It has been five years. Five years since that bitterly cold January morning that I received the call from my dad with the terrible news. Suddenly and unexpectedly, my mom had died. One minute she was here, the next minute she was not, and we were all left grappling in the wake of her loss.
Since that fateful morning, you could call me a textbook example of The 7 Stages of Grief. I can look at each of those stages and could tell you all about me and my specific experiences through each stage as I processed the loss of my mom.
In those first days and months after her death, I remember feeling like I might never escape the weight of grief that was pressing down on me so fiercely. But now I sit here five years later, deep in the “acceptance and hope” stage. Does that mean I never revert back to some of those early stages?
In a year unlike any other, I have felt the loss of my mom in new ways that I never could have imagined. How would my mom have handled this pandemic? Would Mom have signed up to be my remote schooling assistant for the kids (that answer is yes!) What would my kind-hearted mom have said in a card that I know she would have sent to my friends who have felt such darkness this year?
Five years later, and I’m still being shown that grief is just as beautiful and poignant as it is ugly and terrible. But I think the thing I take away the most from the loss of my mom is that her last breath did not result in her last lessons to me.
While I would always choose my mom’s presence over learning these lessons the hard way, they are a beautiful reminder to me that a mom’s job is never done.
My mom was a hugger. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had family and friends tell me that her hugs are something they’ve missed the most. She had a way of hugging you tightly, yet gently. The intention of every hug she gave was a loving and authentic one. I’m not near her caliber of hugging, and I know I never will be, but I’m working on it. Social distancing would have been very hard on my mom, to not have hugged her loved ones would have been a struggle for her. In the wake of these times, and in the spirit of my mom, I have vowed to come out of all this as a better hugger. You’ve all been warned.
Keep The Faith
Mom was a faithful woman and strong in her beliefs. I truly believe that Heaven is real and my mom is pulling every string she can to make my family and I know that she’s still with us. Some people may consider them coincidences, but I consider things that my family and I have experienced over the last five years to be true signs that those we love never really leave us.
From my dad being cared for by a nurse bearing Mom’s name after having open-heart surgery, to being in a grocery store thinking about her and James Taylor (her favorite) begins playing over the speakers. She sends us messages. None more than on July 11th, six months after her passing and just one day after my mom’s birthday. I gave birth to our daughter who we named Hazel after my mom’s hazel eyes. Mom’s name was Karen and she would have understood us going with Hazel. As baby’s eyes do, her eyes changed in the months after her birth and our Hazel bears the same hazel eyes her Grandma did.
Give Moms More Credit
I was not always easy on my mom growing up. That’s hard for me to admit. I didn’t cut her a lot of slack. Looking back, my brother, dad and I should have been kinder, more appreciative, more understanding. When she died, I had two kids, ages 5 and 3. Parenting young kids was not a walk in the park, but the true cutting of the parenting teeth comes as they grow. I now have three kids, one in the full-on “tweenager” stage and I know things will only get more complex with them as they grow.
It is now that I’m beginning to see just how hard parenting can be. Daily, I wish I could call my mom for advice. Apologize to my mom for the times when I was a jerk. Thank her for all that she did. Remind her of how loved she was. While the time has passed for me to make those calls, I realize that I still have the time and ability to do that for myself. Because of my mom, I cut myself some slack. I give myself some credit. And I’m a better mom because of it.
Life Comes With Scars
When my mom died, my cousin’s wife shared this anonymously written piece with me after she had walked through a tremendous loss of her own and it had been shared with her. Its description of love and loss and grief is perfectly summed up, and I’ve gone on to share it with others as they have been handed their own losses. But the part that I go back to often is this, “Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was.”
My mom loved me so much that her absence created a gouge on my soul. But my mom raised me and continues to guide me so that my scar tissue is tougher than I ever believed possible.