Healing My Grief After Losing My Mom at 21

shannonhugman

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When I was 21 my mom died suddenly. Although I miss her, I have decided to continue to cultivate our relationship. Even though she’s not here physically, I make an effort to think about her, talk to her and even believe that her energy continues to be around me. This has helped me in many ways to work through the grief I feel, and open my mind to a more hopeful outlook.

For some people, this kind of relationship post-death is not realistic. Since the day she died, I was available to more. I was willing to think beyond the constraints of our society and wanted to explore.

From that place of willingness to be open, her spirit took the lead. Little things that I couldn’t have planned began happening.

Here are some examples:

At my Mom’s funeral, the minister talked about her life as a sunset. He said she was like the Sun, and even though it dips below the horizon and out of sight, it leaves an afterglow.

He expressed how her legacy is like an afterglow. It’s still shining and leaving its effect on others.

This sparked our interest in sunsets. Following my Mom’s death, we became sunset chasers, traveling to see the best ones, and with each view, we would feel her love. Many people told us to check out the sunsets on Lake Huron.

Lake Huron is a Great Lake, and when standing on the shoreline, all you can see is water. The Sun dips into the horizon and gives a stunning west coast sunset.

That was one of our destinations. While we were swimming, a lifeguard started blowing his whistle. We had never been to this area before, but the lifeguard went to the same University as my sister. She’s a synchronized swimmer, he’s a lifeguard at the pool, and although they had never talked, he recognized her.

After his shift, he came to hang with us. He invited us to their cottage, where all the guards lived. They were in a band together and had recently released an album called “Divine Time.”

In their living room hung a picture of a surfer, which was the same image as my Mom’s recent profile picture on Facebook.

We became fans of the band, and over the years to come, we would go to their shows and fostered a friendship. Eventually, my partner received a job opportunity along the shores of Lake Huron. We bought our first home in the area and settled down.

As we explored our new neighborhood, we discover that at the end of our street was a place named “Sunset Park”. There was something about how it all came together. I felt as though she was leading me.

We would hear stories like this from many people who knew her. Her golf foursome said they had a monarch butterfly follow them around from hole to hole. We began to attached symbols to her: sunsets and butterflies.

I was surprised to find “Sunset Park” at the end of my street. I also discovered that we lived on the migratory route for the monarch butterflies. Every August, my neighborhood is full of these symbols of transformation. Just like the caterpillar turning into a butterfly, my Mom has transformed into something new.

It Still Hurts

Even though I have had some palpable connections with her spirit, along with many magical moments, it still hurts. There are days when it’s crippling, and I forget about any energetic relationship we have. All I want is to hear her voice or see her in my home.

When I am sad or struggling, it always seems to come back to how much I miss her. Having a relationship with her energy is not a substitute for the real thing. As magical as those moments are, there are days when the physical loss is next level.

Cry it Out

I had a nurse tell me a story about an immigrant family desperately crying and grieving in a hospital room. Their grief was raw and so different from western society’s idea of keeping it all together. It even made some of the other nurses uncomfortable.

“Death has become increasingly taboo, crying has turned into a sign of weakness in a society that privileges strong individuals.”
— Corina Bejinariu, vice.com

Even though we often deny raw emotions, we have to let those feelings pour out. At times, this also means talking to a professional or reaching out for help with the grief.

“Most people grieve after certain events, such as the loss of a loved one. This usually causes symptoms of depression and anxiety for months afterward. Grief statistics show just how many people are affected in the U.S.”
— Grief By the Numbers, The Recovery Village

Grief is a common denominator across the human experience.

According to The Recovery Village:
“About 2.5 million people die in the United States annually, each leaving an average of five grieving people behind.
It’s estimated that 1.5 million children (5% of children in the United States) have lost one or both parents by age 15.”
Grief is something we all experience. While it’s challenging to work through, if we stuff it inside, ignore, and don’t talk about it, we cannot heal.

The Takeaway

Life is in constant change but rarely do we celebrate that fact. We learn to hold on, stay on track, and commit for the long haul. Currently, as we face a very different world, it’s natural to grieve the old. But, it’s necessary to create space for that process and not feel ashamed of our emotions.

If you are grieving the loss of a person or the old way of life, here’s a summary of what I have learned about death.

  • Acknowledge your feelings and let them out.
  • Trust your gut feelings. If you feel a new beginning, it’s probably happening.
  • Be open to alternative narratives around death and change.
  • Appreciate the butterfly. Bless the caterpillar’s body. Grieve the loss, but do so with an awareness of these new beautiful wings.

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