On April 12th 2017 my heart and soul was ripped from my chest, torn in to tiny pieces and set on fire, at least that’s how it felt. Yet somehow, I was also overcome by an almost destroying sense of relief. This was the day my incredible 53-year-old mum finally passed away after a 3-year battle with cancer. It has been 10 months and I still have absolutely no idea how I feel. My mum was my best friend, she knew me on the deepest level, she created me, and I really don’t know how to do life without her.
Nothing really makes sense anymore. She was my sanity on the crazy days, my smiles on the low days and grounding when I needed it.
Not a day goes by when I am not confronted with an “if only I could talk to my mum” moment. So much has happened in those 10 short (but somehow achingly long) months. I qualified as an elementary school teacher, bought a house, secured my first full time job teaching 4th grade, started to settle into my life here in Florida, bought a new puppy. Even tiny things like not eating meat for a week, or staying sober at a party I want to share with her. I want her advice and I want her to tell me it’s going to be okay when I feel like I can’t do this anymore.
So, my soul is empty and my heart is broken.
Yet, every day I am overcome with such an incredible sense of humility. I have so much to be grateful for! The past 2 years have been so incredibly life changing for me. Florida is totally my dream life and I see it every day in everything I do and everyone I meet and every single thing that touches my senses. I have an incredible niece that will turn 2 on the 1 year anniversary of my mum’s death. My brother, sister-in-law, step-dad, step-sister and 2 nieces are coming to visit in just a few short months.
I feel I’m faced with this daily dichotomy of feeling deep grief yet such gratitude. You’d think gratitude can only improve one’s outlook on life, right? Some days, totally! Looking around at the clear blue sky, vitamin D shining down and the happiest dogs around is enough to pick me up and get me out of the door. Other days, the dark days, days filled with grief where my brain feels like its vibrating in my skull, it only deepens the hurt. While attempting to pave the hole that losing my mother has left in my life, I am faced with such an incredibly amazing life. Each day that this life is not enough for me, that I feel it cannot fill the deep depths of despair this grief has created, I feel fucking awful. Like, do I even deserve such incredible things?
How is it possible to be so fucking grateful and so fucking broken all at once?
To anyone who has lost a close friend or family member to a slow debilitating illness you will know that grief doesn’t start when the person passes. Mine sure didn’t. I last saw my mum in person March 2017 when I took an emergency trip home, not saying it out loud, but knowing it would be the last time we’d be together in this life. Although I cherish each and every second we got to spend together she was merely a glimpse of the person she was before the cancer took over. She was just a drop of the person I loved, that she loved, the person who lit up the room, always made people laugh, and deemed nothing inappropriate. And by the time she passed, a short 6 weeks later she was a shell of who we all knew and loved. The grieving process began for me months before she passed. That was possibly even harder. Physically she was of this earth but her soul and her energy were already elsewhere. I was grieving who she used to be, who she LOVED to be, her best self. Grieving a person that physically still exists is not something I had ever heard of, or something I had ever stopped to think might even exist.
All of this has brought me to today. Through grief and gratitude here I stand trying to figure out, what the fuck is going on? How the fuck do I deal with life? What the fuck is adulting? And when the fuck did I last wash my hair? How many times is it appropriate to say fuck? Who fucking knows, but we’re getting there. One step at a time.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu.