My mom’s birthday was on February 15th. She would have been 60-years old. That hit me hard when I did the math and my heart skipped a beat while I let that settle into my bones.
Sixty years old, damn.
Eight years have passed like a true classroom education. However, instead of paying tuition with coinage, this school was paid in revolting screams + chest rising tears + full body upheavals of emotion and life pivots that took me down several roads I was not the least confident in.
Eight years ago I bared witness as my mother gasped and then exhaled her last earthly breath. Cancer was the door that opened her to the afterlife. I was 24 years old and had no idea the tsunami of emotions and cataclysms that life was about to throw my way.
Left with an awkward, gaping hole in my heart from not only my mothers death, but from the last twenty-four tumultuous, heartbreaking years with a woman I finally felt like I was getting to know and love again.
Our relationship was a painful mess for most of my life. She was unequipped to be a parent; battling her own demons as she rode hard down the lane of self destruction, addiction, major depression and emotional unavailability – which was the most agonizing one for me.
I felt like physically, I had a mother, but emotionally, she was rarely there. The constant arguing with her, and the raging anger she released frequently, coupled with a major lack of connection with my own mother, sent me packing my bags out of a very dysfunctional upbringing at fourteen years old. I moved in with my older brother (like, 18 years older brother) and his family seeking a functional, safe atmosphere.
The next time my mother and I had any contact was about 6 years later when she ended up in the psych ward for an attempted suicide/pill overdose.
I recall bringing her some belongings, angrily asking her why she did what she did and then wanting to get the hell outta there.
She left that place soon after our interaction and ended up dating some guy for a couple of years.
When I had not spoken with my dad for a few days (which was SUPER rare at that time because him and I spoke on the daily), it was then that he spilled the beans that my mom had returned and asked my dad if she could stay with him while she got her feet on the ground.
I completely lost my shit because my dad actually obliged her request. Turns out, her moving back was the open door my soul needed to grow within that relationship, even though I could not see it at the time.
Over time and digging deep within myself and doing some maaaaaa-jor Soul Work, I was finally at a place where her and I were jiving and loving and most of all forgiving…of the rollercoaster and heart entanglements that was our wounded relationship.
I felt like finally, I had a “mom” again – she had a job, she was fully functional in everyday life and the drug stuff was no longer there. And she was very sincerely apologetic for the whole beautiful mess that encapsulated our journey thus far.
My heart was opening, sun was shining in the cracks of the broken parts of my heart, and joy for where we were, was settling in.
And then she broke the news in May/2007: Stage 3-4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Doctors, hospitals and chemo soon consumed her life and most definitely, mine.
On July 28th, 2007 – two months after her diagnosis – she was gone. So began one of the largest revolutions that my soul would take on in my life.
Here are some of the deep, wound uncovering, lessons learned from my moms death:
1. Parents (especially moms) are human too.
I had these ginormous expectations for my mom, especially because all of my other friend’s parents appeared to be able to function quite well. Parents are just grown children. We are all doing the best with what we have and know.
I realized my moms rough, drug-fueled childhood and lack of healthy coping mechanisms were a perfect storm for being emotionally unavailable as a mother + human being as well.
Honor their journey; even if you have to love them from a distance while/if they work their own demons out this go around. My mom finally came around through the fog, but it was much later in life, definitely not when I wanted her to, but when her journey called for it. You just never know.
2. Anger kills you, not them.
When I moved out at fourteen, I thought I was “showing” my mom something. Like, if I move out, that would be the most painful thing for her, but it wasn’t. I was soooooo fucking angry with her for not caring that she “lost” her daughter and it didn’t seem to bother her. I thought the angrier I got, the more it would hurt her. Until one day, my brother said, “All of that anger you have isn’t killing her, it’s killing you.” That’s all he needed to say – I totally got it and dropped the anger from that moment on.
