Updated: Apr 14
A month before my high school graduation, my mom passed away. This is definitely the hardest experience I have had in my life. It was very unexpected, and it turned my world completely upside down. She had been sick off and on for about 6 months, so I just thought that it was another bad day. I was shocked when we found that she was gone.
Looking at that day, I realized that I could have reacted in so many different ways. I could have been in denial, complete rage, silence, or many others. Some of these emotions are stages of grief, which I have learned a lot about over the years, but that day, after the initial shock and raw sadness, I felt at peace. I did not want her to be gone, especially so unexpectedly, but I knew that everything would be alright.
Losing someone dear to us is something out of our control but can completely change our life. In my case, I had to determine how I would live my life now that my biggest role model, my confidant, my cheerleader, and my best friend was gone. Graduating high school shortly after this was already the beginning of a new chapter of my life, and this experience heightened it to a whole new level.
We will all experience different emotions when someone in our life passes away, which means we will go through stages of grief. In her book, "On Death and Dying", Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross established a 5 stage model of grief, which include:
“The five stages are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order.” (https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/)
It’s super important to remember that we will all grieve in different ways and in a different order, including going through some of the stages many times. As I mentioned earlier, I was pretty accepting when my mom first passed away, but there have definitely been days where I have been angry and bitter, as well as days where I have been depressed or in denial that this was truly part of my life.
I also want to mention that grieving can be felt any time someone or something is lost to us, even if it is not physically. I have personally grieved for loved ones who I have lost physically due to death, but I have also grieved for loved ones I have lost emotionally. Divorce, being disowned, moving, loss of health, retirement, loss of financial stability, or betrayal can also be reasons why we could feel any or all of the stages of grief as well as heartache. Any time a connection with someone we care about is changed or lost, or the situation we are in changes, we can grieve.
So many people look at grieving with an idea that it will happen for a short time and then you have to be “over it” or that you have to be strong. “There is no timeline for grieving. You can’t rush it. You will grieve, in some form, forever.” (https://whatsyourgrief.com/64-things-about-grief/). You don’t have to always feel put together. You don’t have to put on a face for everyone. You can be real. You can be vulnerable and tell people how you feel. You can get help.
Going through grief counseling was one of the best things I did because it helped me learn how to truly work through my emotions. I was getting by, but the holidays were getting harder, it was getting worse to feel like I could function on a day to day basis, even after 4 years. This counseling helped me realize several different things, including:
• It is okay and good to let yourself feel your emotions. You do not need to bury them.
• When you begin to feel overwhelmed, deep breathing exercises can help you calm down.
• You cannot blame yourself for things that are out of your control.
• Open your mind to learning about yourself and how you process situations.
Losing my mom has been the hardest thing has happened to me. I will always love her and love our experiences together, and yet it has been an incredible opportunity to learn and grow the way that I have. Some days are harder than others, of course, but it has been a choice I’ve had to make of how I would build my relationships with the rest of my immediate family, and how I would lead my life.
Some things that have helped me over the years during my more difficult days of grieving are to listen to music that is calming or relaxing; let myself think about my mom and the experiences we’ve had; visit with family about our memories of her; do things that remind me of her, like making or getting a favorite food, or watching a movie we would watch together. I also have studied different scriptures and faith building material to strengthen my faith that helped me push through each day.
When I give myself a time to think about her and just feel sad and hurt, I have to give myself a set time so I don’t dwell on my hurt. When you begin to dwell for a long period of time, it consumes you, making it harder to function on a daily basis. To help with this, depending on the day, I’ll give myself anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. Having this set time has really helped me allow myself to feel my emotions without it completely debilitating me.
We all want to make our parents proud of us, and all that my mom wanted for me was to be happy. During the beginning of this “chapter” in my life, I made the choice to be happy, and to live my life in a way that I will look for the good and joy around me.
We don’t ever want to forget our loved ones, as I know that I can never forget my mom. Grieving doesn’t always mean that you have to be sad. Grieving can be during the times you think about your loved one and determine to make them proud.
For those of you who have lost someone, whether physically or emotionally, or going through any stage of grief, know that you are not alone. You may feel alone, but you are never alone. Reach out to your other loved family and friends, and don’t let yourself go through this by yourself. We are here to help one another, most especially during difficult times. Remember to take care of yourself and find ways that will help you breathe during the days it is hard to. Over time, it will hurt less and it will get easier.
I don’t ever want someone to go through what I’ve gone through with losing my mom, but learning how to grieve in healthy ways has helped me make the most out of life and has made me a better person. My hope is for anyone who reads this to find ways they can mourn their loved one, how they can make the most of their lives, and how they can help others through their experience.
Janessa McNeill is passionate about writing and people. Helping people find success and joy is what drives her everyday life. She graduated from Utah Valley University in Communication, Public Relations emphasis. Over the past few years, she has gone through quite a health journey of her own, which has created a passion to share her experiences with others. She hopes one day something she has learned can help someone else. When not blogging or writing some other piece, Janessa loves to play the piano, listen to music, play board or card games, and spend time with family and friends.
"On Death and Dying" by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. can be found at Amazon books: