The Club I Never Wanted to Join

Grief: Close Up

Losing someone you love dearly is one of the greatest tragedies we all eventually face. In my case, this loss represents a gaping hole in my life that simply will never be filled again.

A couple months ago, I was unfortunate enough to lose my mother. This loss has put me through a gambit of emotions. I doubt there are even names for each of the emotions I have found myself wading through. Even though I was fortunate enough to have my mom for forty-one years of my life, I simply feel too young to be motherless.

This is the one true piece of reality I keep traveling back to. Being a mother myself, I feel robbed of my inability to share the magical moments with her that she shared with me. I find it a hard pill to swallow honestly. Existing in a world where the eternal and unconditional love of my mom is no longer a part of my daily life seems slightly hollower than it once did. I can recognize that I was able to have my mother be a part of my life far longer than other friends and I can look back now with gratitude at all the time I was able to share with her.

Coupled with this understanding is the fact that I still have my dad in my life. Many of my friends, both younger and older, have lost both set of parents by this stage in their life. To add to that blessing, that father of mine is as wonderful as they come and I adore him beyond measure. I know I must be grateful for what I have, but it doesn’t lessen my desire to have my mother’s love back in my life once more.

This is what I have learned so far on my short journey through grief. This road will continue to become a longer and longer one to navigate as the first year without my mom will soon turn into two, and then five and ten and so on.

  1. Regardless of the type of relationship, losing your mom is hard.

I had a great relationship with my mother. It was not always perfect because at times I could be a real pain the ass, but our bond transformed into one of friendship. As I got older and a little more mature, I realized the importance of being less self-absorbed. It was then that our relationship turned into a connection from which I have very few regrets. In talking to friends who have lost their parents, I have come to realize something very important. Regardless of the relationship you share with your mother and whether you spoke to her daily (like me) or once a year, the loss you feel over her death is not invalidated. It is a real entity and you are entitled to grieve.

  1. Milestones are hard, especially that first year.

The first milestones without her have felt as if I am missing a major part of my body. I have already been through the first Mother’s Day without her. I dreaded this day and was full of sadness as I watched it grow closer on the calendar, though I knew I couldn’t just wallow in my own feelings of loss and remorse. Just like her, I am a mother as well and I knew that I had children who were counting on their mother that day. So what did I do? I got my rear in gear and looked after their wellbeing. That is what being a mom is all about. You put your kids before yourself. Always.

What I didn’t expect to affect me so awful was the first of my children’s birthday without her. It was something I always shared with my mom. She was there with me for each one of them and without thinking, we would always drift back and reminisces about each of my children’s births. After all, my children along with my sister’s children were her pride and joy.

  1. Other people miss her too.

I am not the only one missing her. I have children that miss her immensely every day. Even though geography was against us, my kids saw their grandmother quite often considering the distance between us. My children also knew that whenever they wanted to talk to Grandma, she was just a phone call away. My sister misses her too. So do her kids. My dad misses her most of all. I can’t even begin to explain how he feels. The list doesn’t just stop there either. There are countless others whose lives she touched and who miss her as well. I mean, for crying out loud, it was standing room only at her funeral! Many people loved her! I need to remember that I am not the only one grieving.

  1. Grief is different for everyone.

The process of grief is as diverse as each individual who experiences it. I remember the day of the funeral and my sister and dad being so overcome with emotions of loss and sadness. I barely shed a tear, which is odd considering I am someone who is extremely emotional in my own right. But we all process grief differently. I thought something was wrong with me, as if I didn’t miss her as much as my sister did. I’ve learned as time has gone by that it has become far harder for me than it was when I was in the midst the funeral. Regardless of the how you grieve, grief is grief and it sucks rotten eggs.

  1. You will forget she is gone at times.

It doesn’t matter if your mom has been gone one day or ten years, you will inadvertently pick up the phone to call her or say something along the lines of, “Oh, mom would get a kick out of this.” I remember as we were preparing for her funeral, my sister was after a specific picture of the three of us together at the beach. It was my mom’s favorite place on this earth. My sister was down stairs looking for it, and in her mind she immediately thought, Oh, I will just go up and ask mom, she will know where it is. She shared that with me later on and I confessed that I too had similar moments that overwhelmed me without warning. I was always one to pick up the phone when my kids did something outlandish. My mom and I would laugh over even the littlest things concerning her grandkids. I miss that, more than I thought I would. There are going to be triggers and moments that bring back painful memories. I keep telling myself to be prepared for them, but unless you have gone through this yourself, you simply can’t fathom the emotional distress that will fill you when they occur.

