Losing a Parent – What I Learned

This will probably be the hardest post I ever write but it’s the post that has been on my heart lately. I’m going to warn you now, this is going to get emotional. This post has been a work in progress for me for the past 10 years. In this post, I’m going to tell the story of my mom’s passing and what I’ve learned from it these last 10 years.

My mom was a wonderful woman. She was my biggest fan and someone I always knew that I could count on no matter what. She would fight battles for me and be there to just listen if I needed her to. She loved all six of us kids and definitely loved my dad. I was a mommy’s girl, which made all of this THAT much harder for me.

I was about a month away from turning 19 when she had her heart attack. She smoked the majority of her life and it was a big factor in her heart attack. On July 2nd, 2006, my mom woke up that morning and had trouble catching her breath. My dad decided that she needed to go to the hospital, so he drove her to the nearest one, which is about 25 minutes away from the house. When they arrived, they realized that my mom was having a heart attack. They decided to air-care her to Christ Hospital down in Cincinnati because they were an excellent heart hospital. They told my dad that it was just a minor heart attack, and she would probably be able to come home the next day. While that was taking place, my dad came back home, woke me up and told me what was going on. My oldest brother and his family were coming by to pick me and my dad up to head down to the hospital. I was hysterical. I never thought anything would happen to my mom. Once all of us siblings were in the loop, we all made our way to the hospital from wherever we were. By the time we arrived, a nurse came out of a room saying that they weren’t ready for us because my mom had just had a massive heart attack. I started bawling again and I remember hugging my niece Amber (who is only 4 years younger than me). We finally were able to talk to someone and they informed us that my mom had shot a clot through her heart, making a hole. The only way to possibly save her was to perform surgery to repair the damage done, but there wasn’t a guarantee that she would even make it through this surgery. It was really a no-brainer. My dad had them go through with the surgery, which ended up being over five hours long. Amazingly enough, she made it through the surgery and they repaired the damage, but they told us that the first 72 hours were critical. None of us wanted to have hope but it was hard not to. The next day (because that ALL took place on July 2nd), we went to visit my mom and she was actually awake. She had a breathing tube down her throat, so she couldn’t speak, but she was aware. She was asked if she knew who she was, what year it was, and how many kids she had. My oldest brother said she only had five, to which she adamantly shook her head ‘no’. I was so excited that she was awake and it seemed like, to me, that we were heading in the right direction. Before we left to go home that day, I told mom that we all loved her. She mouthed back “I love you too”.

The next day, they put her in a medically induced coma for several reasons. She apparently kept trying to pull her breathing tube out, which wasn’t good, and they wanted her body to relax so it could continue to heal itself. The next twelve days were kind of a blur. Things would look good and then things would look bad. She was still in her coma and because of that, they had to do things to help her circulation. One thing I remember is they brought in a type of bed that would rotate from side to side to keep her from getting bed sores. It was an odd contraption.

But on July 17th, the doctor sat down with my dad and informed him that my mom wasn’t going to make it. The doctor told my dad that she wasn’t really there anymore and that we could keep her on life support if we chose, but that nothing would get better. My dad was devastated, but knew what the right thing to do was. So the next day, with several family members by his side, he let my mom go. She passed away at 4:07pm on July 18th. She was 63 years old. The heart attack wasn’t even what ended up killing her. Because my mom was a smoker, she had developed chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Her lungs weren’t strong enough and her organs just started shutting down one by one. Her kidneys were next. So ultimately, she died from the infections due to the heart attack.

Okay…so now that I may have possibly made all of you cry, I’ll go on to the main point of this post.

I honestly didn’t know how to deal with losing a parent, or anyone really, at the age of 18. My mom was the closest person to me to pass away at that point and I, thankfully, had a friend of mine that had lost her mom at an even younger age that could help me through it. But it wasn’t easy. So here are 8 things that I learned from losing my mom.

