“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”Abraham Lincoln
Death. The one thing that is most certain in life that will never fail to take the ones you love. One by one, you’ll lose everyone, until your own time comes. Being young, most don’t understand that you can be taken at any age. Time and time again, you watch someone die, but you always think, “That can’t happen to me.” Little do you know, it will.
Grief. Most don’t understand that grief will last a life time. So many people assume it’s something you can just “get over” whenever you feel like it, but you can’t. After some time, the grief will lessen, and you will begin to feel normal again. Other days, however, that grief will come crashing in like waves on the sand. There are so many different ways people handle the grief. Some turn to alcohol or drugs, others turn to suicide, and then there’s the ones who choose to use their experience with grief to help others.
I’ll begin with telling you my story. Growing up, my mother was always my hero. She was more than just the “typical” mom. Sure, she came to all of my games, meets and concerts, made sure she was at every parent-teacher conference, bent over backwards to keep me on track with school and life, but she also did so much more. She taught me how to be loving and kind, how to handle almost every situation I would ever be in, but she never taught me how to live without her at such a young age.
The stages of grief are extremely real. You never fully understand what someone is going through until you’re personally put through the same, or a similar situation. Growing up, all through school, I had never personally met anyone who had lost a parent. I mean sure, plenty of people had lost grandparents, relatives, friends, but never the one person who began to nurture you before you were born. Nobody knew how to handle my grief. I did not know how to handle my grief.
The denial stage is just that: denial. I remember when my mom told me the news. I cannot begin to imagine how hard it was for her, a seemingly healthy 42 year old woman, to tell her daughter she had cancer. At 19 years old, freshly living on my own, I had no clue what I was supposed to do, say, or think. When someone tells you something that not only changes their life, but yours, immediate reaction is shock. I was shocked, in total disbelief, that my mother was telling me that this horrible disease was taking over her body. How can someone so young, so full of life, be faced with something so terrible? All I could think was, “This can’t be real.” But it was extremely real, extremely serious, and the denial stage needed to end.
“The loss of a mother can never be replaced, but the love of a mother can never be lost.”Kelly Flannery
After a few weeks of being in denial, the anger set in. I was so angry that my mom was sick and there was nothing I could do about it. When I would see mothers and daughters together, I would get jealous and angry that I was losing that. As humans, we tend to take advantage of things without realizing it. Looking back, I took advantage of all those times I could have spent time with my mom because I, like many others, assumed she would always be here. People would tell me to pray, but I was angry at God for cursing my mother with this sickness. I began to lash out at the people who were trying to help me cope with the fact that I was slowly losing my mother. Being angry all the time is extremely exhausting and hard on a person.
Suddenly, I started being able to control my anger. At this point, I wanted nothing more than to be able to take my mother’s place. I begged God to give her sickness and pain to me. I begged Him to give her peace, take her pain away, and heal her from everything. So many times, I swore that I would be a better person if He would save my mom. Every day, the cancer grew. Every day, the pain got worse. Every day, I begged for her to get better and it never happened. The “bargaining” stage is where you truly begin to understand how much you would give for someone else.
The depression really started to kick in about half way through her 6-month battle. I began to completely withdraw from most things. There were days I would call in sick to work just because I couldn’t handle it. Sleep became my escape from reality. Depression isn’t always your stereotypical “crying all the time.” That being said, there were many tears shed, nights of screaming and begging for things to be different. More often than not though, my days were spent zoning out into the abyss, wondering why life had to be so horrible.
We found out towards the end of July that the cancer was terminal. Around December, I finally began to accept the fact that I was going to lose my mom. Knowing our lives were being flipped upside down was hard to accept, but I began to try to stay positive and hope that she would be able to live for awhile yet. The doctors had said that they were thinking she would live another 6 months or better, which was fantastic news. Little did we know, they were extremely off. We got to spend Christmas together. This was the year that I fully understood that Christmas was not about the presents, but about being with loved ones. I will forever cherish the memories from our last Christmas together, just knowing how happy she was when I walked in the door.
Just as I began to accept the fact that I was going to have to someday live without my mom, things got shaken up again. The feeling in my chest when the word “hospice” was said is still undescribable. I remember driving to the hospice home, in complete denial that we were entering the final stage of her battle. How is it that within a few days, she had gone from talking, joking and laughing, to being at the end of her life? When my dad told me she was in hospice, I remember sitting there in complete shock. My coworkers surrounded me, asking so many questions, wanting to know what was going on, and I couldn’t answer. The stages of grief were starting all over again. Less than a month after Christmas, I watched my mother as she slowly slipped away.
As we gathered around the room and watched as she struggled to breathe, I remember thinking, “This can’t be happening. She’s going to snap out of it. She’s going to come back to me.” I wanted more than anything to see her wake up, breathing normally, and to hear her say “I love you” one more time. As I watched her take her last breath, it didn’t seem real. I stayed in the room with her for a long time after, waiting for the funeral director, and remember thinking, “She’s going to wake back up and breathe again.” But she never did.
My mother’s death impacted my life in so many ways. I see the world in a different light now. I’ve made so many mistakes since she left this world, many that I will hate to ever have to admit. The grieving process during her battle with cancer was nothing compared to the grieving I have experienced since her death. Some days, I don’t even want to get out of bed, while others I can’t wait to go out and make her proud. It’s strange how life works. I have chosen to make the best of my grief, along side others, and share my adventures with others in hopes to make them understand that they’re not alone.