In journaling/writing/ life is good/ thank you/more please/ the force/ try this at home

motherless on mother’s day

Mother’s Day was never really a thing in the Cooperman family …

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… my mom often said that if you only made a fuss of your mother because of a holiday pumped up with weep-inducing commercials designed to sell crap, you were kinda missing the point.

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It’s not that my mom didn’t appreciate being appreciated; as far as Paulette was concerned, if we wanted to make a fuss over her, she’d gladly accept. Anytime. 

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Whether it was a thoughtful note, present, or a card for no reason; an invitation to brunch (or lunch or dinner) that came outta the blue, or day spent wandering around a favorite town where we’d pop into stores to point out gaudy jewelry and clothes we would never, ever wear, giggling: Uniquely you! – she’d be all for it. Absolutely. 

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But there were no Mother’s Day traditions in the Cooperman house. On Mother’s Day, she was happy to skip the crowded brunch spots, and just have her usual breakfast of coffee and yogurt at home.

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My mom died in March of 2004, and while it’s impossible to miss the tribute posts on social media around Mother’s Day, the day doesn’t hold any special challenges for me. And I suspect I am not alone in the world of the motherless.

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Mother’s Day is simply another reminder in a long series of reminders the motherless live with. 

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Still, it’s hard not to feel a little wistful when the marketing extravaganza that is Mother’s Day is upon us.

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But feelings of grief aren’t prompted by the calendar.

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Sometimes they rise up for no reason. You’ll hear a song. You’ll smell her perfume. You’ll have a family get-together, and her absence will be painfully obvious. You’ll make one of her signature dishes. Something fabulous will happen in your life and you’ll think: I wish I could tell Mom about this. (or, like me: you’ll see a piece of jewelry she would have loved-to-hate, and you’ll say out loud to no one listening: uniquely you!)

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But the bottom line? Loss and grief don’t magically happen on holidays – Hallmark or otherwise – and they sure as shit don’t have an expiration date.

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I remember running into a friend a month or so after my mother died. When she asked how I was doing, I told her I was still feeling foggy; still breaking down at odd times, and having trouble sleeping. She nodded, but I could see a kind of quizzical look on her face. Then she said: … and … uh … work? How’re things going there?

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I nearly froze. I forgot that the world kept spinning for other people when it had largely stopped for me.

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I forgot that “how’re you doing?” wasn’t always a real question, and that for people not IN grief, there was kind of an expiration date on talking about loss.

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And it sucks. It sucks big. And there’s nothing you can do to make it go away faster.

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When you’re in grief, you’ll want to talk about it as long as you want to talk about it. Some people won’t want to listen, but you’ll quickly learn which ones will, and which ones would rather know how things are going at work. (note: this doesn’t make them wrong or bad. it just makes them the ones you don’t go to when you hit a wall.)

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But when there’s no one around and you’ve hit a wall? What do you do then?

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If you’ve been following me for any length of time, it won’t surprise you to hear that I’d recommend writing it out.

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Because no matter how you’re feeling: the page will always welcome you, and it will never tell you it’s time to move on. 

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You can write, and vent, and cry, and tell stories, and bitch, and cry some more.

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You can write about the time you were in a boutique, and held up one of the gaudiest shirts you’d ever seen to show your mom: Uniquely you! at the exact moment that a saleswoman was passing by. And how that saleswoman stopped and said: Your daughter’s right; that would look wonderful on you!  And how you both had to stifle your giggles until you left the store … and when you finally got outside you laughed so hard tears started streaming down both of your faces. (and you might’ve peed a little too; it’s possible …)

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Write it all out. Seriously, write that shit out.

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And may I suggest that if you’re motherless, write a letter to your mom on Mother’s Day anyway.

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Tell her what you miss; what you’ve accomplished with her help; what you appreciate (particularly stuff you might not have appreciated while she was still here), and all the things that come to mind when you put pen to page.

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And if your mom is still around, I double-down on that suggestion.

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Don’t just buy a card. Don’t just take her to brunch. Write her a note. Tell her why she’s awesome. Create your own weep-worthy Hallmark moment. (and if your relationship is troubled, you could write just for yourself. write about what you’ve gained/how you’ve grown in spite of [or because of] the challenges …)

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And to all of you who are doing Mother’s Day without your mom, I’m sending good vibes. ‘Specially those who are doing it for the first time. 

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Happy every-day, as much as you can.

Mom and me. A looong time ago.

              Mom and me. A looong time ago.

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  • Barbara Reidy
    May 7, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Deb,
    Thanks for this incredible piece, and for the glimpse into the relationship you shared with your Mom. Brought some smiles and some tears – reminds me of Renee and I in stores and sharing giggles, and of times with my Dad, who I lost when I was 14. As we navigate the waters, of our grandsons having lost their Dad almost 2 years ago, we keep him a part of their world by talking about him, remembering out loud, shared experiences, foods he loved and phrases that he used. But these were things we had to learn how to do, comfortably, through a program called Healing Hearts here in Danbury. Our culture doesn’t deal well with grief and loss, and rather than not talk about the person, because we think it will make the person remember and feel sad, we have learned that guess what – they are already sad and remembering! Our family tries to find ways to keep Lou a part of the family, in a way that keeps him present for his sons, and keeps them talking about their Dad, so they don’t forget….but first, we had to learn how. Honoring you and your Mom, and the bond you shared, and that incredibly joyful photo of the two of you. The Love is real! xoxo

    • Deb Cooperman
      May 8, 2016 at 10:55 am

      I’m so glad it resonated honey. And yeah, I think talking (writing, collaging, making art; whatever) is good. Gotta process or you can move through. (no “finish line” in grief, but y’gotta keep moving anyway.) 🙂 xo

  • Helen
    May 8, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Mz. Deb,
    I swear you wrote this just for me, and I thank you for it. Though I’m still new enough to this loss that I haven’t experienced the expiration date yet, I can feel it coming. I know it will come way sooner for much of the world than I can manage… While others will want me to keep it for longer than able to at times. My mom thought Mother’s Day was a stupid holiday. She said EVERY day should be Mother’s Day! Yet, she always noticed and remarked about which kids had sent flowers, cards or had called and which hadn’t. None of us will forget it this year. ❤️ Thanks for the reminder to write that shit out!

    • Deb Cooperman
      May 10, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      I love that it feels I wrote it just for you. That’s a mega-compliment. I hope you are surrounded with people who will never attempt to enforce an expiration date, but if they do, fuck ’em. 😉 Keep writing. You reach and inspire so many people when you do. Big hugs and love to you (and your sis and bros.) xo

  • Kathy
    May 8, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Thanks for sharing and for the encouragement to write. <3

    • Deb Cooperman
      May 10, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      All. the. time. 🙂 xo

  • Nancy
    May 10, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Great piece, Deb. Just lost my mom in January, twelve months after my dad. Yes, it sucks, but having them for over fifty years was more than many people get, so I have to get used to it, I suppose……Hope to see you in Gambier in late June at K80s.

    • Deb Cooperman
      May 10, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks, Nancy. So sorry about your folks. One after the other? I can’t even begin to imagine. (sure you had them around more than many others, but that doesn’t make it any less shitty. yeah, you’ll have to get used to it [cause what other choice do you have? there’s no magic wand to reverse what happened] … but your grief is your grief. there’s always going to be someone who will have it “worse” or “better” – doesn’t make your experience any less crappy because of it.) (i know you didn’t ask my opinion there, but i sensed a talking-out-of-it going on and i got all brazen and mouthy, as i do …)

      (oh, and you WILL see me in gambier. i’m looking forward to it. xo)