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What does grief look like to you?

Today has been a weird one. I would say it's safe to label it one of the hardest, emotionally challenging days I have had in a long time.

I don't talk about my mom a lot. It tends to make people uncomfortable. I've been conditioned to consider other people's feelings over my own-

But when I do talk about my mom, it's the truth. It's my truth...

and sometimes, it makes me uncomfortable.

My mom was murdered 34 years ago. By the end of this year, it will be 35, and

I will turn 36. I was 13 months old when it happened.

Professionals say there are two parts to grief: who you were before and who you are after. I don't remember the me I was before- this has always been my card, my life's hand.

I grew up without her- how could one possibly miss someone they've never had.

I want to punch the people who tell me I should be over it by now- They should thank God they have no idea the level of pain one must endure to love and to lose- They should thank God they've never experienced grief because if you did- you'd know it never goes away. They are the lucky ones- there is no such thing as "get over it."

It feels like I'm missing a body part. It feels like I'm missing a piece of my soul-

I put on a happy smile to face the outside world, and I take off the mask to cry alone in my corner. What am I crying about, something I never had?

When I was little, my adults would say, "if you don't stop crying, I will give you something to cry about." As if my tears weren't already justified.

What if someone "gave me something to cry about"? to satisfy their wish for me to shut up.

No one can fix it- nothing will ever bring her back. So why am I crying? Sometimes, I don't even know why to give, and sometimes, I can not stop crying.

I didn't go to counseling growing up; I spent every other weekend with my maternal side of my family, and the depression on their side of the chain-length fence painted the entire world a different color.

I understand it now, but when I was a child, I went back and forth from one extreme to the other. And I was never allowed to talk about it.

My grandparents lost custody of me when I was 12- after that, I had to pretend it never happened. Everyone else had picked up the pieces, moved on with their lives, and got new stories, which meant I had to too.

I wasn't allowed to talk about it. "Allowed." I mean that in every sense of the word. I did not have permission to talk about my mother. I did not have permission to grieve her or her family, nor their absence in my life. I was not allowed.

And any time I did- any time I inconvenienced anyone by showing emotion or bringing it up, I got punished. I was yelled at. I was told to "shut up and go away."

"Nobody wants to hear you."

So, that's how I've learned to cope with it. I cry silently.

I try not to breathe hard. I do my damndest not to make any noise.

Monsters come out of white picket fences, and I didn't want to get eaten alive if they heard me.

I've gone the last 34 years with my feelings to myself. This year is the first time I've gotten therapy for any of it. I'm in two different grief support groups, thanks to Project Cold Case. We also have a survivor's meeting once a month to fellowship and remind each other that emotions are authentic, and we have the right to remember our loved ones.

We're four months into the year, and this month, I have all three groups in the same week. I had my counseling Monday, I had a closed support group last night, and tomorrow is our monthly survivor's meeting.

This week is the most therapy I've had in my entire life.

My therapist told me I would need to process it- but how does one take the time they don't have.

That's what grief is- a stealer of time.

I get triggered by talking about it- I guess I feel like I don't deserve to. It happened when I was so young; I miss the void of my mother because I didn't get to know her like other survivors knew their past loved ones. I don't remember her at all.

This morning I woke up to take my teenage daughter to school early.

She's having a hard time understanding her math course and needs extra time for tutoring.

I got a coffee on the way home and sat at my desk for my workday. It's the middle of the week, worse than rush hour traffic. Everyone has somewhere to be, everyone has a sense of urgency, but no one is going anywhere.

It felt like I had bullets of stress coming from all directions, and I got overwhelmed.

I'm doing my best at being something I have no idea what I'm doing. I have no role model to take after.

I wished upon a million stars I could have called my mom on the phone. Wished I had a number to dial so I could listen to it ring, hoping she would answer.

But the sun is shining, and you can't see the stars in the sky.

I wanted someone to talk to. I wanted a hug.

I wished I had someone to vent to, to talk about how it felt like everything was going wrong and everything would be just fine.

That's what grief looks like to me.

I had no one to call.

I had no one but the empty walls to hear me and my desk to hold me.

I covered my face with my hands, and I cried.

I cried aloud because no one was around to tell me to shut up.

I cried until I wanted to stop. Then I stood up and went to lunch.

I drove to my favorite ice cream place and ordered my regular. I always get the same thing: a small mango gelati with chocolate-peanut butter ice cream. It tastes like a day at the beach. They made me a medium by accident and asked me if it was ok- I paid for my treat and cried because I must have needed a bigger one.

Then I drove to the store and purchased a bottle of wine. I'm not much of a drinker, but I figured I'd try to have a glass.

I read the chart backward and got a much dryer choice than I wanted, and I cried because "that sounds about right."

I like my wine on ice, no matter how chilled it is.

And I love to write.

So, if you're reading this, I want to tell you what I wish I had someone say to me:

Grief never goes away. It comes and goes in waves, but it will always be a part of the sea.

Not one person has every bit of their life together, no matter how perfect it looks from afar.

Every bit of everything works itself out in the end, and despite how hard the days can seem sometimes, I promise, you didn't come this far simply to only get this far.

Keep going.

I love you. And I'm proud of you.



Every single day, we are faced with something new.

A new diversity, a new challenge- a new victory.

And every single day- we grow.

80% of the success is showing up-

The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.


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