I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better – Maya Angelou.
This quote has really spoken to me over the years and I am reminded of it again as I find myself struggling with some sadness for what could have been. I’ve been feeling worn out lately and today I had a bit of an emotional breakdown as in, I broke down and wept. I cried and I cried like I haven’t cried for a very long time. Now, I’m not sure if it’s my Multiple Sclerosis wreaking havoc with my emotions (which I am learning can and usually does happen so stay tuned for an upcoming post regarding that relatively new symptom for me), or if it’s because I have been busier than I should be and gotten run down or if it’s just because it is what is so, but for whatever reason, Mother’s Day got me thinking about my own mom and about all the Mothers Days I have missed with her. And even though my actual memories of the days and months leading up to her passing have somewhat faded, my feelings of sorrow and regret are bone deep. I don’t need to remember everything precisely to feel overwhelming sadness where my mom is concerned. My mom died when she was 42 years old – I was 23 and newly(ish) married with a 1 year old and just pregnant with our second daughter, but every year that goes by I wonder where my relationship with her would be today. This year though, I just felt sad for what could have been. There was a time that I believed it would be easy to get past the grief I feel at her birthday and Mothers Day particularly, but 32 years later I am once again smacked in the face with sadness about what could have been with my mom. And I realize how silly it is of me to have made any assumptions about grief and the timeline for my grieving process. In fact, I think I was so busy with my family, working and managing my chronic illness that I didn’t even take the time to grieve at all, maybe I’m just starting the process now. Could this be another silver lining of my Multiple Sclerosis? That I now have the time and energy to devote to what I need to do for me and my well being?
My mom and I did not always see eye to eye. Truth be told, we had some really rough times. This is not an easy part of myself to share & I’m not proud of it, but my relationship with her wasn’t in a good place when she passed away and I deeply regret that. I was a young woman (living in Canada) with an alcoholic mom (living in the States), and I was doing what I thought I could to get her to stop drinking so she could be a part of our life (meaning I begged and yelled and did whatever I could to make her do what I thought a mom and grandma was supposed to do). Now, I know I could have done so much more for her and my brothers and if I had the tools in my toolbox then to handle the situation, maybe this story would have had a different ending. I loved my mom to pieces and wanted a relationship with her, but it was overtaken by her addiction and we didn’t get the time to work on our relationship before she was taken away from us. As usual this year, I tell myself that I need to accept the fact that I can’t change what has happened, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still wonder what it would be like if she were alive today.
If she were alive today, I would like to think that this is how I would have approached our relationship:
- I would be the first to act. I would be the one to call her rather than waiting for her to initiate the contact with me. There are times in your life when you need to be the bigger person and that time would have been now.
- I would take responsibility for the things I did and the words that I had said to her. Especially the things that hurt her.
- I would take the time and be interested in learning and listening to her about her own upbringing and what she experienced as a child with genuine care and empathy, recognizing that she was a product of her own upbringing and memories.
- I would have recognized that she was a human being and not just a mom – I would have had a forgiving heart and would let go of grudges.
- I would have stopped trying to change her. Instead, I would have tried to figure out how I can change to create a better relationship with her instead of expecting her to do all the work.
- I would focus on communicating with her, not blaming her. I would ask her questions and spend more time talking with her.
The wish to start over, to see her, to have her alone to myself, to hold her hand in mine, one last time is what remains in my heart. And, for the first time, I feel regret. I sure would like the opportunity to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I sure would like the opportunity to brush her hair for her or help her across the street. I sure would like the opportunity to turn back time and take in as much of her as I could, before she was gone. But for now, I will remember her with every breath I take and every time I look at my children who carry some of her traits with them and I catch a glimpse of her every once in a while. When I think about what might have been, maybe I would’ve just asked her to tell me when she was happiest, because now, I really want to know.
If someone you love passed away before you were ready, what are some things you would do now that you didn’t get a chance to do before they were gone?
Until Next Time