My mother died when I was 16. It was late February, in the midst of one of the coldest and snowiest winters we’d had in years. It was 3 months after she was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma, and 3 months before my junior prom. The morning of my prom, I remember sitting in the salon chair, surrounded by happy and excited girls my age. Innocent chatter filled the air like background music, while silent tears streamed down my face. Truly in a state of shock and mental fog, I don’t think my teenage brain could fully comprehend the magnitude of her death or how it would affect me beyond the immediate future. All I knew was that it was my prom day and my mom should have been there, but she wasn’t.
It’s been 8 years now; I am 24, turning 25 in May. As I grow older with each passing year, I find new and different ways to grieve the loss of my mom. Every phase of life has me missing her and noticing her absence in ways I never expected.
At 16, it was prom, high school boyfriends, trouble with friends at school, dealing with mean girls and bullies, getting my license, getting into my first car accident, studying for the SATS, college applications, senior dinners and award nights, and high school graduation, to name a few.
At 20, it was decorating my dorm room, moving to a big city, not getting along with my roommates, my first serious relationship, my first serious heartbreak, meeting some of my best friends, meeting people who understood loss, and people who did not.
At 24, it’s college graduation, adulting, a global pandemic, my first apartment, picking out the curtains and the bedspread, resumes and interviews, accepting my first big girl job, quitting my first big girl job, moving in with my boyfriend, making life decisions, and contemplating my career, my identity, my passions, and my purpose.
I miss her in the sad moments, but I really miss her in the happy moments. It doesn’t feel right to experience them without her. From the day I was born, she called me her best friend. I don’t know if a fifteen-year-old daughter can truly be their mother’s best friend for obvious reasons - well, maybe not yet, at least. But I wonder what it would be like to know her now: to have a glass of wine with her, to laugh about the disagreements we had when I was a teenager, to thank her for loving me regardless, to hear her own stories from her teenage and crazy college years she couldn’t tell me when I was 16. What was her first boyfriend like? Her first heartbreak? Her first job? Her first quarter-life crisis?
While my grief is not as agonizing as it once was, crippling me on a daily basis, it is ever-changing and still very much present. As I get older, my grief does too. As I mature, so does my grief. As I enter new phases of my life, you guessed it, my grief is right along for the ride. While it has become easier to live with, it finds new ways to be a part of my life. I guess this is my reminder that my mother is never truly gone from me. There will always be moments she should be a part of, moments she is deeply missed, and moments I still need her. So, if it’s been years since you lost your person and you find yourself asking “why am I still feeling this way?” Or people are asking you “aren’t you over this yet?” I hope you give yourself grace and compassion. I believe the extent of our love reflects the extent of our grief. Where there is love, there is lack of love and heartache. It's okay if your heart still aches. They should be here, even all these years later.