When my mom died, suddenly I felt like the weight of the family was on top of me. Even though I was an adult, with a full-time job and 2 kids, I never realized how much my mom helped and how much I depended on her until she was gone. I tried to fill my mom's shoes, but they were way too big.
My mom was a caregiver, a helper, and someone who put other's needs before her own. I didn't realize how much I depended on her until I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer. Suddenly, I was the one who made sure we had everything needed when we went somewhere as a family. Stupid little things like tissues and bandaids - I would run out of the "stash" in my purse or forgot to bring them, but my mom always came through. In the back of mind was the thought "don't worry, Mom has it." Now if I didn't remember something, we didn't have it. So I stepped up and tried to do all the things my mom did for our family. It wasn't an easy task.
Filling the Void
During the first year after my mom died, I felt like I was running in circles. I worried so much about my father and how he was coping that I didn't care about my own needs. I watched over my kids, especially my son to make sure he was getting through this death, trying to help him in any way I could, and I didn't grieve for my own loss. I spent my time worrying, trying to help, and making sure everyone was ok, while doing my best to run a household, take care of 2 young kids, and work full time. There was no time for me. I was exhausted, but I kept pushing myself to fill the void the loss of my mom left in the lives of my family members.
As I wrote in my last post, we lost my mom right before two major holidays. My dad looked to me to provide much of the dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year. I always helped out with the cooking, but now I was doing most of it. I remember the first time I made my mom's delicious carrot soup, which had become a tradition for Christmas dinner. I had the recipe, I can read and follow directions, but I still felt clueless. I actually called one of my mom's friends to ask about something so I wouldn't mess up the soup. This past Christmas was my 7th year of making the soup, and I am proud that everyone loves it. But I still do not, and will never have, my mom's cooking abilities or her love of cooking.
The Shoes Didn't Fit
After my mom first died, I tried very hard to fill her shoes. I even tried to be more like my mom in my mannerisms and the way I did things. But it wasn't me, and the shoes that I tried so hard to fill were way too big. It took me awhile to realize that I didn't need to fill my mom's shoes - I could do things in my own way and that was ok. I also realized that trying to fill my mom's shoes is something that she would not have wanted for me. One of the things my mom told me as I was raising my son was not to break his spirit. By trying to become my mom, I was breaking my own spirit. I had my own personality, my own way of doing things, and I made sure everything was taken care of, but in my own way.
I Still Need My Mom
There have been so many times over the past 6+ years when I wish I could have picked up the phone and called my mom for advice, especially when it came to raising my kids. Three months after my mom died, my husband underwent major surgery. Five months after I lost my mom, I was in the hospital for 4 days. Six months after my mom died, my dad underwent a major procedure and was in the hospital for a few days in another state, but at least his sister was with him. During each of these times, I broke down in tears because I needed my mom. I wanted my mom next to me, just for her to be there, when there were so many times before I had just wanted to be alone. Or at least I thought I did. I needed my mom to shoulder some of the stress, to comfort me, and to tell me everything would be ok. I felt so alone at times. And then I thought of all the times my mom tried to help or offer advice and I pushed her away. I was independent. I was an adult. I knew what I was doing. But my mom was always there. Now that old saying -"you don't know what you've got until it's gone" - rang in my head. Not only did I need my mom, but I felt guilty for pushing her away when all she wanted to was help me.
I cannot begin to count the number of times I wanted to turn back the clock and change the way I had done things. Change the way I treated my mom. Change some of the things I had said to her or things I had done or not done. A few months after my mom died, I sat in my bedroom crying, talking to my mom, and telling her over and over again how sorry I was and that I hoped she knew how much I loved her and appreciated her for all that she did for me and our family. I believe that she heard me.
It took many years for me to learn how to live without my mom's presence in my life. Although I've learned to live this way, I will always miss my mom and wish she was still here with me. She had a lot of good advice. Many times I didn't listen, but somehow it stuck with me. Now that my mom is gone, I appreciate even more all that she did for me.