By Sasha Howell
When your parents die a piece of you dies with them. However, when your parents die, a new piece of you is also born.
I was 29 years old on January 28, 2013, when my Mom was killed instantly in a car crash. We had returned from a trip to Cuba just 12 hours prior, and after a good sleep in my bed in my tiny apartment, she left for the six-hour trek to her home. I found out later that evening that she only made it halfway home and died at noon.
My parents were not together, but thanks to both sides of my large family being from a small town, they mostly knew each other and some kept in touch. My Mom’s sister was able to reach my Dad to give him the news, and then he had the unimaginable task of telling me and my brother that our Mom was gone.
The next few days — months — years were filled with waves of grief. I slowly learned how to maneuver this world empty of my mother. In reality, everything else was the exact same, but everything felt different. I remember thinking it is the craziest thing that life just goes on without her. Over time I got comfortable with the idea that it was okay to smile and laugh, and that I wasn’t doing a disservice to my mom if I spent time doing things I enjoy. I wasn’t going to forget her.
Fast forward six years; it was a Friday night and I had just got home from work. I received a call telling me that my Dad was on his way to the hospital in an ambulance. As I finished packing my bags to head up north to be with my Dad, my aunt called to tell me he was gone. I had talked to my Dad the night before and we made plans for his 60th birthday the following week. However, that night, on September 21, 2018, he died by suicide. The tsunami of waves got a little bigger from that moment on, and I knew then that I would have to be intentional in how I dealt with the waves moving forward.
When we talk about moving forward, we are not moving on or letting go. We move forward with our grief, not from it or without it. We make space for our grief, and we carry it with us. My goal is to always move forward with my grief carrying special memories, moments and milestones — I celebrate these things and they become intertwined with my new life and the new piece of me that was born.
This new piece has allowed me to move forward with my head held high, knowing my parents would be so proud. In the beginning, grief felt like a very lonely place, but this new piece allowed me to talk to others about loss and grief. It allowed me to learn that I wasn’t alone and also that I could help others that felt alone. I was able to find myself within a community or a “club” as some people call it. A club nobody wants to be in, but we are here — together.
I have been able to connect with and help others by sharing my story and by listening to theirs. I wrote a chapter in a published book about grief called She Grieves with the intention of helping others learn to navigate their new life carrying grief. My chapter is called “Riding the Waves” because that is what we do. The ups and downs, the good days and bad — we can’t fight them, so we ride them — and know it won’t always be tough and the days won’t always be hard.
In closing, for whoever is reading this: I encourage you to explore the new pieces of you that were born when grief entered your world. Embrace all the pieces that make up who you are with the lessons you have learned. Be proud of yourself — you’re doing great!
For more information about Sasha, you can check out her website.
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