My mom has been gone almost 20 years now. It’s been almost half of my lifetime. I graduated from college without her, got married without her, had my babies without her and I have celebrated milestones and grieved heartbreaks without her.
And you know what? I still miss her.
Sometimes, it’s a faint missing, like a whisper in my ear, and other times it’s as if someone punched me square in the stomach doubling me over.
Some years, the anniversary of her death gets buried in the chaos of May until days later when I finally come up for air and I add another tally to the pile of years she’s been gone.
Other years, grief surprises me thick and fresh, and everywhere I go the shrill scream of missing rattles in my head.
Lately, life has been hard, not the regular kind of hard, but the hard that pushes in from all around until you wish you didn’t have to get out of bed in the morning, but you have to because the 5 little people you love more than life need you to chin up and be strong.
I almost lost one of my little people this year. I sat by his bedside as doctors poked and prodded and begged God to wake him up. My mom wasn’t there to put her arm around me and hold me up as I wept.
She hasn’t been here through the long months of joblessness that have dredged up doubt and a distorting blur of sadness.
So this Spring, as Mother’s Day approached, the missing became a shrill scream from deep inside. While the world went on around me, my heart ached for her. And a few days later, on the anniversary of her death, I sat at my sweet son’s elementary school graduation and wished with a wild desperation that she knew him. Because, she would have loved him and understood him in a way that I’m not equipped to understand.
But, that old beast shame kept whispering, “Suck it up. You shouldn’t be crumpled up missing your mommy. You’re a grown woman with your own children. Pull it the heck together.”
But, the more I tried, the harder it got and the missing just grew.
I’ve tried hard to hold it all together for my husband and my kids over this long hard year and some days I’ve done a terrible job.
On those days, the missing has grown, because apart from my sweet, wonderful husband and some dear old friends, my mom was the one person I could be 100% percent myself with and not worry about surprising her or disappointing her.
She always extended empathy before advice, a hug before a spiritual pep talk and a place to let my emotions spill out rather than coolly reasoning them away.
So on the hard days, when fear creeps in and I wonder how we’ll manage to pay the next bill and discouragement threatens to steal my peace and joy, I yearn to pick up the phone and hear her gentle voice on the other end.
I want to draw from the deep well of empathy that she built through her own suffering. I want her to tell me that God is good even when life is hard. I want to hear her tell me that the way I am feeling is ok and doesn’t make me less spiritual or less capable or just less. I want her to tell me it’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to have hard days. I want her to tell me that I’m doing a good job and that she’s proud of me for hanging on.
If you’re doubled over in your missing, I’m so sorry. It’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to have hard days, because we are motherless daughters, and some days that load hurts too much to carry on our own.
So reach out. Don’t suffer quietly. Find someone who can help carry your grief. You don’t have to do it on your own.