Grief Story: My 12 Year Grief Journey After My Mom Died
My grief story…
How my grief story begins
I was 18 years old finishing up my first semester in college in December of 2005. My phone was turned off for a final printmaking exam where we peer reviewed each other’s final piece of art that they created in class. As class was finishing up, I turned on my phone and had over 10 missed calls and several missed voicemails from my mom’s boyfriend…
They were in the emergency room. We spoke briefly on the phone and I called back as soon as I got home. The doctors and nurses at the ER were trying to figure out what was wrong with my mom. Thirty minutes later he called again, and I headed to the hospital with my grandparents.
At this point, I knew something was seriously wrong. Ever since I could remember my mom had a heart murmur that she took medication for. About 3 months prior to this night, she had gone to the doctor for a checkup and they put her on some new medication, but as far as I knew, all was well.
When I got to the hospital, I didn’t know what to expect or where my mom was. My mom’s boyfriend met us at the front door, and he took us into a private meeting room. After several minutes of waiting there were three people that came in and introduced themselves. I couldn’t tell you who they were… a doctor, a nurse, maybe a psychologist? I’m not exactly sure. All I remember was that the first spoken words were, “You’re her only daughter? This must be really hard for you.”
I remember thinking…
What are you talking about?
Where’s my mom?
When can I see her?
I need to talk to her!
No one, not even my mom’s boyfriend, who was there and already knew, had confirmed that my mom had died. (At least, that’s how I remember it.)
But I knew… even with those unspoken words of confirmation.
My grandma took me outside to get some air and before I knew it I feel to the grass outside the emergency room door with a heaviness I had never felt in my life and sobbed uncontrollably.
That was it.
My mom was gone.
I could go into the most granular detail of how I recall the events of the night that my mom died. It’s the most vivid memory that I’ve ever had in my entire life… even more vivid than the birth of each of my children.
But I’m not here to tell you the details of my memory.
I’m here to tell you about my grief journey… About how I overcame 12 years of unresolved grief that started on December 14th, 2005 when my mom died.
The next 8 months
After my mom died in December of 2005, my boyfriend and I got engaged in February of 2006.
I know, I know… at 18 years old this sounds crazy (well 19 – my birthday was in February) … especially after a life changing event.
But I promise you it was planned beforehand. He was actually supposed to propose at Christmas and was also prepared to ask my mom’s permission before he did, but it didn’t work out the way we expected it to.
And it might still sound crazy because of how young we were, but we were madly in love.
(We still are by the way, with a healthy marriage and two beautiful children to prove it.)
Anyway, back to my grief journey…
I got engaged in February of 2006.
In May, my fiancé and I visited his family in Houston, TX (they had just moved there the summer before).
By July, I moved to Houston with my fiancé from Orange County, CA.
Well, not only did I move, but I also bought a house with my fiancé, and we started living together for the first time.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
I tell you this to point out how drastically my life changed almost immediately after my mom died.
(I didn’t know it at the time, but I was grieving the loss of my mom, grieving the loss of my childhood, and grieving the loss of California all at the same time.)
It was a blur.
I was young.
I was in a haze.
I was making very emotional decisions.
I was in the deepest depth of grief…
And guess what… I didn’t know it.
I didn’t know what grief was. I didn’t know how to “get over” my mom’s death. I didn’t know how to keep living. I didn’t know a lot of things.
No one told me what to expect after someone dies. No one prepared me for adulthood.
Backtracking just a little… my mom was a single mom. She was all I had. She was my everything.
She was the FIRST person in my life to die.
My mom’s death was my first experience with death and grieving.
I was so ill prepared to cope.
The post-8-month blur
Once I was semi-settled in Houston, I continued college and worked full time as a bank teller to get through school.
My fiancé and I got married in 2008.
I was furious that my mom wasn’t there.
I graduated college in 2010. It was the worst time ever to graduate (recession) and continued to be angry that my mom couldn’t be there for these major milestones in my life.
I wound up interning at a non-profit for school, landing a $10 an hour gig at a stationery store, and trying to figure out what I wanted to do… so naturally, I continued school in the Fall of 2010 to go for my masters. Makes sense, right?
Meanwhile, I was super depressed, and I didn’t know why or how to get out of it. I had ups and downs to the point where my husband probably thought I was bipolar. I tried everything I could think of to be happy…
I tried retail therapy, I filled my house with pets, I threw parties (especially around the holidays), and I drank more than I should have. But I still remained in this numb grey state where nothing I did helped anything.
5 years had passed, and nothing was going to bring my mom back. Even after all this time I still continued to have vivid dreams of my mom still alive and I would wake up in the middle of the night crying for hours when I realized that it wasn’t real.
Then, I landed my first “big girl” job at the beginning of 2011. I was beyond excited and met a lot of amazing people.
After a few months the stress of the job and new responsibilities started getting to me. I became anxious. I started drinking even more for the social aspect of the new job and then decided to go to the doctor to see what else could help.
I wound up on a low dose of Lexapro. It helped. I wasn’t outrageously happy, but things became tolerable somehow. I started going through the motions of my day to day life with a little more ease than I had once before.
Then, the job got worse, and worse, and worse, until finally I left at the end of 2013.
My next job lasted from 2013 to 2016.
In January of 2016 my husband and I had our beautiful little girl. It was while I was on maternity leave that I started looking for a new job.
My next job lasted from 2016 to 2019.
The whole time I was on and off Lexapro. Every other year or so I would think I was getting better, go off of it, and then get worse again, and go back on it.
At every job I kept thinking that it the job, and the job alone, was making me miserable, anxious, and depressed.
After having my little girl, there was a lot of joy. I was thrilled beyond belief. I wanted a girl. I wanted to recreate what my mom and I had and felt so lucky to be a family of 3.
Then, about 10-ish months after she was born, I went into a new state of depression… it was heavier and different than before she was born. I couldn’t put my finger on what was happening… why my sadness was so much deeper all of a sudden.
Finally, I got help.
In early 2017 I started seeing a therapist.
For about 3-6 months I was leery about its affect and wondered if it was helping or not. I love learning, so I knew I was learning a lot about myself and I even did a lot of research outside of my weekly 1-hour therapy appointments to learn more.
It wasn’t until about month 9 that my therapist suggested grief therapy and recommended that we go through a grief recovery book together.
At this point I was still a bit confused but thought, heck, let’s try it!
Reading this book and going through this grief recovery process CHANGED MY LIFE.
By the end of 2017 I understood why I had felt the way I felt for the past 12 years. I understood that I was grieving my mom, and that my grief continued to be unresolved.
In December of 2017, the weekend of my mom’s death anniversary, I even took 3 days to journal about everything. (You can visit my guest post on Alison’s Notebook about how I journaled! You can also see my blog series here on Over Grief where I’ve started to post my journal entries.)
Overcoming my unresolved grief through this process changed my life for the better in such an extreme way that by January of 2018 I was no longer in therapy or on Lexapro.
I had defeated all my battles and could breathe again.
Why I’m here telling my grief story
Over the past two years post grief, I’ve been soul searching in the best way. Now that I’ve overcome my grief, can identify and work through my grief triggers, and can live my daily life for me again. I want to help others do the same.
I have become a subject matter expert in grief…
Having gone through grief and grief recovery myself, having read countless numbers of books about grief, and continuing to facilitate grief support groups at a local grief recovery center has prepared me to launch a grief coaching business.
This is my grief story.
This is my PURPOSE.
I invite you to overcome your grief and let me help you along the way.
P.S. If you’re interested in telling your grief story, email me!