Each to their own.

This week, I have been thinking a lot about the challenges I’ve faced in my life. I’m only 31 and have seen more devastation and loss than most people my age, in both my personal and professional lives.

I’ve been thinking about how I’ve managed to get by all this time and what and or who I’ve need along the way to help me through. I’ve encountered death, bereavement, physical and emotional abuse, the financial ruin of those I’ve cared about, and more.

Everyone has their own struggles in life and what is so significant to some may not be to others. But each to their own.

I lost my father to metastatic bowel cancer at 22, I lost my mother this year (at 31) to congestive heart failure-undiagnosed. I have lost all grandparents. I am the middle of three daughters who are now left as the oldest generation to care for their own children.

I wonder why all this loss has come about in my life but I don’t blame any one thing or any one force or person. I don’t think I have lost those I’ve cared about the most as some sort of personal challenge to overcome, even though in a way, overcoming the loss and grief is enough of a challenge in itself.

I wonder what this loss will have taught me in the years to come, as my children grow into teens and then adults. All I want from this situation is to not have this happen to my children. 

I don’t know if you know what it feels like to lose someone. To lose someone who you feel is a living, breathing part of you. I never saw my mother and father as just my parents, they were my idols, and not for any specific heroic reasons either. It is all the small, seemingly insignificant things they were and did for me that adds up to my feelings for them.

My mother was the kind of woman who would drop everything to help you. She’d say the right things and if she didn’t, you knew she had meant well. My mother was a loving spirit who cared only for her children. She was a generous, thoughtful, beautiful person with the kindest nature you’d ever come across. She could feel my pain and my joy and I could tell her anything and everything.

My father was tough but I knew he loved me. He didn’t want to show a deep connection with me but I knew he’d fight for me if he had to. He saw all sorts of potential in me and pushed and pushed for me to blossom. I felt I had a lot to live up to but being a better me was the best thing I could strive for.

Together, my parents were black and white, no grey and in between. One was tough love, one was soft love. One was unconventional, one was meticulously planning. But together, it worked, mostly.

My biggest fear from a young age was to lose my parents. And now I am at a stage in my life where I have gotten over that hurdle. My parents are no longer living and I’m part of the oldest generation of my family left behind. 

I always think to myself, no matter how kooky it sounds “death is the only thing my family hasn’t endured together”. We are left behind to try and find our own way in life without the role models {positive or negative} that were our parents.

I do get jealous of ‘children’ my age who don’t value their parents as I did mine. Or should I say idolise or cherish their parents. I understand though that all families aren’t as close as we were and other people left in my situation might be looking back on their parent-child relationships with confusion, as to why they never really knew each other or became close.

I look back and smile. I cry that it’s over and smile that it ever happened. I miss my parents with all my heart and soul. They were two of a kind. I still cannot believe that I am even in this position at times. It is a nightmare, but one I feel like I can wake up from eventually.

At this point in time, little things bother me, but only for milliseconds. Before Mum passed, I would’ve stewed for days on unimportant issues. I’ve let go. I’ve cut off some feeling I was holding on to and felt some new emotions that I didn’t think were part of me. I do believe I have every right to be angry at the world for taking my parents too soon. But I choose to be happy that they were my parents at all. 

We all have challenges to overcome in life. My greatest has been to not curl into a ball of hurt and sorrow in front of my children. I’m surviving so far. Grief is a big thing. It’s gut-wrenching. I’d rather be angry than grieving. Anger never lasts so long. Grief, if you let it, takes control of every part of you, of every bodily system and doesn’t let go until you force it to. The pain that comes at the most random of moments, it hurts every fibre I’m built with. Then it fades. Just a gentle reminder that I’m allowed to feel pain at this time and to let myself feel the pain. Being a mum isn’t about being tough all the time, it’s about being the best and most human example to your children.

I am positive that if I wasn’t a parent myself at this point in my life, I would struggle to find meaning in the loss I’m facing. My children, thankfully, don’t know what it feels like to lose part of themselves. They don’t understand the tears and the moodiness. They don’t understand the ‘forever’ part of death or the unbearable sadness of being bereaved.

I hope that I show them by example that any challenge can be faced with pride and with dignity. And that if so, we can be gracious in defeat. Grief is something, however, I will not bow to. I’ve chosen my path, as I always do, and that path is to be strong and feel the love of my parents with each breath I take. Their souls and their love are with me and I will never be without them. I just need to remember their love and I’ll be okay.

My children will hear every day, stories of their grandparents and know that they are forever loved by them. I never wanted to speak of my parents in past tense but I’ll make the best of this difficult situation. My children deserve nothing but a strong, brave and loving mother who leads by example. I will show them the way, just like my mother and father did for me.

Have you told your parents you loved them lately? Just tell them. If they aren’t in your life, just talk out loud and tell them you’ve thought about them today.

 

All my strength and love today is dedicated to Margaret Elizabeth and Kevin Bradley, my heart and my soul, my beloved and most treasured Mum and Dad. May you both be resting in each other’s arms and are comforted by the fact that you are together again.

RIP my angels.

LEJ

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