In the past year, everything has changed. The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. One thing is for certain, everyone experienced loss. Whether it was loss of a job, loss of family connection, loss of social interaction. And worst of all, many (like me) lost a loved one. My mom passed away a year and a half ago on June 2nd, 2020. After nine years of fighting, she lost her battle with cancer. To say this past year has been hard would be an understatement. At times, I have felt so alone. Because, I now have the master bedroom, my mom’s room. I wake up every morning in the massive king bed, I look to the side where she should be and I wish with all my heart that she was still here. But I have my brother, Sean, who is my other half. We have grown so much closer recently. We lost our Dad in 2009. My Dad died from lung cancer. My brother and I don’t have our parents anymore.
I have never asked why. I haven’t after everything life has thrown at me, I haven’t stopped to ask why. Why did my Dad die when I was nine? Why couldn’t I have more time with him? Why did my Mom get diagnosed two years later? Why, after so many years of fighting did she die too? Why? I have never asked why because my Mom never did. She just took in the diagnosis and fought. She fought for me, she fought for my brother, she fought for people like her so that they wouldn’t have to fight. She volunteered for the hospital, she raised money to find a cure. She volunteered her time; she walked and rode her bike for charity events. So, after everything she fought for to put an end to cancer, why did it have to take her away from me?
“I had a feeling so peculiar that this pain would be for evermore” these are lyrics from Taylor Swift’s album evermore. The way I feel now, I relate to these lyrics. I do feel that this pain will last forever. It is hard to imagine a time down the road when I won’t feel sad or alone. My parents had all the answers for me and were always there to help me. I feel weird when I’m talking with people who still have their parents (so, mostly everyone I know) because they can still talk to their parents and ask for advice, or run errands together, go to movies, or do any number of normal day-to-day things together.
Grief is hard to understand. Because it is something that is specific to each individual. In my experience, it can feel like you are drowning and are trying to come up for air. But whatever you do to stop and recover, the waves keep coming to pull you under the current. There are moments when you are going about your day and the grief will show up in an unexpected way. I was out with a friend of mine, Olivia, at Starbucks. We had just ordered and were waiting for our drinks. The barista calls out Teresa, which is my mom’s name. I have never been called that before. I was taken aback. It felt strange to be called Teresa. It felt like a completely different name.
It was announced recently that there will be another Downton Abbey movie. When I first heard the news, I was excited for a brief moment but then remembered that I can’t see it with my mom. She loved the series and when the first movie came out, it was one of the last movies we saw together. We were able to have the whole theatre to ourselves and mom invited some family and friends to watch it with us. I have been meaning to watch the series (I have only seen parts of episodes because I would come downstairs when she was already watching it). I keep deciding not to start it because she loved the show so much and I’d be watching it without her.
There are three trees along the side of my house. When the flowers blossom, they last for two weeks then don’t return until next spring. My mom loved the trees and their flowers. She was really sick last year and she couldn’t leave her chair to see them. So, my brother kept going outside to pick flowers off the trees and place them on the armrest of her chair so she could see the flowers she loved so much. Only a few days ago, my brother and I were talking about the trees and he told me that the flowers were still on the trees before we left to take her to the hospice. The next day, when we returned home without our mom, the flowers had all fallen to the ground.
My favorite singer has always been Taylor Swift. But she is more to me than just the singer I like the most. I have loved Taylor since I was eight. Fearless was the first album I bought. I would annoy everyone around me by singing “Love Story” over and over again. And from there my love for her continued. Every obstacle I’ve faced in my life, Taylor and her music has always been there for me. Last year, less than two months after my mom’s passing, Taylor surprise releases a brand-new album. When I first read this news on my phone the first person I wanted to tell was my mom but I couldn’t. Getting that album so soon afterwards felt like the greatest gift. It was exactly what I needed at that point.
Towards the end of the song the lyric changes to, “I had a feeling so peculiar this pain wouldn’t be forevermore”. I know that this pain won’t last forever and there are days where it is more noticeable than others. We have all faced challenges in life and not just in this past Covid year and a half. In our lives there are roadblocks that we must get past. My brother and I have been describing it as a deck of cards. We keep saying that this is the hand we’ve been dealt and we have to figure it out. But we are not alone, and I am so grateful that I have so much family around me when I don’t see light at the end of this tunnel. Whatever it is that you are struggling with every day, please know that you are not alone, no one is alone.
Tessa is a local young person who has lost both parents. She’s finding her own path forward with the help of her family and the team at our Children’s Grief Centre. Tessa bravely shares some of her grief experience through her writing.
To download Tessa’s full essay, visit https://www.hospicecalgary.ca/tessa-bryant-essay
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