Mothers Day, 25 years as a Motherless Daughter
When my mother finally died I was 22. I say finally because the threat of her death was constant from the time I was 11 until she died when I was 22. Every 6 months or so she would get meningitis, the doctors thought she was a carrier.
We would take her up to The University of Washington and they would give her a spinal tap. I held her hand tightly as she endured this pain.
The nurses packed her in a giant horse trough full of ice to bring her temperature down.
This happened many times after my father was gunned down.
After her death I felt such tremendous guilt that I wasn’t around as much as I should be. That I wasn’t a good enough daughter, I was too selfish, I didn’t do enough and at the same time I felt relief that she wasnt in pain.
I was coming of age, wanting to be with my friends, working, going to school and always going faster then my angel could fly.
I have learned over the years that our psyche can only take so much. I think of it like giant jars on a shelf. Filled full of all of our stuff. We all have these jars.
For me they were filled full of trauma. Gun violence, religious trauma, mental illness trauma, Grief, Loss, murder trials.
Some jars were so big it felt like if I opened them they would fall on the floor into a million little pieces and take me with them.
I remember that feeling after she died, I didn’t know where my mother ended and I began, I had cared from the time I turned 11.
A web of caring for her, guilt, fear, love, anger, frustration, longing for her to come back and relieved that she was no longer in pain.
I remember my theripist had me visualize these jars often. We would take a jar off of the giant shelf and open the lid just a little. I would process the jars contents and picture myself putting it back in the jar, tightening the lid.
It was such a great visual.
I share this because so often children of childhood trauma have a hard time forgiving ourselves, we struggle with self love, we struggle to regulate our emotions. We were so busy reading the room and deciding if it was safe enough, or reading the people in our lives and becoming a chameleon to fit in with the people who were caring for us.
As mother’s day approaches I think of those jars. For so long I have thought that I dealt with all my jars, and I arranged them so nicely on my shelf.
I thought I did all the work. The truth is I did and have done a shitload of work.
I have recently learned in my therapy program that I have to keep checking those jars because I look at them different at 45, then I did at 22.
So I get them out again and discover that this is all part of the process. Some people will ask, Why would you do this?
I guess I would ask back, “why would you not?”.
I know enough now to know if we don’t keep brushing our teeth the tarter comes back.
The same goes for tending to those jars. We can stuff them in the back, empty them, arrange them and sometimes avoid them but they are there. As humans what we don’t deal with comes out in other ways and it’s usually addiction or unhealthy ways.
We all know this.
What I know today is doing the work, it isn’t easy but somehow it feels so much better.
How are you taking care of the jars on your shelf? I would love to hear please share below.
Every Christmas for 15 years Fred’s favorite spot was under the tree. When this photo popped up on my Facebook Memory feed, I wanted to reach through the screen and hug this little man just one more time. He passed away almost one year ago.
That is the crazy thing about grief and loss. We never forget.
Especially around the holidays.
There is so much pressure to be Merry and joyful around the holidays.
Greif is an old friend to me.
It’s been a part of my life since I was 11. That is when my mother almost died the first time.
Then at 16, I watched the murder of my father unfold from the television in my living room, on the 5:00 news.
My father was shot once and then when he tried to run, his killer made him ly down and ended his life with a gun to his head.
Graphic, I know but this is gun violence and I don’t try to sugar coat it. I used to in fear I would traumatize people reading it but I am well over that now. Especially because 93 Americans are shot each day in the USA.
Six years later my mother died for real after 11 years of hospital visits and near death scares.
I never really grieved the loss of my parents until I was in my early twenties.
Boy did it hit me like a giant Mac Truck.
Grief has no warning or flashing lights, it just shows up with its heavy darkness, and it moves in fast, plants seeds in your space and stays there.
Sometimes it’s your living room, your bedroom but mostly it’s your mind. Greif feeds and grows like a garden swallowing up your tears and despair festering and burying it’s self-deep in your cells.
Changing your entire operating system and research is showing trauma can even change your DNA.
If you have been there you know this.
Maybe you are there now, and you thought you were over it.
You thought grief packed up its bags and moved out of your home.
You have been told over and over again that time heals grief.
For you, it may have been a while and your wondering why it still shows up?
Why you still feel sad?
Oh, the pressure to move on!
You think you’re doing ok, and then, wham, it’s back again.
Here is the thing about grief. It is not something you get over.
You don’t just feel it for a moment, it waxes and wanes like the moon. Comes in and out like the ocean tides. Floating around in your body.
A picture, memory, for me witnessing a mother and daughter share a moment. A commercial, your mother’s favorite recipe. A sound, smell, thought, memory. They don’t go away with time.
We carry those things around like tattoos.
Forever stamped in the blueprints of our lives.
What I know now after 30 years of living with grief is that I treat it like an old friend.
I recognize that it doesn’t always knock and there is no rhyme or reason when it comes.
It’s just there.
But now, I know. I pull up a chair. I give grief its moment. I don’t’ let it take root and plant gardens in my space anymore.
Instead, I give it a voice, I feed it a little with my tears and I listen.
Then I quietly show it to the door like an old friend.
I recognize that my old friend grief is a part of my life always.
But I get to chose how long it stays.
When I do this I take away the power grief once had over me.
I remember those dark moments I lived and survived.
I am reminded of how I crawled out.
How I started to smell the flowers again.
Those moments I started to recognize my own laugh again.
I was different after grief, how could I not be?
You will be different after grief visits you too.
You will feel deeper and wider than you ever thought was possible.
You will never take one ounce of your life for granted.
When someone you know loses people they love you will get it on a cellular level.
So this holiday season if you are grieving know that you are not alone.
That grief will never go away 100 percent.
That it will visit you often after your loss over and over again. Time doesn’t make it go away.
It needs to have the stage.
Pull up a chair and give it a voice.
Listen to it and feel it.
Let it be exacltly what it is.
An old friend, that stops by for a chat, a cry, a moment, a day sometimes even a week. It’s ok.
You are not alone.
Maybe just maybe it’s your loved ones way of letting you know they are there, with you, cheering you on and wanting nothing more than you to just be. Loving you through it.
Happy Holidays Friends.
You are not alone.