“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~ Winnie the Pooh
The day my mother died, I died.
This is a tale of twisted fate, broken dreams, and heartache—a considerably normal way to describe the relationship between any teenage daughter and her mother: chaotic, complicated, and full of love.
Aside from the constant hormone-soaked arguments, you’d discover the most tender, close-knit relationship that ever was—smiles, laughter, love, and thoughtfully handmade gifts aplenty.
My mother was my greatest teacher, best friend, confidant, and sweetest display of unconditional love. So to say that my world stopped the morning I found her lying on the couch doesn’t begin to convey the depth of my despair, but the title of this story does.
You see, my mother took her life under the protection of nightfall while I slept after a beautiful evening spent singing and dancing around our kitchen.
The next morning was flooded with conflicting emotions and panic. Disbelief and denial clung to my lips as I repeated a chant of “No!” while searching her body for signs of life. Hysteric, I crawled backward from her and a deep wound cracked in the center of my being as I felt my world collapse. This was the moment of my metaphorical death.
The moments to follow were one blur after another. I did my best to keep my composure while being questioned by police, medical personnel, and family members as they arrived. In the busy whirlwind after she was taken away, and as the bone-chilling grief sank in further, I realized how alone I now was in the big world.
The first year passed in a blink; I had moved at least five times, having no real direction for my life. Only this phrase kept me going: “I’ve already experienced the worst day of my life, what do I have to lose?”
I got a string of new jobs, met new people, and made it through the second year almost without noticing, holding dearly yet another phrase, “I’ll become someone my mom would be proud of.”
This got me through year three and four as I evolved from a wounded teen into a wisdom-seeking adult, thinking, There has got to be more than this. It was right around year five when I realized the golden treasure before me was that I hadn’t just died, I had become a completely different person. Year five marked a huge pivot in my thinking. I moved away from seeing myself as a victim of a tragedy to witnessing myself as able to heal the way I felt.
Leaning into this new thought-form was the fragment of relief I desperately needed to revitalize my desire to pursue a life worth living, a life of meaning. It had clicked! It was as if my mom had popped into my head and given me an ultimatum.
I could let what had happened destroy me and the rest of my life, or I could take it as a lesson and find the beauty in it. It took a great deal of back-and-forth between feelings of denial and acceptance, but I chose the path of beauty and, in doing so, gave deep meaning to the loss of my mother.
With this perspective, I also awakened a deeper meaning to my own life by acknowledging the many gifts to my character that I had gained in her absence.
Had I not lost my mother, I wouldn’t have developed such a deep well of compassion and understanding, or my sensitive, empathetic heart for others and their stories. Losing her birthed a strength, perseverance, and fire within me that I’d otherwise not have and exposed the core of my warm and loving nature.
Giving this meaning to her death was a gift—not only to me, but to the memory of my mother because it meant she didn’t die in vain.
Her death became the dark, fertile womb in which I would be reborn.
A completely different part of me cracked open to the beauty of life after walking through the gateway of death. Every ending, every death, is a beginning and rebirth in disguise. I just had to tilt my head, squint my eyes, and change my perspective to see the truth.
I know from my own experience that it can be difficult to walk through such a shadow corridor, but talking about it and connecting with others is vital to our mental and emotional health.