After my dad passed away when I was 14, I was too young to understand the importance of grieving, allowing myself to be sad, and experiencing all the emotions that come from losing a parent. Looking back now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I realize I dealt with his loss much later and not in a healthy way. I rebelled in high school, got drunk with my friends on the weekends, was sexually promiscuous, and lied to my mother about my whereabouts all the time. My sister was concerned about my behavior, but I didn’t see it that way. I lashed out at her and can remember that I actually hated her. I don’t of course now; I love her very much in fact, but then, I didn’t see it that way, that she was just trying to help me. She was just trying to deal with his loss herself. We all were.
I didn’t think I would have to deal with another loss in my youth, because yes, I think I’m still too young to have no parents guide me through life, but it happened. After my mom passed away, I promised myself I would give myself time to grieve and allow myself to feel every emotion that came my way. The loss of losing my mom was, and still is, so significant, I knew I couldn’t ‘hide my feelings,’ and that if I did, it would probably affect me negatively in the long run. Here’s my experience with the 5 stages of grief:
Can this stage come before actual death? I experienced denial as soon as my mother was telling me she had full-blown cancer and there weren’t many treatments available, even those that were available had a low success rate. I didn’t quite comprehend what she was telling me because I remember clearly the question I asked next, “so what does that mean?” “I’m not going to live,” she said. My next thoughts were these ideas I had about taking one more vacation together. We could go to Bermuda, a place my mom loved and would often go to when she lived in New York. When I was 15, she took my sister and me there as a treat and as a much-needed “happy” time after my dad passed away.
How quickly those thoughts evaporated when I saw how fast her health decline during those days after receiving the news. Days, days was all it took. I still have a hard time accepting this as something that happened. I regret not spending more time with her and trying to talk about anything I could think of while I had the chance. I spent time with friends at night, not wanting to be alone, but not really being able to socialize. I remember one night after leaving my moms house, a friend picked me up to hang with a few of our other friends. I was so overwhelmed with sadness I told him I didn’t think I could go inside. He urged me to, saying it was good to be around friends. But once inside and around my friends who were trying to act cheery for me, but they all knew what was happening and I knew they knew. It was like my world had stopped and everything around me was still going at normal speed. I sat on the couch and exploded in tears so I spent that evening crying in my friends room.
After mom passed away, I was in denial about the significance of our loss. In a literal sense, no, I knew how traumatic this loss was and would be in the coming years. I knew that I would feel the affects for a long time, if not my lifetime. But, even though I was in such a sad place, I was also trying to be realistic about things. I cringe when I think about it now. How out of touch with reality I was at the time when I tried to organize an estate sale for some of my moms things, knowing that we had to sell her house and put her belongings in storage. My sister adamantly disagreed and didn’t want my moms life displayed like that, at an estate sale. She was so right. I wouldn’t want that either. So thank you, Meredith for not letting that happen.
I was extremely angry after losing my mom. Angry at everything and anything. My anger mostly came out at work and unfortunately I was the front desk girl. My job was to be friendly and accommodating, but that was far from how I actually wanted to be. I was a miserable person and I hated feeling that way. I didn’t like being so angry and angry at things I usually wouldn’t be angry about. However, I decided to let myself be angry because I thought that the sooner I allowed myself to feel the anger and just let it happen, that it would dissipate. And it did.
For a few months, I was worked up about how the doctors didn’t catch the cancer sooner. They found a tumor at least half a year before when she broke her femur, but after the biopsy came back benign, they didn’t feel it necessary to run any more tests. Maybe a doctor told us this, but usually when they find a tumor on that part of your body, they automatically do a chest X-ray because with that type of cancerous tumor, it could easily spread to the lungs. But since it wasn’t cancerous, they didn’t do the X-ray. And if they did do the X-ray, they would’ve found the cancer all over her chest. But would the doctors have seen anything on her chest when she was in the hospital for the break? I don’t know. The cancer may not have been there at that time. I remember my family and I trying to search for answers after she passed, trying to figure out how a doctor could miss something like that. Who’s fault was it? I think we all realized at some point it just didn’t matter. It wasn’t going to change what had already happened.
Sadly, I think I’m in this stage now. I’m not depressed everyday nor am I so affected that I’m not participating in my usual activities. I get up early, work, exercise, go to the beach, hang out with people, etc., but there’s a certain disconnect I feel. Not all the time, but especially around new people, I have a hard time making small-talk and listening to other people tell stories or just shooting the shit. It comes and goes where I don’t feel like myself. It’s a combination of feeling angry and sad and so removed from my surroundings. I struggle with anxiety almost everyday. I worry about nothing in particular; it’s just a constant worry and I can’t relax. Of course, this varies daily and some days I’m free of anxiety and it those are the good days. I also feel directionless a lot of the time even though I’m doing things to advance my career, like writing for my blog and working as a content writer for a website. This feeling also comes and goes.
I’ve accepted the death of my mother as something that has happened, but I have not come to peace with it. There are no words to explain how much I miss her and the overwhelming pain that comes with that longing for another person who I can’t have back. I haven’t found the words to accurately describe this feeling.