The Motherless Daughters Club: Tis the season?

Well well, it has been a while.. I have to admit that with this busy exam period going on, I haven’t had much time to think about the Christmas season, but last night it just hit me. Christmas is right around the corner! Not being able to see my mother around this time of the year is tough.

Growing up we celebrated Christmas when my parents were still together, but my mom became a Jehovah’s Witness in my early teens, so after that I’d often go to my grandparents to celebrate Christmas there and it wasn’t really until I moved to Denmark that I actually started celebrating this time of the year.

But despite the fact that my mom didn’t really celebrate Christmas anymore in the last years of her life, I can’t help but miss her a little bit extra during this time. I see a lot of my peers going shopping for presents with their moms, and as happy as I am for them, I can’t help but hurt inside when I see it. Thoughts like ”Why can’t I do that?” or ”They don’t know how lucky they are” go through my head. Because I really do wonder sometimes if they realise how lucky they are. Something as simple as just calling mom to tell her how her day was or to ask her if she’s 100% sure if she wouldn’t like a tiny little Christmas present anyway is something I’d do anything for to experience one more time. But it will never be. And that hurts. The silence is loud. I want to get that phone call on NYE to wish me a happy new year, and damnit, why can’t I have that phone call?

Luckily for me, I have enough things to keep me preoccupied for now with work and exams. I’ll be spending Christmas and New Years with my Finnish family, so hopefully I won’t be feeling too blue, but I know not everyone who is part of this club is that lucky.

Tis the season to be with family and make memories for most. But for me, my sister and everyone else who lost their mom, tis the grim reminder that we’ll never make those memories again.

People often say that this loss loses its sharp edges and that you learn to live with the pain, but why does it for me feel as if the pain and burden only gets worse over the years? Because I still can’t talk about her without wanting to curl up and cry. She was still supposed to be here, she was supposed to see me get married and have kids. But she will never. And that’s unfair. It shouldn’t be like this.

To my fellow motherless daughters out there,

Stay strong during this time of the year. I’m thinking of each and every one of you out there. We got this. We can get through it.

Lots of love,

Naiyee

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The Motherless Daughters Club: Would she be proud of me?

Today marks the fourth year since my mom passed away and it is tough.. Getting through the night and day without breaking down is difficult. On days like these I try to practise self care. I take a day off from work or school to allow myself to just be and cry if I need to.

During these four years without her, I often wonder how she would feel about the decisions that I make. Not having her around to ask for advice is still something I’m getting used to, even after four years. My life has changed a lot in this time span in so many different ways. But the one question that keeps me up some nights is:

”Would she be proud of me?”

I’m not necessarily a validation seeking person, not at all, but the opinion of my mother always meant a lot to me, which makes sense I guess.. Having lost my mom at a young age, the age where you may not be considered fully adult yet and not having to make any serious adult decisions, it is hard to imagine what type of advice she would give in certain situations. Not only that, but also what her stance and opinions would be during difficult times.

Everyone around me always tell how she would be proud and even though those words mean a lot, they don’t give me a lot of comfort, because they aren’t their opinions I need to hear in times like those. That being said, I am extremely grateful for everyone offering some kind of support and/or understanding. It is nice knowing that there are people out there who care. But I feel as if my mother’s words and advice are the only ones that can help me get through it, but she’s gone..

The best way of describing this feeling is like going all the way back to when I was small and mom and I would go shopping. When you’re small, these stores are HUGE! Imagine that and then losing your mom in that big store. But instead of having that uncomfortable and scary feeling slip away and feeling relieved when you find her again, she is gone. Because that’s what it feels like. I feel all alone in this great big world, knowing my mom won’t be there to find her way back to me.

I had to start my adult life without her, having to make a lot of really tough decisions without her. And even though in the back of my head I know that she would be proud, I can’t help but wonder.. I hope she would be. I would just love to hear her say it one more time.

Luckily for me, not all hope is completely gone. I have a great support system of family and friends who are there to pick me up when I fall and for that I am thankful. Without them I wouldn’t have made it through.

And to any of you out there who have lost their mother,

I’m proud of you for sticking through the hard times. You’re a badass and you deserve all the good things in the world. You got this, you always have and you always will.

-Naiyee

The Motherless Daughters Club: The story of how I lost my mom

Today’s post is going to be a tough one!

Next week, on the 29th of November, marks four years since my mother passed away. Growing up I had heard stories of my peers losing a parent, but I had never really given the idea of losing my mother any thought. ”That would never happen to me!” I’d say.. Until it actually happened.

