This may very well be one of the hardest and longest blog posts I ever write, but I know there are others out there who are struggling with grief and need to know it’s NORMAL and that healing can come from tears sometimes and that’s OKAY.
I am one of those people who absolutely LOATHES crying around others. It’s something I have struggled with all my life and continue to struggle with to this day. I believe the main cause of this struggle comes from being raised in the south. We learn and are taught from an early age that negative emotions are our burden to keep. That it’s important not to let “them” see you while you’re down. So we tell ourselves “I’m fine” or “I’m okay.” When we are definitely NOT okay! All because it is what’s EXPECTED of us. We bottle all these emotions up and they cause a total break down later on. While we are traveling down the road to Break Down Lane the grief and negative emotions cause a ripple effect in our lives. How do I know what I am talking about? Well, that’s because I was in the driver’s seat or I guess you could say I’m still in the driver’s seat. A little over 4 years ago my entire world was rocked to it’s core.
My Mom lost her very brief battle with Cancer.
While away at college I received a call from my mom which was by no means unusual. I fully expected it to be just like any of the regular conversations we had throughout the week, but I was so wrong. She was clearly upset and holding back information. She insisted that we would talk when I came home because she didn’t want to worry me with all the exams I had going on. I convinced her that I wouldn’t be able to focus knowing that something was wrong and asked her to tell me what was up. She explained to me that her doctor had found something and that it was uterine cancer. Honestly, at first I was like “no way this can’t be true.” Then my next thought was “that it’s going to be okay and she WILL beat this.” Because who expects to lose their mom when they are in their early twenties? I sure didn’t.
In a little over a month’s time my entire family would change in a way nobody ever thought it would.
The downward spiral began when the doctor saw something in her lung by chance while taking a scan of her uterus and decided to refer her to another specialist to have a biopsy. The next day we ended up back at the hospital and she was admitted because of a collapsed lung. Eventually, they scheduled her for a hysterectomy and we went from one hospital to another. They decided during surgery that they could not go through with the procedure and would put her on a chemo schedule and try again at a later date. She was admitted to the hospital for recovery and to start the chemo regimen.
Mom never came home from the hospital again.
I remember hearing the phone ring in the middle of the night and then…all hell broke loose. My brother came bursting into my room and told me to get dressed that something had gone wrong, mom was in the ICU and that we needed to get there as soon as possible. My entire world tilted on it’s axis. I will never forget the looks on their faces when we arrived. My Grandmother was the one who had stayed with mom that night. She had noticed in the middle of the night that mom wasn’t breathing. The unit mom was in hadn’t put her on a heart monitor. So they were completely unaware until my grandmother had gone out into the hall for help. We later found out that she had suffered from a heart attack, what we would later find out was just the first. The doctors told us that they were going to take her for some tests and that they would have more information on her condition later that day.
I didn’t even cry at first. In my head I kept telling myself that I had to be strong for my family. That this was a really terrible situation, but me being upset in front of everyone wasn’t going to help anything. So I internalized and pushed my emotions down to be processed at a later time when I was on my own.
We later received the news that nobody is ever ready for. The doctor informed us that they had done a full body scan and found that mom’s cancer was everywhere. Nobody knew how long she had been like this. The only thing they knew was that it was not an overnight occurrence. This was the first time mom had every received a full body scan. There were so many things wrong with this entire situation that I had a hard time even comprehending it. The health system had failed my mom. She had fallen through the cracks. She was a nurse who worked in this hospital for over 20 years and it’s where she died. How did this happen? Why did this happen?
My heart was broken in so many pieces I had no idea how, where or when to start putting it back together.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was entering the darkest part of my life. I was filled with so much anger, doubt, regret and sadness ALL THE TIME. I doubted everything. I asked myself constantly, how could God take my mom away from us? I continuously misplaced my anger and channeled it in negative ways. I had so much anger towards God, the doctors, nurses and even…my mom.
For a long time I felt anger when I would walk into my church. The grief made me want to push away, to doubt and challenge everything I believed. Before mom died, I was already in a position of doubt, having gone off to college and struggling with my faith on a daily basis while away from my support system. I really was on the verge of losing my faith. It was in those times when I felt COMPLETELY and TOTALLY alone that I would find myself praying. It was a truly confusing for me. How could I be so angry with God for taking my mom, but then constantly turning to him when I was upset and at my weakest? Shouldn’t I not be talking to him? It was then that I thought of all the times my mom was vulnerable, sick and struggling. She NEVER let it shake her faith. If anything it made hers STRONGER. So I decided it was time to stop fighting back. In my faith, I began to find comfort again. Knowing I was NEVER truly alone even when I kept trying to tell myself that I was.
It took me a while to figure out what could possibly come out of my family and I losing mom. I mean when truly terrible things happen you instantly start to try to find a reason why. I’ve learned that not all is revealed right out of the gate, but over time as you learn to let go of the anger and allow yourself to forgive.
I am still becoming aware of the things that have changed in life all around me. My faith in God was reignited and burns brighter than ever before. I am blessed to have developed a much deeper connection with my family and with my spouse. Losing mom while I was in college led me to realize that life was to precious to settle for anything. That you should never stop fighting for happiness. Ultimately, it led me to discover that I was in the wrong major, while I had a passion for meteorology, it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
After she passed I became extremely sensitive to the things people would say about their parents. I would visibly bristle and I didn’t even notice until a friend pointed it out. I am asking ALL of you to check yourself before you say things you might regret one day. Don’t take the loved ones in your life for granted, sure they might get annoying sometimes, but you are better off with them then without them. You never know how long you have with them or how many more adventures you have left together. One of the things that my mom told me over and over all her life was to ALWAYS say “I love you” before you leave one another or hang up the phone. She would say life’s too short not to say “I love you” to the ones you love. Tell them you love them even when you are not happy with them. In the long run they are there for you when nobody else is or understands. You ARE family and family stands together.
Grief isn’t something that just ends or stops there really is no expiration date. Let’s be real it TOTALLY sucks. It’s always there. You feel it when an everyday occurrence reminds you of loved ones lost or when something amazing happens and the first thing you want to do is grab your phone and call them. It’s how you react to the grief that is important. Don’t just bottle up those emotions. It’s okay to NOT be peachy keen & dandy every day of the week. Let it out. Talk about it. Pray about it.
Grace can be found in tragedy, it’s simply a matter of if you decide to look.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?