“Hi, my name is Janae and I’m a member of the dead moms club.”
“Hi Janae!” Everybody responded excitedly. Well, as excited as a group of depressed grieving people could be. So it was probably more of an emotional groan. Either way, they welcomed me with open arms and plenty of shoulders to cry on. I was a stranger to all of them and somehow all of them understood my pain. I told them nothing of my journey or how I ended up here at this meeting but they knew me. They knew that when I went home after the conclusion of this meeting that I would cry myself to sleep every night for the next year. They knew that every day I wake up I’ll have a moment where I truly wish I was dead. That everyday feels like you’re trapped in a bad dream when you realize she’s not there anymore and you have to remind yourself that she’s gone. They knew that people would always say things like, “God doesn’t give you more than you can bear” and all that other corny shit that does absolutely nothing to lift your woes. Not once in the history of that phrase has anyone ever said. “You know what Susan, you’re right. What was I crying about?” followed by a jolly skip to their next destination.
In fact no words would make it better, easier, or more bearable. I used to be one of the people who would say, “Praying for you” while spectating someone else’s tragedy. All the while, I rarely actually stopped my day to pray for them. Trust me, as good as my intentions were, it never occurred to me that they may actually need me to physically pray for them. I figured there was a tribe of other people more skilled in the art of prayer who’s pleas to God would be heard first. But what if everyone else in their tribe was thinking the same thing as me?
As I look around the circle of fellow mourners, I could see their stress and distress painted across their faces like a masterpiece perfectly designed by Picasso. Every wrinkle was perfectly constructed to show the world how destitute they all are. Now, I’m one of them. How long until my face looks like theres? Will it take months or moments? I had no answer. How long before I could experience sleep again? How long before I stop crying over drink coasters and the ring they left on the glass coffee table? My thoughts begged someone to tell me the time frame for it all.
“Months 1-3 will be the easiest because your family and close friends basically become your arms and legs. They do everything for you including physically feeding you if you don’t feel like doing it yourself.” But no one said that because it wasn’t entirely true. To be honest, I don’t even remember months 1-3. Sometimes when I’m up at 3AM, I try to force my brain to remember. Surely, since I was there, there’s a part of my brain that keeps those memories locked away. If I could just remember those moments and what they felt like, I could be normal again. Right?
The older white woman to my right could see my mind was running a mile a minute. She slowly and gently placed her pale, wrinkly hand over mine. Her hand was cold but I felt warm. She squeezed my hand slightly never looking directly into my eyes. We both stared at the chair legs of the person sitting across the circle from us. I don’t know when she let go of my hand. I looked down halfway through the group counseling session and her hand had returned to her lap onto her long gray cotton skirt. Did I swat her hand away? Did I give her a don’t touch me face? Why can’t I remember anything? I sighed at the loss of yet another memory.
Focus on what you can remember Janae…
I can remember her smile. I can remember the funeral. That was a really good day. We had so much fun at the funeral. There was laughing. I remember a lot of laughing and smiling. I remember I was smiling a lot because my cheeks hurt after awhile. I remember sitting in her empty office with her employees. I’m not sure what they were saying though…focus. What else do you remember? As I thought about more things I could remember, I looked up and there were new faces. Just like that, in a blink of an eye, there were new members. I watched as they all solemnly walked into the circle and introduced themselves. Some of them already had the grief wrinkles. NOT FAIR! I was here first.
“Why does this group keep getting bigger!?” I yelled to no one and everyone simultaneously. “All these people have dead moms? This is unacceptable! Most of you are my age! You all have to leave now and go find your moms because there’s no way all of them are dead.” My mood switched to anger so quick I had to check my back for a light switch. “I cannot watch all of you suffer. The rule is, you can’t lose your mom until you’ve learned everything from her!”
“You already did.” A quiet voice came from the back of the room. I squinted to see who said it but the back of the room was poorly lit. I could only see their silhouette.
“I still don’t know who she thinks I should marry.” I ignored the voice. “I don’t know how to buy a house or how to raise children. She never told me how to make that one dish she made up. It’s my favorite meal and I don’t know how to make it.” My frustration increased. “I still don’t know which perfume she uses and I don’t remember the name of the lady at her favorite nail shop she told me to go see. I don’t know how much money she makes. I don’t know what a thread count is. She didn’t tell me where to get my oil changed. And who do I call now if I get arrested because I haven’t memorized anyone else’s number. I didn’t get to ask her how to set up a dentist appointment. How do I know what to wear when I go out now? How do I know which insurance coverage I need?! It’s not fair! I want my mom and I want to go home now! I don’t know how to pick out furniture sets or how to bargain an APR percentage! I don’t even know how she died!”
“I DON’T KNOW!” I screamed. I stood, clearly out of breath, in front of the group. Staring at the ground, heaving heavily, quickly trying to get air into my lungs so I could finish listing all the things I don’t know yet. My eyes burned, holding back tears. My face was hot with anger. My shoulders hunched forward. My fists were clinched. Even my toes in my shoes were clinched with anger. I felt a hand touch my right shoulder softly. The intensity of my posture relaxed slightly. Air came into my nostrils a little easier and my fists started to unclinch slightly.
“I know. Everyone is a member at some point.” The same voice from the back of the room was now standing next to me. I didn’t look up. “Welcome to the Dead Moms Club.”