This is 50!

I’m turning 50 this Monday, April 24th.  Yes, it’s a huge milestone…a cause for celebration.  Many of my dear friends are also celebrating this huge birthday within this year of 2023.  Some of us even went away this past October to celebrate together.  It was incredible, and an experience I will never forget and continue to feel such gratitude to have shared part of this year with some of the most incredible women I know. 

But leading up to my ACTUAL Birthday, I haven’t felt like celebrating.  Not because I feel old.  On the contrary…I could not feel more joyous, gratitude and empowered to reach this age.

But reaching this age has left me feeling scared, sad, emotional, sometimes resentful and quite frankly, at times, I feel completely and utterly alone.  While I should not feel this way as I have a beautiful family and supportive friends, these feelings came up somewhat unexpected.  Even though I kind of expected them if that even makes sense, it still kind of caught me off guard. 

While some might say I should practice gratitude, or be thankful for my health and my life and my family and everything else that I am reminded often to be thankful for, I am feeling somewhat deflated and inadequate.  For this week as I approach 50, I’m going to approach it rather reflectively, empathetically and as I often try to do with all that I write about, provide a perspective to either help someone else feel less alone, or share an insight to help others understand. 

I have been without my mom for 35 years.  Being in the “Motherless Daughters Club” is something that I have often said I would wish on no one.  But nonetheless, it is a club that I have met some of the most empathetic, understanding and supportive women.  For that, I am thankful.

To some degree, I have been avoiding people for a few months.  As my birthday has approached, and the genuine questions of “what will you do to celebrate” or “are you doing anything fun?” take over, I am left feeling extremely out of place.  Sometimes when asked that question, I have wanted to hide under a rock.  I learned a long time ago, most don’t want to hear about my struggles being motherless, and while it is not a huge part of my identity, there are times that I am reminded by a select few, that all of what I feel is very normal for someone that not only lost her mother young, but did so in a very traumatic way.  Additionally, back then, we didn’t talk about it.  We just moved on.  Back then, you never heard about “balance” and “mental health”.  You just moved forward with very few questions.  I was very lucky to have incredible friends and the teachers and counselors in my high school looking back, were some of the most incredible people I knew.  Thank you, Mr. Buckley and Ms. Sussman.

So, for this year, I’m just feeling a little down. There is a weight that has followed me as I approach this year.  Not the extra 30 pounds I have suddenly found myself carrying, thank you menopause.  But the weight that comes with reaching an age that from a maternal standpoint, I never had a guide.

I am turning an age that my mother never turned.  When she died at 49 years old, the clock stopped.  Little did I realize that 35 years later, I would be sitting here in this place that feels all too familiar.  I feel as thought I am that teenager again watching her mother being taken down the stairs on the stretcher.  I remember my Nana opening the door that Friday after school informing me that my mom wasn’t talking to her.  I remember having to call the ambulance.  I remember when my dad called that night from Paris, having to hand the phone over to my mom’s best friend because I couldn’t find the worlds to say out loud, Mom died.  I have been dreaming about a night during my teenage years, probably close to my own sons age now, where I came down the stairs to find her crying at the kitchen table at 2 in the morning.  These are memories that have been etched in my mind as my mother not only battled alcoholism, but passed away from complications of cirrhosis.  I don’t remember her voice.  As incredible a woman she was, I have very few memories of her.  I often say, I never really had her.  I don’t remember having conversations with her.  I remember her being very sad.  Maybe that’s the reason I often try to show my son more love that he probably even wants at 13 years old.  Why I jump at the chance to drive him pretty much any place he wants to go.  Why I will watch movies with him even while he rolls his eyes at me and tells me I ask too many questions and play the music in the car too loud.  I know these are all normal 13-year-old behaviors, but my hope is that one day, he will look back and remember that his mom was always there.  Even when he didn’t want me to be.  It’s funny, I actually used to listen to him when he told me he didn’t want me to come to his games.  But this year, I refused to listen.  I showed up at every game I could front and center, and every now and then, I would catch him looking over at me.  Those are the memories I hope he holds on to.  That I was always there for him even as annoying as I was…hahaha

My sister recently gave me a picture of my mom holding me in a kiddie pool when I was little.  A few days ago, she prayed for me that I could have the memories of how much my mother loved me.  I don’t remember any of this.  We were on the phone on my way into work, and I found myself literally sobbing as I imagined feeling such love from another human being.  I hadn’t remembered feeling that, but somehow my sister managed to open a portal into our childhood that brought back a wave of emotions.  She said to me, “I wish you could remember how much mom loved you”.  Something that I honestly hadn’t thought about.  It’s a weird feeling.  Almost as if my sister has helped me to begin a process of healing that I never imagined possible.  I have begun to replace the visuals I have held all these years with this simple little picture of my mom holding me so affectionately.  A feeling even one month ago, I never could have imagined. 

Do any of you ever feel guilt being celebrated?  I do.  I don’t know why.  Even giving gifts.  I would rather give gifts than receive them.  But lately, I have been so overwhelmed with my own life that I am certain, I have missed birthdays, celebrations and moments that matter.  For that I am sorry.  Sometimes, I find it so hard to remember the day-to-day things I need to get done, it becomes very challenging being able to be in the moment. 

With that said…turning 50 is an incredible privilege and a gift. Many in my life didn’t know me when my mother died.  Many don’t know the trauma that I went through over the years before my mom passed away.  Her battle with cirrhosis that finally took her life. The fact that I had to come home from school my sophomore year of high school to check on my mother who was pretty much bed ridden; but never did I imagine she was going to die.  She was just sick.  Something she had been for quite some time leading up to her death that October afternoon in 1988. 

I am sharing this for those out there that might one day go through what I am feeling only to understand this is all normal.  I’m also sharing this so that those in my life might be able to understand what is happening to me.  I’m sharing this so my husband can understand what is happening to me.  When he asks me what I want to do for my birthday and I can’t even get out the words but simply break into tears and begin sobbing.  It’s not his fault.  It’s not my fault either.  We often hear, grief comes in waves.  I have counseled many friends over the years as they have lost parents, and I will often say, it doesn’t get better, it gets different.  For some, they move on rather resiliently, for others, it’s simply life changing. 

What I am processing right now, no one can truly prepare you for it as every woman is different.  For those of my friends with whom lost their moms young, reached the age past her death and carried on brilliantly, I applaud you and hope to find that resilience some time in the near future.  For now, I am taking it each day, upon waking after dreaming about a time she was still alive, desperately trying to find her voice in my childhood memory.  Holding on to those dear friends who treat me as unconditionally as they do their own family and recognize that the ones who don’t understand, probably never will.  That is ok.  I pray for them, that one day when they experience such grief, they are able to reach back to those close to them and provide a level of support they so desperately sought out at some point in their own lives.  I will always be here if you need it…

To my motherless daughter network…I am beyond thankful for your insight. The mere fact that what I am feeling is normal for many of us who have lost so young, helps me to process the emotions that have come on so quickly.  For those who might go through something similar in the future, always know I am here with no judgement and a full heart.  So as of April 24th, 2023, I will be living a year my mother never lived….I’m gonna go make it count!  Love to you all…xoxoxoxo

One thought on “This is 50!

  1. She loved you SO much!!! Unfortunately she often chose her drink over her relationships but you can never doubt her love for you!!!


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