October 16, 2017, marks the two-year anniversary of my mother’s death by suicide. I get married nineteen days later.
While I always silently dreamed of what my wedding would look like, my mom and I never discussed it. Between her suicide attempts, we talked about wedding planning, but not for my wedding—rather, for my brother’s. He married his college sweetheart nearly nine months after Mom died.
I had a glimmer of hope that even planning my wedding would help her find the strength and joy she needed to stay alive just a little bit longer.
Though my mom was in deep pain, I truly thought she would hold out just a little longer for his wedding, and I figured mine wouldn’t come too far after that. After all, my boyfriend and I had been dating for almost five years and talked regularly about our future together. With that in mind, I had a glimmer of hope that even planning my wedding would help her find the strength and joy she needed to stay alive just a little bit longer. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a say in the matter, and frankly, neither did she. The disease was too strong to keep her around for one more day, let alone years.
I was eager to get engaged because I imagined her being there to help me through this next big milestone, as she did for each milestone before.
Let’s just get this out of the way: planning your wedding without a mom sucks. For the first twenty-five years of my life, nearly everything I did she had a hand in. I didn’t pick out my own clothes until I started high school, still begging every so often for her to “lay out an outfit” for me. When I moved to Miami for college, I would regularly get packages of everything from swimsuits to handbags that she would buy on her regular shopping trips with me in mind. While I was job hunting after graduation, I would wake up to postings in my email inbox she thought I would be perfect for (usually in Denver where she lived, of course). I was eager to get engaged because I imagined her being there to help me through this next big milestone, as she did for each milestone before. Every day, it’s like I’m waiting for her to call and tell me about her next big DIY project for the table-seating chart or to offer her (unsolicited) input on what jewelry I should wear. Then I have to remind myself: that call is never coming.
My fiancé proposed seven months after my mom passed in a disgustingly romantic restaurant beneath the streets of Madrid, the city where we fell in love. I knew I needed to get through the first year of my grief journey before I leapt into wedding planning and did just that.
In a way, this past year has felt more isolating than my first year as a member of the “Dead Mom Club.” There’s nothing like walking into a bridal shop and having the salesclerk ask where your mom is, just assuming you have one who should be there with you. Or those close to you not acknowledging the fact that this is probably really tough without a mom around, especially one as present as mine was. Perhaps worst of all has been attending weddings and hearing the bride complain about her mom, not understanding that I would do anything to have mine standing in front of me at the altar.
November 4, 2017, will be one of the best days of my life. I’m going to cry happy tears, and undoubtedly sad ones too. I’ll wear my mom’s picture around my bouquet and her name will be listed on the program. Those symbols aren’t where I’ll feel her though. No, I’ll feel her in the ever-present ache in my chest that gets stronger when I miss her the most.
For other motherless daughters on your wedding day, I understand.