It’s the morning after Mother’s Day. The flowers are beginning to fade, the goodies are gone, and the rest of the holiday’s trappings set aside. But today, when everything is supposed to be returning to normal, you may feel empty. You may be mourning the loss of your mother.
Perhaps your mother has passed and you long for her presence. Whether it’s been a decade or a month, there’s a hole in your heart that may never totally be repaired. So you cry, with good reason. Or, perhaps you are grieving for the mother whose inner strength has been stolen from her through dementia, mental illness or other debilitating disease. She can’t be the nurturer, the encourager and the cheerleader. You feel sad–for you, for her, for her other loved ones. That sadness is normal.
Mother loss is hard. My mother died in 2003, but mental illness took away her vitality decades earlier. Years of heavy duty psychoactive medication left her flat, unable to initiate contact, and barely able to respond. I remember hearing my six-year-old son say to me,” Why does Grandma look mean? Is she mad at me?” I tried as best I could to tell him, “Grandma loves you, but she has a sickness that makes her sad.”
My clients tell me of similar experiences. A mother who used to be the life of the party but now isolates due to dementia. A mother whose mental illness causes her to be incredibly needy and unable to see others’ points of view. A mother who used to recognize the family but no longer does.
I wish I could change those situations but I can’t. I can tell you what Msoshi, a friend who’d immigrated from the Congo, said to me when I told him about the loss of my mother.
“Je suis une orpheline, ” I told him. That’s French for “I am an orphan.” The two of us could speak in French about things I’d never say in English. “Ma mere es morte et je suis triste” (My mother died and I am sad.)
He looked at me and said nothing for a while as I fought back the tears. Then he said something that I’ll never forget. “Vous avez un Pere en ciel. Dieu est votre parent.” (You have a Father in Heaven. God is your parent.)
The ache in my heart didn’t go away. But it was made bearable by a truth that I’d known in my head but now experienced in my soul. God would carry me though. He was–and is–my loving parent.
Have you experienced mother loss? And if so, what comfort have you found in the midst of grief?