Nikki Pennington is a gifted writer, and one who doesn’t shy away from sharing her life, raw bits and all, on her blog Grief to Hope. Several of her posts have gone viral over the years, allowing the world to follow along in the process of mourning the loss of her mother seven years ago.
Recently she shared a story that has been hard for me to get out of my mind. We all know how far and deep a mother’s love goes: it knows no bounds. That is one of the reasons losing your mom can feel so devastating. You’re always faced with the loss of that special type of love. Unless, like Nikki, you continue to learn things long after their death that show you just now deep, indeed, a mother’s love is.
Nikki begins by sharing that she’s dealt with anxiety her entire life: ” It’s been there for so long that I don’t really recall a time in my life without it” she says. But for as long as she can remember anxiety, she can also remember her mom, her “person” as she puts it, being there for her to help her cope. “She knew just what to say, how to say it and the right moment to say it to help bring me back to reality. Her words and comfort were always stronger than my anxiety.”
Those of us who are lucky to still have our moms understand exactly what Nikki means. It’s rare to have someone in your corner who completely understands you and can give you what you need in the hardest moments. That’s a mother.
So, when Nikki married her husband, she continued to have anxiety attacks. A few weeks into the marriage, as one was ramping up, she desperately told him she needed to call her mom. Instead, he said to her, “How about you talk to me instead? Just give me a try and see if I can compare?”
It did compare.
Nikki’s calls to her mom when she was dealing with bouts of anxiety became fewer and farther between. “It was as if I was talking to my person,” she says of her anxiety-talks with her new husband.
Her mom never mentioned it. She never seemed hurt or let down by the less frequent phone calls. She did what good parents know how to do as their adult children leave the nest: they allowed another person to take over the important duties of caring for their baby.
The day her mom passed away, Nikki called her husband and said, “My person is gone. The one that knew me and loved me with all my flaws. The one, the only one who could calm my fears, she’s gone.”
Then he told her a story he’d never before mentioned.
On their wedding day, Nikki’s mom handed her husband-to-be a letter that was just meant for the two of them. The letter was titled, “How to be Nikki’s Person”.
Inside the note was a step-by-step guide on what he should do when Nikki’s anxiety began to overwhelm her. The steps were as follows:
Step 1: Just listen
Step 2: Listen a little more
Step 3: Don’t try and solve the problem
Step 4: Tell her you understand
Step 5: Keep listening until she’s sorted it out on her own. She will, she always does. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s had it figured out on her own all along.
Her mom believed in her her entire life. She knew that the key to supporting her was simply listening and giving her the strength to figure things out on her own. She then shared those findings with the person who would be the most significant relationship in Nikki’s life upon her passing: her husband.
Nikki writes, “My Mom gave up being my person not because she wanted to but because she wanted my husband to know how to be when she was no longer here. She gave up being my person so that she could make sure I would always have one, no matter what.”
That is love.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.