Grief is something that comes in waves, one second you feel like you are drowning and can't come up for air, but then you do. The next it feels like someone is holding your heart and squeezing it, and other times it feels like peace, acceptance, and understanding. It's a whirlwind and one thing I have learned is that grief is handled in many different ways. There is no right or wrong way, or time period on it and how someone handles their Grief, should not be warranted for judgement of any kind.
Over this past year I lost my Mom, I felt broken but over time things got better….and then we lost a baby. Maybe its because October is Miscarriage and Breast Cancer Awareness month at the same time of year and its just weighing differently, but I have always been the type of person to take my emotions to writing. For some it's an actual journal, for me its hundreds of drafts saved in my notes app on my iPhone. To those of you who know me personally, I have a hard time discussing how I am feeling because I internalize a lot of my emotions. I have to be the strong one, I never want to put my hardships on someone else's shoulders.
Grief has been something I have been good at pushing down over the last year, but with this recent loss I feel like I need to get to the root of my pain and start truly healing. With sharing my experience I hope to help someone going through something similar, or just grieving in general to not feel alone.
For the longest time, I've been thinking my grief started the day my mom passed away, but what I am realizing is it was before that.
My Mom and I weren't extremely close growing up. She suffered with anxiety, depression and a number of health issues but raised 3 children on her own for years until our Step Dad came into our lives. I think back to my childhood and it was a lot of anger over happiness, and that makes me sad now because I can understand why she had to internalize a lot of her pain so she could take care of everyone else. This is a trait I have realized I inherited from her.
I wont get into a ton of details, but during my pregnancy with Lincoln my mom and I had a bad falling out and we didn't speak until after Lincoln was born. We missed so many moments together over things that now looking back, I wish I could change.
In January 2019, I got the call from my Dad that I needed to call my Mom, my heart sunk. 49 years old and diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Nothing else mattered, all of our nonsense, all of our fighting. All I wanted was to take it away, make everything better, and I couldn't. She started immediate chemotherapy and they removed the breast a few weeks later. All her tests came back Cancer free and she was officially in remission, we felt like we had been given a second chance with her. We planned to let her heal from surgery and arranged for her to move back home to be with her family.
She was with us in our home for less than 2 weeks before being admitted to the hospital in May 2019. She remained in the hospital for the next 10 months and talking about this experience means reliving this experience. Tears form in my eyes as I am writing these words, but this is something I feel my heart needs to do.
I remember the day she had her appointment with the oncology specialist like a dream that never stops replaying in my mind. I remember her not wanting to know her diagnoses because her heart couldn't handle the pain and having to talk with the doctor separately. I remember her praying and repeating "I just want to fight" and just wanting to hold onto any chance of hope that she can get through this and survive. I remember him telling me that her Cancer had returned but this time it had spread to her brain, and lungs and was now labeled as “Metastatic” which for that, there is no treatment, no hope, just options to help keep her comfortable. They gave a timeline of 6 months. She passed exactly 6 months later.
I wont get into the details of what I witnessed her go through, but it's the kind of helpless pain I don't wish upon anyone. Thinking back on those 6 months, I think part of the reasons I haven't talked about it a lot is because I feel shame. I was so busy trying to stay strong for her and my brothers and still be a good mother to my little boy that I was almost in a “fog” of denial. I never truly sat with her, held her hand and told her how much I loved her. I was the support person, I was the middle man with doctors, and I never got to be the grieving daughter and spend that time with her being present in the moment.
The day before she passed, I sat with her for 12 hours as she slept, I knew in my heart it was coming, and couldn't bring myself to leave. I told her I would see her in the morning, and that night, while I was sleeping, I had 5 missed phone calls, I woke in a panic and called the palliative care unit to hear the words you can never truly prepare yourself for "I am sorry, your Mother has passed away".
February 6, 2019 was the day that changed my life forever. Part of me felt guilt for not being there with her when it happened, part of me felt a sense of peace knowing she was no longer in horrible pain. But the main thing I felt was broken.
