A Woman that isn’t My Mother

July 19, 2022

He tried to prepare us for this moment but truthfully there is nothing that can prepare you for this kind of ‘meet and greet’. She walks in with a shy smile. The only things I know about her are the things he’s shared— the highlights, her best qualities, the things that caught his attention. 

She might be really great. She might be a wonderful person. None of that matters because she isn’t my mother.

Before ever meeting her, she is already placed at a distance in my head and most-certainly in my heart. I analyze everything she says and everything she does. I look at her so closely it’s as if I am holding a magnifying glass over each part of her. I’m looking for qualities that will confirm my feelings and my emotions. I’m looking for flaws and red flags. I don’t like her even though I’ve just met her. The truth is, I didn’t like her from the very second my father mentioned her name and her position in his life. 

For me, my mother’s death left an empty space that no one can fill.

For my father, my mother’s death left an empty space that he couldn’t bear remain unoccupied.

So he filled it, with her, this woman who has just walked in like an unpredicted storm, undoing the minimal healing I’ve been able to accomplish. I haven’t even fully caught my breath yet since losing my mother and now somehow I’m supposed to welcome an unknown woman into this present life– a life that I haven’t even fully accepted or acknowledged. 

I am not ready to add anyone to this family and I’m devastated that he is. 

I haven’t come to terms with the fact that our family is now minus one, which in reality is minus THE one. The one who loved us the best and boldest. The one who took care of us better than we deserved. The one who spent her life ensuring ours were great and set up for success and happiness. The one who started it all, our mother–the greatest woman we’ve ever known. 

The kind that’s irreplaceable.  

The only woman that should be by his side. 

The only woman that should have his attention and his love. 

The only woman he should be thinking about even though she left sooner than he did.

The only woman, forever– my mother. 

How can you welcome someone into a space that you’re trying desperately to save, even if that means it remains empty? How can you accept someone standing in the same place your mother stood, especially by his side walking hand-in-hand? How can you comprehend someone making your father laugh again when you’re not sure you ever will or smile when all you can do is cry? How do you accept him moving on when you can’t even move forward?

I stand here without answers and with added heartbreak and confusion. I stand here conflicted by grief and love and what all of this means. I want my father to be happy just as much as I want my mother back. 

How can I support his search for happiness if when he finds it I resent him and the answer to those wishes? 

How can I get to acceptance for his journey when I can’t accept the forever absence that now clouds every new day and experience?

How does a daughter comprehend someone new– someone who isn’t my mom?

I don’t have those answers. 

I’m not sure. So I smile and be the kind and respectful woman that my mother raised and I pray that my heart will find the answers and the acceptance one day….for a woman that isn’t my mother. 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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