Today is the third anniversary of my mothers’ passing. My dad had passed away after battling cancer, just four months before. I know that witnessing my father being ravaged by cancer killed my mom little by little. Like me, she was an empath, a person who experiences a great deal of empathy, often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense. I know that my mother died of a broken heart, but I also believe it was her time, nothing happens by accident. It’s all in the hands of a higher power, but it doesn’t make losing them any easier.

My mom and dad the year they died. 2017

Three years is a long time not to hear her voice, look into her beautiful eyes and not to feel her embrace. My mother had the ability to make me feel like I can overcome anything in life. She was always the wind beneath my wings, my supporter, my cheerleader, my protecter.. She was petite, only 5 feet in height, delicate, intelligent, worldly and a force of power. I know everyone thinks their mother is special but mine was one in a million. She had such an enormous heart and she loved with every fiber of her being. She could have a conversation with anyone and make them feel special, that is a gift not many people have. Although she is physically not here anymore, her love continues to live within each of her children and grandchildren. I feel her presence all the time, sometimes I can smell her perfume. She told me once that if there was a way to let me know she was ok when she passed, she would, and she has, many times.

That first year after she passed is a blur, I don’t recall anything at all, only bits and pieces of memories. I remember being at my father’s funeral, and his burial when he passed away, but I remember nothing of my mothers’ funeral nor her burial. I guess it’s because it was too much for me to endure, one parent dying after another, so I blocked it. I’m not sure I’ll ever remember, but that’s alright, it’s not something I really want to recall. I do remember being so worried about my little brother, he had such a tight bond with our mother. He is a decade younger than my sister and I, so he feels more like our baby. I think I survived her passing because I was on heightened alert, worried about him and the rest of my siblings and our kids, the grandchildren.

I now know that we have no control over what happens in life, we just have control over how we react. Unfortunately, death is a part of life, today is all that we have. There are times that I find myself driving towards my parents’ house, passing by, slowing down, looking into the kitchen window, searching for my mother. I used to drop my daughter off at school and then walk to my parents’ house, they had moved just minutes from me. My mom and I got into the habit of having coffee together most mornings. I can imagine her making coffee, waiting for me. Then I realize that was the past, they are gone and I head home with my heart literally feeling like it is in pieces.

My mother was magic, pure love a positive person. “You can do it love, you can do whatever you set your mind on, nothing is too big for God.” She was kind, lovely, eloquent and really beautiful. She was always put together, her clothes, make-up and jewelry always on point. She was regal, with the softest most beautiful olive skin. It was like silk to the touch and she always smelled amazing. She was devoted to her family, her faith, and proud of her Afghan heritage and culture that is filled with hospitality and family. She taught us to love it too. She taught us by her actions on how to take the higher road in life. She would say, you come from greatness, it’s important that you retain your manners and your dignity.

Mom with her sister.

She had the ability to love and be loved like no one else I have ever met. My mother is gone, life does indeed go on. Yet never in the same capacity it once did. What I have struggled to articulate to those around me is the difference between coping and moving on. Grief will always be a part of me now, sometimes I feel nothing and other times I feel EVERYTHING. Coping means I get through each day and I smile, I laugh, I enjoy myself, but there will always be a nagging thought in the back of my mind, she isn’t here anymore, and I want to share this moment with her.

My grief is not your grief. Please don’t tell me how to grieve. For someone who has a lost a loved one, grief isn’t just sadness about them being gone. It’s a whole mountain, with each rock on the path being a new experience without them. It’s an ocean, each wave crashing with a new emotion. It’s waking up and putting one foot in front of another each day in order to face the loss head-on.

You care so much, you feel as though you will bleed to death from the pain of it.”

J.K. Rowling

There are days I physically and mentally cannot get out of bed because I don’t have the energy or the willpower because my grief is so painful and overwhelming. Days I am irritated and sad about everything, angry I don’t get my mother in my life anymore.

So many of us have lost loved ones this year, many are dealing with this unbearable pain. If you know someone who is struggling, let them know that you are there for them. I can’t stress enough how lonely grief feels, and when you are in the deepest, darkest waters of grief, you are unable to ask for help. If you know someone who is in grief, send a text, make a call, just let them know that you are there for them. My husband, daughter, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles share my grief, they understand my pain. Without them, I would be pretty lost trying to navigate the oceans of grief. Unfortunately, I have friends who have lost parents, they are the ones I lean on, sometimes we cry together, other times they help me forget the pain for just a few hours. It’s a nice reprieve.

Unfortunately, grief has no time limit. There’s no easy button. And there’s no way to fast-forward through the individual feelings you have to work out. I’m not sure that grief gets easier with time, but it does change.

If anyone tried to put you on a timeline in dealing with your grief, they’ve most likely never been through it themselves. Everyone grieves differently, and needs to be allowed to do so. You have to do what works best for you.

Grief is different for everyone, but it’s a shared human experience.

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