  1. Watching interactions with mothers and their adult children will fill you with sadness.

You can’t help but feel a degree of despair when you see other adult children and mothers out spending time with one another. It fills me with both jealousy and thankfulness. Obviously, the jealousy part is self-explanatory. I want my mom here with me doing the things those other people are. The thankfulness part is two fold. First, it made thankful and blessed to have had my mom as long as I had. But on top of that, I am glad for those friends that still have their moms because I know how much I miss mine. For my friends that still have their moms on this earth, I am glad they haven’t had to feel the pain of loss I have.

  1. It is all right to ask for help from those who have traveled this same road previously

The last thing I can share concerns those that still have their moms with them in this world along with anyone who has recently lost their mother. I was thankful my friends reached out to me, cried with me, and sat vigil with me as I spent her final days on Earth by her bedside. As much as my friends who sill have their moms hurt for me, they don’t fully understand the extent of my mourning because they simply have not traveled this same road. I was fortunate enough to have some friends who were able to pick me up emotionally and helped carry me through the process of loss. They themselves had already experienced the heartache I was so new to. One day, I will be that steady hand for a friend who has recently lost their mom. I know it will be in this moment that I will understand that all this pain was not in vain and I can help comfort those that are totally lost in their grief.

Maybe not all these ideas pertain to you. If you indeed have joined the same club I never wanted to belong in, you will find a tall list of absolutes that come with a loss so deep. In closing, I will leave you with one memory I have of my mom pertaining to her death. As a child, we attended a funeral where a mom was saying good-bye to her child for the very last time. It is an image I will never forget and it made a lasting impact on my mother as well. Shortly after, she sat my sister and I down and told us that no mother should ever have to bury a child. Being a mother now, I agree whole-heartedly with that statement. She continued to explain to the two of us that there was a natural progression to life and, although I hate this natural progression, I know this is what she would have wanted. She would have wanted her children to out live her. She would want us to carry on and keep her memory alive. I know she would have been proud to know that we are still trying like hell to make that happen.

Above is my mom with my kids at various times in their lives.  She was certainly one that took picutes of everything and I am thankful now to have those memories.

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Pictured above is one of the last pictures I have with my mom.  Being from the Pacific Northwest, this sign amused her.

Below, in the first image, my father and I sprinkling her ashes in the ocean as was her desire. Although we are smiling, it was a hard day for us.  But this is what she wanted and in that way, it made us happy.  The next picture is the last family picture we had taken together.  Again, I am so thankful my mom insisted on this picture.  I miss you Mom!

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Laughing At Life Because It Goes By Too Quickly

The Trip From Hell

The days are long, but the years are short when raising children. My children, just like your children, are my world. But the struggle to raise healthy and happy children is real! The work this takes is equally just as demanding as it is satisfying. Raising children comes with many stories and many of them extremely funny when we look back on them. The trouble though is that we, as mothers who are working their way through it all, either may not think so or may not be able to laugh in the moment.

As a mother of multiple children, I feel pulled in seventy different directions and that is on a good day. Parenting in a pragmatic way is just not logical. Never in a rational world, would one say, “Don’t eat your sister’s buggers.” Again, we use our logic as parents with very unreasonable subjects.

We have all had those days where we look back and wonder how we made it across the finish line. When I look back at all the trying days and exhausting moments, there is always one that stands out above the rest and highlights just how comedic the job of raising children can seem once all the dust has settled.

Let me first explain that I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of parent. Sure, I like scheduled bedtimes and can attest to my love of naptimes. These quiet moments are some of my favorite points of the day! But I also enjoy the freedom of being able to get up and go on an adventure. In my opinion, naps will be there tomorrow.

Given my love for living in the moment, there is one specific day that will forever define me as a parent. This particular memory doesn’t retell anything overly tragic or even exhilarating. The accompanying story only seems ludicrous now that I can look back on it and laugh. Simply put, I made the sporadic decision to embark on a twelve-hour drive with my three children, then ages nine, five and three.

If you have ever attempted something like this, whether planned or not, you undoubtedly just got a shudder at what I was voluntarily putting myself through. Long road trips with a car full of children never cease to be filled with difficulties.

But the story doesn’t just start with us getting in the car and heading out. First you need to pack for the trip and that task with children is like arranging a symphony orchestra. It is never a small undertaking by any means, but this is all part of the adventure, correct?

