I lost my mother 21 years ago, at the age of eight. Losing her didn't really feel so awful, as I was just a kid. But the experience of growing up without a mother was a very tough one. Back then as a teenager, hardly a day went by without my having to think and feel bad about it.
I still remember how horrible Mother's Day felt a year after my mom died. My school was owned by the Anglican church, and on that day, they usually had the members of the Mother's Union visit our school to spend time with us and give us food.
That visit was usually accompanied with us singing songs for them. I still remember how tears flowed freely down my cheeks that particular year, as my classmates sang the classic:
Who sat and watched my infant bed
When sitting on my cradle bed
And tears of sweet affection shed
I just couldn't hold back the tears.
That was years ago. More than 20 years have gone, and obviously, a lot of things have changed. Like they say, time heals all wounds. I no longer feel so pained at such periods; I have learned how to cope with the loss. To be honest, just like others who have lost their mothers, I still can't help feeling a bit of pain as I remember my loss.
No matter how healed we seem, these days usually come with a tinge of pain.
Days like the Mother's Day have ways of poking needles at the scars of old wounds. And on other special days like her birthday or the day she died, the pain just pinches. Worse still is if you are celebrating something special like a graduation, or a wedding; sad thoughts of "if only she were here" have a way of coming up.
And no matter how healed we seem, these days usually come with a tinge of pain. For some other people who have either become mothers themselves or have their own wives, it ends up leaving them with a bittersweet kind of reality.
But over the years, I have learned just how to get through the feelings no matter how tough they seem. If your mother is dead, you will understand what this feels like. And if you have a friend or a relative whose mother is dead, this will help you know how to support them better.
Ask questions and listen
Don't be among those people who would come with lots of motivational quotes and clichés about how their friend or relative should have moved on already. Don't try to play down on their feelings either. The best you can do at this moment is ask how they are feeling and be willing to listen. Be patient. Don't try to finish their sentences for them. Just pay attention, and listen.
Trust me, they would appreciate the fact that someone is there for them. Be that person. Save your wisdom words for another occasion. They don't really need it. What they need now is your full attention, a hug, a slight holding of hands, an understanding nod, a friendly pat on the back, and the encouragement to share their feelings.
Mind what you say around them
Your life doesn't have to be caged because your friend's mother is dead. But it won't really hurt so bad if you are a bit careful about the kind of words you throw around when they are with you on holidays. For instance, you don't necessarily need to remind them that the holiday will get better when they get married, or when they have their own kids. Remember point one above? What they need now is just for you to be there and to listen.
The rest of the world might be celebrating, but in their own world, it is more of a day of mourning.
Don't play down on their feelings
If you ever get tempted to taunt them and goof around on a day like this, resist the temptation. There is a huge chance, that the mother jokes you fling around will be misunderstood and taken the wrong way today. And by all means, don't make them feel weird for not being so happy on a day like this. The rest of the world might be celebrating, but in their own world, it is more of a day of mourning.
Resist the urge to talk about the bad relationship you have with your own mother
As a good friend, you want them to feel better. And to do this you may want to share what you believe is a close-enough story to theirs. Trust me, talking about your bad relationship with your own mother is not going to make them feel better.
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No matter when she died, it was never the right time.
I lost my mother at the age of eight. My roommate lost his mom at the age of 24. Would it have been better if mine died when I was 25? I mean, that way, I would have at least grown up with a mother. Or would it have been better at seven? That way, I would have fewer memories, and the pain may not be so much.
To be honest, it doesn't matter either way. Whether she died when I was three, 13 or 33, there is never a good time to lose one's mother. You really need to understand that if you truly want to be supportive.
Understand that a mother's death can never be totally gotten over
We are all grown up. You could think that your friend would have forgotten what happened 30 years ago, right? Chances are that they have gotten over it. But that doesn't mean that they have forgotten it. So, bear with them if they get all teary all of a sudden. Or have a mood swing in the middle of celebrating a special day. They may have gotten over it, but that doesn't mean they have forgotten it.
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