Around Valentine’s Day, a newly-single friend of mine placed a filter on his Gmail, to instantly delete emails that would rub his single status in his face with their effervescent relationshippy messages. He told us about it in the pub and we all had a titter. I don’t think my own personal Gmail filter would raise any laughs.
I’m filtering out Mother’s Day because I don’t have a mother. She killed herself six years ago. I’m not filtering Mother’s Day out because I miss her or because I’m sad. The truth is, my mother was not a very nice person to be around. The truth is, I don’t miss her.
It’s hard telling people your mum’s dead. Usually it happens because they’ll either ask you about your mum, or they’ll say something like “I bet your mum blah blah blah!” and you’re sick of dumbly nodding and smiling, because you feel like this person, in assuming you have a good relationship with your parents, is being a dick. So you say “actually my mother is dead” and now BOOM, well done, champ, you’re the dick. Why’d you have to go and make it awkward in here?
Oh, you’re still going… “she killed herself, actually, after subjecting me and my siblings to literally years of abuse and neglect. She was awful.” So. Yeah. It’s not something I tend to bring up a lot.
So why bring it up now? Because I know I’m not alone. Not everyone has a mum, and even if you do have one, you might have a totally shitty relationship with her. And you’ve filtered the emails out, but you’re still walking past adverts for Mother’s Day cards and gifts, and being bombarded with banners on Amazon and eBay beseeching you to buy Mummy a Downton boxset or a new trug for the garden. And you feel alone.
I have a brother and a sister, who grew up in the same house, the same shitty fucked up house, as me. They saw everything that happened, everything she did. There are things that we saw, experienced, felt, heard, that we have never even articulated to each other and probably never will.
We have a sense of comradeship, that we survived, but some things are too awful to really ever say out loud. I feel like they’re absent from this account because of that, but what am I going to do, call up my baby brother or my baby sister and say “hey, remember when…?” As much as we went through it together, we’re dealing with it alone.
My mother drank herself into a stupor most days after my dad left (he left because she drank, and with no other adults around she was free to get wasted every damn day) when I was 12. I was 15 before I admitted what she really was: an alcoholic. I was 17 before I could tell my friends.
My mother killed herself when I was 19. I was 23 before I realised that her various suicide threats, her spiralling addiction, her cruelty and her eventual death were not my fault. My mother’s funeral was a week after my 20th birthday. I sobbed uncontrollably and some people must have assumed I was sad, that I missed her. I was 26 before I could fully articulate how I really felt about her. Before I could say I am glad she is not in my life any more.
I am not glad that she suffered her whole life with an addiction that would destroy her. I am not glad that she felt such all-encompassing loneliness and desperation that she ended it all. I am not glad that she died. But I am glad that we can live our lives without her shadow - destructive, abusive and malevolent, hanging over us.
If I could have one thing, one good thing come from writing this, I’d hope that people take a second to think, before asking their co-worker or acquaintance or (and this happens a lot) a total stranger what they’re doing for Mother’s Day. You might be going for Sunday dinner with Mum, but a lot of us aren’t.
Becca is on Twitter @becca_dp.