September 8, 2020 marked the first day of my new life. On that horrific date, Heaven gained the most stunning, generous, selfless, and often opinionated, angel – my mother.
It has been exactly one month since Jan “died.” I put that in quotes not because it isn’t true, but because I’ve been told by multiple professionals who specialize in grief support that people who are mourning a loved one must be intentional with the words we use. She’s not “gone” because that would imply she could be coming back. “Lost” implies she could be found.
Dead. She is dead, and because of that gut-wrenching four letter word, a huge piece of my heart has passed away, too.
While I haven’t quite accepted that my mom is not coming back, I am starting to accept the fact that I am a new person, whether I want to be or not. I’m still Katie, but I’m now forced to operate daily without the guidance of my best friend. Without her unconditional love and support. Without the 10 phone calls and dozens of text messages each day. Without her brutal but much-appreciated honesty regarding all of my decisions, big and small. Without the captain of my own personal cheerleading squad. Without the person who knew just what to say. Without our main source of childcare – that’s a big one and hurts on many levels.
So, how am I doing? The million dollar question… Meh. I’m surviving. One thing I’ve quickly learned in therapy is that we must be honest when it comes to grief, so I’m going to shoot it to ya straight. I’m an emotional roller coaster taking things one day at a time. Several daily ups, but many downs. I’m battling inner demons and coping with my new enemy, anxiety, while also trying to find an upside and live life the way my mother would want me to.
Did you read that last part? I have a major will to continue living my life. I want to continue making my mama proud and I’m choosing to move forward in her honor.
Most days, I do not want to get out of bed, but that’s where Brooklyn comes into the picture. She has been the BIGGEST blessing for our entire family throughout this tragedy. That’s the thing about kids, even when you’re enduring your darkest moments, they force you to smile. You can be questioning why life can be so cruel, then BAM said tiny person lets out the sweetest little toot and you can’t help but laugh. I had my first glimpse of this after our miscarriage six weeks prior to my mom’s accident. Brookie kept me going and continues to do so. She forces me to get up, and I’m so glad she does.
I mentioned how I haven’t quite accepted that my mother is really dead, even though I know deep down it’s true. I think if you’re reading this and you are also grieving the loss of a loved one, you may also be struggling with the WHY.
WHY, God? Why her? Why our family? Whyyyyyyyy? Why did she have to get in the car that day? WHY did this happen. There are also still many aspects of my mom’s wreck that remain unknown, which is incredibly painful when you’re trying to move forward. [She didn’t just “run a red light.” She was sitting at a red light for nearly two minutes, waiting for it to turn green, when all of a sudden she decided to turn left. That’s when she was struck by a dump truck. It literally makes no sense.]
I haven’t shared this publicly yet, but the night before my mom was killed, our family was devastated after learning my great aunt, Carla, had passed away peacefully. Jan and Aunt Carla were very close and it was a tough loss for our entire extended family. Aunt Carla had the most infectious personality and always had everyone hysterically laughing as soon as she walked into a room. We loved her dearly and Sept. 7 (Labor Day) took a tough turn when she left us for Heaven. My mom, dad, and I were all crying over the phone that night and I’ll never forget what my dad said to me. “Only the good die young,” he said. “Just like the Billy Joel song.” Aunt Carla was 74.
No matter how it happens, death isn’t easy. However, never in a million years did I expect for Sept. 8, one day after Aunt Carla had passed away and just six weeks after our miscarriage, to turn into single-handedly the worst day of my life. My very best friend tragically died as she left to run an errand. Having worked in local television for nearly a decade, it’s the type of news I often prayed I would never receive.
I’m not quite sure how it has already been a month. The hours and days following my mom’s accident are a total blur. I barely remember the phone calls, being at the funeral home and selecting things such as her casket, or even giving the eulogy at her service. The one thing I do remember is “Glory, Glory” playing as the funeral ended and she was moved to a hearse. Everything else is a blur.
When you lose someone, you are functioning on little to no sleep while living in a state of shock. You’re forced to make the most horrific decisions of your life while simultaneously clinging to your family for support. Meanwhile, you’re also praying to Jesus that you wake up from the nightmare or that maybe there was a mistake and it wasn’t actually your person who died. [Part of me STILL thinks maybe she went to the Bahamas but I also know she couldn’t be away from Brooklyn this long.]
HOW AM I GOING TO MOVE FORWARD?
I’m a work in progress.
