June 18, 2017, was Father’s Day. My parents were in the Florida Keys on their second vacation in probably 20 years. They were celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary.
I got the worst phone call of my life that evening. Mom and dad had been gone on an all-day snorkeling cruise, so the call from my dad Sunday evening was the first time I’d talked to him all day. I was confused when my cheerful “Happy Father’s Day!” was met with feigned acceptance. And then the tearful words I’ll never forget:
“I’m sorry, honey. Your momma’s gone.”
My mom was my best friend, confidant, and biggest cheerleader. She was 56 when she drowned that day. My family’s world was turned upside down.
During those first days, I tried to be useful and keep busy with tasks. Because things were so out of control, I sought comfort through the things that I could control.
When it came time for the funeral, my dad asked me if I wanted to speak. My answer was a short, simple, and resounding: “no.” I was so paralyzed by my own grief that I could not imagine standing before a room full of people to speak.
Some days, I carry guilt that I was not able to stand up for my mom that day. In a way, it feels like I betrayed her by not being able to speak to her love and spirit for all of those who gathered to celebrate her life with us.
But I have learned that every person has their own unique journey with grief. It’s not a journey “through” grief. At least for me, I haven’t made it to the other side. But it is a journey. Every day is different, but it is the same. Each day gets easier, but it also gets harder.
The most important thing I have learned about grief is that the best thing I can do for my healing is to stop comparing my journey with anyone else's.
Each member of my family has experienced a vastly different journey with grief. No one journey is “right” or “wrong.”
Today, we honor mom by keeping her memory alive. We talk about her often, cook her favorite meals, eat her favorite ice cream, and celebrate her on special days like Mother’s Day. We live each day to the fullest, because that’s what she would want us to do.
When a loved one passes away, you may be too paralyzed to speak. You may be too overwhelmed to talk about probate and cleaning up your loved one's affairs. Being on the journey myself, I can relate.
Lauren "Lost a Mom Too Soon" Merritt