My mother passed a few months ago (#fuckcancer). And I’ll be honest…every day is just as difficult as the one before. Grief is a weird process that I’ve become very familiar with in recent years and to different degrees. It seems to be a whirlwind of every emotion known to man. Isn’t it weird feeling at peace that your loved one is no longer suffering but getting sad at 6 p.m. everyday because that’s when you used to check in? Or what about that awkward happiness you feel when you hear a song you both loved, and now you have to enjoy the song with that ball of tears in your throat? Maybe you just feel regret about something mean you said 8 years ago. Whatever the feelings are, it’s a constant roller-coaster.
Since this will be a long-term process, my goal is to make grieving my mother as positive as possible (if that’s even a thing). I’m trying my best to spend less time wishing things had been different and spend more time celebrating what I gained from her as a mother & best friend. I learned so much from her, and most of it was just from watching her be herself.
What I learned from her Life….
Live a life you don’t regret
While sorting through her things, I came across a tax form for my mother’s IT business. After years of going back and forth, she was finally ready to take a risk on herself and her talents. It broke my heart (even more) because, growing up my mother was very vocal about the regret she felt toward some of the decisions/opportunities she had (and hadn’t) made/taken in the past. Consequently, I developed a fear of regret and wasting time so my naturally impulsive tendencies kick in regularly. But she was also a worrier, which gave me a crippling fear of taking risk. I became perpetually anxious about making the wrong decisions or “ruining my life”. Because I learned to balance those behaviors, things worked out for the best. Ultimately, I learned discernment and the importance of being deliberate in whatever moves I make.
Any time I was doing something that would be good for my development but might’ve been risky, mom applauded me for working through my doubts and reassured me that it’s right to trust my instincts (even if it scared her). She taught me to just go for it, even if it scared me. She taught me that I’ll never regret betting on myself, and when I am afraid, I should focus more and work harder toward what I want. There’s no time for unnecessary fear if I’m busy executing.
Be exactly who you are
Me and my mom rarely saw eye-to-eye about pretty much anything. Even so, she always gave me space to be myself. She embraced my quirks and never tried to put me in a box or mold me into something I wasn’t. I honestly can’t thank her more than I already have.
I didn’t realize until I entered the real world how crucial it is to allow a young, black female to feel like it’s OK to be herself no matter how “different” she is. She instilled a level of self-assurance in me that solidified my character in a world that would do everything to dampen my light. When situations arose that would test my character or force me stand up, I did the right thing and stayed true to myself. She taught me to be who I am and become exactly who I want to be. #UnconditionalLoveMatters.
Think for yourself
I grew up the last/only child after my parents divorced when I was a toddler. By the time it was time to raise me, my mom was exhausted. So, every time I had an inquisitive moment…like a normal child… her response would be “don’t ask me…go find out!” or “figure it out!,” and she’d shoo me to the encyclopedias. Yes…encyclopedias…I’m an old millennial who experienced life before internet and Wikipedia. It annoyed me at the time, but it taught me to look for my own answers and gave me insane intuition. Shout out to her for making sure I developed critical thinking skills.
Show up for the people you love
My mom was my ride or die. Any time I needed her and I mean anytime..she literally drove through a blizzard with me..she would be there to save the day. I can say that I witnessed her do that for a lot of people. No excuses. She carried so much disappointment and hurt, but that never stopped her from spreading love and light and helping people in need. I’m lucky if I’ve inherited even half of my mother’s altruistic heart.
What I learned from her Death…
Value health as much as outer beauty
My mom was one the most beautiful people I knew. She was the epitome of the idea that black women can (and have to be able to) do it all: be pretty, work 2 jobs to pay the bills, cook, clean, raise children, take care of family, go to church, and get a Master’s degree all while smiling through depression. She was every woman …but she rarely had time to invest and take care of her own health. Valuing mental health and physical health is more important than any other investment you’ll ever make…it’s priceless. Health is all we have. Always set aside time to take care of yourself whether it’s diet and exercise, counseling, massages, or whatever. Just take care of yourself.
You can’t control everything
This was the hardest lesson for me to learn. At times, it’s difficult for me to go with the flow and accept things as they are. My personality is very action and solution driven. If I think it can be fixed, I take ownership and try to fix it. But what happens if I can’t fix it? It’s best not to stress over things you can’t control. You have to let go, control the controllable, and make the most of the situation.
In the end…
Grief isn’t easy. It takes a while to get used to a new “normal”, and I’m grateful for a strong support system. My aunt said something that gave me comfort, “you don’t get over it, but you get through it”. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost someone. If you have and feel comfortable discussing, how are you coping with the loss and what are you doing to process the emotions? Tell me what you do to stay positive during difficult times?