October 25, 2022, my mother passed away.
Today marks a year since that phone call from my dad. I can remember exactly what I was doing and where I was.
I can remember driving so fast I could barely breathe, think, and function. Somehow I started singing music from The Judds. I also remember thinking, “Please don’t let her go just yet, God.”
There’s a myth that the one-year anniversary marks the end of a mourning period. After a year has passed, many people mistakenly think that a grieving person should be over the loss and be able to move on with their life. In reality, nothing magical happens at the end of year one. You don’t go to bed on day 366 feeling healed or graduated from grief.
In your year of firsts, some people may treat your loss as ancient history–a year ago my life, and that of many others in my family changed drastically. Ignore the messages of “get over it,” and don’t let anyone rush you. Share your grief, share the memories, and by all means, try to laugh at some of the funny memories you have.
The first anniversary. It’s common to be anxious. I realized a couple of weeks ago my body was trying to tell me to slow down and prepare, but like most, I ignored those signs–sleepless nights, trouble remembering things in everyday life, and feeling anxious. I found the box of sympathy cards and read through them. I cried and laughed at the memories.
A few weeks ago my dad was over for dinner. As he was leaving he made a comment. He recalled how many days it had been since my mom passed. Those numbers, and this date today are incredibly significant. He’s done something amazing in the midst of all this grief and sorrow–he’s survived an entire year without someone who was just as important to him as life itself.
The first holidays. Those are tough–especially when your loved one enjoyed the celebration, the food, and the company. The first Thanksgiving was so hard. So many emotions were strong for a lot of us and the house was quiet. My dad was quiet (more than usual). There was hurt.
Christmas. That was a blur. The first of many, and mom’s favorite time of year, I could hardly get through Christmas music or a Christmas movie.
Birthdays, anniversaries, weekend road trips. Those have all changed in the year of firsts—no phone calls from mom, no cards or treats, no surprise visits.
A lot has changed in a year. Our family has transitioned to going through life without mothers and grandmothers. We’ve had job changes, and we’ve navigated the tough times and the dark times with each other.
Healing from the loss of a loved one is a long, tough journey with ups and downs, twists and turns, and unknown territory. “Though you may not be afraid of walking in the darkness, you will feel like a stranger in this land…and the edges of the night may cause you sorrow, you know I may not be around this time tomorrow, but I’ll always be with you.”
If you are in your season of firsts, I see you. I know that hurt, I know what it means when you feel lost and without love–“May you fight to kill that deafening sound.”
If you are past your year of firsts, and you are working toward a rebuilding process, you are adjusting to a new way of life, a very different life than the one you had before the loss. Rebuilding doesn’t mean you go back to the way everything was before the loss–certainly, we’ve experienced grief in various ways, but I don’t think you change and forget, you are simply adjusting to a different way because significant people in your life are gone. You miss them, they cannot be replaced.
The year of firsts has shown us strength and resilience. The year of firsts has also shown us love, so much love. An Irish headstone reads, “Death leaves a heartache that no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” I believe that. There are so many ways to have a continuing bond with your loved one. I often giggle at the memory of my mom or laugh at the funny phrases she said. Pictures are a good reminder of the fun and laughter we shared, and sometimes pictures are a reminder of the time that moved way too fast and passed us by.
Here is what I know. Losing a parent is heartbreaking, and it shatters you in ways that you never knew. I’ve read that losing a mother is one of the deepest sorrows a heart can know. I was gutted arriving that Tuesday morning at my parent’s house and seeing that my mom was gone. I cried, I screamed, I was so angry that we didn’t have more time. I have to stop myself and remember that my mom is no longer in pain. She’s remembering all the things when at times she struggled to remember me. She’s laughing, she’s healed, and she is still with us from the best seat in the house.
The lyrics still, to this very moment as I type, ring true.
Most of All (Tim Hanseroth, Phil Hanseroth, Brandi Carlile)
I haven’t heard my mother’s voice in a while
But her words are always falling out my mouth.
My mind and spirit are at odds sometimes
And they fight like the north and the south.
But I still care enough to bear the weight
Of the heaviness to which my heart is tethered
She taught me how to be strong and say goodbye
And that love is forever.
But most of all
She taught me how to fight
How to move across the line
Between the wrong and the right
And when I’m turned out in the darkness
And the pushing comes to shove
To remember what comes back
When you give away your love
Give away your love
When you give your love away
Give away your love.
We used the songs “Most of All” and “This Time Tomorrow” during the video and service for my mom.
This Time Tomorrow (Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth, Brandi Carlile)
When the hope that you hold tightly to has all but vanished
And there are no words of comfort to be found
You will know what it means to be lost and without love
May you fight to kill that deafening sound.
But our holy dreams of yesterday aren’t gone
They still haunt us like the ghosts of Babylon
And the breakin’ of the day might bring you sorrow
You know I may not be around this time tomorrow
But I’ll always be with you
I’ll always be with you.
Miss you every single day, Mom. I hope you are proud of us and know how much we love you.