I cannot believe that today marks the 10th year of my mother’s passing. I can vividly remember the day we lost her. It was a sunny and crisp day, and we had been with her in the hospital for weeks. She had cancer for the past 8 years, and after every treatment and experimental drug, it was the end. On that day, I felt like I was literally picking up my legs and making one go in front of the other. I wanted to sit in a corner and cry, but it was a busy day filled with arrangements. I bought a black dress and a coat because I hated black at the time and didn’t own one thing for the funeral. Our Italian-Greek family friend brought us a casserole, and I can vividly remember her walking down the stairway to our front door holding the Pyrex with tears in her eyes. I couldn’t get over the fact that we had just arrived home, and here she was with a casserole, waiting to embrace us. My best friend brought her baby over to our house, which brought us joy. People were just there for us and knew what to do. I felt so loved and broken at the same time.
That first year, I believe I was just carried by people’s prayers and God’s love. There was absolutely no other way that I could have survived. I became a bit strict about grieving those first few years. I decided that I was going to actively grieve, so I bought books, went to a counselor at college and did everything I thought I should do. My main goal was to come out “okay.” I didn’t want to be the girl who threw herself into relationships or bad habits. I really believed that the way I grieved that first year would set the tone for how I would deal with hardships over the years to come. This was my time to set up healthy coping mechanisms that would influence me for the rest of my life. I was very introspective at that time-almost more than I am now. I had to be strong, and I was very strict about that but also very kind to myself. I took lots of baths and did things that made me feel peaceful. I wrote in my journal and started making collages. This is also when I started making happy lists and reading uplifting books about self-identity by SARK and Sabrina Ward Harrison. I then traveled to India, which was a part of my own voyage of grief. I did not share my grief with many others, but it was always there. I focused on accomplishing things such as getting into graduate school, living in New York and becoming a professional social worker.
Around 5 years, things took a turn. I was so focused on being strong and capable, that I started to give up the facade. I realized that being strong is letting yourself break down. My grief had a lot less structure after 5 years, and I didn’t think of it so much. I just let myself be.
It wasn’t until I met my husband-to-be that things really changed. I fell in love and all these new emotions started coming up. I put myself in my father’s shoes, and felt a great stab of pain when I tried to imagine how he felt once he lost the love of his life. I shared my grief with my husband when I felt the need to. Around 9 years, while I was planning my own wedding, a huge emptiness settled in. I missed my mom every single day, and every wedding detail reminded me of her. I was blessed to have my god-mother and family by my side, but I was angry that my mother couldn’t join us. I was restless. At the same time, I felt closer to her. My mother was SO loving to my father as he to her. As my love with my husband-to-be grew deeper, I realized that I would sometimes emulate my mother. I felt more connected to who she was as a woman.
And here I am today with a huge lump in my throat. I honestly didn’t think I would write anything this year because I simply didn’t want to. Usually, I like to put a positive twist on things, which I learned from my dad. It’s just what we do and how we cope. But today, I didn’t think I could turn this into a positive because the truth is that today is really hard. I look back at who I was 10 years ago, and I don’t think I would have changed a thing. I’ve realized that when we grieve, we are constantly focused on “our loss” and where we are without that person. It is a selfish process. In my faith, we believe that this life is fleeting and just a speck compared to eternity. When we put loss in perspective this way, it calms me. But each day is a struggle with our emotions and beliefs. In conclusion, I’ve realized that each year and phase of life gives birth to new emotions. Grief really keeps you on your toes and is always changing and so is our faith. I hope to align emotion and faith better.