Updated: Sep 5, 2020
The other day I was reading yet another article on grief, still trying to wrap my head and heart around the magnitude of the sudden loss of my mother a few months ago. As I read something caught my eye about "giving a person the permission to die", this struck a really strong chord with me and has stayed with me ever since. The phrase keeps popping up in my mind, so this morning I sit on this blog in some attempt to make sense of it all.
First I'd like to start by saying that when you grow up with a single mother who struggles with addiction its a roller coaster ride of experiences, some terrifying and others fun and adventurous. I remember being a young girl and checking on my mom to see if she was still breathing while she slept. This in itself creates a sense of unsafety and unpredictability with the lives of the person we are supposed to be able to depend on the most, our parents. It's a confusing way to grow up when the highs are really high and the lows are really low. I learned how to bounce from one extreme to the other rather gracefully.
My mother was an addict but the older I got the more I realized it was just a mental health issue that was never addressed. The alcohol and drugs were her attempt to silence her own mind and traumas. What she failed to realize however was that this route actually gave the demons within her more power. Trust me, I speak from experience.
As long as I can remember it was always about just getting by and surviving for my mother. She grew up with a lot of abuse, sexual, physical and verbal and never got the help to recover from that. This fight or flight survival instinct was carried throughout her entire life, never allowing her to truly feel safe, loved or supported, even when she was. I believe she did the best she could with what she knew and to this day I applaud her for not passing down more sexual abuse. As I grew older I watched her be physically and verbally abusive toward the men in her life and myself on several occasions when she was under the influence of some substance. The only way she was able to not pass down any more pain was to keep her distance the older I got. Maybe she was terrified of the intimacy that came with being emotionally available for her daughters, it's possible she just didn't know how to do that and now that I'm a mother myself I understand this more than ever. It's not always easy to hold space for a growing individual with needs and feelings you never had a chance to express, let alone meet those needs. I was never one to sugar coat things and for this we butted heads a lot. But I still loved her unconditionally, as most of us do with our parents.
In my twenties after having battled with addiction myself we began to grow apart. My mother wasn't really the person I called when I needed advice, an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, she was however my biggest cheerleader. I will truly miss that about her. She was always too consumed with her own pain to show up for me and I want to thank her for teaching me how not to be a mother to my own daughter.
As the years went on we grew further and further apart as I drifted towards a healthier lifestyle, setting boundaries for my sanity and keeping toxic people out of my life which included her. I loved my mother with all my heart and the pain of her not being able to give that back to me in some way became too much to bear as I learned how to mother my daughter. I know she felt not good enough and incapable as my mother and she knew I didn't rely on her. That must of been heartbreaking. There were many sleepless nights, a lot of tears, feeling sorry for myself, why me, etc. but at the end of the day I knew it had to be done for my health. I can't even tell you how many times I wished she could of just been there for me, held me while I cried or just listened while I shared my thoughts and feelings. She taught me what it means to cry from the depths of my soul, an experience that still continues to this day but one I embrace fully. It wasn't until she got much older she started to finally shift or maybe she was just on her way out. Either way it seemed like she was finally grasping what I needed from her.
The Christmas before her death was the best Christmas of my life! She came over and helped me assemble my daughter's dollhouse, we played out front with the kids on their scooters and ended with laughter and a really nice chat on my porch. I made sure to tell her how happy I was that day and she seemed happy too but I knew deep down she was depressed. I knew she wasn't doing that great with her drinking and drugging but I thanked her for showing up the way she did for me that day. I hope it gave her some peace. This was the last day we spent together before her passing on March 7,2019. It saddens me so much that she is no longer here.
In retrospect I see all the signs of her depression, the isolation, the deep sadness I felt from her when I was in her presence, the need to be wanted by a man, the need to be young again, the fragility in her movements, the feeling that she had given up. Just showing up sometimes to bring her flowers just because and texting her I love her randomly because deep down I was afraid of losing her. She made a trip up to visit her oldest brother a month or so before her death. She was at odds with one of my sisters because they were living together. She was spinning out of control and there was nothing I could do! Talk about feeling powerless. My anxiety was at an all time high. She knew where to get help. She knew what needed to be done, she just stopped caring. Terrified of aging she probably figured this was an easier way out. She never made it to her 61st birthday and I have to wonder if that's what she wanted. To this day we don't know if her overdose was on purpose or accidental, it really doesn't matter. She sent me a random pic the night before her death wearing clothes I had given her, all black with pink flowers and her gaze was upward. Saying something to the effect of "good energy clothes sound good to me!" This pic sent shivers down my spine when I got it and maybe I should of called but I didn't. I knew she was high. Like I said we don't really know but maybe the idea of her choosing her death brings me some peace. Regardless I know when someone doesn't want to be saved they won't be. This I know all too well sadly. The fact is she's gone now, forever and all because of a temporary feeling. Yes she struggled with depression her whole life because she was so attached to the emotion that it was part of her identity. She couldn't let depression go, she couldn't let the trauma go, so in the end maybe in her mind letting go completely was the only answer. Again I really don't know. Never will.
I'm thankful however that the years before her death I choose to do the inner child work that haunted me and that the months leading up to her death I was able to truly release my expectations of her. Even when I was hurting I loved her regardless, accepted that this is where she is and that she might never escape this illness/addiction. I remember it like yesterday being over her house for thanksgiving and she was rambling on about something, beer in hand and I just sat back and started to video her without saying anything. I felt an overwhelming awareness of- "wow she may never get out of this place" come over me and in that moment I surrendered and vowed to love her anyway.
My spirit was giving her permission to die. I know it's what she wanted. She didn't want to be here anymore and was hanging on for my sisters and I but now we were grown. In all honesty I think she wanted out way before this but couldn't bring herself to commit suicide. And while this may be a hard pill for some of you to swallow this is my truth and the truth of what I feel transpired before the death of my mother. Anyone who has dealt with addiction first hand will understand and for those who haven't, maybe this will give you an inside look at how conflicting and confusing it is to deal with a parent with addiction. What I do know is her spirit is truly free now, free from the suffering, free from the pain, free from the mental anguish, free from addiction and I know she is liberated. I know her spirit feels at home and at peace now that she is just pure energy.
In closing all I have to say is: Wow! What a ride it was to have you as my mother. I wouldn't change a thing. I will keep your magic close. You've given me lesson after lesson to keep my soul growing, healing and changing all the way down to your last breath. Even though it seemed sudden and out of the blue, we both know your spirit has been drifting for a while now and I hope you received all the love, guidance and understanding you lacked here. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my mother and trying your hardest to raise good hearted people amidst all your turmoil and pain. I feel you've done a pretty damn good job. Rest easy now Mom, your work here is done. I love you always.
All My Love