I was 20 years old, embarking on this whole new journey in my life. I had just graduated vet tech school and I had just moved to Denmark to be with my boyfriend at the time. All in all I was very excited about the start of my new life. That was until I received a phone call from my Opa. He was in tears, I still remember till this day how upset he was. ”Your mother has been admitted to the hospital and it isn’t good. We don’t know what is going on, but it’s bad news”. Those words still haunt me. I was all alone, my then boyfriend was at work and it felt like the ground was disappearing from underneath me. I tried to go about my day, phone in my hand, until Mama called me. She told me they would take some more tests, but they were pretty sure that it was cancer. Cancer. The disease that I’ve seen wreaking havoc all around me. I had seen people die from it. Heck, my mom has undergone surgery for it a few years prior, but the doctors said it wasn’t anything serious.

To hear that it came back felt like a slap in the face. No, actually, it felt like a punch in the stomach. My mind was racing a thousand miles an hour.  The following weeks were a blur. I’d try to Skype with Mama and the rest of my family as much as I could. They ended up finding out that Mama was suffering from a very rare subtype of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. She’d keep me updated about her progress and how her rounds of chemo were going. Eventually she started losing her hair and we Skyped while my sister shaved off Mama’s hair. It was raw, it was rough and I was struggling to keep my emotions in. Mama actually sent me a lock of her hair, which I today still keep in a little box with some of her jewellery.

The chemo started taking a toll on her health. Mama has always been a bit weaker. She had been suffering from chronic illnesses for years at that point. At this point, three months in, she needed me to be there, so I hesitantly booked my flight to be there with my family. I was scared.

”Is she still the same? She looks so different.. What if I make her sicker?”

I arrived and I could tell she was filled with joy to see me. I wasn’t too happy, but I knew it was the right thing to do. A couple of days leading up to my arrival back home we found out that my childhood dog Lilo also had cancer and wouldn’t be around for much longer. A couple of days later we had to put our beloved Lilo down. It definitely was a blow for all of us. But I tried to spend as much time with my family and friends as possible. I accompanied my mom to her weekly trips to the hospital and all seemed well, until Mama started getting sicker again. She couldn’t keep anything in and the doctors decided that it’d be smart for her to be readmitted so they could run some tests and scans. The day before I was supposed to go back to Denmark I decided to go to the hospital and be with Mama. Her doctor came in and asked if we’d like to come to the family room to discuss her PET scan results and I immediately sensed something wasn’t right. I told Mama, but she seemed confident that it was all fine. I remember saying: ”But… If everything is fine, why wouldn’t she want to tell us here?” Mama shared a room with some other patients and well.. You wouldn’t bring bad news in a room full with other people. Off to the family room we went..

”I’ll just cut right to the chase. Your treatment isn’t working anymore. The cancer is fighting back a couple of times worse than in the beginning.. I’m really sorry, but it’d probably be better if you would go home and spend the time you still have with your family..”

I don’t think I have ever screamed and cried as much in front of my family and strangers as I did that evening. It felt like my world shattered into a million pieces in mere seconds. Watching Mama and Opa break down was the worst thing I have ever had to witness. They were the people who seemed invincible to me. The car ride home to Oma and my sister was long. I recall Mama trying to hold my hands, but I was completely out of it. I couldn’t look at her, it hurt too bad.

”Don’t you want me to hold your hand?”
”Fuck, Mama, what am I supposed to do without you?”

She held me and we cried on the back seat, all the way home. My sister and Oma were devastated too. And then we suddenly had a funeral to plan. The doctors couldn’t say how much longer she had. Could be a couple of weeks, could be a couple of months. The cancer rapidly took over her body up until the point where she was bed bound. Mama had decided she wanted to be put under palliative care instead of choosing euthanasia, since she thought euthanasia would be too hard for my sister and I. I’d have preferred if she opted for euthanasia, but my sister was happier with the palliative care. Only goes to show how this differs for each individual! Seeing Mama’s health deteriorate so badly was hard to watch.

Mama and I had a complicated relationship. We fought a lot as I got older. For the most part I’m a carbon copy of her, maybe not necessarily looks, but definitely personality, just minus the ADD for me. I used to see her as this invincible entity. Mama who could do anything, Mama who would scare anyone away who’d try to hurt me, Mama who would ALWAYS be there, right? Having to take of her, helping her out of bed, making her food, taking her on walks was something that suddenly didn’t seem like a chore anymore, but I actually liked it, knowing that her time here was coming to an end.. That end came sooner than any of us really anticipated.

The day she decided to be put to sleep came and we had to say goodbye, since she would sleep until she would eventually pass away. It was rough. None of us wanted to say goodbye. I still wanted to ask her so many things, go on so many more hikes, have so many more barbecues, sing so many more songs.

