Back in 2011 I wrote the post “A Motherless Daughter on Mother’s Day” in which I talked a little bit about the mother/daughter relationship and gave some recommendations for books dealing with mother/daughter relationships. I’ve been feeling like writing this post for a while and Mother’s Day seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so since it has to do with my mom — but in a different way.
I recently made a Top Ten Tuesday list in which I talked about the 10 words/topics that will automatically pick up a book. Grief was on that list. I am ridiculously called to books that deal with grief as a teen — specifically of losing a parent. I can’t help it. Sometimes you have to read what you know. Sometimes it feels like I’m a glutton for punishment as I weep along with the book and my heart just decides to replay my own story over and over again. But sometimes it is amazingly healing. No matter what, I’m always a sobby mess.
I think the thing that fascinates me about YA books dealing with the loss of a parent in its many stages, besides the obvious that I relate all to well to it, is that at that age nobody really thinks about death or dying; especially not in relation to a parent. Your parents are the people who are the pain in your ass but are always there taking care of you. You don’t ever expect to see them revert back to a child because cancer is eating away at their brain. You don’t ever expect that they won’t be standing over you nagging someday. They aren’t supposed to go anywhere as much as sometimes you feel like you DO want them to just leave you alone. As much as people say that teens think they are invincible, which is true a lot of the times, I also think we don’t ever see our parents dying until they are old and grey. We think they are invincible.
And that’s why I treated my relationship with my mom the way I did. As a child she was my mom and I adored her. In middle school, I got frustrated with her for normal reasons and felt “embarrassed” but I also had complicated feelings because she was moving us four hours away from our dad (they had been divorced since I was 5). In high school, we had a really, really awful relationship. Hate was thrown out on both sides. Lots of screaming. Lots of fighting. I saw her as the enemy. I even moved out for a month because it got so bad. December 2003, my senior year in high school, was when my mom got diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. They gave her 6 months to live. She lived until July 2nd of 2006. Those years were excruciating to watch her slowly die but also to deal with all of the anger and hurt from our relationship. Luckily, by the time she passed away, I really forgave her and started to understand her but it was hard.
I was 18 and all I knew was that my mom was going to die. It wasn’t “maybe someday when she was old and grey” but it was soon. And in my brain I couldn’t comprehend this. You always hear that people become best friends with their moms when they get older. It wasn’t fair. I wouldn’t get to do that. I would never get to understand my mom. If I would have known that THAT stage of my life would never get to happen maybe I would have treated her differently when I was growing up. Maybe I would have tried to learn from her, listen to her, love her, try to understand her. I think that is the hardest part of dealing with my mom’s death today — that I will never get that part of the mother/daughter relationship. I will NEVER get to be best friends with my mom. She was the superhero mom to me as a child — I experienced that nurturing. I had the fighting and slamming doors and I HATE YOU’S of a teen & their mom. But I never will get what happens when you get in your twenties and start to realize all the things your mom did and said were right; albeit sometimes misguided. When you become less selfish and start to appreciate her. The thing is I’ve realized all those things…I just can’t tell her that.
When you are 18 you never think that your mom won’t be there on your wedding day. Going through that this past August was definitely the biggest life moment where I really felt my mom’s absence. I tried to include her memory in small ways — roses on the alter and mirroring a picture I did after a really beautiful portrait of her staring out the window on her own wedding day. You never think that your parents won’t be there for your college graduation or to help you figure out what to do when your career isn’t going how you thought it would. You never, at 18, even imagine that your mom will never get to hold your child. I haven’t been through this but I felt this very strongly when my sister had Genevieve.
So why do I turn to books that deal with grief?
Because I feel like I’m not alone. They bring up things that help me work through it in ways I never could have thought without the stories these authors bring to life that make me deal with it from afar…yet so intimately. They help me to process things that I could not process as a scared 18 year old girl who part hated and part desperately loved her mother. I’ve come to be able to put these things into words and to use my experiences to be an ear for others going through the same thing that I went through. I’ve been able to talk to teens in my life and try to give them perspective about their moms.
And mostly reading YA that deal with this helps me to continue to work through it in a healthy way and to remember to not take forgranted other people in my life who I’m not guaranteed another day with. I don’t want to sit back and think I’ll have all the time in the world to have the most fulfilling relationships I can possibly have with them. I don’t think in somedays anymore. I think of now.
Now let’s get into some book recommendations — to, ya know, bring this back to books! These are books that deal with grief or a loss in different stages and different ways.
The obvious loss related to Mother’s Day will always be there but it is also a day to remember her, to celebrate a wonderful stepmom (and now also a mother-in-law) and to celebrate my sister who has proven already to be an amazing mom to Genevieve. There is a lot of good to this day. I’m happy to be feeling that way just by thinking about it a little differently even if that just means celebrating the people who are mom’s in my life or donating to a woman’s shelter. My mom might not be here with me but I know these things honor her memory.
Tell me about your mom! What are some of your favorite books about mothers and daughters or about grief? Are there any topics in books that you seek out because you relate all too well to it?