How TV Moms Are Helping Me Cope With My Mom’s Death

tv moms

My mom would’ve been 62 today. She died on August 24th after living with cancer for over five years. When I started writing this article I thought about making it into an eloquent tribute or ode to what an amazing human she was and all the ways she impacted my life. The more I played around with the idea, the more contrived it felt. While she would have appreciated it (and cried about it – she’d cry at anything, really), I think she’d prefer to know that I’m coping – even if it’s in a way she wouldn’t expect.

She loved watching TV. From age 7-15, I’d spend the first half of every night in her bed watching TV with her. Bear with me as I list multiple series you may have never heard of or seen, as well as shows that she probably should not have let me watch at such a young age: Law & Order: SVU, ER, NYPD Blue, Boston Public, Strong Medicine, The Practice, The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City (TBS version, don’t worry), Grey’s Anatomy, and House. 

She really loved her doctor and cop dramas, didn’t she? These are just some of the shows I remember watching and/or enjoying. I had to look some up to be honest, I couldn’t remember a few from the early 2000s.

As I got older, my brother would make fun of me because, even as a freshman in high school, I would watch TV in my mom’s bed with her every night until I fell asleep. After my dad finally got done in his studio, he would wake me up at 2 or 3 a.m. and I would sleepily walk down the hall to my room.

This ritual started out as me being a little kid who was scared to fall asleep by herself, but it turned into an almost decade long nightly bonding sesh with my mom – one that I am forever grateful for.

While I didn’t watch any of the shows listed below with her, I recently realized the influence television has had on me – both the time with her–and the new found time I’ve spent discovering and enjoying shows after her death.

Here, I will briefly describe the ways these shows and the mothers in them have helped me get through this time in my life, and the myriad of reasons why you should watch them.

Gilmore Girls

tv moms

Whether you’ve seen Gilmore Girls or not, you’ve probably heard of the mother-daughter best friend relationship that is Lorelai and Rory. I grew up watching this show and it continues to be one that I turn to when I can’t think of something to watch or like to have on in the background as a comforting undertone to whatever I may be doing.

Whenever my mom would see me watching it, she’d ask, “Why can’t we have that relationship?” to which I’d respond, “Because you didn’t have me at 16.” She just loved how close they were, and that they shared everything with one another. I wouldn’t volunteer everything going on in my life, but if my mom asked me something, I’d always be honest with her (even when it was embarrassing).

While it seems like the perfect mother-daughter relationship, I don’t think many mothers and daughters have the relationship that Rory and Lorelai had. Like Lorelai told her mother Emily when she asked the same question my mom had, “Rory and I are best friends, mom. We’re best friends first and mother and daughter second. And you and I are mother and daughter always.” All relationships are different, and I’ve learned it’s important–especially with mothers and daughters–not to compare them.

Bottom line: I’m thankful for the relationship we had, even if we weren’t best friends, and I’m glad I have the Gilmore Girls by my side to help make this transition a little easier.

Better Things

tv moms

I knew I’d love Better Things the second I heard about it. First off, Pamela Adlon is not only in it, it’s her show. If you’ve watch Louie or Californication, you know who she is. Pamela Adlon is a badass actor, writer, and director, and above all else, she’s a mom.

Funnily enough, I knew the latter before I knew she was an actor because when I was 17, I was her daughter’s camp counselor. I had never seen anything she was in, but I loved her daughter and wanted to babysit her, so we met. Unfortunately, it never happened, but she was just as awesome as person as you would imagine.

Anyway, she’s a single mother with three daughters and Better Things is a little peek into that world. She is raw and unabashed about her experiences raising three girls alone, and depicts the honest relationships she has with each of her daughters. Not only is she candid about the fact that mothers and daughters fight, she also shares her struggles of trying to work, live, and date at the same time; she’s just trying to figure it out like the rest of us.

Of course, Better Things isn’t completely autobiographical – she’s mentioned that the show is way more intense and exaggerated than her actual life – but it’s intriguing to think about what might be loosely based on real events. I’ve been watching from the very beginning, and let me tell you, Season 2 is a masterpiece. She’s written and directed all of the episodes I’ve seen thus far, and they’re beautiful.

It’s helping me further appreciate just how much of herself my mom gave to me, my brother, my dad, and everyone around her. Side note: Though it’s on FX, many episodes are TV-MA.

Jane the Virgin

tv moms

Okay, let me just be clear: Jane the Virgin is a ridiculous soap opera-novella, but I LOVE IT. I’ve never been into shows with a lot of flare or outlandish stuff (aka their storyline, their narrator, etc.), but with this show, it is really part of its charm. Aside from the insane story that has hopefully never happened to anyone, (I mean, HOW could an OBGYN artificially inseminate the WRONG person?!), it’s really well done.

You kind of forget about the premise after you fall in love with all the characters. Seeing as Jane has lived with her mother, Xo (Andrea Navedo) and grandmother, Alba (Ivonne Coll) her whole life, the three of them are extremely close – even when they don’t want to be. (Like on Gilmore Girls, Jane’s mom had her at 16 too, so their relationship is not unlike Lorelai and Rory’s.) They are always in each other’s business, thus, there are no secrets in the Villanueva family. While they may fight and disagree on certain life choices, they eventually come to support one another.

Given recent events, seeing the mother-daughter relationships play out is a little hard to watch, but I like to think that if I went through the same amount of craziness Jane did, my nana and mom would react similarly to Alba and Xo. I did not initially start watching Jane the Virgin for the familial relationships, but they’re a nice reminder of my own mother.

WARNING: If you don’t want to get hooked on a new show, do not start watching Jane the Virgin. But actually, you should start watching. Season 4 just started, y’all!

I’m Sorry

tv moms

This is the first new show I started watching after my mom’s death, and she would not have liked it. Not for any specific reason except that she just wasn’t into comedies. Like I said, she loved her medical, crime, and political dramas. I fell in love with this show from the first episode. I had heard of Andrea Savage, but hadn’t seen anything she was in other than Step Brothers, and I didn’t even know that until I looked it up. Oh, and Wikipedia also told me she’s a fellow Valley girl (hey-ooo).

In the show, she plays herself: a comedy writer with a young daughter living is Los Angeles, just doing her thing. Her thing being hanging out with her crude writing partner (Jason Mantzoukas), making her daughter’s friends parents uncomfortable with her NSFW jokes, and partaking in a clever repartee with her husband (Tom Everett Scott) about her divorcée fantasy. Just your average comedy sitcom, right?

I think what drew me to this show is how charming she is, even when she’s making jokes to her mom (Kathy Baker) that I am embarrassed just thinking about. If you know me, I’ve never been one to make a sex joke; I didn’t even start cussing until after high school, but this show makes me laugh. A lot.

She crosses a line that I would never dream of, but somehow gets away with it and is a great parent, too. I guess I find it (and her) endearing? The dialogue, the chemistry between characters, everything is perfect. If you love raunchy, clever comedy, watch this show.

WARNING: This show is on TruTV and definitely TV-MA.

Even though my mom would not have watched these shows, they continue to remind me of her.

I imagine my life would be very different if I hadn’t spent all those nights watching television with her. So, thank you, mom, for not kicking me out of your bed every night. And thank you to Lauren Graham, Emily Bishop, Pamela Adlon, Andrea Navedo, Ivonne Coll, Andrea Savage, and Kathy Baker, for being part of the TV mom collective that’s helping me get through.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you and miss you every day.