Life After Loss: YOLO

How do you live a life you never wanted? That’s what living with grief feels like at two months in.

I wake up, make a to do list and skim through Twitter, I burn the daylight hours by waddling around town or cleaning my forever-filthy-looking apartment, during these activities I can usually find a reason to laugh (I trip a lot because I’m super awkward), or sometimes I maybe find a reason to cry too, and this routine fills my days while I’m learning to live without my mom. It sounds really affected, I know it, but losing my mom has caused my family to need to relearn how to live our routine lives. I never would’ve understood it prior to losing an immediate family member, and when others don’t get it, my dad, brother and I always choose to be thankful. The ignorance of our friends and family, coworkers and strangers, means they have never had to know what it feels like to lose someone who takes up so much space in life. It’s not a pain I’d wish on anyone else, in fact, this pain awakens a kindness from within that you never knew existed.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross really nailed it when she said:

98c25f82fa4efffdedba0064a34d0f63I’ve stopped forgetting my mom is gone, which was a heartache and headache I couldn’t shake for the first few weeks. It’s not like I would wake up every morning not remembering she was gone, as if acting out a f’d up version of “50 First Dates” (probably directed by my fav Woody Allen & probably a musical). Instead, I would have a question, like who someone was in an old family photo, and I’d think: I’ll have to ask mom. It’s second nature to ask her the things only a mom would know, and I’ve learned it’s true that our hearts and minds can take a little longer to process our reality. It always felt a lot like crashing into one of those annoying lamp poles in a parking lot… easy to do and I felt pretty stupid. I’d stop what I was doing and remember how I can never ask my mama anything again, and it hurt.

I’ve only dreamt about my mama twice and I knew it wasn’t real both times. I don’t ever feel her presence, either. When she was alive, however, I could tell you what she was thinking or needing. I knew the sounds of her footsteps approaching without looking up and was a carbon-copy of her DNA in every way. My dad and her girlfriends see her all the time. I’ll get a text saying, “Your mom was with me!” or “I saw your mom today!” And all I can think to say is, “Neat!” Because maybe I’m missing the boat on ghost visits or I expect something too real, but I mostly block out all conscious thoughts of her. She stays on my mind, though– living just below my skin– and the smallest tokens will move me to tears: a mother and daughter bickering on their way to get pedicures, an old movie ticket my mama kept from her birthday five years ago, a heart-shaped cloud, the beach, hearing “Your Song” by Elton John, a Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon, donuts, Carol King, etc. This is the stuff she built me from and her love continues to guide me toward popular 70’s music artists and home goods.

Now I’m trying to figure out how best to not only live my life but to fully YOLO it, even without my best friend. My biggest fear since I can remember has always been something happening to my mom– a pretty solid sign I was both way too attached to her and also a super weird kid. (Very true.) But, it happened. She’s gone. And so, I’ve faced my biggest fear in life at 24… And, I’m not afraid of anything anymore. I’m building a life and career again, and my mama would want nothing less for me than utter, giggly, fulfilling and amazing, somewhat (completely) silly, truthful happiness. My life’s adventures will 100% contain all the good stuff she taught me. Whether this life feels new or old, the fact is: I’m changed. How could I not be? I’ve cared for someone more than I’ve cared for myself and I was alone with her in the stillness of the moment when she passed away.

Throwing the mic back to Big Liz to end things:

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 11.50.18 AM

P.S. My new apartment is finally together! Big thanks to my home improvement team, consisting of my dad and our two dogs, who worked hard this past weekend to fix all the holes I put into the wall via my new power drill. The cat can now walk through the apartment without piles of books and clothes falling down and squishing her, (which is totally not as much fun to watch), and I don’t live in constant fear that TLC will be shooting a TV special featuring my apartment anytime soon. Good things are happening here at Chaos HQ.

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Steph Doan


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