I am now part of a sorority I would have gladly passed on. The sorority of women who have lost their mother. There seems to be a growing number of friends losing their mother around me, more than it seems that our hearts can take.
In this sorority, we neither wear nor want badges of honor. You can recognize us by our ability to have our eyes brimming with tears in under a second and our equal ability to choke them back in under half a second. We look a little lost too, like we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Like we’d like someone to tell us, but we can’t quite place that someone.
I’ve lost mine five years ago. My therapist wants me to write about her. Yes, I have a therapist. Yes, she wants me to do things. One of them is feel and stuff. Blagh. Blagh is how I feel about this particular assignment. I’ve sent a long time teaching myself not to feel after my mother passed away, and when everything I had pushed back so deep pretty much exploded back in my face I found myself in need of help to re-learn how to feel properly. I’m still re-learning. It’s a lot of work and tedious and overwhelming and at times it feels like my heart has become a puzzle I need to put back together, except I’ve always been shit at puzzles. J’ai pas la patience albe.
What I got from that exercise however is that asking for help when you need it is good. That there are people willing and able to help, people who gladly want to if you let them in. It took me years and it still bothers me to do it. Breaking down walls you create around you takes time. (Rereading this paragraph makes me want to cringe. Do I sound like a white woman in yoga pants posting Rûmi quotes taken out of their context? If I do, please forgive me and rest assured that I’m my usual Arab self still in her night t-shirt, writing before getting to work and knocking back Lebanese coffee like the sleep-deprived person I am).
When she passed I felt numb, a huge hole of nothingness I lost myself in. I do not recommend, but that’s how I coped, and everyone copes differently. Five years later and a lot of feeling everything and its opposite under the sun, it seems that I have learnt to live with it. Tentatively.
It’s interesting, how I can talk about grief at length, but can’t seem to be able to write about her. Grief is something I’ve become familiar with, I can rationalize it, I can intellectualize it. I like classifying things in my brain, I like studying things from a distance. Hearts are too complicated and fragile and they break and who needs that negativity in their lives.
My therapist usually patiently answers ‘everyone’. Apparently, we all need to learn to process negative emotions, whatever they may be. My usual answer is ‘ok but how about no?’. My therapist is a patient woman.
I don’t know if the relationship you had with your mother determines how easy or difficult the grieving process will be. I don’t think it’s ever easy though. I had a complicated yet close and loving relationship with mine. I was her second and last baby, we both had personalities comfortably big and came at heads a lot, we reconciled equally quickly. It was tumultuous and hilarious and painful and tiring at the same time. When she got sick, I became her warrior and read everything I could get my hands on to alleviate a bit her suffering.
Sometimes you go to war and lose and don’t want to admit defeat.
My therapist wants me to write about her because she says that’s how you accept and come to terms with the person passing away. She also stresses the importance of letting yourself go and cry in a circle of friends and/or family. Of letting people embrace you and take care of you and make room for your pain (I don’t do that or very rarely, which might explain why I’m still stuck five years on so please don’t do what I did and go with the trained professional’s advice. I got great tattoos to channel the pain though, so you win some you lose some).
Anyway, here goes. My mother was kind and completely hilarious, and no-nonsense. She had great style, so much humor, called out my drama queen shit every time it was needed (a lot, trust me), she had a sharp intelligence, she loved life and life suited her wonderfully. I can tell you all of that, and more, what I don’t have words for is to express the love we had for each other. They have not invented words for it, it something you just have to feel. No matter how complicated the relationship, that feeling was there, that feeling of deep, deep love, that is made of memories of fights and shared laughter, of small gestures of care that were completely normal to her and have been made so special by her absence. Like making my favourite dish, listening to me when I needed it, telling me I was bala marba a thousand times a day even though she is the one who raised me (I have a slightly rebellious streak sometimes).
They say there’s a tendency to erase and idealize people who have passed away. I like to think of it as a nugget of wisdom from the people who stay on: we know the people we lost were not perfect, we know they drove us up the fucking wall so often, but we also know that when all is said and done, the only thing that remains is how much love you give, how you give it, and how careful you were of other people’s feelings. And if the relationship was fraught and the love was not there, or not shared respectfully, my heart goes out to you: grieving someone you still want to scream at must be a tough, tough thing to do.
I’ve learnt to carry my mother within me everywhere I go. I recognize myself in her so much. She is right there on my face, and I also always wear something of hers. Not because I want to remember her, I do but I don’t need that, more because keeping something of hers on my feels like the ultimate protective amulet.
She is still here, in some shape or form, her energy transferred on to me, and she and I continue our relationship. I know she is there when I need her, she made sure of that.