Transform the Pain
Published in

Transform the Pain

I Was 15 When My Mom Died, and Nine Years Later, It Still Hurts Like Hell

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

“Don’t worry, it gets better.”

“She’s in a better place now.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“You’re so strong.”

“At least she’s not suffering anymore.”

Those are things I would hear daily by countless counselors, friends, teachers, and family members. They incessantly repeated in my head, skipping like a broken record player, and all of these years later, they still do.

I was a bright-eyed teenager with dreams so wonderfully ferocious I couldn’t keep up with them. I mean, I practically had my future mapped out, all I had to do was get through high school one dreadful test and presentation at a time, and I would land on the big X that said future.

But one day everything faded away into an indistinct memory, a cloud that became impenetrable, when I was holding my beautiful mother’s hand and watched her take one last fragile breath.

I was barely 15 when my mom died from metastatic breast cancer, and nine years later, the pain still lingers like a splinter wrongly removed. I wholeheartedly wish I could tell you that I’m okay, but the truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever be okay, and that’s okay. I’ve been through those five stages of grief, I’ve accepted the fact that she’s gone, but it still hurts to see that empty seat at the table, to feel that empty space in my heart, and to hear the deafening silence she left after saying goodbye.

Death is the biggest slap in the face, even if you’re the one that’s not dead.

My mom was the light in my life. She was the light in many people’s lives. At her very core she was a selfless and warm mother, friend, and wife that didn’t deserve the final card dealt for her. I always ask myself, why? why her. I can scream at the top of my lungs, punch and kick the air, rip my hair out trying to search for the answer, but I don’t think I will ever find it; it’s illusive, like a dream.

I wish I could tell those who have lost a loved one that it gets better but the truth is it doesn’t. However, it does get easier over time. It took many sleepless nights, a trip to a psychiatric clinic, terrible therapy, crying, screaming, and praying to get me to realize that it wasn’t the end of my life. Dealing with death isn’t linear—there are a lot of twists and turns and bumps that will knock you down along the way, they still knock me down, but it’s a journey you’re going to have to trust not rush. It’s hard, I know, but it’s made me grow as a person, to view life differently, and most importantly, it taught me how to survive even when I felt like dying.

Other Things Death Has Taught Me

  1. You’ll never be ready for it
  2. You’re not a burden
  3. Your feelings are valid
  4. It’s okay to be angry
  5. It’s okay to feel vulnerable
  6. Forgive yourself
  7. Forgive others
  8. You can’t control it
  9. It’s okay not to be okay
  10. Life goes on

You’re not a burden. Your feelings ARE valid.

Throughout my grieving process, I reached out to whatever outside help was available to me. But unfortunately that left me with very few options and even more heartache, leading me down a path I never imagined I would walk. My pain took root like a poisonous tree, coiling, its vines wrapping around my heart, sinuously creeping its way up my throat, and no matter how loud I screamed, nobody listened.

That was the moment I turned to self-harm. I figured if nobody was going to listen to how I felt, I might as well show them. It got me sent away for psychiatric evaluation at a place I didn’t belong. I was isolated from the world, not allowed to talk to or see anyone. There were so many emotions unfolding in my mind, I didn’t know which one to grasp onto.

I sat in the corner, crying, praying silently to myself in hopes that somebody would finally hear me. But nobody did. I do, however, distinctively remember a bald, rugged male nurse pulling me aside and asking me if I thought I belonged there. I didn’t answer him. I stared at him through bloodshot eyes, hoping my silence was as loud as my words. It was.

After what felt like hours, I met with a few psychiatrists who all had the same idea — medication. They tried to push different drugs on me, but I refused. They promised me that they would make me feel better, that I would feel happier, but for me, medicine is as useless as a cloth over an open wound. My mom was dead and no amount of medication could trip me back to a sense of normalcy or happiness. Now that could have just been me being a stubborn and arrogant 15-year-old, but the damage was already done.

I started to become filled with unwieldy rage as all of these doctors and therapists tried to rush me through those five stages of grief after my refusal for medication. They kept telling me it was time to move on and you have to be strong now. I didn’t want to move on, I wasn’t ready to, the wound was still fresh, but the abiding insensitivity was so infuriating that eventually I just gave up.

I didn’t want to feel like a burden to anyone anymore, so one day I woke up, painted a smile on my face, and went about my days, weeks, months, years as if I wasn’t silently pleading for help on the inside. It was easier for me — for everybody else — if I pretended to go on like nothing was wrong. I figured hey, if they want me to move on, I might as well. I wanted them to be happy even if that meant I had to sacrifice my own happiness. I didn’t allow myself to feel my emotions, I suppressed them, pushed them deep into the darkest place of my mind, and developed bouts of frequent anxiety, clinical depression, and manic episodes I couldn’t control. I was suffering and nobody knew.

Now that I’m older, I reflect a lot on those days — those days of sadness, anger, impatience, denial, and grief— thinking to myself how did I do it? how did I get through it? And honestly, I don’t think I truly got through it. Hell, I’m still going through it. It’s not something I will ever escape and I’ve accepted that. I’ve accepted that this is my life and I’ll never go back to normal—whatever that means. But I can allow myself to feel vulnerable, to feel that pain because it’s there to remind me that I’m still alive, that I’m surviving in a world full of heartache, and that’s okay too.




Coping with emotional pain, grief, and loss

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New York-based introvert and amateur writer of fiction. I’m just here for fun.

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