Dealing with loss
On Nov. 9, 2011 my mother died. Last Monday marked the four-year anniversary and a day in which my pain, anger and reflection are magnified. A day that I get to relive. A day that is no longer about death, but rather about loss. I differentiate between the two because her death is no longer about what went wrong or what could’ve been done, but rather about how I carry it.
As memories wither, so does a part of my identity. I’ve forgotten her voice, her smell and her touch. Apart from taking these things for granted, I’m still losing the pieces of my mom that I’ve been trying so hard to hold on to. Contrary to popular belief, grieving isn’t a process that has a beginning and end. It is only after I lost my mother that I understand grief to be a continuous journey that challenges one to grow, to love and to redefine how to live.
Four years have passed and I am still angry. I am angry that she had to leave me because no matter how many times I’ve heard that it will get easier, it doesn’t. I was robbed of the chance to share major events in my life with her like my high school graduation and acceptance into college. I was envious of my friends who had their mothers and the daily support that I yearned for. Angry in a way I could never explain to people who haven’t lost someone central to their life. Angry that she won’t be there when I need her the most. Angry that she will never meet my wife and kids. It hasn’t gotten easier, but I’ve gotten stronger, and had to, because her loss was my greatest lesson.
My mom continues to teach me, as I slowly learn to let go of my pain. Letting go of the cancer that took her life, the vivid images of our hospital visits, the anger of her absence and overall the desire that she was still alive. Instead of trying to hold on to the remainders of her life here on Earth, I need to learn to live without them. And that is the real challenge. To invite this fundamental change that is knocking at my doorstep and to understand that letting go is different from neglect.
In discovering life without her, I lost sight of who I was. I was my mother’s son, but how I let her life define me, so did I mistakenly let her death. Motherless. I desperately grasped to memories and feelings, keeping her alive in any way I knew how. Finding refuge in her music, photographs, clothing and writing, amongst the many things. She shaped my personality and identity; therefore, losing her piece-by-piece meant losing the notion of who I am.
I began to ask myself who I had become. Her death has changed me forever and instead of inviting this change into my heart, I resented it and myself. Despite what my friends and family said, I questioned whether my mother would love the person I am now. It was her words that I longed for because she knew who I truly was. It has taken me years to realize that I’ve asked myself the wrong questions. Rather than ask who I’ve become, I needed to ask who I could become. Rather than ask if she would still love me, I needed to ask how I will love and take care of myself.
Four years have passed and the next four years will bring more reflection. I will look back on this piece not as my triumph over loss, but as a stepping-stone in my grief. I will continue to lose sight of that fifteen-year-old on Nov. 9, 2011 and that’s okay because I’ll continue to gain perspective of who I am today.
Rest in Power, Arezou Nazari.
Alisina Saee-Nazari is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.