolated I felt as I came to terms with now what. This conversation is not one everyone can have because until you experience mother loss there is no way to understand or even discuss with others what is going on.
Someone who I do not know read my piece and commented that they are approaching the same milestone of becoming their mother’s age at the time of her death and they thought it was just them who felt like they were losing their mind. Can I just say I nearly peed myself that someone I do not know read something that I wrote but I digress..The comment got me thinking that there is so much that we rarely discuss and I want to know what it is you want to bring to the table so we can discuss. What do we need to say in order to expand the conversations that have to happen?
I could write a whole book on the things that I see given the silent treatment and probably another one just from the examples from my own life experiences..right now my focus is on the reality that we do not discuss what happens when our mothers leave us. My mother left me over and over when I was young…however she died when I was only 16. Without a doubt the loss of my mother being present in my life had such a deep impact on who I was and who I am to do this day.
We rarely discuss mother loss ..and when there is a substitute parent the discussion grows quieter and quieter because as a society we tend to think we can substitute one mother for another. The hard truth is we cannot simply substitute one for the other. That is not to say we can’t be loved and cared for by a parent who did not birth us..we certainly can and many of us are..what I am saying is our mothers ..the women who conceived us, shared with us half of her DNA and with whom we bonded before we knew anyone else..they matter and we need them in a primitive way that is difficult to explain. It’s a hard conversation to have when you have people in your life who are wonderful stepmothers, have adopted or have mentored someone and helped to fill the mother void of a child. No one wants to hear this because immediately the backlash starts..and you can fill in any scenario that you can think of to mute the uncomfortable words of a voice rising up to say it does not agree with what society deems is acceptable regarding the loss of your mother.
I know the importance of having a stable parent when your world is chaotic..I had another parent..I had my beloved aunt Helen. My aunt Helen was the one who nurtured me, cared for me and brought me into her home often. Helen stepped up and took on the difficult tasks like teaching me how to be a kid ..sounds funny that a little girl would have to learn how to be a kid, but yeah my aunt had to teach me how to child. Helen showed me a different narrative on the world, Helen was there and her presence in my life was pivotal in my breaking the cycle of poverty and despair that surrounded me in my formative years. That is not to say I did not slip up along the way..but it was Helen’s love an influence that has been the beacon of light in my life to guide me..even though she too left this world far too young and far too soon when I was a mere 20 years old.
After saying all that ..I still longed for MY mother. The mother who let me go from her care for months on end..the mother who rarely called and almost never visited ..the mother who was home to me ..the mother who called me useless and worthless during late night discussions with my father on the phone..I longed for that woman when we were apart..she was my mother and she filled a space no one else could because she was mine.
I belong to a support group on Facebook for motherless daughters. I have a difficult time relating to the majority of women in the group if I am being honest. Post after post talks about the absolute devastation these women feel from losing their mothers. Some were young like I was ..others are older than my current age and have lost their mothers to age related causes and they are finding coping rather difficult. When my mother died I was actually relieved, pissed off and overwhelmed all at the same time. Everyone expected me to pick up and go on like nothing happened. Once the funeral was over ..ok well that was done time to shed who I was and conform to a whole new set of rules ..and I tried but I was 16 and 16 year olds are assholes ..I say this confidently because I have parented a couple of them ..they SUCK. My way of coping was I did what was expected and made sure along the way to tick all the boxes my mother never checked..get an education.. check..get married check..have babies young enough so I live to see them go to prom ..CHECK…not be on welfare.. CHECK..drive a car CHECK CHECK..not smoke ..check..take care of my mental health CHECK CHECK CHECK..What I forgot when checking the boxes was some of that was supposed to be fun ..and some of that was supposed to be about me. You see I got so caught up in living inside a box and following the rules ..that I forgot that person inside the box also matters. So ..
Last year I turned 49 and I was the same age my mother was when she died. I spent my 49th birthday sitting at my table sobbing because reality hit me in the face with a 2×4 ..I was alive. I did not know how to process that shit because no one talks about it. I looked in the mirror and I did not see my mother reflecting back me ..I saw myself and I had no clue who she was. For the first time there was no box set of rules to get to 49 ..I was there and I was alive. Then I realized I still had 59 days to go because Madeline was 49 years and 58 days old when she passed and yeah I filled that time up with a trip to Iceland for an Epic girls weekend..I filled it with a trip to Italy a few weeks after I returned from Iceland ..I filled it with getting to know some new family members and allowing myself to care and be cared for by these people..I filled it with not following my rules.
The journey to 50 was long and lonely ..there was no one to have this conversation with who gets it..yes the topic came up in therapy and yes I worked hard on trying to understand how this loss came raging back and how I needed to move forward ..but even there I felt isolated and alone. This conversation needs a platform.. it needs us to elevate its status to let the world know that however we lose our mothers ..to death, to abandonment, to illness, to their own despair..to adoption that our losses and longing is real and valid… that no one has the right to say but wait you should be grateful for..we need to have this conversation and so many others to take the shame and the silence and let others know ..you are not alone.