By NVNA and Hospice Bereavement Coordinator
Karen Gore, LICSW
The question I had asked my friend who lost her mom years ago was
“What is one quality your mother gave you that you now carry into your life?”
“Everything” was her answer. Everything, that is a lot to lose and quite a gift to carry into the rest of your life.
I watched my friend fill bird feeders and tend to her garden abundant with fresh herbs, flowers and Heirloom tomatoes – her hands looking very much like her mother’s, and I thought “carbon copy.” That is the answer another woman gave me about her mother and her “carbon copy.” She cared for her mom for many years. Caring for your mom takes strength. So does grieving her.
The three questions I posed to people I know who have lost their mothers were: “What is one quality your mother gave you that you now carry into your life?” “How long ago did your mother die?” “If/When you imagine her saying something to you now, what might that be?”
Not everyone was able to answer these questions. For some it is too soon and hard to talk about. For others the mother/child relationship was challenging and it is too difficult to put into words. Or the qualities that came from this relationship are the opposite of what that parent role modeled. For example: If your mother was addicted to alcohol you might find the quality she gave you is abstinence and restraint. Or if your mother was over bearing you might find that you struggle with this quality as a parent too – the quality that you carry now is your own awareness in your own parenting. The challenging mother/child relationship is common and important to recognize. Grieving her takes strength – whatever the relationship.
Those who were able to answer my questions spoke of abilities that were passed on. Such as Strength, “The ability to stand on my own feet and be independent”. The ability “to deal with life with dignity” and the ability to “care for myself”. One man wrote “Her belief in me was foundational in finding my strength in the world and to overcoming my doubts and weaknesses. Mom’s passed on these assets of strength and perseverance to their children.
Many people shared emotional qualities that were imparted – Gratitude, Faith, love, and compassion were prevalent. “An appreciation and ability to embrace others as they are” wrote one woman. Also a “sense of humor” was passed on with a dash of “sarcasm.” And “A mood of gentle seriousness; an inner tense calm that allows us to enter the world with focus and empathy.”
Finally, there were many practical and tangible qualities as well as things that people imagined their mother’s saying to them now. One woman said with a laugh “very practical, even when I try not to be. I cannot help it, it just comes naturally.” Moms also gave encouraging messages such as “Always walk on the sunny side of the street” and “You can do it.” and “You are doing a good job” “You are capable of doing anything you put your mind to.” Mothers gave important life reminders to “Not to take on the weight of the world – it is not up to you to fix everything.” And “Cooler heads will prevail” A woman who is a writer said her mother gave her the gift of language saying “She was always finding ways to make the familiar exotic.” One woman’s mom said to her “Live your life and be happy, we will be together again we are soul connected forever.” And finally, a woman said in a soft voice that her mother would say “Thank You.”
I would quote her mother’s message here to all those who responded to my questions a big “Thank You” to you. Thank you for helping me put into words some of what we have gained and what we lose with our mothers – Grieving her takes strength – whatever the relationship.
Learn more about our free support groups: https://www.nvna.org/nvna-supports/
Learn more about our free community bereavement support services: https://www.nvna.org/bereavement-services/