If you asked me about how life would be on the afternoon of April 11, 2012, you would hear words like “hopeless”, “unsure”, “sorrowful” and “anxious” fall lifelessly out of my mouth. I had just said goodbye to my mom after a year long battle with breast cancer, and it truly felt as though my world, and my future, were collapsing around me.
5 years ago it was difficult to look into the future and envision a normal life. I was 31 going on 32, and could not believe that my time with my mom was over; just like that.
For weeks and months my nights would be filled with thoughts of sadness. How she would never get to see all the milestones my brother and I still needed to reach, and how my future children would go without knowing their maternal grandmother. My mind was littered with worry and until I learned to cope with it all, it would turn out to be one of the hardest times of my life.
If you asked me that same question today, 5 years later, you would hear me describe life as “strong”, “brave”, “joyful”, and “resilient.”
The past 5 years have been anything but easy; but that doesn’t mean they’ve been bad. Because of this loss, I have been challenged in ways I could never imagine. Because of this loss, I have been able to discover and cultivate qualities within myself I never dreamed I could possess 5 years ago. I no longer look at my mom’s death as a devastating experience. Instead, I see it as an invigorating one.
My mom’s death has revitalized my own life. Of course, like everyone who has lost a loved one, I’d want nothing more than to have her here again. But I know that death is inevitable and no matter how much I wish I could go back in time and alter her fate, or spend one more moment together, I can’t. None of us can. And when we hold onto those regretful thoughts, yearning for something we cannot change or have, we drain and damage our own spirits.
So instead of wasting my energy and efforts lost in those damaging circular thoughts, or clouding my mind with guilt and “what if’s”, I have learned to transform and transfer those thoughts into ways I can better my life and the life of those around me.
I rest in the peaceful notion that one day we will be together again, helping me move past those thoughts of yearning for “just one more day.”
I improve the lives of others by helping them move through their own grief journeys through this blog and social media.
I give back to those in need by offering my time in ways that will improve their situations.
I live my own life, unapologetically, and authentically, knowing that I am not cheating myself of taking-in every single moment I am given, as joyfully as possible.
To this day I have people asking me questions about my grief journey. And as I approached the 5th anniversary of my mom’s death, I contemplated what I would write here on the blog.
A few days ago I was looking at search terms that lead people here and saw that someone had searched “feeling guilty about being happy after the loss of a parent.”
While I don’t know who this person is, I can only hope that they followed or favorited my blog and that they are now reading this post. Friend, there is happiness after loss and death if we choose to see it and embrace it.
On the night of my mother’s funeral service, I wrote this post. I vividly remember sobbing over my laptop keyboard as I wrote the words “life would never be the same.” But reading that post again today I realize that I was right. Life isn’t the same, and I’m thankful for that.
5 years ago I would have screamed at someone if they had told me that I’d one day be thankful for having gone through this experience. I would have probably called them heartless (and other words I won’t write here) too. But little did I know just how positively this loss would affect my life, and how thankful I’d be to have been chosen to experience it. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. I wouldn’t want to be.
Today my life is richer, stronger, slower and more beautiful than I could have ever envisioned 5 years ago. My mom’s death helped me understand how much of a gift time here on earth is. I miss my mom every single day, but my mind is calm and life is full. I can only guess that my mom would have wanted us to live this way once the emotions of her passing settled. She lived life with a level of excitement and passion that some will never feel. I strive to find and own that excitement and love of life every single day. And I encourage you to do so as well.
I hope after reading this, I have given you hope and helped you to uncover faith that there is a better tomorrow when you decide to find the courage to embrace it.
Missing you today and always, Mom. I know you’re floating among the sea stars.