  1. God knew what He was doing. I know that sounds insane of me, but just hear me out. I prayed. I prayed any chance I could for God to heal my mom. But as the days went on, and I could tell that things weren’t going great, I changed my prayer. I wanted my mom to live, but I also didn’t want her to suffer. Toward the end, she had lost circulation in her hands and feet. If she had survived, she would have had them amputated. She would have spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair, which I knew she would have hated. So, when I noticed that things were getting back, I prayed that God’s will be done. I wanted my mom to stay with me, but if God wanted her to be with Him in Heaven, that was okay too. And when we got the call that she had passed away, I bawled like a baby into my brother Matt’s shoulder. I was completely devastated. But I never questioned God. I knew that my mom would have been utterly miserable if she would have been put in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. So I think God knew what was best for her.
  2. You lean on the people that are closest to you more than ever. I had friends who were still in high school, going through band camp, who dropped everything to be at my mom’s funeral, with the band director allowing them to leave and come back. One of my best friends was celebrating her birthday and once they all found out that my mom had passed away, they all left the party (birthday girl included) to come and comfort me. All of us siblings leaned on each other for support. Two of my brothers were still living at home with me and dad, and we spent a lot of time together after that. Speaking of my dad, my relationship with him grew stronger too. To this day, I don’t know what I would have done without my dad. He has become one of my favorite people in the whole world and I’m so grateful that we grew closer.
  3. The first year is the worst. The first full year without mom was HORRIBLE. Every holiday was hard to get through. My oldest niece didn’t even want to celebrate her birthday that year. I missed quite a bit of class during my second year of college because I was just a mess. Every day that year was just as hard as the next. I honestly didn’t know if it would ever get better (spoiler alert: it does).
  4. Every major milestone in the family is bittersweet. Since my mom has been gone, I have graduated college, got married and now I have my first child. My oldest niece has also gotten married. Another niece of mine graduated college. One of my brothers is going to graduate college this coming year. And EVERY milestone, it’s hard to not wish mom were here. When I graduated college, my entire family was there to witness it. When they declared us graduates of the class of 2009, I cried. Partly because I was so happy to be done with college, but mostly because I felt mom should have been there.
  5. People will say that they understand what you’re going through. Unless they lost a parent EXACTLY the same way you lost yours, they really don’t. My brother had a friend who lost his mom to cancer. He told me that he could sympathize but not empathize. He knew what it was like to lose a parent, but not how it felt to lose a parent to cancer. I had a friend who compared me losing my mom to his losing his grandma. Again, he understood what it was like to lose a family member, but he didn’t lose his mom. No one completely understands what you’re going through unless they have gone through the same exact thing.
  6. It doesn’t necessarily become easier to deal with, but your normal changes. You become used to not having them there, which makes it easier to handle, but the pain never really goes away. Not completely. There are times I still cry, missing my mom that much. When I found out I was pregnant with Maddie, it made me happy but sad at the same time because Maddie would never know my mom, or Ken’s mom for that matter. Holidays are still bittersweet, but we’re used to the new normal, and that makes things easier, but never better.
  7. Take a lot of pictures. Do a family picture. We NEVER did that. We rarely took pictures and my mom HATED being photographed. Because of that, we don’t have many pictures to remember her by. I am almost obsessive about getting pictures of our little family. If, God forbid, something happens to one of us, we will have pictures to look back at.
  8. Do NOT take anyone for granted. We didn’t wake up back in 2006 thinking it would be the last time we saw mom. My husband didn’t realize that when he left the house back in 2009, that it would be the last time he saw his mom alive. You just NEVER know. I could have lost my dad back in 2012 when he had his heart attack, but thank God I didn’t. But after his heart attack, I made it a point to visit him more often. Even to this day, I visit him at least three nights a week and see him on Sunday after church for lunch. This is even more important now that Maddie is here. She LOVES her grandpa and it’s important to me that she has a relationship with both of her grandpas. But we don’t know what tomorrow has in store. So don’t hold grudges, practice forgiveness and grace, and make sure people know that you love them. Because you just never know.

I promise that my post tomorrow won’t be this sad, but I’ve really had this on my heart for the past few months and really wanted to get it out. Comments? Anything to add? Comment below!

5 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this. You just don’t know, it may be a big help to someone else who might be going through the same thing. It has been many years since I lost my mom. I often think of her, and even see her in my dreams a lot of times. I find myself quoting some of the things she said, and probably always will.

  2. I grew up with her. She was like a little sister to me. I helped her take her first few steps. We were of the same era and the same places: Northside Cincinnati and Cozzadale. She was family. I will always remember her fondly and hope that she had fond memories of me too.

  3. I miss my mom too – I had her longer and in the end, it was dementia. It hurts. It always will, But like you, I was blessed by who my mom was and those blessings linger in my day to day life. And like your mom, mine hated having her picture taken too! But we have a few. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your journey and saying what we often refuse to say – our grief is similar but not identical.

    1. One of my brothers was the one who put that into perspective for me. He had a friend who’s mom died of cancer. He couldn’t relate other than they had both lost a mom. That phrase always stuck with me. I hate that you had to lose your mom to dementia. What a horrible disease! It is always nice to have someone read my post and know that they could relate or got something from it 😊 thank you so much for commenting!

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