Grief doesn’t come with a manual; there’s no guide on how to deal with the rest of your life following a great loss. You learn as you go, and one thing I’ve learned on this journey as a motherless daughter is that grief never dies. Most days I wake up fine, but every few months I have a day where it hits me like a heavy blow straight to the chest. My heart aches and my mind fills with sweet memories of my mom. Visions of our last moments together dance around in my head and I’m back in that hospital room reliving the worst days of my life. The pain is real.
When grief presents itself and I’m flooded with memories, I often unpack my boxes of photographs to gaze at images that preserve her beautiful smile and her funny faces. Looking through these old pictures helps me heal in those moments when it hurts to even breathe.
When mom passed away and I was first learning how to deal with the overwhelming emotions, I would post on social media about how much I missed her. During that time, though, I rarely shared any pictures of her.
As time went on and I became more comfortable talking about my loss, I began changing my Facebook profile picture to an image of her and me on the anniversary of her death, a subtle nod to the date I’ll never forget.
Then, I started sharing more pictures of her throughout the year. If I found a photo I liked, I uploaded it to Instagram, gave it a nice filter and shared it to Facebook. It made me feel good to share pictures with my family and friends who knew and loved her. That feeling didn’t last long, though.
It infuriates my dad (who thinks everything should go on social media) that I don’t post about my mom much anymore. He sends pictures to me via text message when he’s missing her and they usually include a little note that reads “put that on Facebook”. Most of the time I don’t.
I’ve become selfish with pictures of my mom. There are so many great shots that perfectly capture her personality and I want to cherish those. They are personal and meant only for the eyes of my dad, brother and me, and I feel like once they’re shared on social media they become tainted. I don’t need 80 people commenting on a picture of my mom, telling me how much they miss her. I appreciate all those comments, I really do, because she was so very loved. In sharing the pictures I already have, I’ve learned that I’d prefer to keep some things to myself. Doing so keeps them special.
I’ve also learned, though, that being selfish with photographs and memories of her is OK. She was my mom and if I want to keep things to myself, I have every right to do so.
That’s the problem with living in a social media age. Oversharing has become the norm, but there are some things, in my opinion, that are meant to be kept off Facebook.
What sparked this rant? I was scrolling through my Facebook cover photos this morning when I stopped on a picture of mom and me. It has 90 likes and 24 comments from people sharing how beautiful my mom was, how much I look like her and how much they miss her. All very sweet messages that I am thankful for, but most people fail to see the tiniest details when they look at this particular image. However, these tiny details are the reason I shared this picture a year ago.
When an outsider looks at this photo they see my mom and me smiling. When I look at this picture I see the same thing, but so much more. It was Mother’s Day 2005. I still had braces. We’re sitting on the living room floor at my grandparents’ house, our heads pushed close to each other. Yes, we’re smiling, but I remember being angry with my mom about something I can no longer recall; we fought a lot during this time of my life. On mom’s left hand are her wedding bands, the same rings I wear on my left hand today; the rings that had to be cut off her finger before her first surgery post diagnosis. I still haven’t gotten the band fixed. Her right wrist flashes a gold bracelet that still lives in her jewelry box sitting on top of my dresser. I would wear it but the clasp hasn’t fastened in many years. She picked out and bought me the striped tank top I have on. I loved the way it fit me because it made my boobs look bigger.
In this picture is my mom. Before cancer. Before our lives were changed forever. Her smile beautiful, her hair long and full, her fashion simple and her love for me strong despite the struggle I know we were having that day.
That’s what I see when I look at this image.
Grief is a funny and peculiar thing, and this silly, selfish feeling I have toward sharing pictures of my mom on social media is just the latest in my journey of healing. Who’s to say it’s going to last, though? When mom’s birthday rolls around on Dec. 14, I’ll probably break out a new shot of her for the social media masses to swarm.
I learn something new about myself as a motherless daughter everyday, and the best I can do is to just go with it. Some days are up, some are down, and I never know what day will be which. I trust that those closest to me understand my occasional need to listen to the same sad song on repeat; to be alone with my memories and cry. I feel I’ve earned the right to have a few down days and that’s not something I will ever feel guilty about.