Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not Insane, Not Alone

First, I would like to put in a shameless, nepotistic plug for my cousin Kristina. She's brilliant, I've always admired her, and she's just started a new blog over at Mama Writes.

Thanks to her blog, I've been introduced to an author by the name of Hope Edelman. She's written two books on the topic of mother loss, and I just got the book Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss from the library.

I've mentioned before that my mother died when I was about three years old. She had pancreatic cancer. Not a day goes by when I don't think of her—wonder what she was like or what I could share with her about my life. I want her to meet my wonderful husband. I want her to meet my son and tell me that he's the cutest thing she's ever seen. I want her to tell me I've done well in life. Just stuff like that. Even though I have no memory of her, her death may be one of the most defining events in my life. Actually, maybe it's a defining event because I have no memory of her. Difficult to say. It's hard to go through life and know so very little about this woman who means so much to me.

Something else I've mentioned before is that I've been afraid of my 30s. My mom was only 31 when she died. I turned 31 last year. This birthday was looming over me, along with the rest of my 30s, because I was sure I was going to die young. Because, clearly, I'd get cancer young, too, and I'd leave my son without a mother, too. Of course.

And even if I was around to be a mother to my son, I'd be a terrible one. How could I love him like a mother when I have no idea what a mother's love looks like? Feels like? I don't know how a mother acts with her kid because mine was gone too soon. How am I supposed to do this? Certainly I am unqualified for this position.

Those thoughts made me feel insane. What kind of person thinks about these things?

And then I started reading Hope Edelman's book.

Apparently lots of women who have lost their mothers have the exact same thoughts. When they approach the age at which their mothers died, they think about their own mortality and assume they're going to die young, too.

It's not just me.

And they also assume they'll be terrible mothers, especially ones who lost their mothers at a very early age. They don't know how they'll teach a child things they never learned from their own mother. They're unsure of what a mother-child relationship really looks like.

It's not just me.

There is something so comforting in knowing I'm not alone. I suddenly don't feel crazy. I suddenly feel like a burden has been lifted off of my heart—the burden of feeling like an idiot when I share with my husband all of my fears of dying young and of being a lousy mother. He doesn't think I'm an idiot, but he can't relate. He still has both of his parents.

I don't know why I assumed no one felt like I did. That no one had these same thoughts. Other women have lost their mothers at a young age, so why wouldn't other women have the same thoughts? In fact, I'll bet there's no experience you could have in this life that isn't shared by someone else on the planet. If you only knew.

So I guess this post is just to reassure you that there's someone out there who knows how you're feeling and what you're going through. And hopefully one day you'll find them, and they'll help you feel less alone.

That's all.


  1. I lost my mother when I was 12...my dad died when I was 18. Now in my late 50's, I am older than both of them were when they died. Has it defined me? Most certainly. Are there days when I wish they were still around? Always. I decided long ago that I needed to be "me" and not try to live in the shadow of "what ifs". I think I handled raising my daughter without their input rather well. My greatest regret is that neither of them knew Jesus and that I didn't have an opportunity to share His message of forgiveness and love.

    Hang in there, my friend, and know that even though your mother hasn't been a part of your life, I can say with confidence that you have grown into a great mother and wife - and more importantly - a wonderful woman of God.

  2. There is a family at church that I feel connected to... the mom died a couple of years ago. The kids were in their early teens at the time. The daughter, now 19, I think, just had a baby. I prayed for her a lot- facing motherhood at such a young age without a mother to guide and comfort. There were complications with the baby and with the mom (they found a tumor during her c-section) and I can only imagine the terrified thoughts racing through her head and heart. All are home now and things are on the upswing.

    But I wonder often how I can best be part of her life. She doesn't come to church often- her dad is there every Sunday and he and I always shake hands, hug, smile. I've made sure they know, through our pastor, that I'm here and praying.

    And words form someone who doesn't know you well won't do much to calm or comfort you... but I feel confident that you are a fantastic mother because you've shown yourself to be a fantastic woman. As long as your priorities are right and your heart is full of love, you will be the best mom possible to your son and to any future kids.

    Curious- do you worry about being a good wife for the same reasons that you worry about being a good mom?

  3. Thank you. I am passing on this post to a friend that has expressed the same sentiments recently.

    Many will be blessed through your transparent post.

  4. I'm sorry that you lost your mom at such a young age. :(

    One of the biggest reasons I love MOPS so much is that I don't feel alone. Even if no one can give you advice for things you're going through, it's so much easier to deal when you know you're not alone. Great post. :)

  5. I don't think that you ever make peace with that sort of loss but you can always celebrate what these people left behind-you :)

  6. From one motherless daughter to another ... excellent writing, Rachel! I'm so glad you have been reading Hope Edelman. Her work is like a life-raft for all of us who've lost our moms. Indeed, you are NOT alone--I'm with you, and so are scores of other women.

    Some of my dear friends are motherless women, and I've always felt that being with them is like coming home. They understand you, speak your language of loss, get what makes you happy, what makes you sad. My husband is also a wonderful ear and shoulder, but he can't relate. There is healing in simply knowing that as a motherless woman, you are not alone.

    God has been good in connecting me with other motherless women, and I know he'll be doing that for you, if he hasn't already.

    Here's to more healing and discovery. And here's to the mothers we had, and the mothers we have become.

  7. I have often felt this same way with one exception...my mother didn't die, she walked out on my dad, my younger sister and me when I was 2. I have often struggled with the fear that I might make the same choices she did and not be able to handle the stresses that come along with marriage and small children. And I have no idea what I am doing most days. It is very good to know that I am not alone in that. Thanks for the post.

  8. @Anonymous You may benefit from Hope Edelman's book, as well. She addresses all kinds of mother loss---abandonment and suicide in addition to natural death.

  9. I had no idea that you lost your mom!! And so young! What a blessing it is to not be alone, isn't it? I can relate to that although not in this particular context, but in other areas where I've felt alone and isolated in certain situations.

    Excellent post!

  10. Rachel, wow...this is a deeply heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing it.

    Now, even though I still have my mother - I relate, because I even go through those thoughts many times over. I struggle, because in many ways my own mother - though I know she loves me dearly, and I love her dearly - didn't love me in the ways I always needed love. She didn't take a whole lot of time to really get to know "Marni" when I was much younger - so from that, I feel absolutely inadequate at times for showing my son love as well. For the most part, I give it to him in the ways I think he needs it - yet, God keeps reminding me through his smiles, giggles, tears and tempter tantrums that I need to be loving him the way He needs me to love him...meeting Christian where he is at, not where I think he is at. It's a deep grace thing that I am constantly learning through.

    You are never alone in this life...and the enemy is good at creating facades to dupe us into thinking we are. I am so thankful this book reached out to you and touched you and you found connection. That is all God right there - because He always will meet us where we are at, in the loving ways we need to be loved, through the people He needs us to be loved by.

    I love being connected with you. I love your heart, I love your transparency, and deep down girl...I just love you! Have a great weekend!



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