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Chapter 3: After. I was a Daughter grieving loss of Mother

My Dad came in the next morning and sat on my bed, woke me up and held my hand. I am not quite sure how he mustered the strength to say “your Mom died in her sleep last night.” Those words should never have to be said to a 12 year old. He left to tell the rest of my siblings and I felt as if I were sitting in the middle of a tornado. I could hear everything around me, but I was paralyzed. I could not move. My world was spinning. I heard crying and the noises of the front door opening and shutting. There were people from EMT, our Priest arrived, family friends, neighbors, but I just could not move. I pulled my blanket up tight and sat in the corner of my bed for quite some time. I finally reached for my phone and called my best friend. “My Mom died. Can you come over?” (This is how you tell your friend when you are 12). I went downstairs to wait for her and she and her sister arrived quickly. We went back upstairs to my room and I remember putting on music and just sitting there. People continued to come in and out all day and I just listened and blinked. She stayed with me the first few days and never left my side.

Later in the day, one of our family friends contacted my Dad and said they were having a youth group meeting that night and I was welcome to come, if I felt I wanted to. My best friend and I decided to go and we walked into a living room filled with kids our age. We knew a few of them, but most of them were strangers. It was tradition to introduce yourself as a newbie and when it came to my turn, I said “my name is Kathleen and I am friends with Dave. My Mother died today.” Blank stares from all and some kids putting their hands over their mouths in pure shock. The Pastor of that group helped me through that evening and he was a constant in my life throughout my childhood. He was a strong light for me in one of the darkest days I would ever know. He is still in my life today!

It is so odd to me what I remember from the next week. I have no recollection of the wake, except for a few things. A friend of mine from school brought a small angel statue for me and I recall my feet hurting really bad. I do not have any memory of what my Mom looked like in the casket, but I know she was wearing a white suit. However, I have an extremely crystal clear memory of when they closed the casket for the last time. That felt like a bolt of lightning running through my body. It was final. This was really happening. It was at that moment, that everything hit me. Finally the tears started.

I wrote a poem, which I recited at the funeral mass and I do not remember this at all. I stood up in front of an entire congregation at the age of 12 and recited a poem about my Mother. No recollection of this. Moving to the burial site, no memory. I do have small pops of things that have come back over the years, like what I was wearing, walking down in the procession at the church, but for the most part, it is a part of my story that is tucked away somewhere in my mind.

After.Daughter grieving loss of Mother

I was not only grieving for MY Mother, but I was a daughter grieving loss of mother. All of the things that young girls do with their mother and the things I had yet to do…were now gone. I would never go shopping for a prom dress, paint our nails together or decide what kind of wedding dress I wanted. I would give anything to vacuum for her anytime she wanted. I would get her a million ginger ales. I would do anything to turn back the clock.

Now we had to start to move on as a family of 5 and we all were processing things very differently. I didn’t eat much of anything for the first 2 weeks and I did not want to talk about the loss. I started to move on as if nothing had happened. I was so incredibly angry inside, but I was “tough” and I was “ok”. My Dad had me speak to multiple counselors and I would sit on their couch with my arms crossed and stay silent. I was NOT going to talk about it…I was FINE! I was clearly not fine. Being a strong-willed, stubborn 12 year old, no one was going to tell me what to do. I would focus on soccer, music, hanging with my friends and keep this all tucked way down. Until I couldn’t anymore. I started having panic attacks, mostly at night. I finally opened up to one of the counselors in school. It was like a flash flood and everything came out. I was finally starting to grieve and process this tremendous loss in my life. I was able to exhale. I was able to see that there were glimmers of light and that I had to work HARD to get there…but I was going to be ok.

Slowly our new normal took shape and while this is part of my story, losing my Mother at such a young age was not going to define me. Sure there are hundreds of times in my life when I miss her presence, but I know without a shadow of a doubt she is still with me. She was there the day I got married, she was there through all my fertility losses, she was there at the birth of my children and she was there when I, myself, was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have my own personal Angel walking with me through my crazy life.

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