”I am so sorry it has gone so fast Nennie.. I really am”

We hugged, we kissed, we laughed for the last time and then she slept. Four days later she finally passed. When my bonus mom came up in my room to tell me she passed, it felt like a relief. Mama wasn’t suffering anymore. The funeral was planned and it was just the way she would have wanted it. We got a bunch of permanent markers, which people could take to write a message on her casket with and the casket transformed from a boring white casket to a casket filled with messages and flowers. It left an impression for sure. It’s funny how one person could have such an impact.  Mama was a dog lover and part of a big community of dog enthusiasts. When she was driven away to be cremated all of her friends were there with their dogs to pay tribute to her and honor her. I look back on it with a smile, knowing she would have loved it.

Having lost her also meant my sister and I lost our childhood home, our dogs and our safe space. Losing her was so much more than losing just her. We lost our old lives and suddenly had to start something new. In the beginning I was convinced I couldn’t do it, but so far, I’d say I’m doing pretty darn well.

I miss her. I miss her so much and it hurts. I wouldn’t even say that it hurts less, because I’m still hurting as much as I did the moment her heart stopped beating. I’ve just learned how to live with it..

In the end, you can’t lose someone who sits so deep within your heart to death. Their memory and stories keep them alive in a way.

– Naiyee

 

Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages..

So this week I’m up to something pretty big! I’ll be going back to the Netherlands for the first time in over a year to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It always ends up being pretty awesome whenever I’m down there to visit family, but the time leading up to those trips are always pretty stressful for me.

For those of you that don’t know me that well, my mother passed away only a couple of months after I moved to Denmark in 2014 and basically right after I moved here, I had to go back to be there with her. The weeks leading up to it was grueling, because she was very sick, and I knew that nothing would be the same way as I left it. But then she passed away and suddenly it felt as if my home was taken away from me. Even though I still have all of my family and friends over there, it feels as if I no longer belong. Part of me is probably also just nervous about receiving bad news again, the same way as it did back in 2014. Now I know that that is absolutely irrational and I have nothing to worry about, but still. Going back is hard for me, because it’s a constant reminder of the life I once had. A life I once took for granted. My friends moved away, our dogs have been adopted, my entire family lives in different parts spread out over the country and well.. the house I grew up in is no longer ours.

I remember walking around my hometown last year with my Opa and my sister and even though everything looked the same, the feeling was gone. It was like a familiar painting, but without the warm colours..

Whenever I do go down there to see everyone, it feels like a warm bath. It’s lovely to be surrounded by my family and friends and sometimes I really do wonder if moving abroad was the right decision, but then I look at how much I have grown and the little life I’ve established here and it made me realise that I did something right. But there are moments where I really hate being so far away from everyone I love. It makes me wish that sometimes I wasn’t so adventurous and found contentment in a simpler life, closer to the ones I love. But then I think about a quote my mom once sent me:

”Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages”.

I see where she was getting at.. I used to ALWAYS follow my head and play it safe, but it also made me very unhappy. The one moment I decided to follow my heart was the decision to move countries, something lots of people in my direct circle never expected of someone like me. But I still try to protect my heart from things that may hurt it, so I keep it tucked deep within me, within my ribs. Isolating myself is a bad coping mechanism I’ve created over the years and I am not very proud of it, but it has always worked. Now that I live so far away from my loved ones it’s even easier, although I try not to. Staying away from the place that confronts me; my own bloody home, is easy, but it’s not a solution. It’s bittersweet really, because this longing for being with my family comes with this fear, this sense of anxiety of returning to my home, because of the events that have occurred there 4 years ago, not even to mention that this month marks the fourth year since my mother has passed.

So in a way, this upcoming trip has given me a lot of sleepless nights too. I procrastinated booking my flight and letting my family know if I’d be there, because of this tug-of-war in my head. However, I knew I couldn’t stay away. This is a milestone in my grandparents’ lives and they had already considered holding it off, since my mother couldn’t be there too. And I can relate to this feeling, because I’ve been there too. I didn’t want to marry or have kids if she wouldn’t be there to experience it, but in the end, life doesn’t stop because her life ended. So I’m proud of my grandparents for deciding that they’d celebrate anyway. I couldn’t say no when they asked me if I’d come too, knowing that they’d already have one empty chair at that table. I didn’t want them to have to look at yet another empty chair at that dining table. And I’m happy that I get to see them again. Spending time with them is fun. They’re amazing people and I am so grateful to still have them.

Life is strange. It’s incredible how much impact the loss of ONE person can have on so many lives. My mother’s death may have caused us to be far apart from one another, but our bond is closer than ever. I only get to spend 4 days in the Netherlands, not very long, but my loss also taught me to cherish those moments, as big or as little as they may seem.

As my favourite Disney character once said:

”This is my family. It’s little and broken, but still good.
Yeah, still good”

To all of you reading this,

Hug your loved ones a little tighter today. You never for how much longer you’ll have them..

– Naiyee