It’s always good to belong somewhere.
You feel important when you’ve memorized the Organizational Bylines, or recited the pledge before meetings. You belong, and if you’ve got the funny hat, that’s great; better if you know the Secret Handshake, too. Everybody loves to belong — but in “The Dead Moms Club” by Kate Spencer, here’s a fellowship you never want to join.
Kate Spencer’s mother is dead.
It happened years ago, after a difficult nine-months-long wrestle with pancreatic cancer, pain, confusion and chemo. Spencer was just 27 years old when her mother died, and it left her with a loss of both anchor and ability to know what's next.
What do you say when new friends ask about your mom, and it’s only been a few weeks since she died? Can you be the “cool girl” who’s awkwardly “chill with having a dead mom?” That, while you cry at the oddest things, bristle at others, and learn what to do about people who mean well but say the absolute worst thing they could ever say to someone whose mom is dead?
When your mom dies, you’ll struggle to tell people what happened — people you barely remember, people from your past that she kept contact with. It’s not easy “delivering Dead Mom News;” in fact, you’ll have to learn to make others feel less sad while you feel miserable, and you’ll have to do it while you still have to brush your teeth and eat meals. You can try to remember that there is no “new normal.”
And here’s the biggest thing you need to know: Life doesn’t stop. People who loved your mother once, still do. You’ll find her “everywhere,” and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ll feel “very, very angry that (you) do not have a mom ... And that feeling will never, ever die.” You will panic when you forget parts of her. You’re allowed to run from your grief once in awhile. You’ll know what to say (and not say) to someone else who’s lost their mom. And you’ll find it “okay to laugh” again.
Is it too soon?
Maybe. In the past few months, a good number of humor books have been released with death as the subject; “The Dead Moms Club” is one of them.
Don’t, however, think that this is an LOL kind of book. While you might chuckle at some of author Kate Spencer’s observations, much of the humor falls flat in an awkward puddle, as if someone publicly drooled jokes onto the floor — perhaps because it tries too hard at deflecting. The grief feels too fresh here for that, and the anger so sharp. You might find yourself smiling one minute and sobbing the next, which isn’t exactly comforting.
What is comforting is Spencer’s advice on coping and forgiving others for their well-meaning bumbling; readers whose moms are still around will also find advice on how to help a friend who’s not so lucky. For that — forgivable clumsy humor aside — “The Dead Moms Club” may belong on your bookshelf.