In the past, I have been told to have a cold heart; and honestly, I'm not one bit offended by it. I am very much aware that I tend to keep my feelings to myself and not let just anyone see it. Showing any signs of feelings makes you vulnerable, and I don't like feeling vulnerable. I hate to think how people gets to have power over me that way. Note to self: I need to learn that being vulnerable can also have it's positive sides. It makes me realize that I'm able to feel anything after all. Today, I decided to share with you one of the topics I rarely talk about. Even with the closest of my friends. I don't think I've ever mentioned this in any of my blog posts so here goes..
Four years ago today, I lost someone very dear to me. My mom. Oh no.. I'm getting all emotional already. I haven't even said anything yet! The reason why I never really mention it because I like to keep things very private. Hah, coming from someone who's very out there in the social media world. Losing a beloved at a young age can be so traumatic that it completely changes who you are and how you view the world. I had just turned twenty - barely an adult - with a fourteen-year old younger sister, all now mother-less, forced to continue experiencing life without the one parent we always had. It was a year of gut-wrenching pain and heartache; a year I would never want to experience again. I'm not saying I'm completely okay now, because I'm not and I don't think I will ever be. But through this experience I have gained many hard learned lessons that I will carry with me for a lifetime.
People really do use those cliché phrases.
In these types of situations everyone always says things like "they're in a better place", "they're watching over you", etc., and it sucks. It’s the last things you want to hear. Don’t tell me they’re in a better place, because if they were in a better place they’d be here with me and my family. I don’t want you to tell me they’re watching over me, because it’s not the same as having them in front of me and hearing their voice or laugh. I’ve learned that they say this to show sympathy, and that sympathy is great and all, but the statement carries so much ignorance.
I hate when people complain about their parents to me, because at least they have them.
I cannot emphasize how much this makes my stomach turn and my heart ache. I would give anything to have my mom yelling at me, or asking me to borrow a couple bucks. I would give anything for my mom to give me a hard time again, or want to spend time with me instead of having me go out. When people complain to me about their parents, it makes me mad that they can’t appreciate the love and care that their parents are giving them. They aren’t appreciating the fact that they still have parents and have that bond with them.
Holidays and important life events will never be the same.
The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone, but this experience has changed the meaning of them forever. You forever wonder what things would be like if they were there, and you wish that they were. The holidays now carry a gloom, an emptiness that will never be filled. My mother won’t be able to see me get married, have kids, or celebrate all my accomplishments right now. She wasn't even able to help my younger sister get through high school and now through university - never mind watch her graduate.
It’s okay to not be okay.
I’ve been through my fair share of life obstacles, but I’ve always maintained the mantra that things we’re fine. However, when this earth-shattering experience happened, I couldn’t uphold that feeling anymore. I couldn’t be okay, no matter how hard I tried. I learned to accept that, I learned that it was okay to admit that I was in pain, that I wasn’t okay. I still need to learn how to express this to people, without feeling judged. A lesson that won’t be easy.
Sometimes you need a push.
Despite how hard you are trying to get through this, there are going to be bad days that you can’t get through alone. Sometimes you need a friend to motivate you to study for that exam or go to class. Sometimes you need someone to pull you out of bed, and give you the motivation and strength you need to face the day. And that’s fine, appreciate the people in your life that recognize this and do this for you, no matter how much it drives you crazy at the time.
It makes you choose your words more carefully.
You know now how important last words are, whether your last words to your parents were good or bad, you understand the weight it holds and the importance it has. It makes you more aware of how you speak to your loved ones. It makes you say “I love you” before you say goodbye, no matter how angry you are at them. Because if this is the last time you talk to them, you want to make sure they know. You want them to always know how you feel about them and that you love them. You make sure you tell them all the time how much they mean to you and how much you need or appreciate them. Even when you’re angry you’re aware of how far you can or can’t take your words. That small painful reminder is always in the back of your head about how important words are.
You live life more...
...because you understand how quickly life can disappear. After losing your parent, you sit there and reminisce on all the lost chances and times you could have had with them. You would give anything to have one more road trip, adventure, or even simply a dinner with them. This makes you more apt to agree to doing things with other people because what if you never get another chance. You start to realize how important adventure and time spent with people are. You understand that these are what brings life to your life. You start to seek out anything that will bring meaning to you or that will fill the hole in your chest. You want to experience life for your parent, for everything they are missing out on. You want to make their loss worth it by knowing you gave life everything you had for them.
You learn to let the guilt go.
It takes more time than you would ever thought, and it isn’t one simple task. You have to continuously make the decision to let it go, over and over again. But you do make that decision every time. You learn to let go of the guilt, learn to realize that all the things you could have done differently can’t help you now. You can’t change anything that happened so you learn to accept it, no matter how many times you have to. You learn to move on and learn to live with it: learn to live with the experience of the loss, and live with how things ended. You learn to accept that it wasn’t your fault, you learn to stop hating yourself, no matter how hard that is.
You learn that you are strong.
You would have never expected this to happen to you, never mind that you would have to make it through this. Yet here you are, you did it, and you made it. And after overcoming something like this you realize that nothing will ever stop you, because none of life’s obstacles will ever amount to this tragedy. Once you’ve survived this you realize you can survive literally anything life throws at you.
You appreciate your parent now more than ever.
They say that death distorts the memory. But I disagree. I think the loss erases the bad aspects of a person because you realize that those no longer matter. You begin to realize the parts about yourself that came from them, you realize what values and ideals they taught you, how they’ve shaped who you’ve become and the life you are leading. You let go of the bad memories, because in the end they hold no value. You just remember the real person they were, the love and support they gave you, and the memories you shared. And at the end of the day they were your parent, and no one in the entire world could ever replace them.
It’s been four years since we lost her. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of her or miss her. This experience has changed me to my core, changed how I view myself, how I see life, and how I interact with other people. I will carry the weight of this tragedy around with me for the rest of my life, and the lessons I have gained because of it.
Photography by: Tai Moir