In the lead up to Mothers Day, I feel like it’s time for me to share this particular part of my life and share my heart on the topic of not having my mother around and grieving. I’m not sure how often we discuss grief in church and there’s possibly a few churches that are covering the topic however I haven’t heard it discussed as much and I wish I did because I believe it is essential, in terms of how you move forward.
This post may not be for everyone or you may just relate with the feelings that I share in this post but either way, I pray it blesses someone and reminds them that they are not alone and their feelings are not wrong.
A lot of people may know already, but I lost my mother when I was 7, she passed away with HIV. She got really sick when I was around 5/6 and at that time I began to care for her. I bathed her, made sure she ate, went to the shop with her cheque book and a list of things she needed. Until this day, I can vaguely remember how to do her signature. It sounds unreal but that was my reality at the time.
There were nights it got bad, she would wake up screaming, one particular night she was screaming, ‘someone’s trying to kill me’ only for me to find that she had fallen asleep on a plastic cup, so it was digging into her back. I removed the cup and tucked her into bed and laid next to her. It wasn’t traumatic at the time for me, possibly because I didn’t process it, all I knew was to care for my sick mother, it was almost instinct.
She wasn’t always sick, I remember the cakes she used to bake and the aroma that filled the house of her cooking, the times she did my hair every weekend, me watching her get her hustle on with her hair clients, watching shows like Countdown, Home & Away and Sunset Beach (Yall remember that?) with her and playing hide and seek. She was always laughing, she knew how to give it straight and love you all at the same time. One thing I remember is that she ensured I had everything including her love. My room was filled with Barbie and spice girls lol.
She was so caring, I remember her waking up early one morning because she thought she heard someone calling out for help. I somehow knew that I had to be like that, mindful of others and their needs. She was such an example.
The last memory I have of my mother and the last time I saw her was; when she was in the hospital. Her health had deteriorated, she was unable to speak and she had lots of tubes in her. I gave her a picture of myself and I remember so clearly her holding my picture so tight and tears rolling down her face. She probably knew at that moment that she was at the brink of death and that she was going to leave behind her little girl. (Even thinking about it now, saddens me.)
I was naïve to death, I was speaking to her like she was going to get better and come home. I told her that when she gets better, we could go shopping and get some trainers I wanted from Marks and Spencer. It never occurred to me that it would be the last time I would see her. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t get the chance to say goodbye. When she passed away, nobody sat me down and explained that she’d gone. Eventually I put two and two together.
Growing up part of me felt like it was my fault that she’d passed away, or like I didn’t do a good enough job to keep her alive. However, I understand now I was only 6/7 years old, there was nothing I would’ve been able to do. I did the best that I knew how to as a child. I wasn’t an adult neither was I a doctor.
There’s been moments in my life I really wished for her to be there, tough and dark times I’ve faced, feeling like if she was there then I wouldn’t need to go through the things I went through (as I’ve shared in my Still Standing Post), that I would have the love and stability I needed, it was so hard watching friends with their mothers, having a special bond and someone to speak to about the matters of the heart.
I genuinely felt lonely and like I had no one for a long period of my life. I didn’t have siblings that I could go through the struggle with, I was the only girl/child between my mother and father. At 16 I lived by myself holding it down on my own, trying to figure out life and how to navigate through it. I had to teach myself what it meant to be a woman and try and look at the women around me to understand womanhood.
She was gone and not coming back
When I was preparing for my wedding, It dawned on me that not only was my mum gone, but she wasn’t coming back. I had friends around me that were also preparing for their wedding and I envied the fact that they had their mums there, present and available. There were moments I really needed a mother, I faced some tough moments and I really struggled.
The pain in my heart of not having her there was extremely excruciating, this is a moment in a woman’s life where her mother not only nurtures but gives her daughter the tools necessary to transition into the next phase of her life. I felt robbed of an experience and angry at God because it was unfair to me.
Some friends didn’t really understand the depth of my pain and what it meant for them to be there, to walk with me and be present, that’s okay sometimes you got to be in it, to get it. I found it hard to articulate what I felt inside. At the same time I felt ashamed and almost like I wasn’t allowed to feel what I felt, and a little less of a Christian because I did feel what I felt, I was supposed to handle this.
Truth is, I was finally grieving. I spent such a great portion of my life trying to survive the blows of life and make it, that I didn’t recognise that I needed to fully grieve. Part of the grieving process is acceptance and letting go, which is tremendously hard and painful. You don’t want to accept that someone’s gone for the rest of your life, yet it’s key in moving forward. It stops you from getting stuck.
I cried out to God to take away the feelings, but I learnt that in order for me to really heal I had to feel the pain. I was going to have bad days, I slowly understood that, these feelings didn’t scare God, it wasn’t strange to Him. He didn’t despise or discredit what I felt, He understood and was present in the journey.
He didn’t run from my honesty or my broken heart, He was all the way present and loved me through it, (Psalms 139:1-4, Psalms 34:17-19) this is contrary to what I was feeling, however it was the truth.I was able to grieve knowing it was a season and I had to be patient with myself.
During the wedding process, I was given my mums bible and I saw that she had written scriptures in the back and marked up the bible with notes. It reminded me that it’s only by the grace of God that I’ve been able to make it this far without her, I’m probably living her answered prayers. I’ve experienced some stuff and I’m still here in my right mind, that is God. Secondly she would’ve wanted me to lean on God and to keep the faith. I believe faith in Christ is such a big part of our healing and ability to move forward.
You may have not lost your mother, your mother could be still here but absent. Yet, it may still feel like a loss to you. Here are a few things to remember and know, that may help you in the process:
Grieving/Hurting doesn’t make you less of a Christian or less filled with the holy ghost - It makes you normal and human. You will have moments you will miss/yearn your loved one,yet like I said, God understands that and is ever present in the pain. Pain is part of the process, it's the path to healing. When your weak He is strong. It's okay not to be okay. (2 Cor 12:9)
Talk to someone – I always recommend counselling, or talking to someone more mature in the faith because it is an opportunity to offload and understand what is happening within. Those are the deep places you can take to God as well as practically work through them.
Community is everything - Through the process I had to identify the people who were willing to walk with me on the journey, even if it was small. I believe it’s important to have a good community around you that is understanding. There’s strength in numbers as they like to say and it reminds you, that you are not alone.
Identify women in your life you can learn from – Once again, I don’t have my mother with me but there are women and mothers that surround me, that are also mature and seasoned in faith that I know will be more than willing to give me the guidance I need as a woman.
Even though my mother is not alive, there are pieces of her in me that my children will still experience. I believe that is the beauty I can see in the midst of the loss.
On the day of the wedding my friend and sister Michelle gave me a keyring to put on my bouquet of me and my mother, it was so special to me. There were friends that were so available and did things, that made me feel like she was there and I’m grateful. My husband was so amazing and is still amazing, at the support he gives me and love, I’m blessed.
If you are a friend reading this that knows someone who is grieving a loss. Don’t underestimate the power of your love and presence.
It's truly a journey, one that takes you taking one step at a time. Be encouraged and keep holding on to God. Don’t give up!