Everyone who’s lost a mother has a different story to tell. Many are quick to include a phrase that digs deep and hurts my soul, because I cannot say the same: “My mom was my best friend.” I am truly happy for those women who recognized the blessing of their mother’s companionship before it was too late. I was the unfortunate sort that viewed my mother as just “Mom.” Though she was dependable, loving, thoughtful and kind, all excellent qualities in friendship, there were many complexities that created distance between us in the short time we had together as adults.
One key factor was that I was childless then – motherhood has changed me exponentially. My eyes were opened to Mom’s patience, sacrifice and concern when I held my own little child. I am deeply grieved that we cannot bond over motherhood; I ache for my daughter to visit her grandmother.
Another factor was that I valued romantic love over family love after my parents’ divorce. Our version of family no longer equaled the one I’d grown comfortable with, and I resented it- especially during my tumultuous teen years.
The reality is that issues like these are too complex to explain. The experiences, emotions, disappointments and shortcomings that form our choices are too complicated for even those closest to understand and empathize with. And many times, the death of a loved one summons blame and insults out from the pit where they belong and puts them into the mouths of typically-well-meaning loved ones.
Recently, a usually-supportive person I’ve always known implied that I don’t deserve to miss my Mom because I didn’t visit her enough before she died. Talk about a double whammy of pain and guilt! There are many things she doesn’t realize or understand, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to explain myself to her or allow the opinions of others to increase the burden I carry- especially if my intentions were pure.
Nobody in this world could understand the personal layers of pain, guilt, horror, trauma and shock surrounding me during Mom’s long cancer battle- not even those who were there. And though I try my best, I will never fully understand their stories. Their situations were theirs and mine was mine.
I do wish I’d spent more time with Mom before she died, both during the traumatic event itself and in the years leading up to it. But the truth is, we’re all just earthly humans doing the best we can with what we’ve learned. There are no personal guidebooks. I had no mentor, no way to anticipate the feelings of my future self. Time and experience are our greatest teachers, and losing a mother before she even loses hers is the hardest of tests… one that leaves a grown woman no better prepared than a child.
When I feel defeated by guilt and frozen with regret, there are three things that soothe my soul.
The first is a voicemail message. Mom called to remind me that she didn’t ever want me to feel guilty for anything – because I am her daughter and she’ll love me forever. No outside opinion could ever outweigh those words.
Second, the overwhelming love I have for my daughter also soothes me. Even in moments when she tests my last nerve, I love her more than life. Her happiness is my happiness. She will know she is unconditionally loved, that I wish her true joy. No guilt. No regrets.
The third and most important thing to remember – there is someone who understands, who knows our hearts and loves us even after mistakes. God not only sympathizes with our struggles, he offers to take our guilt upon himself. We could hope for no better friend, no greater peace.
Ladies, we need to let go of this guilt. If our own mothers, as well as our own Savior urges us to live the rest of our lives in joy, who are we to argue? If our loving God is trying to lift the guilt from our shoulders, why do we cling to it?
I pray comfort and peace for you today. You have hurt enough.
(Check out Psalm 139:1-6)