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'Am I glad my mother died?'
A few weeks ago, we asked members of the community to pitch their own stories for this newsletter, as we want to hear from more voices and broaden our own perspectives. Our next guest essay is by Luiza Bargo, a Brazilian writer based in Texas. She loves discussing harm reduction in the beauty and wellness industry, sustainable fashion, and all things nerdy.
Want to write for us? If you want to pitch a guest essay idea for the newsletter, read this guide and email our editor, Taylor Majewski, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TW: Grief, suicide.
When I think about my mother, I think about teeth. She was a dentist. I think about smiles, how hers had two dimples, but she only gave me one. Funny, isn’t it, the things we inherit from our mothers? Sometimes I wonder what else she passed down to me. How much of me is a reflection of who she was?
When I first heard about Jeanette McCurdy’s memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, I remember thinking of the book as something I could relate to. At the time, my mother was still alive.
Growing up and throughout my adult life, I’ve observed people with close-knit relationships with their mothers, both in media and in real life. People call their mothers every day, just to tell them what happened. They call them for advice because the idea of making any kind of big life decision without their mom’s input is unthinkable. And I can honestly say that I don’t relate to that at all.
My whole life, or at least as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to live abroad. Six years ago, at age 24, I made it happen–I moved from Brazil to the U.S., met my partner, and stayed. I didn’t really consult my parents about any of it. Then, a few Christmases ago, my mother-in-law asked me if I missed being home for family events. Really, she wanted to know if I missed spending that time with my mom. Without hesitating, I told her I didn’t, and she looked shocked. It was just the truth.
Then last year, on my best friend’s birthday, my mother died. She was 51 years old.
The short of it is she committed suicide, but if we’re being accurate, she tried to kill herself, got her stomach pumped, and died a few hours later from a cardiac arrest due to underlying health conditions. Either way, she’s gone.
My mother was a difficult woman. She had mania and depression that made life hard for her and our family. But she was here.
My mom was the most “here” person there ever was; whatever we needed, no matter how hard or expensive or frustrating it was to get, she always found a way. And she never made us feel like that was a burden, even when she often felt that way about herself.
It’s so hard for me to balance the person my mother could be when she was at her best and the person she was most of the time. It’s hard because it makes what should be simple into something impossibly complicated. I should miss my mom. I should love her. And I do. I always will. But, well…I hate her too.
And if I’m being completely honest with myself, I’m relieved she is gone, not because I wanted her to be, but because I no longer have to live with any of that hanging over my head. Our complicated relationship, the guilt of feeling like I was failing it, and the fear that she would ultimately commit suicide, or that it would be my fault.
I remember calling my little brother after getting the news to ask him what happened. But I already knew. They told me she must have miscalculated the dosage. It wasn’t on purpose. So I sat on my bedroom floor, called my husband home from work, and cried until it hurt to blink because I knew the truth—she wanted to die.
So I went home for her funeral and among the many conversations I had during that time, two will stay with me forever. One happened when I went to lunch with my uncle, who is a psychiatrist. I was telling him about how I wasn’t sure I wanted to have biological children of my own. This had been something I’d been debating for a few years, and being there sorting through my mother’s life, had put it at the forefront of my mind.
He told me that bipolar disorder could be triggered by giving birth. He didn’t say that to scare me, just to let me know that he understood and respected where I was coming from. Ultimately, it solidified the choice for me because I empathize with my mom. I know she had a mental illness that she tried to manage to the best of her ability. I know all the hurt and trauma she caused me was not intentional. But I can understand all of that and hurt all the same because intent doesn’t change effect.
The second important conversation I had on that trip was getting asked by my mom’s mother-in-law if I was shocked that it happened. I pondered for a moment and said no. Don’t get me wrong, I was surprised by it. I wasn’t expecting it to happen. But shocked? For as long as I have understood my mother’s condition, some part of me has always known all of this was a possibility. Now, I no longer live my life in fear that the other shoe will drop because it already has.
So, am I glad my mother died? There is no easy answer to that. I love my mother. I always will. But some days, I hate her, too. Because it isn’t fair. And I hate that I hate her because that isn’t fair either. How do you forgive someone for their absence?
Maybe someday I’ll find a way. Until then–I love you, mom. I miss you. I hope you found some peace.
Ahead of Mother’s Day this weekend, we want to know…What is/was your relationship with your mother like? Add your thoughts (anonymously, if preferred!) in Diem.
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