“There is something about losing your mother that is permanent and inexpressible – a wound that will never quite heal.” – Susan Wiggs
My mother’s death was, and still is, a defining moment in my life. Everything is defined either before she died or after. I’ll try to remember something and say, ” Mom died in 2005 so that must mean this happened after..” It’s an odd thing. As if I didn’t have a life before she died. It’s always been the way that I keep track of the years. Today marks 13 years. More than half my life with out her.
I was 11 when she died. For a long time it’s all people knew about me. It was kind of a vest-pocket description of my emotional complexion: “That’s Lisa, she likes punk rock bands, and wears a lot of black. Her mom just died” I’m sure there are still kids from my middle school where that’s the only thing they know about me.
It was a Sunday. It was raining. The San Diego Chargers had made play offs and my dad was headed off to the game. He went to kiss her goodbye, and realized she had passed away sometime in the middle of the night. I remember coming out of the bathroom, and hearing panic in my dad’s voice. I just sat on the floor with my sister, watching as everyone around me just fell to pieces. It was like slow motion. I couldn’t hear anything, it was all muffled. You know those scenes in a movie where everything goes silent, and all you hear is a high-pitched whine as the scene just unfolds utter chaos? Yeah, it was kind of like that. To be honest, I can’t remember if I cried, but if I did, it wasn’t for long, and I didn’t cry again for a long time.
I was a pre-teen left with a single dad who knew nothing about raising a girl who was just about to be a teenager. Bless his heart. He did the best he could. I was just trying to figure out who I was, or who I wanted to be. My teenage years were a confusing time. I was angry, isolated. I was needy but didn’t want to need anyone because that was too scary. I look back at pictures of me, and it just makes me sad. My heart hurts for that girl. Searching for anything to fill a void, that I’ve come to learn, will never be filled.
The day after my mom passed, I returned back to school after winter break. It was odd but I didn’t want to be at home. It was depressing and I just wanted a distraction. Word got around the school about what had happened, and I remember coming home from school that day to messages on MySpace ( oh yes, the good old MySpace days)- to kids telling me horrible things. ” My mom didn’t pass away, she left me because she didn’t want me. I died my hair because I was depressed ” It probably did not help that I had also died my blonde hair jet black over the break and this had nothing to do with what had happened. A terrible coincidence. I was slowly learning at a young age that life was hard, and only getting harder. I was angry. And that’s the only emotional I felt.
As a kid, I was told to tell my friends it had been an allergic reaction to medication. But there’s no reason to lie, I’m not ashamed, it was an accidental drug overdose.My mom was an addict, but that’s not all she was. She was a friend, a co-worker, a sister, a daughter. She was a beam of light. Her laugh could brighten up an entire room. I could describe my mom in a lot more ways than just being an addict.
There has always been this stigma about addiction, and the death of a loved one. The family who has lost someone is almost embarrassed, and fears judgement, feeling as though other people will think they didn’t do enough to save them. NO. That is wrong. You can only do so much for an addict. They have to want it for themselves. Period.
Society as a whole deeply misunderstands addiction. Hate the addiction, not the addict. Addiction is a disease. An ugly one. Most of the time, addiction stems from deeper rooted issues. I’ve learned that the life of an addict is this: You get clean, you go to jail, or you die. That’s it. There is no other way.
But as harsh as that may sound an addict is still a person. They still have a name, a family, a personality. An addict is still somebody’s son, brother, wife, husband, mother, or a father. Somebody still loves them. When you remember the ones you lost, you don’t remember the bad times. At least I don’t. I remember food fights at dinner, and I remember staying in our pajamas and watching Star Wars. That’s what you remember.
My mom’s death taught me at a young age that life is fragile. We are not promised tomorrow so you might as well give it all you got. Love hard, and say I’m sorry. There is nothing that is worth staying so angry that you don’t speak. I know what it’s like to lose loved ones. Unfortunately, my mom is not the only loved one I have lost. Each death serving as another cruel reminder of just how short life is, and in the big scheme of things, the little things don’t matter. But through the heart-break, I am grateful that I know the value of relationships, and just how quickly someone can be gone, forever. I truly value my friends and family, and nothing is ever worth losing them over. Sometimes I feel like this is something that only I could have learned by losing someone.
Death is inevitable. No matter how tight you hold on, everyone has a timeline. My moms death had me fear losing anyone. But with time, you learn it is the way of life. I would hold on to toxic relationships because I feared the pain of saying goodbye to someone. I didn’t want another void to fill. But I have come to learn that not everyone is meant to be in your life forever, and letting go of people is okay. Saying goodbye is okay. Missing them is okay.
Grief is a blanket statement. They say it gets better with time, and it’s true that the pain wears off, slightly, like a dull knife around the edges. You never get over it, you just get used to living with it.
I get tired of the same pictures I have. I want new ones. I want to know what she would look like today. What kind of relationship would we have? Would have things got better? Would she be clean? I’ll never know. I think that’s what hurts the most. I will never know if she would had finally lived a life without suffering.
The older I get, her being gone is a bigger pill to swallow. She will not be there on my wedding day, she won’t be there for the birth of my first child. I watch girls and their mothers getting their nails done, and I smile, but it’s a sad smile. It’s a smile of longing behind it. How I long for those moments that only a mother and a daughter could have.
I mark Mother’s Day on my private calendar for grief. Trust me, I am well aware that my mother is gone to wish her here in any way. But sometimes I just want someone to jump on the bed with me and sing Britney Spears. Anyone who has lost anyone must have one of those. February 16th, my mother’s birthday–forever stopped at the age of 33. Christmas morning, my moms favorite holiday. As a kid, I’d go weeks without seeing my mom but she always managed to be there for Christmas, no matter what. January 8th- the morning she passed away. It was cold and rainy. Every December I can feel this day coming up. I count each and every day after Christmas, the knot in my stomach growing bigger and bigger. The beautiful spirit of the holidays are haunted by this shadow of such a traumatic day in my life. The year becomes a landscape filled with little mines.
I fear time. Every year I feel farther and farther apart. Like she is left back on the day, January 8th, 2005. And with each year, farther and farther into the void. All the years driving distance between us. How do I comprehend that time will only drive my mother and I farther and farther apart?Longer and longer since I heard her laugh or felt her hugs. I told this to my dad a few days ago, and he told me something that he’s never told me before. He said, ” Lisa, as long as you love your mom, she will never really leave you.” So that’s what I will do.
I will forever search for moments full of her, but I know she is with me always. ❤️
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please reach out to them. I have linked a few support groups below.
If you have lost someone, and are struggling to deal with it, I have also linked some support groups below.
No one has to face these things alone. Get the help you need, be the person you want to be. It’s never too late.