Thankfully the hubby was able to pack up the Mom Mobile giving me one less thing to take care of before our departure. Now I should explain that the Mom Mobile is what I have dubbed any minivan for it is the chosen mode of transportation for those with multiple children. This vehicle has been our tried and true best friend when it comes to everything from running errands and shuttling kids around town. After all, what family with as many kids as ours doesn’t have a minivan?

After only an hour on the road my husband informed me that he would be joining us later on in the week. He had just bought a ticket to Mississippi, which was a very pleasant surprise.

Once the van was packed, and before anyone could say otherwise, I had the Mom Mobile on the road and we were off. We were happily maneuvering the roads of Charlotte, N.C., when the hubby happened to call. I could tell by the tone of his voice that there was some apprehension behind what he needed to tell me. “You will never believe what I just found in one the girls rooms?”

“I can’t even begin to guess, but I can tell you that I don’t like the sound of your voice.” I replied.

He cleared his throat and gave a slight laugh, the kind of laugh he used in situations he would find funny, but I would not. “Remember when Miss Priss was pulling her suitcase carefully behind her, well, I just found it.”

Some explanation is needed here to understand the gravity of this statement. My youngest spitfire of a daughter, who I am referring to as Miss Priss in this retelling, desperately wanted her own suitcase for our trip. She hated sharing a suitcase with her sisters and begged and pleaded that we get her a suitcase of her very own, which we did. Easy fix for a simple problem, right? The only problem with this was we never knew where that suitcase was going to be.

So strike one on our trip just occurred. This didn’t really worry me at the time. I even found a silver lining thinking that this may actually help me get ahead of my shopping for the next season that was rapidly approaching. With my attitude still full of hope for the wonderful adventure ahead, I replied, “No problem, I can run by some department store and get her couple new outfits for the summer anyway.”

The traffic on the interstate through Charlotte was, like normal, horrific. Soon enough I heard my oldest scream, “Mommy, Old Soul is making a weird noise.” Looking out of the corner of my eye I saw my middle daughter, Old Soul, quickly grab for the plastic bag her older sister was forcefully trying to hand her. What proceeded was a cacophony of noise as she emptied her stomach into that bag. Added to the noise was my youngest daughter Miss Priss yelling encouraging phrases like “ewe”, while my oldest daughter, attempted to help Old Soul through it all. Strike two.

I was still hopeful at this point. I knew how to combat Old Soul’s carsickness. This was a common occurrence on many of our longer trips and a quick trip into a pharmacy, and we would be back on the road.

Walking back to the van, my oldest daughter looks at me with such discomfort in her voice, “Hey, Mommy. My head really hurts. It just started.”

Blue Eyes, my oldest daughter, just looked at me with a weird look as I felt her head, thinking she might be getting sick and was running a fever. “No, Mommy, not that, it hurts up here on the outside of my head.”

After taking a quick look at her head I was able to easily determine the source of her discomfort. She was being invaded by a swarm of small crawly creatures. Lice! This now was strike three and the trip was over! But alas, the hubby had already bought a ticket and was planning to meet us in Mississippi in a few days. There was nothing I could do but continue this impromptu trip with my children. In case you’ve lost count, by this point I had one who was puking, one with a headful of lice, and a third with no clothes for the next day!

After a quick trip to the grocery store, I stopped at the next rest area I came across. I took a deep breath and turned to face my children. Old Soul was still continuing to vomit repeatedly despite everything I did to make her feel more comfortable. Blue Eye’s hair was covered in lice. I treated it the best I could while on the road with an over the counter remedy. To make matters worse, when I applied the lice shampoo, the creepy suckers started jumping off her scalp. I still scratch at my own head just thinking about it. After I treated her hair, I cut it into the shortest bob I could with a pair of dull over the counter scissors and continued on the final leg to Mississippi.

Motherhood is never the journey you expect it to be, but it is certainly the adventure you make it. This trip, which I have since dubbed The Journey to Hell, is one that I can look back on now with fond memories. Despite all the setbacks, we did end up having fun and made some lasting memories together.

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In the end, childhood seems to come and go far too quickly. I know that soon my own children will be off and grown with families of their own. Like me, they will be confronted with situations where logic should provide answers to problems that seem to develop out of thin air. I can only hope that my children reach out to me in much the same way as I have reached out to my own mother, who could only laugh at my ridiculous true story. My children will have those same stories that I will delight in as my own mother did with my many stories throughout the years.  As a young mother, appreciate every small moment because in a blink of an eye, they will be moved on to the next chapter in their life.