Some days the loss of my mom still seems startling to me, almost disorienting even though she joined the Heavenly Father over three years ago. It is not only the loss of her as my mother, but also the loss of my expectations in what I thought my life was going to be like.
I am 37 years old and I have a wonderful husband and three lovely children ages 9, 6 and 4. I still remember the day I gave birth to my third and that gut wrenching feeling I had when my mom couldn’t come visit me in the hospital to meet my baby boy. She was too ill. It seemed selfish at the time to think that I wanted her there with me in my moment when I couldn’t always be there for hers.
She frequently was admitted to the ER throughout her chemotherapy due to high fevers and my busy family schedule and distance made it difficult to be there. You see I lived a three-hour drive away... enough to make things inconvenient, but also close enough to be there for big important moments. I remember holding my youngest boy in my arms crying and not knowing how long I would have with my own mother on this earth. The human life cycle had never hit me with as much of an impact as it did at that moment. I asked God why lives had to end, but I also somehow understood that in the larger rational sense of humankind, death is inevitable for ALL of us. Some get to live long lives into their 90s, others lose babies before they are born. There seems to be no pattern of sense that can be made. However, I do know that if we are receptive to it, we can see God’s hand at work in our lives and the lives of others if we can just look outwards.
After losing my mom, the hardest part for me was dealing with my own jealousy. I became jealous of those who still had their mom and I succumbed to the unhelpful notion that some individuals’ loss or suffering were harder than others. I wanted to make sense of the injustice of death and illness when really it makes no sense. I thought if I couldn’t control my own suffering then maybe I can rate it according to some hypothetical scale.
You see, there is always another story where someone endures either more or less hardship than me. I became cynical and would find myself thinking, “This person’s mom lived to be 85; how could she understand my suffering? My loss is so much greater than hers. My mother will never see her grand babies grow up.” Then I would remind myself that I needed to reign in my sadness… At least my children are healthy. I can’t imagine taking my 6 year old to endless oncology appointments or burying my newborn child. There should be no competition where suffering dwells. We must walk closely and lovingly with each other during hardship. I believe God created community for this purpose and I am so thrilled to be a part of the Daniel’s Heart Foundation story.
It is first and foremost bringing that sense of community and assistance to those walking in their darkest days. Some of us can find ourselves seemingly unscathed for a period of time, but suffering or loss is inevitable. It most certainly will make an appearance in our lives at some point. We will have to cling to God and our community of friends and family to make it through.
The pain will remain and alter your life in some ways, as all memorable things do. It is how we deal with that pain that shapes us for better or for worse. The pain of suffering and loss has left a hole, something I don’t believe can ever be “cured” until the day I go to heaven to squeeze my mama once again. However, it does get easier as a new normal begins to take a familiar shape. I think becoming aware of our maladaptive tendencies is also important. In place of these negative tendencies, it is important to create a healthier strategy of coping that brings you joy. This could include taking a walk, saying a prayer, meditative breathing, having a good cry or focusing on quality time with those who can help feed your soul. For me, it has been important to find that joy in life through the altered lens of loss. Remembering what I’ve been through makes each moment I live to squeeze my loved ones that much sweeter. I have touched the spiritual realm of faith through the passing of my mother and I will never be the same; Praise God, I will never be the same.
(Denee lives with her family in Lake Oswego, OR. She serves on Daniel's Heart Board, is dedicated to her work at Shriner's Hospital, surfs with her husband when she can, and is known for going on adventures with her family and friends any chance she can get! She radiates joy! We value Denee's input to our team, and the way she invests from her heart.)