I guess there comes a time in your life (hopefully) when everything seems to stop. Suddenly, you are watching yourself live your life and you finally see what it really looks like. This moment came for me as I sat next to my mom in the ICU for the umpteenth day in a row, nearly 7 months ago. I was going through all of the usual feelings one goes through when they are about to lose a loved one. Mostly, I was in bargaining mode.
I’ll do THIS when she gets better. I’ll do less of THAT. I’ll be better. I’ll give more. I won’t be so selfish with my time. I’ll do whatever it takes, no questions asked. I’ll be so lucky to have my mom with me and I’ll do everything I can to help her get healthy and be happy. I won’t lose another parent.
Of course, we don’t really get to choose, do we? As much as I wanted to believe that I’d have another chance, I just didn’t. I think I held on to hope so much because I’d been there before and I knew how hard things would be after she left. I couldn’t deal with that reality. I couldn’t lose her like I’d lost my dad. So, I held onto her and I tried to make the best decisions for her that I could. But she was gone. She fought so hard and I kept her on life support because I really thought she would be okay. But she wasn’t. And all at once, the harsh reality came down on me that I’d be without both of my parents here on earth for the rest of my life.
Man, that’s heavy. I know it is. And although this is stuff I think about all of the time, I am absolutely not one to share it with anyone. I am a very positive person, an optimist. I try to live each day as a new beginning. I do pretty well putting everything that hurts into a neat little box that is rarely opened. In fact, after my dad died, I completely shut out the entire experience. I wouldn’t talk about it. I wouldn’t allow myself to think about him or picture him at all. When I’d start to get upset, I’d push the feelings away completely. I buried myself into whatever I could to escape the feelings of sorrow. And I created this amazing life. I was married shortly after he died, I went to school and became a teacher, and I invested 100% of my time and energy into my career. And I loved it. I loved teaching and connecting with my students. I was recharged by the changes I saw in them and by the relationships I formed. I was making a difference and I had something to channel my time and energy into. Unfortunately, in the attempt to not leave any time for that little box of memories and feelings, I also didn’t leave any time for new memories with my loved ones. I spent years of my life being the BEST student and then teacher I could be, while I pushed my mom, my husband, my friends, and even myself aside. And I had no idea.
I’d spend some time on the weekends hanging out on my mom’s couch. We’d talk about the week and I’d pretty much tell her everything about what was going on with work. She was always so interested in my stories and she’d ask me about my students, their parents, and my coworkers. But that was mostly all we’d talk about. It was my life; it consumed me. I’d go to her when I was sad about my dad, but I’d just cry for a minute and then change the focus back to work. She really tried to get me to open up. She told me that I needed to, that it would be hurtful to her if I didn’t talk about her after she left. But I just couldn’t. I was SO focused on my life that I couldn’t be held back by my grief.
So, as I sat in that hospital holding her hand, my life came to a screeching halt. I looked back over the last 6 years and I couldn’t believe it. Yes, I had established a career that I loved and I was truly able to help my kids. But I also stopped being me. I’d completely taken those I loved the most and even myself out of my life. WE weren’t a priority in my life. And I did this to avoid feeling anything. And now I was about to go through all of the pain I’d been hiding from again, with this added regret.
Now I know that grief causes an overwhelming sense of regret and guilt takes over. It is probably the toughest part of losing someone. It’s that “Why didn’t I do more?” mentality. And I get that. But the reality is, I didn’t do more and I don’t have another chance. At least not with my mom. I received a message that really spoke to me soon after I lost my mom.
“I’m so sorry Diannah. My heart breaks for you. I know you work so hard on positivity and optimism, but I just want you to know that you are allowed to be soul crushingly sad right now.”
I realized just how detatched I’d become and I knew that I needed to handle things differently this time. How many loved ones would I need to lose before I changed?
It has been nearly 7 months since I lost my mom. My heart is shattered. But instead of pushing my feelings aside and going back to my life, I’m hitting pause. My husband Cody and I quit our jobs and put our house up for sale. We moved back to my home state and have decided to completely start fresh. I’m fulfilling a promise that I should have made my mom to talk about her and to allow myself to open up and truly grieve. My friend was right. I need to allow myself to be sad, to learn to deal with it. And I know that this doesn’t mean that I have to lose myself in my grief, but I need to allow it to be a part of my life.
So, I’m starting fresh, each day. I’m making my husband a priority. I’m putting more effort into my relationships with friends and family. I’m reestablishing my relationship with God, which is pretty much nonexistent at this point. And I’m starting over with me. I’m allowing myself to become stronger through the grief. I’m learning that exercise is my therapy and that being healthy (mind and body) is the best way to deal with everything. Yes, I’m an optimist and I truly believe that happiness is a choice. But it is time that I learn to allow sadness to be a part of my life.
So, this blog is my way of keeping the memory of my parents alive. Of missing them and remembering them. I want to show the world that it is okay to be sad and happy at the same time, that it is possible to experience the worst pain and still live each day with a sense of pride, a desire for growth, and a fresh and positive outlook on life.
And I’ll write about it all.