3. I am not my mom.
We all have our own unique journey. When I was little, I would seize up in thought that I would be an emotionally disconnected woman, with raging addictions backed with enough anger to fill a stadium. Deep down I knew better though. I am not my mother, or anything else which doesn’t light my soul up.
We all have the ability to choose because choice creates possibility.
I also did not want to be a mother because of her. I thought that if I didn’t have a great mother role model, how would I know how to be a good mom? I would speak this fear to my sister from time to time and one day she said, “I get that Kel, but guess what you do know? All the things NOT to do.” Again, some soul lights went off inside me and well, now, I am a mom + doing things WAY different and loving the sacred journey of motherhood.
4. I chose this.
My spiritual journey really amped up and began to unfold after my mom’s death. I became super curious about all things death, the afterlife, reincarnation, etc. I devoured soulful books and listened to Wayne Dyer like he was my new favorite rock star boyfriend. Wayne dropped a spiritual bomb on me one day when he said that before incarnating into this current life, that…WE CHOSE OUR PARENTS. I was like, “whhhhhaaaaaaat?!” And wondered why in the hell we would do that, especially why would I have chosen this crazy-ass relationship with my mom. Simple answer: for our souls growth. For some of us, the choosing of our parents is one of the most in-your-face lessons we can learn in a lifetime.
I know it might sound cray to someone who hasn’t heard that theory, but for me, I was totally pickin’ up what Wayne was throwing down. I felt like, yep, my higher self totally chose this relationship to help grow me in ways I would not have. Because I moved out at fourteen, I grew up super fast, which served me for the better many times in life. Silver linings everywhere + everything is happening FOR us, not against us.
5. Don’t become the ice queen.
If you’ve seen the Disney movie Frozen, well, I could have been Elsa: the queen who shuts everyone out of her life because she doesn’t know how to use her powers/gifts. Elsa ends up freezing her small country + tries to run anyone off who comes her way, especially her sister.
Because I was rockin’ some major trust issues (hello, if you can’t trust your own mama, who the hell can you trust, was my thinking), I was so quick to dismiss, throw in the towel early and walk away and never look back. I rarely allowed myself to feel my feelings and this had me running from anything that scratched an emotion in me.
It wasn’t until I sought some grief counseling after my mom passed that I was able to work through it. I recall asking my counselor, “Ok, now that I’ve identified my issue with just closing everyone off and shutting them out, how do I fix that?”
That sweet gray haired beauty, chalk full of wisdom, broke it down for me and pretty much said that those walls are my bag in life, so-to-speak, and my work is in being aware and conscious of them and choosing differently in my knee-jerk reaction to wall building. I felt like a weight was lifted when she said that: awareness creates choice.
6. Accept + forgive quickly.
When my mom and I finally reached this sweet spot in our relationship and then she died soon after, I was overcome with so much guilt that it paralyzed me for a long time.
I so wished that I would have not been so stubborn all of those years + truly opened myself up to viewing my mom as another BEing on their own journey.
If you are where I am and you are open to it, send love to the person you feel wounded by and bless their journey. It doesn’t mean that you have to take on their shit, create healthy boundaries, but send them love, so you can also feel that love.
7. Hurricanes are temporary.
After my mom died I felt like I was in the midst of a hurricane and my feet were barely dangling here on earth. I experienced this feeling of being in the eye of a storm, totally out of touch with reality and a complete brain fog that wouldn’t clear.
I chose some very interesting relationship choices at that time, all for comfort in some form. The man I had been in a relationship with when my mom passed, I found myself running away from because I couldn’t handle giving of myself emotionally at all, but then I would run back to him because he was a soft place to land. It was heart wrenching for both of us to walk through that time.
Seeing clearly now, I could have saved myself and so many others loads of heartache if I would have just focused on myself and not tried to feed my void with emotional comfort from a person or relationship.
At that time, I could not see but what was right in front of me, perhaps that is the expedition of healing, but having the lucidity I do now: seek and heal yourself first – the rest will fall into place.