It’s a bizarre thing to mother your mother. I constantly worry if she is sad, if she feels lonely, and if she will reach out if her heart aches unbearably. I worry if she bothers to feed herself dinner now that she doesn’t have anyone to cook for. Did she get home from work safely? Nobody is even there to check.

My mom was the backbone of our family. We lost our father to AL Amyloidosis in March and it has crippled my mother’s spirit. She lost her best friend in such an awful and sudden way it has made her question everything she thought she knew about her stability. She never imagined she would have to navigate this world without her pilot. A woman who once loved listening to the birds sing while drinking her coffee outside, now wonders if she will always stare at those birds alone from her window.

She is constantly tearful and anxious. She looks to her children for reassurance when she makes any major decisions. She doesn’t sleep regularly, and she often struggles to get through her workday. This woman used to run circles around everyone. I have three kids and her energy level has always surpassed mine. She’s sad, physically exhausted, and broken.

I feel selfish even admitting it, but I miss my mom just as much as I miss my dad.

She’s not the same carefree, uplifting person she once was. I know why and how we got here. I just wish it wasn’t the case. I also wish someone had a crystal ball and could tell me if this darkness was going to lift and when because I’d really like some relief and a chance to see my mom’s old, familiar face again. 

Grief is a vast, unknown territory. Just when you think you’re making some headway and you can handle it—nope. Wishful thinking. You end up circling back around to address some of the emotional stuff you handled so well the first time around. It’s torture.

Grief also presents itself so wildly different in each person. I prefer to bawl my eyes out in my master closet or silently behind my steering wheel where I know my kids can’t see my face. Mom, bless her heart, is more of an open crier. There isn’t a place where her tears are off-limits, but I don’t think that’s a conscious choice. Her emotions are running the show at this point, and there is no scheduling a breakdown.

How do you know what kind of support your parent needs from you?

With your kids, it’s this innate ability to sense what they are feeling and emotionally give them what they need. I’m not hard-wired to know what my mom needs to move past this grief purgatory. I do my best to constantly reassure her this spot she’s in is temporary. I tell her the incessant heartache and dreary dark cloud that seems to follow her every move will soon be lifted. I try to make her believe the gravity of all of this will pass, but truthfully, I don’t know if I believe that. The lump in my own throat seems to be ever-present, and I still find tears welling up in my eyes daily at the most unpredictable moments. I really don’t know where I get off telling her this will get better. I’ve got some nerve.

I guess all we can do in this situation is keep going through the motions. I’m going to keep on telling my mom it’s going to be OK because, in a way, that’s what I need to hear, too. I’m going to give her every ounce of love and support I can muster because she’s always done it for me. I must believe, with every piece of my soul, I will get her back.

It’s a bizarre thing to mother your mother, and it’s not always the easiest process to navigate, but there isn’t another woman alive more deserving of a hand to hold.

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Kristen Brown

I'm a 34-year-old stay at home mother of three. I still have no idea what I'd like to be when I grow up, but I enjoy writing when the chaos dies down.