I have good days because I choose to have good days, but they usually take a turn once the sun goes down. Nights are usually worse for me. Moving forward is a choice and I’m taking baby steps because even though life can be so cruel, it’s also incredibly beautiful. I want to share the type of bond with my daughter that I had with my mom – and we still have a lot of living left to do. No, I don’t prefer to live this life without my mother, but this is my only option so I’m working to accept this new reality. Brooklyn deserves to have a happy mommy and to grow up in the type of household I grew up in, so that’s what she’s going to get.
My good friend sent me a new book called Didn’t See That Coming by Rachel Hollis. In the book, Hollis says if you’re struggling to find courage it isn’t because you aren’t brave, but it’s simply that you haven’t identified something more important than your fear.
I’m PETRIFIED of living the next however many years without my mama. I don’t want to do that. I want to continue making memories, but I’m scared of the void I’ll always feel not having her with us. BUT, being present for my daughter and husband outweighs that fear. No one asked for this to happen, and they shouldn’t have to continue life with a half-ass wife and mama. They deserve better than that. They are huge driving forces in my desire to heal and move forward.
My husband has been a saint. Several days after my mom died, he was reaching out to local therapists and taking so many proactive steps to get me the help I needed. He makes decisions when I’m not capable of forming thoughts, he holds me as I cry myself to sleep, and he finds ways to make me feel like I didn’t just experience the worst month of my life. He has been my “for better” as we navigate the “worse.” Again, life isn’t fair but God blessed our family by putting Patrick into our lives.
I’m turning to God and praying my mother is at peace with what’s happened. There is no way in hell she was ready to go, but apparently she wouldn’t want to come back after having experienced Heaven and God, so I’m trying to keep that in mind. I find comfort in knowing I’ll one day see her again, but I still have a lot of questions for God that I need answered. So, I’m on a new spiritual journey as well because I need a higher power to get me through each day.
MY 1-MONTH GRIEF RESOURCES: I figured I would share exactly what I’m using and doing to navigate my grief journey in hopes of it helping someone else.
- Therapy: My husband helped me find a therapist who specializes in grief and trauma – we meet once or twice a week, virtually
- Support group: This week, I started a 12-week religious-based support group through my church, but anyone can find a group. Click here to learn more.
- Letters: I’ve started a journal where I write letters or simply speak to my mom. We used to talk about 10 times a day, and I need to still share my thoughts with her.
- Journaling: I’ve always kept a journal/diary, and I continue to write down my thoughts.
- Letter to Brooklyn: I’m working on writing a letter to Brooklyn about how much her Gammy loved her
- Devotionals: I spend the first 20-30 minutes each day reading various devotionals. The YouVersion Bible app has some free ones and I also read chapters from “Pressing Pause: 100 Quiet Moments for Moms to Meet with Jesus.”
- Currently reading: “Didn’t See That Coming” by Rachel Hollis
- Walking/getting outside: Sunlight tells your body to release hormones that make you feel better and lessen depression and physical activity releases endorphins
- “I’LL TRY”: Instead of committing to something, I say I will “try” to attend – you don’t want to feel guilty if you cancel last minute because you’re just feeling like shit and not wanting to do something.
- Watching “Friends”: Yes, the TV show. I mentioned that I’m more emotional at nighttime, so my husband and I try to laugh before we go to bed by watching “Friends.” Believe it or not, he had never seen the show and wasn’t a fan… until now. It forces me to laugh out loud – AND I’ve had a few signs of Jan since watching. I’ll explain later.
- Talking about the accident: I am not afraid to talk about what happened; however, I know it makes some people uncomfortable. I think it’s helpful to talk through whatever you’re feeling as much as possible, so I’m thankful for my friends and family who have been willing to listen.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Over the last month, someone told me that our parents prepare us for life, but there is no way to prepare for life without our parents.
There is no getting around it… grief is a bitch. There are so many complex layers and stages to grief as well. Shock, denial, confusion, heartbreak, anger, just to name a few. While I choose to move forward for my family, I’m simultaneously heartbroken. Each day, I have to stop myself from trying to call my mom out of habit, such as yesterday when I really felt the lack of her presence after I had a follow-up appointment to my miscarriage. I always called her on the way home from my appointments, with both pregnancies. We just found out the baby would have been a girl and she didn’t make it because of a chromosomal abnormality – and I couldn’t call Jan for support. I needed to tell her this because she would have known exactly what to say to make me feel better in that moment.
I just really miss my mama. Grief is the price you pay for loving someone. I learned last night in my support group that it’s also considered a “celebration of a good gift from God.”
Grief is a clear sign that God brought a blessing into my life, and we grieve because we love.
I feel so blessed to have had almost 32 years experiencing my mother’s love, and will do my best passing down so many wonderful things she taught me over the years.
I love you, Jan. We all miss you.