For the first few weeks I was numb, I lost 15 pounds and not in a healthy way. I made the announcement on Social Media and felt judgement, “how could she be so public about this” but finding an outlet, talking with people who have also experienced this pain helped me realize that I could choose to fall apart, shut out all the people I loved, or keep going.
So what happened next was a choice. I could choose to let the grief consume me or choose to let this experience change the way I move forward, to choose laughter, to choose joy, to choose gratitude, to welcome and accept the pain as it comes and spend time with the ones I love the most to pick myself up in those darker moments.
With time, things start to feel easier. Talking about her isn't as painful anymore and I love remembering the moments we had with her and all that she taught me. My mom was always a “loud”, “energetic” personality that truly didn't care what anyone thought of her because that's who she was and she was okay with that, she would always say “ I am just me” and now, I understand it. Instead of being shy about her “take me or leave me” mentality, I welcome it to my life now.
2020 has truly tested my heart. There were times I felt amazing and others It felt like my world was crashing down, Grief comes in waves and sometimes you can't control when it happens.
A few weeks ago, we lost a baby. It is one of those tragic things you would see happening to others but could never imagine happening to yourself. I felt sadness for them, but never truly understood their pain. Now I do. It's not something you can ever truly understand unless you have experienced it, and I pray if you're reading this that you never have to.
This past year has changed me in so many ways, it has given me a different perspective on life. I started really thinking about the life I want to live, the people I allow into my life, the things I give my energy to and the type of person I want to be remembered as, and unfortunately I needed to remove or distance myself from the things or people that were not a positive influence in my life.
Sometimes I feel guilt or the need to explain why I no longer hold space for relationships I have moved on from. We all have those friendships that aren't truly healthy, they bring out toxic traits in yourself that when you look in the mirror you feel lost, but you hold space because of the history you had. The truth is, friendship breakups can be harder than a romantic one.
The quote “ You are who you surround yourself” is something I tell myself repeatedly. I want to radiate kindness, positivity, love, respect, but also give myself grace during the days that aren't as easy and the people you allow into your space will impact that immensely. I am not this ray of sunshine every single day by any means, I allow myself to FEEL the emotions but choose how I react to them. You are in control of how you react, how you make others feel, and the words you say so hold yourself accountable for that.
People will always have an opinion on what you're doing, that's life and they may not understand you, but they can still support you, respect you, accept you. Life is too short to live based on what's acceptable to those around you, do what you love, do what lights you up because your relationship with yourself and others will be stronger for it.
The point is, If you have experienced loss of any kind. It may change you, and it doesn't need to be labelled as a bad thing. I Love the person I am today, I've never felt more alive or aware of who I am than right now and finding something that I love doing has helped immensely and I truly believe that this community has helped me heal in so many ways.
Writing is an outlet for me, and unfortunately it took 9 months for me to feel ready to put my heart and feelings out here for the world to see. But I feel this sense of weight lifted off my shoulders and I hope this helps just one person not feel alone in their Grief.
I wrote this for the person who is going through pain right now, or maybe you have in the past, or maybe you know someone you love dearly who is going through pain and you need a perspective on how you can help them through their experience.
My advice to someone who needs guidance on how to support their friend or loved one who is grieving, just be there. Hold their hand, laugh, cry, talk, distract them, sit in silence if that's what they need. Bring them food even when they tell you they're not hungry, show up even when they say they are okay but you know they're not. A few friends showed up without an invite, I didn't know I needed it until they were there and those moments are truly what helped me get through those dark days. Texting saying “I am here for you” or saying “let me know if you need anything” I promise you will get zero return from someone who is grieving. Asking for help or feeling like a burden is the last thing someone who is grieving wants to do.
I CHOOSE to not waste this life I have been given. To live my life with the glass half full instead of half empty, to see the world for all its beautiful things it gives us everyday over the bad. To be the best Wife, and Mother I am capable of being and to never apologize for being who I am or doing the things that I love and bring me joy.
Thank you for taking the time to read this one, it means the world.