Mother’s Day can be bitter-sweet if your mom’s no longer here.

It’s so hard to say the word, “dead,” and in many ways, our loved ones live on–in thoughts, in stories, in how they continue to impact our lives.

For many, Mother’s Day can be so painful that we do all we can to avoid it. That avoidance is part of grief, and it’s necessary for a while. Grief is like a good soldier, but there comes a time when you say “Thank you, you’ve served me well,” and you let that soldier be released from duty.

After my mother died from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, I felt incredibly lost. I had been her daughter and her caregiver for so long and had invested so much time, energy, and heart into that role. After months, if not years of longing for my freedom, of griping and complaining, all of it felt so trivial in comparison to my mother no longer being in my life.

I knew I had to get my bearings. I asked myself over and over, “Who am I? What was I doing before caregiving? Do I go back to that–or move onto something else? I’m now the matriarch of the family…does that mean I’m…old?: I’m now the Mama figure, the one everyone turns to, the one who holds the family history.

Feeling lost lasted awhile, but it didn’t last forever. I began to move beyond my grief. I began to grow hungry for life, for a routine, for something to sink my mind into. I returned to college. Someone else telling me what to do seemed to work. I started writing again.

An Excerpt from Mothering Mother:

I put Mother’s wallet and glasses in the top drawer of my dresser today. They’ve been sitting on top of it since she died four months ago. Mother kept Daddy’s wallet, pocketknife, comb, and a small Bible in a heart-shaped cedar box he gave her the second time they went on a date in 1925.  Something about these wallets left intact creates a sort of bubble holding time and memory in perfect stillness. Their licenses, credit cards, photos and slips of paper remind me that they had everyday lives.

This makes me question this whole “here, not here” mindset we have. Giving a friend a bit of humorous advice prefaced with “as my Mama always said…” is a way of keeping her here. Will there always be a bitter side of sweet?  Will death and dying burn away, so that I don’t have to run straight into them before retrieving a remembrance?

I hear Mother all the time and quote her daily. My friend Debbie’s teenage daughter asked her mother, “Don’t you trust me?” The age-old question every parent is eventually asked, the question we all secretly know the answer to. My southern mother answered that question when I asked it two decades ago, “ Honey, I don’t trust myself in the dark.” Hearing her words echo in my head was somehow comforting.

Perhaps this is your first Mother’s Day without your mom. If it is, be easy on yourself. This can be a tough day. I know I didn’t want a lot of fuss. I needed a hug and a card, and then I needed it to not be Mother’s Day anymore.

But in time, the bitter painful part subsided a bit, and I began to remember the good times, the funny times, the crazy-chaotic mother-daughter moments that made us pair. I could talk about her again. I could tell a story and then smile.

It takes time.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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Carol O'Dell

Carol D. O'Dell's gripping memoir MOTHERING MOTHER, (April 1, 2007 by Kunati Publishing) is for the "sandwich" generation and overflows with humor, grace and much needed honesty. Written with wit and sensitivity, Mothering Mother offers insight on how to not only survive but thrive the challenges of caring for others while keeping your life, heart, and dreams intact. Carol is an inspirational speaker and instructor focusing on caregiving, spirituality and adoption issues. She has been featured on numerous television, radio and magazine and podcast programs including WEDU/PBS, Artist First Radio, "Coping with Caregiving" national radio, Women's Digest and Mature Matters Publications. Her fiction and nonfiction work has appeared in numerous publications including Atlanta Magazine, Southern Revival, MARGIN, and AIM, America's Intercultural Magazine Carol appeared on the radio show "Healing the Grieving Heart" with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss "Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir." To hear Carol being interviewed on this show, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley031308.mp3

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