One of the last things my mother said to me before she died is that I was a good mom. I hold on to this thought when things become unhinged. By that, I mean, when I become unhinged. Before our loss, my mother was many things; courageous, funny, alarmingly thrifty, but the one thing she was not was depressed.
The melancholy I’ve fought most of my life originates from my father’s side. My mother tried her best to understand my depression, but found it genuinely puzzling. Still, particularly in my adult years, she was often the first one I’d call for a morale boost. In more dire circumstances, like when postpartum depression brought me to my knees, I’d call and weep incoherently into the phone. She didn’t know what to say, but the truth is, she didn’t need to say anything. She was simply there, like a lighthouse in the tempest.
Although she’s gone, I still have the urge to call her. I miss her insight terribly, as well as a thousand other mundane and remarkable things. Somehow I thought that because I’d grown in her womb and heard her heartbeat from the inside, I’d feel her presence after she was gone, the way people do in movies. In “movie loss,” you get a gust of wind that blows a certain kind of leaf in your lap, reminding you of a childhood memory, her favorite tree or something poignant. In movie loss, grief is linear, progressively headed towards a place of healing.
But in actuality, my grief is more a slow, zig-zagging reconciliation between my heart and my mind. In the beginning, I couldn’t remember a time when mom wasn’t the sun our entire family orbited around. Now, more than a year later, I struggle to remember when she was. It’s been five seasons, full of holidays, firsts, and new life. She’s missed so much, and feels further and further away as the months multiply.
Since her passing I’ve felt a sort of aimless, almost surreal disconnect to the world. It is the antithesis of stability and certainty, as though the anchor has been cast off, and I am unmoored. The first birthday I marked without her seemed unnatural, like a parenthetical event without the preceding context. But as unsettling as this ‘new normal’ is, I know I’m not alone. I have mother figures in my life whom I cherish, and mom friends I approach for commiseration and advice. My two boys have another fabulous grandmother. They also have my mother’s wisdom, still, as long as I apply her words.
And I do, every time I indulge their curiosity, practice kindness, or score a particularly good bargain. My mother’s value system has become my own, idiosyncrasies and all. She remains the lighthouse in the harbor I seek out, as I strive to raise my kids with the same steadfast devotion shown to me.
Christie is a freelance writer, beagle enthusiast, and mother of two boys. Aside from potlucks, central A/C, and ’80s music, she is passionate about mental health advocacy. You can find her at strugalug.com.