Media Personality Navigates Grief and Mental Health with Gems from Late Mother
Tammy Reese inherited innumerable gems from her mother while she was alive.
The knowledge. The wisdom. The strength. She poured into her daughter jewels made to last a lifetime until her death in January of 2020.
While she grieves the loss of her biggest cheerleader as Mother’s Day approaches, Reese remains grateful for what her mom equipped her with while she was still here.
Grief is a forever journey. You may not cry every day. You may not be sad or angry every day.Tammy Reese on grieving late mom ahead of Mother’s Day
Donna Reese prepared her daughter for journeys she never knew she’d face.
“That’s all we can do for our children. That’s a parent’s job to make sure our kids can stand on their own two feet,” said Tammy Reese, an entertainment maven who is balancing motherhood, a demanding career, grief and mental health. “(My mother) showed me the importance of family. She always said, ‘There’s nothing you can’t get through without family.’ And that keeps me going. I have one brother, one sister. I have a fiancé, and I have a son. And I have my tribe.
“That’s how I keep going.”
Reese has a unique story of resilience and success, inspired by her own trailblazing mother. Donna raised three children on the southside of Syracuse, New York, while Reese’s father was in the Army.
When Reese graduated from Empire State College with a media degree, she learned she was pregnant with her now 13-year-old son Joshaun.
Reese, who was 23 at the time and ready to dive headfirst into an entertainment career, didn’t let motherhood stand in the way of her dreams. She believes being a mother is a blessing.
She faced challenges as her son grew; he developed a learning disorder, ADHD and a speech impediment that he manages to this day with therapy.
She got him through to a technology-centered high school all while covering highly anticipated film festivals and premieres, interviewing notable names in entertainment and empowering others through her work.
The balancing act of an exciting career and the demands of motherhood is something Reese was exposed to growing up.
Her mother Donna was the first woman president of Syracuse’s NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). She was a community leader and Civil Rights activist, whose work continued after she went blind. Donna was diagnosed with glaucoma in her 40s, permanently losing her sight; Donna passed away when she was 58.
It wasn’t until she made the sacrifice of time with her own career did Tammy Reese understand why her mother had to travel for the cause.
While it’s at times difficult to determine when to choose work and when to choose family, Joshaun now understands his mother’s choices and is proud of her.
Reese said the new teen will spam her YouTube comments with encouragement and has even been inspired to pursue digital content creation.
“He’s seeing that I’m doing it and knows that it’s possible,” said Reese, who works independently as an entertainment reporter. “I love that he’s inspired by what I do, and if he ends up changing his mind, then that’s all right.”
She understands that support is what’s most important, another lasting life lesson she picked up from her mother.
Mother and Daughter Mental Wellness
Donna Reese also worked in the mental health field, so she understood the signs and encouraged Reese to get evaluated when she began exhibiting depression and anxiety symptoms.
They were diagnosed together and kept the other balanced.
“I brushed it off until I couldn’t brush it off anymore,” Tammy Reese said of her mental health journey. “People try to hide it because perception is real and people have a reputation. People may think you’re crazy because they’re so many stigmas tied to mental health, and, no, I’m very accomplished. I just have these diagnoses.
“That did not break me.”
Because of the unique challenges Black women face at the intersections of career and motherhood, Reese believes there’s healing in being vocal about the things that may tear us down.
Reese doesn’t hide from her diagnoses. She taps into the strength gifted by her mother, especially as Mother’s Day approaches.
She honors Donna by counting her blessings and fostering community – especially among women who have lost their mothers, be it this Sunday or any other day of the year.
“We’re all just trying to live this life one day at a time,” Reese said. “My empathy in me, in the spirit of my mother, is just to build community and check in with other motherless daughters around this time.”