1. Tell the people you care about that you love them. It’s important to actually say those words. I had an epiphany during a conversation with my mom a month before she died when I told her I loved her more than anything else in the world. I usually told her I loved her after seeing her but it took her being gravely ill for me to articulate how truly important she was to me.
2. Grief is complicated. My mom’s departure was unexpected and painful for those close to her. The ensuing year has included a spectrum of emotions for me including anger, sadness, confusion, hope, and gratitude. My brother has his own set of emotions, as does everyone else affected, and we all express them in different ways.
3. Live your own authentic life. My mom and I had divergent life philosophies which caused tension until the very end. She experienced significant physical pain but due to her religious beliefs she refused to seek medical care. Though I disagreed with them my mom was firm in her convictions, and though I saw the sorrow and discomfort it caused her, not once did I see her fearful or doubtful. She was her authentic self to the last.
4. Losing someone close to you will test your strength. At times it has been a challenge to keep loving people close to this situation, some of them relatives I have known my entire life. It takes strong resolve to hash out issues with people that make you want to stop loving them. But working things out is worth it if not to strengthen existing bonds, at least to let go of resentment for the future.
5. You will eventually return to being yourself. A good friend lost his dad recently and wanted to know if things get easier. One person had told him it never does and another one had said yes, definitely. But for me dealing with my mom passing away has been a surreal experience. Initially there was shock, followed by deep depression. Then there was gradual improvement punctuated by intense moments of anguish. A year later I can talk about my mom without my throat clenching. The truth is I don’t know if this will ever stop hurting. But what I do know is that I can finally focus in the moments where some beauty, or kindness, or compassion reminds me of her. In those instants I feel my mom’s strength and I remember what she always wanted me to be: happy.
6. Work at being happy. Find outlets for your energy, positive and negative. Turning to friends has always helped me find positive vibes, but harnessing the negative energy can be difficult. What really helped me after losing my mom was expressing myself physically. Weights, basketball, rock climbing, softball, and parkour were all key to me finding catharsis. Challenging myself physically is freeing and helps me get find flow in my daily life. Everyone has something that helps them experience flow, and you shouldn’t stop looking until you find it.