As different as we all are, I am confident we share at least one thing in common: loss. We have all experienced a loss that leaves us breathless. A loss that leaves us changed. A loss that can never be restored. A loss that cannot be understood. A loss that no matter how many trips around the sun we travel, we will never forget. While we all endure loss during our lifetimes, we do not always manage the stress in similar ways. It’s amazing how stress impacts our bodies. Ultimately, how we handle those unforgettable losses determines how our lives look moving forward. Because even though our precious loved one is no longer here, we cannot allow ourselves to pass with them because we still have breath in our lungs.
We still have a life to live.
When my dad was murdered in 2011, I could tell you exactly how I felt. I was furious. Livid. The anger transpired from my inner core and was unlike any emotion I had ever experienced in my life. I did not want to live anymore. His loss left wounds that took years to heal in ways I could never imagine. My life quickly began spiraling downward. Panic set in when a loved one would not answer the phone. It was easier to push people away, in an effort to not feel the same pain when they eventually would pass. With time and growth, those wounds turned to scars and a missed call was not such a big deal. I eventually realized pushing others away with the fear of losing them is not how life should be lived, so I mended those relationships. I finally accepted that sometimes, most of the time actually, a significant loss is not meant to be understood.
When my mom was the tender age of 16, her mom suddenly died of a heart attack. My mom talked about her a lot and how she did not want my sister and I to experience the same heartbreak so young.
Recently, we lost my mom abruptly in an incident that nobody saw coming. This is the kind of loss that has made me numb. It does not matter how old you are; you are never ready to lose your mom. I never in a million years thought we’d lose our mom so soon and so tragically. While death is inevitable, there are some people in our lives we expect to live forever. My mom was the one person I could not imagine doing life without. When I lost my mom, I lost my biggest fan. The one person who was always in my corner and sacrificed so much for others.
The one person who would snap the candid photos of me and the kids. The one person who would call multiple times a day just to chat. The one person who would FaceTime the kids to read to them, play Uno, to hang out with them so I could get laundry put away. I lost the one person I thought would live forever.
When I lost my mom, my last living parent, the word “orphan” inched into my mind – we generally use this term for children who don’t have parents, but here I am, feeling like a 30-something-year-old orphan.
I dread the day when I meet someone new and they ask me where I am from or where my parents live…they don’t. It’s a strange feeling to not have your parents and for your children to not have grandparents on your side of the family. This loss has reminded me that life is truly precious.
I think about who I was a decade ago when I experienced the loss of my dad and who I am today as I am experiencing the loss of my mom. One notable difference is my faith and my village. Growing closer to Christ, I no longer question God’s goodness. Although I am grieving, I am not angry with him for this loss. I am completely aware that this fallen world is full of suffering. The enemy is relentless and wants us to suffer, he wants us to not see a light at the end of the tunnel, he wants us to be consumed with anguish and for us to feel the bitterness and hopelessness loss brings. I have been there — it’s a horrible place to dwell. When my dad died, I was angry at his murderer and angry with God. I held on to the anger for years. It robbed me of my joy and caused me to miss out on big, happy moments. I grew into a bitter person that not even my family wanted to be around. But the closer relationship I have with Christ, the more of that situation I handed over to Him until it was no longer mine.
So, while I have been here before, it is significantly different now. That isn’t to say that I am not experiencing sorrow. I am. But I still have joy.
Did you know stress can cause your body to chill, experience fevers, cause feelings of dissociation, chest pains, inability to focus and anxiety? These are just some of the things I am experiencing since losing my mom. Friends ask me if I’m okay; I know they mean well. I say I am fine, but the truth is, I suddenly cannot make decisions about anything. I grow anxious and can’t breathe. I don’t know how to answer questions about how I am doing. I know I can stand in pouring rain and see it falling around me but not feel a drop on my wet skin. I know I am tired but I cannot sleep. I am numb but restless. I am heartbroken but have no more tears to cry. Unloading these deep, yet truthful answers feels too heavy and is sometimes easier left unsaid for our comfort. However, I am learning that sharing the rigid truth about these hardships helps others who are in the midst of their loss. I am in the middle of one of the most traumatic losses imaginable, but I am surrounded by so many people who love me and my family, and I can rest knowing that the battle isn’t mine.
If you know me, you already know I serve on my church’s praise team. I can’t help but to think about the song we’ve been singing lately: “I’ve still got joy in chaos, I’ve got peace that makes no sense, I won’t be going under, I’m not held by my own strength.” Praising God during the difficult times is not easy, but by remembering His sovereignty, goodness and grace, we are reminded not to run from God but rather to Him, despite the difficulties. This is precisely what I am doing with my mom’s loss. As much as I sometimes want to stay in bed, I have a family and a future I must consider. The joy of the Lord IS my strength and I will worship out the brokenness. I worship a God that takes what the enemy meant for evil and turns it for good. He has done it before and I believe he will do it again.
It has been nearly two months since she died and I am trying my very best to fit back into a world that never stopped spinning — even when time stopped for me. Every death offers a new perspective. I venture to even pose the question that as a believer, what if we were to view death as a gain instead of a loss? How would that change our trajectory? I cannot help but be reminded of my many blessings as I navigate this new normal — these same blessings I may have taken for granted before and maybe even mistaken for burdens.