Today marks the eighth year anniversary of my mother’s death.
I was told to try something new this year to celebrate. To celebrate her death. This thought was completely horrific to me. I sat in the book store for hours searching and searching for answers any answer to help me cope.
If I could have written a letter about death, eight years ago to my future 24-year-old self it might go something like this:
It’s me Lauren.
Yes, you’ve had this dream before—you are psychic remember? Find a sturdy wall to hold onto and keep your head up. You have a mission, you have a purpose and you are going to change the world one day. Try not to be too hard on yourself or those around you—we can all be critical. Something is about to happen that is going to pull your head out of the clouds and throw you into a war zone–never stop fighting.
1. Everyone processes grief differently.
There are five stages of grief:
As you move through these five stages a lot will happen. Everyone processes loosing a loved one differently. While one person may suddenly start living life to the fullest another might become more cautious. While someone might cry for a long time everyday another might act as though nothing ever happened.
We all process grief differently.
You, my dear, while processing the death of mother became more cautious and cried a lot. You wanted everyone to remember her and every moment to be touched with some memory of her. You moved through the first three stages of grief pretty quickly because by the time mother’s cancer was properly diagnosed and her care started to be given, it had progressed to quickly and she passed away two-and-a-half months later. Remember that you are allowed to process it however you need to. That everyone copes differently and that’s okay.
2. Take your time.
There is no time limit to “getting over a death.” After mom passes away, you will loose two additional, important people in your life. When you lose a loved one it feels like having your heart ripped out of your chest and feeling the pain of it being stepped on repeatedly. Feeling desperate for one more word, touch, hug, scream, fight, phone call or sight can be overwhelming. Some days it will be hard to get out of bed. Some days felt you will feel like suffocating.
Most days, you will continuously feel like you’re treading water. It’s exhausting. Take your time and process it. Find a group or a person to talk to who will sit and listen. Write in a journal. If you don’t feel like getting out of bed, don’t feel pressured too. You never get over a death. You find a way to live with the pain. Hopefully you find a way to not let it overcome you. Luckily, you will be blessed with a niece. She reminds you of miracles, of new life.
3. One day you will feel good, great, grand and other’s you won’t .
Grief is a sneaky bastard. One day you will wake up and feel like you can conquer the world. You will be going about your day and a song will come on. All of the sudden you might be crying and you have no idea why. This happens to you a lot. You will always have days that mean more to you, that have a special meaning. Take those days, find something beautiful in them and try to honor that memory as you see fit.
4. Unless a someone has lost a loved one, they will not understand how you feel.
That’s okay. You don’t want them to know.
People who have not experienced the loss of a parent or child won’t be able to completely grasp the depth of the pain. You have not lost a child, you do not know how a grieving parent feels but you will be able to relate to a young woman in her 20s whose had to watch her mother die. For you, this caused a lot of issues. Those who haven’t experienced the death of a loved one will forget about your pain. They won’t understand your moods, your feelings, your ups and downs, your needs to escape in hours of television. They don’t have to understand and that’s okay. One day everyone may go through this sort of pain. Don’t wish it on anyone. Consider them blessed because they have not felt it yet.
5. Have compassion for those trying to help you through your grief.
Your friends and your family sometimes just won’t know what to do with you. People will forget. They will forget the anniversary, the birthday, the Christmas tradition—it doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to you. The ones closest to you might say brutally honest and downright hurtful things to you. It will feel like a slap in the face every single time. A few years ago, I might have told you to cut these people out or have told another person to run as far and fast as they could from someone like this in their life.
Instead, try to have compassion for them. Remember they don’t understand. They don’t want to see you sad and they don’t know what to say or how to act because you might be a little crazy during this time. Forgive them. They love you and just want the best for you. Remember you will lose friends. Let them go—they weren’t meant to be long term anyway.
6. Speaking of crazy.
You will be crazy. Sleepless nights, crying yourself to sleep, being reclusive, wanting to go out and party, starting fights, being combative and rude, critical, crying in the middle of the street, screaming hysterically in the middle of a crowded street in front of hundreds of staring people, forgetting things, feeling sick and tired, letting people treat you like crap, accepting behavior you know is wrong, doing things you know you don’t feel comfortable with. You will be crazy. Forgive yourself for not being 100%. You weren’t born to fit into a perfect box, you were meant to change the world and this is part of your journey in it.
