A dear church friend of mine died this past weekend and I’m grieving. She was a Sunday school teacher for many years. She loved to sing and taught so many children their hymns. All the children, teens, even the kids away at college, were devastated by the news of her passing. I find my eyes filling up with tears while I’m driving. I have to grab a tissue 20 times a day. For the past few days, any thought of my church family carries a sad weight. And yet, I know that in a few weeks or months, I will reflect on her life and think only good thoughts. Her memory will very likely inspire me to do more for our church and I’m sure there will be many times that I quietly, anonymously do things at church in her memory. Grief is a sad dark tunnel, but eventually you walk out into the sunshine again.
As children, our goldfish introduce us to grief. A few hours or days of remembering our pet naturally morphs into appreciation for all animals and our role in caring for them. If we forgot to feed our fish, we may suffer longer. But if a good old fish turned up floating, it was simply sad. We get through it.
And then our hearts are broken in puppy love, re-introducing grief. Perhaps one of our grandparents passes. Then a beloved teacher is suddenly swept away and our families and friends talk about loss and grief and introduce the idea of respecting each person’s unique life and our personal timetables for grief.
In adulthood, the loss of a child or a spouse or sibling is a great grief and the sympathy we receive never seems to outlast our grief. But there is an understanding that even in the worst grief, there is a turning point. Even a widow is allowed her long grieving and then we are happy for her should she remarry and rebuild a happy life.
And yet, for the adult children of toxic mothers, the grief over existing with an unloving mother is indefinite. As long as your toxic mother is living, you can feel that you are in a state of perpetual grief. When she is cruel to you, you may experience periods of deep, low-functioning grief. Or your mother grief may feel more like a low-grade flu that never ends. Grief often includes a feeling that you need to stop in your tracks; that you shouldn’t make plans; shouldn’t plan fun things. It can become a foundational feeling of great sadness that keeps you from feeling you deserve happy plans, fun trips or get-togethers with friends.
That’s why it’s important to ask yourself: When do I decide to trade in grief — over my childhood, over the stress of my current relationship with my mother, over the pervasive feeling of being cheated of a mother’s love — for hope? When do I leave my sad, dark mindset and walk into the sunshine of living my life?
If a Sunday School student had come to my late friend and expressed deep grief, she may have pointed to Matthew 5:4, Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Are you ready to consider comforting yourself regarding your toxic mom? Is your grief about your toxic mom a passage or a prison? Could you imagine the luxury of giving up your toxic mom grief?