Grief is such a peculiar emotion. It is ever present and takes many different forms and tones. Time doesn’t heal it, only changes it. It’s a wound that scabs but never scars. I lost my mother 18 years ago today. And now, I am pondering if that heart wrenching loss is what ultimate gave me life.
This anniversary creeps up on me every year and every year I experience it differently. This year I feel like I’m running from it. Twice today (so far) I’ve fought back tears. Instead of just letting the grief out, I pushed it to the side. A “not now” moment. As I was making lunch for my son, he decided it would be a good idea to climb on his little table so that he could stand on the four inch window sill. As I was telling him to “Get your crazy butt down, you’re going to get hurt!”, he fell. I dropped the peanut butter jar and ran to scoop him up.
As I sat holding my baby boy, he stopped crying pretty quickly but seemed to tighten his grip around my neck. He nuzzled his head in to that perfect nook between my head and shoulder and just hugged me. It’s like he knew. He knew I was the one that really needed to be held. He gave me permission to feel my own hurt and I couldn’t hold back the tears pooling in my eyes. He didn’t even budge as I squeezed him harder, cried and rocked to soothe us both.
Eighteen years ago I lost my mom to cancer but since birth, I never really had her. My grief is deeper than the physical loss of her body. It is a loss of her presence in my life. My grief is shaped around a hole that a constant maternal love never filled. Her name, Constance, is incredibly ironic for that reason. For reasons that I will never truly understand, my mother wasn’t able to fill the role of mom to me. Drugs, alcohol and mental illness all played a part in that, but I know there was more than just those at play. I know there was a hole in her own heart, I just don’t know why.
I only know what I know and that is that out of three children my grandparents raised, one committed suicide, one stepped out on her family and even reality at times and the other is living a life so full of dysfunction no one wants him within a ten foot radius. I’m not mad at the grandparents I never knew or my mother. I can look at myself and my own siblings and understand the power of being born with resilience. She, unfortunately, just didn’t get that gene. My mom was a survivor, but never knew which fights were worth fighting for.
My grief has changed over the years. Reaching milestones like graduating highschool and college and getting married shaped it and caused me to miss her in many different ways. Nothing has molded my grief more than having children of my own. Becoming a motherless mom. Raising them, being present in their lives, understanding the importance of being a role model, planting empowering seeds and even letting them see me fall — all of these things trigger grief and love and heartache and hope. It all stems from the relationship, or lack thereof, with my own mother. The anniversary of my mother’s death brings all that to the front of my heart and mine. I was 15 when she died. No where near old enough to become her friend yet, but ready to finally get to know her. It was a place in time that it could have finally been possible, had fucking cancer not taken her away from me.
Time doesn’t make grief easier. It only changes it. Sometimes, it can even make it harder. Time offers growth. Growth forces you to look at the events that have played out in your life, and face the connections that they created.
The string of events, including Mom’s diagnosis of cancer played a part in my removal from a toxic, abusive situation. Her sickness, may have in fact, been my saving grace. It put her in a stable environment and gave my guardian an excuse to send me away, to Mom, after I disclosed her husband had been sexually abusing me for the past eight years. Off I went, to live with my mother for the first time since I was two years old. Thankfully, my sister (who is 12 years older than me) was a part of this plot. She was the rock in my mother’s life at that time and she soon became mine.
When Mom died, my sister was left to raise me. A lost and very damaged 15 year old girl. That end result, however sad and difficult as it was for both of us, set the foundation for the blessed life I have today. I sometimes wonder, in my mother death, was I given the chance to finally live? As I type that out loud, my stomach is twisting, my heart is racing and my mind is truly overwhelmed. It’s a thought I can’t bear to keep but can’t seem to erase.
Perhaps it is the craziest and most cruel thought I have ever had, but it is the only sense I can make of her death, and the cruel timing in which it happened. They say everything happens for a reason and I fucking hate that saying to be honest with you. Even so, I can’t help but feel that her death is connected to an act of love. The kind of love only a mother can have for her children. A love that I didn’t understand then, but do now.
Today, at 33 years old, I sit in silence and let my fingers work through my grief. It will continue to wear many faces today. I will continue to have moments of strength and moments of raw heartache. My grief, a scab that feels ripped open, that hurts and heals me, has once again transformed. I know it will continue to do so. As does my acceptance and understanding of this day, every year.