9 Things I Learned In The Year After My Mother Passed
Scars: They are a testament to injury, proof of survival and, at times, as indiscernible as a line etched delicately along the crevice of an eye. Although not all mar the physical appearance, they are all there, emotionally and mentally etched upon the skin like a latticework of fragmented memories and barely-remembered moments.
As badges of both honor and dishonor, scars are forever, branded on the heart, and as time continues, we soldier on, somehow stronger.
It was a Sunday. November 3, 2013 inflicted a wound like none other, reaching inside of me and tearing out what was left of my beating heart. It was the day I shattered to a million pieces without a hope in the world to piece it back together.
It was the day I lost my mother.
I’m not sure how one describes the jumble of emotions, the racket of wailings or the enduring isolation that follows when a mother passes. The very fabric of life seems to buckle and cave in from the sheer burden of it all. Sense no longer works as a blanket of indifference that separates you from the raw emotions and delight of life.
Breathing is an effort. Organs go on strike. And then, life lurches forward with a momentum so strong that it defies physics. Suddenly, I found myself lost and alone, suffocating in a world of white noise.
It didn’t matter if I was in a crowd of people or surrounded by those I had left. I felt a visceral separation and an undercurrent of another seething emotion.
I was angry. That day had taken my biggest supporter and my number-one fan from me, and I wanted to give up. Words fail to exhaustively articulate the painful parting of mother and daughter… or having to write your mother’s eulogy at age 24… or the knowledge that you’ll never hear her voice again.
Or, the desperation of listening to every voicemail you ever saved on repeat, just to capture a last lingering moment with her.
Losing someone so significant, inspirational and influential is an experience no textbook or novel could begin to teach me to comprehend. Now, as a year without her approaches, I count my moments by breaths and no longer by hours or minutes.
As I look back on the breaths I have survived, struggling to cross that bridge of adversity and pain, I have figured out how to survive. Here’s what I’ve learned:
I learned the world won’t stop for you.
There are many days that still leave me defeated, but life isn’t a video game. You can’t pause the moment or rewind time; you are not given an infinite number of lives.
You are given one life, and the world will continue to move on, despite the fact you may feel like your whole world has stopped. The only way to heal is to keep moving.
I learned your troubles will not always be at the forefront of everyone else’s mind.
When you are fighting your own internal battles, it seems surreal when no one else notices the torment raging just below your surface. You may feel as though you are screaming and railing against the bars of life, but still, no one will hear you.
Through this experience, I learned people will move on quicker than you will. Sympathy is fleeting when you are not the one with an injured wing — and that’s okay.
I learned love knows no boundaries.
I used to fear that moving away from those I loved most would hinder my relationships and somehow fade with physical distance. Now, I fear the unrequited stream of communication with the person I love most will cause those precious memories to slip through my fingers, like a wisp of smoke.
But love — unconditional love, at that — knows no boundaries; it will never be lost, regardless of the distance in time and space.
I learned that though people can’t be replaced, you can still find peace.
Justifying death can put you on a journey with a revolving door. It is endless and forever spinning. No amount of begging, crying or yelling could possibly right the wrong you feel.
While it will take a lifetime to recover from the emptiness I feel, I have taken a step down the path of self-preservation to find peace within myself.
I learned there is strength in perception.
You could spend years wondering why the world chose to plague you with misery and misfortune or you can pick up your head and see the heartbreak around you. Someone else may be willing to give everything to have the gifts you overlook in your own life.
When sadness and despair begin to close in around me, I find myself redirecting those thoughts to others who are struggling elsewhere. Reevaluating the negatives in your life with a different perspective can often bring you a step closer toward reconciliation.
I learned to be grateful for what you still have.
The happiest people are those who value what they have rather than focusing on what they lack. How can you appreciate the good without the bad? If you lost something or someone dear to you, take a moment to appreciate everything you still have within reach, regardless of how big or small.
I learned you still have control in your life.
Understanding you have control over your emotions and actions is the first step toward overcoming any obstacle.
You may not be able to change everything that happens to you in life, but you can change how you react and behave in challenging situations and the direction you choose next.
I learned adversity isn’t an excuse to give up.
Motivation. Dreams. Goals. Focusing on forward movement will not only keep you from remaining stuck in the past, but also help to purify your thoughts.
In the end, after you overcome those struggles, you can look back to see the strength in your pain. You can rarely recover what you lost, but you still have everything to gain.
I learned it’s never truly goodbye, only see you later.
I know in my heart my mother will never be gone, even when I’m aging in my rocking chair. As the one person in my life who is irreplaceable, I know she will always be there. So, it is not goodbye, just see you later — until next time.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It