After Mother’s Day: When Grief Transforms
I want to talk to the ones who were separated from their mothers on the day we commemorate them.
Yesterday, I spent over an hour going through old journals and looking through photos to find a different one to share — it’s always one of the same two, this being one you’ve seen again and again — but all I could feel was the absence. I talk to her sometimes, but she only responds in my dreams.
I wanted to find evidence of life. I wanted to find a tangible, external representation of the woman she was — a photo of her in action, sepia-toned documentation that she was young, had desires, and secrets. I know my mother had secrets because she told me one a couple of weeks before she died — her deepest desire laid bare to her only living child as she knew she was losing control of her mind. I carry it. There are few she would approve of me sharing it with.
And then, who would believe me? It would hurt people.
But picture after picture, there I was, there was Douglas, there was dad and I, there was Grandma Zane and unfortunately her second husband, me at the Christmas tree. The symbolism wasn’t lost on me. I checked my journal, but I didn’t write about her in it and I remember it it always felt like “leave my mother out of this mess” when I wrote in it.
But then I did something we don’t think to do today when we see old pictures because we’ve lost the muscle memory: I simply….turned the photo to look at the back and there was writing. Her handwriting, documenting the day. I could touch it. Handwriting isn’t a representation — it’s an action frozen in time, evidence that they touched what you are currently touching.
And then, the lens shifted: all of this was done by my mother — the photographer. She is not in absentia, she is the rock in the center of the pasture, she is the architect of the moment, she is the one directing these memories, she created a place where I could stand and she says “you will see what I saw.”
“Come look, Jennifer, you have to see this view!” And instead of insisting upon me looking at her, she would share the beauty of the landscape. Tell me what she sees.
And now I can revisit it over and over again — go back to that place she marked as the perfect place for a “Kodak moment.”
Don’t reach for your mother selfishly in the need to replace her in bodily form — look to understand what she saw, even if so many things were left unsaid or undone.
Surely, no matter what you’ve become since you lost her — and I know for one of you it has only been weeks — look at yourself and ask: What was she trying to create?