by Laura Victoria
At the age of 26, my worst nightmare came true. My mom passed away at the young age of 56 and I quickly became a member of a club that I wanted no part of — the grieving club. I quickly became consumed with feelings of sadness, confusion, shock, anger, and numbness. I could not understand how I now lived in a world where my mom did not exist. She was gone. Ironically, she would have been the first person I went to in order to help me figure out these feelings. However, I now found myself left alone and scared wondering how I would navigate the rest of my years on this earth without her. Of all the things in life, how could this ONE nightmare come true?
My mom was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in 2008. The first time my family’s world was flipped upside down. When she received her official diagnosis I remember her telling me that she “wasn’t going anywhere” and that she “would be there to dance with me on my wedding day,” and would “spoil the heck out of my future children.” She made it her mission to beat it and that is exactly what she did. Fast forward to 2016 when the second set of problems arose and the everlasting impact it would have on my family began. I suffered from horrible anxiety because I could not understand how this was happening to her all over again. She beat cancer and it did not have the right to come back and make her life hell again. My mom passed away on August 3rd, 2017, after much suffering. It has been four years since her passing and I still find it difficult to process it on any given day. I avoid bringing up her passing in conversation because when I say it aloud it feels like saying it for the first time all over again. I also want to avoid the slight head tilts and the “I am so sorry to hear that” or “it gets easier with time” from strangers who think they understand my pain. Yup! All part of that annoying club I never signed up for.
The guilt that swarms you after someone’s passing is not something that anyone can ever prepare you for either. Everyone always tells you to remember the good times or the good memories only when thinking about them. However, in my personal experience, I was flooded with all the bad memories. The guilt that consumed me of all the times I gave her a hard time or yelled at her or was just being a horrible daughter. Those memories came rushing in first. Why did I have to ever be like that towards her of all people? And now I was left with no way to make up for it or tell her how sorry I truly was.
Someone once said to me that the best way to describe grief is like wanting to go home but you can’t. This is the only explanation of grief that has resonated with me. My mom was my home and there was no way of getting back to her. She is all but a memory now and I am left with the life lessons that she has bestowed on me. She will forever live in me.
I tried many ways to cope with my grief. I attempted to seek a therapist but backed out at the last second. I tried to journal but my mind was too quick with my thoughts for my pen to keep up. I thought I had to find a quick solution to heal my pain and be myself again but I quickly realized that grieving and healing are both a continuous process, and sometimes even when you feel like you have healed from something, it can come right back around and hit you even harder.
That is when I turned to making digital collage art. Something I used to enjoy in school. Something that was familiar. I felt that expressing myself through art was a way to connect with my mom also because she loved it when I was creative. I truly feel calm and relaxed when I create. I then had the idea to start an Instagram page called Grieving Break to showcase my work and further help with my healing process.
Digital collage art allows me to put pieces together that normally would not make sense but somehow, in the end, they do. It allows me to tell a story of my life or a situation that I was placed in after my mom’s passing. My art is an expression of all the things I wish I could say to people, be it coworkers, family, or strangers but I am not able to find the proper words to articulate. Things I am too afraid to express to people in person but I can put together digitally and create a story. It has become very therapeutic for me.
I also use this page to express certain things people have said to me throughout my grieving process that I did not find ok. Certain situations that left me questioning, not only my own sanity but my grieving process. For instance, telling someone that your “grief should have a deadline” or that you “should have done something more memorable for your mom’s first Mother’s Day without her” are not appreciated nor should they be accepted. I have unfortunately taken the brunt of harsh words my way from people that should have minded their own business. However, I continue to keep quiet and smile around these individuals as a means to not make them feel uncomfortable around me and my pain. Maybe one day I will be brave enough to confront them and let them know that I am allowed to feel any way I choose on any given day. That what I went through is not okay and that I can take as much time to heal and grieve as necessarily possible. No one will truly know the pain it feels to lose a loved one until they are the ones sitting front row at the funeral, so always remember to be kind.
My mom was my angel on earth and now she is the guardian angel that watches over me. I know she wanted to be here with us. To watch me and my sister grow up. To grow old with my dad. Unfortunately, God had other plans for her but I will make sure to live the rest of my life letting people know of the beautiful, smart, caring, and fashionable woman that she was. She will not be forgotten. She simply cannot be forgotten!
Rest easy my angel. Till we meet again.
For more information about Laura, you can check out her Instagram page.
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