My Mom died before my wedding. Three years AFTER I met The One and two years BEFORE we decided to finally make it “official”. I would like to clarify one thing at the start; Mom and I were NOT best friends. In fact, I avoided her phone calls for the greater part of my late adolescent/early adulthood (20s-30s) life. She even had her very own skin crawling ring tone (“Rock Lobster” by the B-52s) so that I didn’t have to make the effort to cross the living room to check the caller ID. Don’t get me wrong, I love (ed?) her bigger than the expanding universe, I just couldn’t bear to talk with her…she was a never ending fountain of questions bigger than the Bellagio. “How’s Justin? How are you? How are the cats? How is work? How is the weather?” How ‘bout we take a break with the interrogation! Now, with her gone, I would give up 20 years of my OWN life just to hear that ring…but that isn’t what this post is about. It is about how I am managing to plan a wedding, MY wedding, without her…the all-star cheerleader of my life.
I came to call it the “Missing Mother Malady.” A sickening cycle of excitement and joy followed (approximately 8 hours later) by overwhelming grief and anger that permeated every step in the planning process from the easy days (what’s my color palet) to the hard choices (how do you honor your dead mother in your ceremony). If you have had a profound loss in life, you are too familiar with this cycle; if not, I can explain further.
Take for example my first encounter with MMM, the regional Bridal Showcase. Sure it is the quintessential gathering of the WIC, but who among us has not gone for the free cake samples and ridiculously choreographed runway show? I was so geared to go to mine. I bought the tickets early and made up little peel and stick name and address labels to enter all the free drawings. It was the first big event of the planning adventure ahead; my maid of honor and I were giddy like the first day of school about what we would encounter. We spent the afternoon oogling multi-tier cakes and free range organic farm caters knowing full well we would steal their ideas to share with a caterer we could afford. It wasn’t until I was home, detailing our adventure to my groom-to-be, that I felt the anger building. All of a sudden I was criticizing everything. From the string quartet that played the same song all day to the “Romance Party” sales girl (who somehow convince me to book a dildo party, how, I’ll never know). True venom was coming out of my mouth (but just moments ago everything was so silly and cute, what happened?). It wasn’t until I started sobbing about how none of the sample gowns could have possibly fit me that I realized…I needed my mom! Mom would have had just the right thing to say when I saw how my cute size 6 maid of honor fit perfectly into the gorgeous sage wedding dress that wasn’t made in my size. Mom would have known just how to sooth the anxiety I was feeling over finally realizing what an enormous task I had just assigned to myself. And above that…Mom would have been MORE excited than even Justin and I were about what we were doing.
It hit again throughout the planning events, even during the small chats with office mates about the event status. I was plagued by MMM so drastically that I actually STOPPED planning the event completely about halfway in. I pleasantly diverted questions and never brought up the subject even with the Maids who were floundering for information about what my expectations were for the bridal shower and bachelorette party. I just couldn’t handle the emotional roller-coaster of loving the feeling of being a bride only to be followed by the sheer devastating disappointment that mom wouldn’t be there to play silly games and make a teary eyed toast. It was like losing her all over again; only again, and again, and again, and again.
Months later I picked up the planning book again, determined to find the joy. And I have successfully coordinated the project team of “team wed” well enough to get to our big day mostly intact. But that hasn’t stopped me from sometimes wandering around going “something is missing…oh right…”
How have I overcome my “Missing Mother Malady” you ask? I haven’t. Never will. I will have MMM for the rest of my life. It is a chronic disease. I am 100% sure it will flare up again once Justin and I decide to buy a house, when we’re pregnant for the first (second and third) time, at every birthday moving forward, forever. But here are a few things I have learned along the way…
1. Your bridemaids are not your mother. For better or worse they more than likely have conflicted feelings about your big day ranging from excitement to frustration, from “I will totally be there” to “When did my weekend become all about you?” The sooner I fully embraced that the one person on my little bit of the earth who would have dropped everything for months on end just to hit every garage sale this side of the Mississippi looking for shabby-chic modern décor was gone, the sooner I was able to stop being so focused on what my lovely Maids weren’t doing and instead focus on how their totally unique personalities and talents were adding to the overall experience.
2. Your groom is not your mother. And thank god, right! Ever supportive and uplifting mine still lacks the ability to know with the accuracy only a mother can have when “nothing” and “fine” don’t really mean “nothing” and “fine”. So when I finally gave up hoping he would get it, and finally started saying simply “I miss my mom” every time I felt it, the sooner we got on the same page about how complex and difficult a daughter-sans-mother existence can be.
3. Your father is not your mother. Gone are the days when I could rely on mom’s “just because” gifts of money to help pay for those totally unnecessary designer shoes and hello to the days of dad not understanding what the big deal is if he wants to wear black jeans instead of suit pants. All I can say is… you’re right, they ARE black…
4. When in crisis, hire help! “Hire” can be a relative term for you…maybe your support system has plenty of candidates who can be “mother-by-proxy” who you can sit down with and really explain what you need during this time (for me it was unconditional positive affirmations constantly and boundless energy and desire to make this the best party ever). I hired a wedding coordinator who actually almost ended up paying for herself in all the dollars and sense (get it… sense…) she saved us with other vendors. But more than that, she brought with her an air of confidence and assuredness that only those who have “been there” know, kinda like your mom.