How Grief Has Changed Me

I read an article recently on Facebook about how we, as adults, grieve after losing a parent. It talked about not only those that had wonderful relationships with their parents, but those who may have had strained ones as well.

at Mom's bedside

Grief Changed Me

As the one year anniversary of my mom’s passing has now come and gone, I’ve had some time to reflect on how I feel about everything. From my emotions the day she passed, to my childhood living with her, to my adulthood trying to please her. 

It may not be the popular opinion, but as I told my siblings recently, each of our perceptions is vastly different. For me, being the oldest, things were challenging during our childhood. 

skincare spans generations

My brother and sister may have different memories, but I also did my best to shield them in the early years. Again, being the oldest, I felt that was my job to do. 

And then, as I entered my teen years, things grew more intense between my mother and I. She would often tell me that I didn’t know what it was like being the youngest. I would remind her she didn’t know what it was like being the oldest. 

I was given responsibility over everything at the house while both she and my dad were at work. When things went wrong, whether I was involved or not, it was my fault. 

My mom had an explosive temper and my dad was an alcoholic. The two together were toxic. And when my mom got mad at me, the abuse came in the form of both physical and emotional torments. 

If you know me now, you know that I have no self-confidence, am a workaholic trying to please everyone, and have trouble trusting. Colby had a lot of work cut out for him in the beginning. 

I’m sure a lot of my emotional baggage helped lead us towards our separation. But, it was during that time that I began to work on my issues: anger management, extreme anxiety, and depression. 

Crazy enough, anger was the easiest one to change. 

Mom and I on my wedding day

Therefore, when my mom passed away, I was waiting for that huge sigh of relief I had heard others talk about. But, it never really came. 

Instead, I was riddled with guilt. So much guilt over why I never tried to make things “perfect.” My mom and I had a well enough relationship once I became an adult, but there was still tension. 

We never talked about what happened when I was younger. I moved past it and acted like all was well. Deep inside, perhaps only Colby and I knew the truth. 

I spent my days and nights working to please my mom. To make her proud of me in some way. 

Whether it was by being a mom, working my booty off on this blog, or simply creating something crafty she would appreciate. It was always about trying to please her.

Always. 

And now? A year later, I’ve changed more. Colby told me last week that he noticed an almost 180 in my personality. I still have anxiety, and perhaps always will, but I am far more chill than I used to be. 

parenting teen daughters

My emotions don’t get the best of me like they used to and I have more patience. I take things in stride easier and maybe even smile more often. 

Y’all, I miss my mom like crazy every day; but I can’t look past the change in myself without her here. 

Yet, as I take notice of those changes, it again brings on the guilt. The lack of self-worth.

Am I a terrible daughter because I have changed? 

Am I wrong for expressing those changes out loud? 

I hate that I couldn’t release all the emotions while my mom was still here. I hate that we had a relationship that was not transparent or emotionally deep. 

Could I talk to her about things? Sometimes. She held me when I broke down during Colby and I’s separation. A few times. She listened to me when I needed a sentimental ear. Talked me out of my suicidal thoughts. Helped me with my kids. Listened as I plead my case for taking him back. And she accepted him back with open arms.

80s school throwback picture

Yet our relationship never seemed to recover from my teen years. 

I assure you I was never the bad kid. To this day, I am not a rule breaker. Not a liar. Stay out of trouble and the thought of doing something wrong sends me into a panic. 

It just seems that those years were the toughest for us to get through for reasons beyond both my mom and I. She simply took it out on me. 

I get it. I’ve always feared I did the same with my oldest daughter. But, I also used what I experienced to form better relationships with my children. 

BFFs Chey and Wyatt

With Chey now married and pregnant with our first grandchild, I can easily say we have a great relationship. Do we butt heads every now and then? Of course! We are so much alike it’s bound to happen. 

But, I’ve learned the importance of an apology

I know the value of a good conversation. My kids don’t get grounded; they get lectured and, to them, it’s worse. 

I leave emotions out of disagreements. I believe in facts and don’t like to talk about feelings until temperaments calm down. I hate fighting and yelling and like to avoid conflict as much as possible.

I listen to my children and allow them to have a voice in our family unit. I want them to feel wanted, needed, and, most importantly, loved.

sister to sister

And that’s probably the biggest thing: unconditional love. We don’t put conditions on the things our kids have to do in order for us to love them. We kiss them goodnight each evening and always say, “I love you.”

Living our love out loud, whether between Colby and I or the kids and I, is absolutely paramount. We hug, we talk, and we love freely every day. Love was never expressed in our home growing up.

I use to wonder how I might be different if I could get past all the hurt. If I could push the past deep enough down that I could release the pain and move on. But, I never imagined doing any of that without my mom.

Our parents are supposed to be invincible just like superheros, right? At least as kids that how we often feel. Learning that isn’t the case is heartbreaking. 

using laughter to hide the pain

Knowing I didn’t have the time I thought I did, I can only hope perhaps my mom felt different? That we made enough effort together to make amends—and I missed it but she didn’t.

As a mom myself, I realize that could be the case. 

Or maybe it’s wishful thinking that somewhere out there my mom was pleased with us. With me. 

In the days and weeks after her passing, when I laid down to try to sleep each night, I could feel a soft hand slip softly into mine. I knew it had to be my mom comforting me, but I still withdrew it.

Touch wasn’t a form of communication used between she and I. It was foreign to me.

One night, as Colby went to the bathroom, I felt the blanket beside me pull back and someone sat down with a hand on my back. It wasn’t Colby. Again, I was sure it was my Mom.

I felt her presence in my bedroom at night for most of this first year. Because of it, we’ve been sleeping with a dim light on. 

But, in recent weeks I haven’t felt it as much. Maybe it’s because I get it now. My mom understood. She loved me and I loved her. Even if I wasn’t sure, she knew. I’m hoping that was the case.

One thing I know for sure, you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Tell those you love how you feel about them today. Don’t leave you or them wondering. 

365 Days of Gratitude
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