Lessons from my Mother 18/52

May 1, 2022


May - Don't forget

Week18: Lessons from a mother 

Over the years I have gone through a barrage of emotions as I explore the relationship I shared with my mother. The tragedy is that I understand her more today than I did when she was alive. Battered by guilt I began the work necessary to understand who I have become as I unravel the sorrow of my own life. This journey has helped me nurture a healthier understanding of who my mother was. Now I must untangle that loss.

If I was to describe my mother in a few words, they would be, giving, shy, and extremely vulnerable. In her younger years, when we were little, she was in her element. Her patience to occupy our young minds in creative ways thrived. But as I matured, I felt the chasm of our relationship grow deeper with a craving of something more. I understand now how immaturity contributed to this flaw in our relationship, as well as teenage angst. Through the years as I unpacked the psychology of who we were and what she’d been through, I grew to understand.  

In our early teens, my older sister Deb and my mom had a close relationship. Looking back, I recognize the way Deb’s outgoing personality could provide the security and voice my mother needed. Our young mother longed for direction and remained timid for most of her life. During that time, I was more interested in friendships outside of the family dynamic, and maybe a little envious of their bond. Eventually I accepted my sister’s ability to make things fun and easy for her, providing the opinions my mother struggled to find. 

My mother and I discovered our connection when I had my own family years later. During this time our relationship blossomed as we noticed our many similarities’.  She helped me with the kids, and I got to witness her joy, back in her element of nurture and play. Within a few years Deb had a family, and our shopping dates became a weekly ritual after the kids left for school, our opposite personalities providing balance in our trio.

We were covered in grief after the sudden loss of my 5-year-old son, Ryan in 1993. Within that devastation my mother revealed the trauma of her childhood. It was as if she could no longer hide from it all. Her grief triggered this avalanche of emotion, and I no longer recognized her. Then, a few years later, our father died suddenly from a heart attack, unraveling the thread of connection further. The trauma and grief spiraled into depression, and I’m not sure she ever found a way out. I still question if this too contributed to her early onset dementia? 

Does trauma play a role in early onset dementia? After my brother Joe’s death in 2003, you could almost witness her decline, and I found her memory loss bittersweet. Since it provided a reprieve from all the tragedy. I still feel battered by guilt. The guilt that I didn’t understand more back then and that she never learned that it wasn’t her fault and it fills me with disappointment for all the years we lost. 

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