Mother's Day Without Mom

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Sad woman sitting by the window
How one author came to terms with losing her mother.

I've never been a big fan of Mother's Day. It's not the commercialization that fuels my dislike, though—it's that for 14 years, I haven't had a mother to celebrate. The Frisky: 5 Tips For Daughters Who Don't Get Along With Mom

On September 20th, 1996, my mother's 36th birthday, she died. Four years earlier, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In the intervening time, she endured hours of chemotherapy and radiation, the loss of her hair to the chemo and a breast to mastectomy, a surgery to reconstruct her missing breast, a bone marrow transplant, and countless days away from her family in the hospital. All this while raising three children and making sure that "cancer" was never, ever a dirty word in our house.

I was 10 years old when she died. I grew up in Cleveland, where my parents had settled after my father finished law school, and all of our relatives lived out of state. The first Mother's Day after my mom's death, I gave a gift to my best friend's mother, not knowing who else to present with the sunflower seedlings we had planted at school for the occasion. But every Mother's Day after that, until I left home for college, is a blur in my memory, like so much from those years. For me, the second Sunday of May was just another day on the calendar.

Some events have the ability to split a life into halves. I feel like I've lived two lives: the one that ended when my mother died, and the one I'm living now, since she's been gone. For most of the past 14 years, especially when I was younger, my almost unconscious strategy to cope with my loss was to pretend there was no loss at all: if my "life" began when she died, then it was like she never existed. If there was no hole left by her absence, there was no hole to fill. The Frisky: 14 Sexy Celebs' Post-Baby Boobs

Even with my attempts to blot her out, though, my mother's death colored every part of my life. I can't say for sure growing up was harder for me, without a mother, because I haven't known anything different, but I have a feeling some aspects were more difficult. As a young teenager I resented my friends' relationships with their mothers, even when those relationships weren't at their best: at least they had someone to fight with. It took me years to come to the realization that just having two parents didn't necessarily make life easier. Although my father loved us and raised us the best he knew how, I always felt as if I was navigating rough waters on my own. I did most of my teenage figuring-out—from riding my bike to the drugstore to buy tampons, to suffering the sting of a years-long high school unrequited love—by myself.

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This article was originally published at The Frisky. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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