By Lisa Bullard
“Mom, this card says ‘Don’t worry about Nancy anymore,’” Ember says, as she hands me a sticky note she scribbled on.
I wipe away a drifting tear, and take it from her. “Thanks, sweetie. Why shouldn’t I worry anymore?”
I want to know what is happening in her mind, partly because I’m feeling guilty about crying in front of her, and am trying to assess how I may possibly be messing her up by being a mess myself.
Also, I am wondering if with her fresh and innocent mind, she may be more in touch with the ethereal world, and be passing me a message.
“Because you don’t need to cry anymore. You should play with me.” She doesn’t like seeing me cry.
I miss my Aunt. She passed away recently. Having a child did not make me less emotional. I’ve always been emotional and have never done well at keeping my feelings inside. Grief seems to be out of my control, and it comes and goes as it pleases. Then again, so does every other emotion I feel, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
Along with the grief comes some guilt. Logically, I don’t know why I expect myself to be somebody different, as if a mother should not have a gamut of emotional reactions and responses to situations. I tell myself, and sometimes convince myself, that it is okay for my daughter to see a range of emotions. My Mom was stoic. She hid her hurts and angers, her passions and fears. I come from a long line of women who always show a happy face to the outside world, a strong face. Perhaps it stems from their prairie pioneering blood. I broke tradition.
Along with other mothering situations I navigate, I find myself in uncharted territory. My Mom and Grandma did this differently. I have to find what works for me, for us, for my family. I have to be who I am, even if I find it is different than I thought I was supposed to be. Weeks later, Ember asks me about dying. I’m glad I can be honest with her. My heart breaks when she asks, “Will you die, Mommy?” and then, “When will I die, Mommy?” I didn’t read about this in any parenting book. I try to be honest, but not scary. “We all die someday, honey, and that is why it is so special to be alive right now, and together.” She seems to be thinking about what I said. “Mom, why is that fire extinguisher red?” she asks, and just like that the conversation is over, for now.
"As much as I want to protect her from things that hurt, emotionally and physically, I want to share the world with her, and the depth of our human experience."
Besides, I don’t think I could hide my grief from her even if I wanted to. Mothering, rather than making me more stoic, has actually deepened what I feel, and perhaps even made grief more powerful. There is no getting away from it.
But, grief goes hand in hand with love, and mothering has made me feel love in a way I never felt before, too. For that, for that powerful love, I am so grateful.