7. Everything in your life will change. Everything.
One day you will be a carefree 23-year-old girl, making her way through college, changing her major, starting to think about settling down and getting married. Then the next day, your life will consist of going to class, going to the hospital, going to work, going to the hospital, back to class and back to the hospital, planning a funeral, picking a headstone and trying to find any piece of solid ground you can stand on. Your life will be changed forever. In both good and bad ways. You will spend your next eight years figuring out your career, your passion and what you want to do. You will become really sick. First with a dead gal bladder, second, Transient Ischemic Attack, yearly checks for cancer, countless doctor appointments later. It’ll be pretty dramatic. You will come out on top. You do not have a shelf life of 44-years-old, stop being a hypochondriac.
8. You are your mothers daughter but you are not your mother.
In a blink of the eye, you will inherit the responsibilities of mom. You have three brothers to be a strong motherly role model too—be strict and be a good role model.Try, try, try to be gentle. You two are fire and oil—you will fight—you will fight hard. You inherit everything mom had to do. If you had a penny for every time you get called Therese in the past eight years you wouldn’t have any college loans to pay off. It will take you a long time to realize this but You are not your mother, no one wants you to be your mother and your role was not to take her place or even take over what she was doing. Your role is to take the gifts she gave to you and continue on with them; to share her word, her work, or art but to also leave your own mark in the sand.
9. You will fall in and out of love a lot over the next eight years.
Your heart is a wild one but an intuitive one. You fall in love quickly and madly and hard. You will have disappointments. Let those dudes go. Not a single one of them deserve you. Trust me. But you will fall in love too, a different type of love. With all these little babies. You will have a classroom. You will receive 23 babies and fall in love with each and every one of them. You will want to protect them, care for them and guide them. You will and you will do it well. You will learn you can fill all those little holes of pain in your heart with the love you feel for them.
You are capable of so much love. One little love in particular will teach you another great lesson. Parker. Wait for her. This one will hurt. It will hurt bad. You thought watching a 44-year-old woman suffer hurt. Just wait. You will have thought you were able to push down your feelings so you never had to feel the pain of your mom again but life doesn’t work that way. Do your good things, hug on her, love on her, watch her. She is an angel put on this Earth. She will heal your heart.
10. Keep your faith. God does exist.
You will see your fair share of tragedies in your life. You will live through them. You will learn from them. You will also see your fair share of miracles. Remember to see the roses when they aren’t supposed to bloom. God does exist. You won’t be in church every Sunday, your family will not be too happy about this but your relationship with God is no ones business but your own. Keep your faith and your head up.
11. Sometimes it takes a well trained doctor to help you realize, letting someone go doesn’t mean you stop loving them.
You will live in moms shadow for a long time. Eight years ago today precisely, when most nights I fall asleep right when my head hits the pillow, today I can’t seem to sleep. I have felt for so long that I had to fight for her memory, fight for her life and stand up for her convictions for her children and for her word. Your family can tell you its okay to move on, your friends will beg you to “Just be happy.” Fake it till you make it right?!
You won’t hear them. They didn’t know. It will take an unbiased, highly trained, not so inexpensive doctor to tell you that letting someone go doesn’t mean you stop loving them, that mother gave you life. Basically if she were sitting next to you she would be shaking you and telling you to start doing more of what you love and to let it go. Which is ironic because my mother would tell me to let it go all the time.
She said it every day she was here. It’s time to step out of the shadows.
Don’t be afraid, you are not alone. You will feel alone often. You will feel judged, pushed, tethered, hated, misunderstood. You will cry a lot. You will endure a lot. You will also do great things, help people in ways you don’t know you were capable of and laugh more than you ever have. Its time to march to our own parade. She may not be here, but she is guiding you that is for sure.
Don’t forget to find those miracles.
Author: Lauren Bolar
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock