There are literally no words or combinations of words I could use to properly convey how much I miss my Mum. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real and sometimes it’s so painful I struggle to catch my breath.
When my Mum died I found myself constantly asking, how do I parent and step-parent through this? How will I be the Mom and Stepmom and do all that’s expected of me, that I expect of myself, while suffering through this pain?
I’ve always joked that I have a degree in Crisis Management from the University of Life, but no previous death or life events I had experienced over the years could help me and our family through this time. I was at a standstill.
The internet has a vast knowledge of resources, especially when it comes to parenting. But there’s barely anything that can really pinpoint and show you how to navigate grief as a parent and step-parent. I know I am not the first person to lose a parent, so I couldn’t understand why this was an issue. It was then that I decided to take note on what I was doing in order to help my kids should they ever experience this.
Below are a few tips on how we did it. It may not be perfect but it’s what’s working for our family at this time.
Grief is an asshole – the sooner I accepted it the better it became to deal with.
Grief has a way of completely sucker-punching the shit out of you at the most random of times.
Sometimes it hits me when I’m reading a card in the aisle of the grocery store. Sometimes it’s someone posting a sweet message about their mom on Instagram. All it takes is one small moment to completely overwhelm you, making you curl into a ball and cry your eyes out.
I fought this for a while. But eventually I accepted it and realized there was a tremendous amount of therapy in honoring your emotions and getting that shit out.
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to be proactive in my grief. Do something that you know is going to trigger your emotions. It helps to get those pent up feelings out so when the surprise grief does happen you’re more prepared and it won’t shock you as much.
For example, every so often I go to my Mum’s church. I remember being a little girl and watching her playing the piano. I chat with other church members and listen to their stories about what an amazing woman she was. Then I go into my car and cry my eyes out. It’s a bit messed up, like I’m emotionally causing myself distress, but I find that it really helps me to ground myself and control the grief.
Put down the pride and ask for help.
When you’re a mom and a stepmom and someone dies, life doesn’t give a shit – it keeps going. After I left the funeral home to make arrangements on my Mum’s cremation, I went and picked up the kids from school. Effed up, right?
I felt as though I was the strong one. I’m Supermom, I’m suppose to be able to do all of this on my own.
It wasn’t until 2 weeks after my Mum died and I started having panic attacks that I realized I needed help to heal. No one is suppose to do this on their own. I needed help to navigate through all of the chaos. Therapy, friends, family, I used my resources the best that I could to take some time-outs and process it all. I deserved it, I needed it.
My kids are hurting too. Talking to them helped the both of us.
At times I resented the fact that my kids didn’t acknowledge my hurt. When we first told them about their Naini dying they were sad and we all cried together but they didn’t say anything after that. We had no funeral so the next time my stepkids were at our house I expected them to ask more questions, but there was nothing. It wasn’t until my Stepson broke down crying when someone brought up the word cancer that I realized he’s hurting too, he’s just not showing it.
You have to remember that we are in a blended family and they didn’t have their Naini from birth. She came into their life shortly after I did and their love for her grew out of their love for me. Once she was gone they didn’t know what they should do with all those emotions.
Talking to them about their thoughts really helped the both of us. We discuss where they think people go when they die. We wonder if Naini gets to play Pokemon in heaven and we share how jealous we are that she got to meet grandma Virginia (my husband’s mom) before us. We talk about how much it sucks that she isn’t around anymore because we loved her so much and because she “always picked out the best presents.” We also talk about how much their hearts hurt for me and how sad they are that I don’t have a Mom anymore.
At times it’s difficult to talk to them because they can be so honest and I don’t always have the answers. But at the same time, it’s been so remarkable to see how much they love their Naini and I know it’s a reflection of their love for me.
Happy things do happen – it’s ok to celebrate them.
When we found out we were pregnant again a wave of emotions came over me. I immediately wanted to call my mum. We used to talk 3 times a day on the phone and she was the first person I called when I found out I was pregnant with Janice – no seriously, I called her before I called my husband.
But this time I couldn’t call her. And it fucking sucked.
When the happy moments happen in life, you feel that loss deeper and it’s incredibly tough to balance the sadness and the happiness all at once. There will always be a piece of you that longs for their words, their hug and their smile but, eventually you do figure out how to celebrate the little victories in life once more – it’s just a little different.