Tracy Lee Karner
The Way I Was

How to get through the first Mother’s Day without her, in 10 steps

Tracy Lee Karner
After the storm…
  1. Let your lonely subconscious mind protect you from dwelling on your loss. You’ll forget what’s coming. And when all the merchants try to make you remember, you’ll naturally close your eyes, cover your ears and hum a rousing Sousa march, or sing Roger’s and Hammerstein show tunes at the top of your lungs, or rock out to The Grand Illusion by Styx. You’ll keep doing this until the very last minute.
  2. Then in a panic you’ll remember there are other special mothers, and they are still with you in the living world. And now it’s too late to mail any of them a card. So you’ll wrack your brain about something special you could do at the last minute (create a JibJab video?), something that will adequately convey the truth, that you dearly love these other special mothers with all your bitterly bereaved heart. This will keep you preoccupied for many hours so that you’ll hardly remember that she’s not going to be here this year.
  3. Soon enough and with sudden stabbing insight you will recognize that you have, for a month or longer, subliminally but somehow also intentionally refused to think about her. Because you knew  if you spent a single second considering what your first mother’s day without her might feel like, you wouldn’t be able to bear it; you’d fall to embarrassing weepy pieces.
  4. And then you’ll finally shed a few tears. Quite a few. Then you’ll wipe them away.
  5. You’ll feel like that dumb helium balloon you don’t want to discard although it’s been at least a week since the amazing party your friends surprised you with, but all the helium has leaked out and it hovers sickly 2 inches off the floor and you know it has to go. It’s so pathetic looking. Expect to feel that empty and that low. But eventually another insight will seep in, it will dawn on you slowly this time, as you realize that, yes, you succumbed to your awful buried grief, the one that made you think you actually might throw your head back and howl like a beast, but giving in wasn’t as painful as you were sure it would be. It must not have been unbearable because you did, after all, survive it.
  6. So you’ll wash your face or take a shower or best of all, stand under the huge sky with a cool spring rain drenching you while you think about the miracle of water, how water is available when we need it–to cleanse, wash, refresh and regenerate everything after a long dry spell.
  7. And then you ‘ll accept that life is seasonal. There are times. A time to be born, a time to die; … a time to weep, a time to laugh; … a time to gain, a time to lose; … a time to keep, a time to throw away.
  8. When the clouds clear, you will turn your face to the warm sun and your heart to the living. You’ll embrace. You’ll dance. You’ll laugh at the JibJab video you made because it is actually very funny.
  9.  And you will love the still-living more than ever because she would want you to live as she taught you to live–with courage and with the grateful conviction that “joy is like the rain…slips away and comes again.”
  10. So you will thank God for her, for the time she was physically with you, and for the knowledge that she will always be a part of who you are because she has so wonderfully shaped the way you live your life.

And now you know that the only gift she ever really wanted from you is that you hold her in your heart as she has held you in hers, tenderly and faithfully. And now you are giving her the best gift ever, and you will give it again.

You will give it often, as you think of her, often.

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11 thoughts on “How to get through the first Mother’s Day without her, in 10 steps”

    1. Marylin, I was thinking of you when I posted this–how in some ways this “first’ mother’s day might be ahead for you, but in other ways, it’s already happening. Dementia is a gradual realization of our losses, I think. Is it easier or more difficult than sudden loss? I don’t know. A slow onset gives a person time to get used to the gradually happening loss, you don’t have to adjust to a sudden loss (I experienced dementia with a grandparent). But dementia gave me almost too much time to consider how hard it is…. It’s all difficult; and strangely, it’s also all beautiful because it makes me appreciate what I had, and what I still have.

    1. Thank you!

      When people say “Time heals,” I know what they mean, in a way it does. Yet time is different, depending on the stage of life. When I was very young, a year felt like a decade. These days, twenty years slip past with the feeling of twenty months….

    1. Thank you, M. It’s from the heart. One of those rare writings that came all at once, as if it was “given,” and requiring hardly any revision. That almost never, ever happens for me.

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