My Mom Died and I Am Okay
They broke the news, my mom died that morning. I wasn’t even there. I was at camp, my happy place, her happy place. I’m walking to the dining hall for breakfast; the smell of the fatal green eggs with the side of greasy potatoes filled the air as we approached our destination after our twenty minute walk. I was laughing and smiling with my best friends. We sat down to sing the wonderful opening prayers until my heart dropped. I could overhear my unit head and camp director say my name and just then they called me over. I was able to see the confused looks on my friends’ faces as I was taken away I was not baffled, and I knew exactly what was happening. I got a bunch of flashbacks of my life, all the happy memories with my mom. My favorite
place on earth became my living nightmare. I thought I was going to faint, however I remained quiet and did not have any emotion. Just stopped and stared hoping I would snap out of it and wake up.
I was dreading this moment, I knew my mom was sick but I couldn’t imagine my life without her. People ask me many questions such as are you okay, how are you feeling, do you need anything? Psychiatrist, Yvonne Stikkebroek found that there is a strong relationship between mental illness and the death of a parent before the child age of sixteen years old. 541 of the participants have a mental illness due to the death of a parent as an adolescent. Being a teenager needing to deal with issues that are not typical to experience causes them to become closed and unwilling to talk about their feeling which is one reason for mental illnesses to develop according to the Cancer Care research. Children who need to deal with the unfortunate scenarios where a parent has passed away are most likely to have psychological issues in their future.
It was time for my mom’s funeral; Paperman’s was full, and people were standing up and in the hallways which showed how amazing my mom is… well was. My family from out of town came, and we were sitting in the crowded area where the mediate family sits. Friends went up to say speeches, my sister went to say a speech on behalf of the two of us, and I went up to support her. In the span of two days, I probably had five words come out of my mouth and absolutely no emotions. Only thing I could think was wow, she is really gone, this is not a dream.
The grief process could impact people in different ways. My way was to stay quiet and not open up to anyone. I wanted to be alone. I feel that children who losses a parent as a young age will need to grow up faster which could impact the developmental of a child.
My first day of grade nine was very unusual. Since Kindergarten my mom would always take a picture of me going to school, she would tell me she loves me and then I head off. This time nothing felt right, I felt that this would be a long school year and yup… I was right. This is the year I became very close to my grade seven and eight English teacher. She always knew me as the kid who would comfort others but she could see that I was extremely quiet and avoided anyone at all costs. This is when the guidance councillor became my next best thing. He offered me to run the bereavement group; I was nervous because I didn’t want to feel more unique than I am.
When I had my interview with grieving councilor Corrie Sirota, she told me that there are different kinds of losses. If a child is closer to the parent who died it obviously will be very painful but there are other situations like if the child isn’t close to the parent who passed then it could lead to other development issues. They could never have the good relationship because they are no longer here. There are several losses, not just the loss of a parent but secondary losses as well. I never thought of it in that way. It is different dependent on gender, relationship, and temperament of the child. Support is necessary. She allowed me to realize the possibilities of grief and to allow people they are allowed to laugh.
This past summer I was a counsellor at camp. I learnt about the campers and their lives. One evening, there was a program where the campers would write to their parents at home. I decided to approach this eight year old girl who seemed awkward about this situation. She told me “she didn’t have a mom to write home to”. The one thing that I will always remember from this conversation was when I told her that I don’t have a mom she responded by saying “How are you so happy?”
As time moved on, I found out I have PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the constant fear and reliving the situation of a terrifying event. I live in fear every day by having flashback to spending days and nights in the hospital, iodine smell, the syringes for the needles, the sound of the color codes on the intercom, seeing nurses and doctors run around during emergencies and especially the elevator that lead right to the palliative care sliding doors. Psychologist Angela Nickerson created a study examining the after effects of children after they deal with the death of a parent. It shows that psychological and mental disorders were presented such as PTSD and depression. It is more common to develop a disorder if the child was younger at the time of the event.
I remember waking up one morning having an amazing time with my friends at summer camp to in a couple milliseconds becoming this unique teenager and being judged and bullied for losing my mother. Grade nine was torture. People would make up rumors saying the only reason my mom died was to get away from me. Others knew I was vulnerable and alone so I thought they were being nice, boy was I wrong. I finally opened up and everything I said was turned against me. It made me scared to go to school because I was known as the girl with no mother. That is when I found out I had PTSD.
That is what triggered my English teacher to convince me to do the bereavement group. I remember so clearly what she said, you see what you’re going through there are over twenty five other students who feel that same way as you, where is the Maayan who is always there to help others. It was amazing running this group. Every Tuesday we would get together in a small rectangular room in the library for an hour to play some games and talk about different adventures we had with our parents. One memory that will always stay with me is the time I felt lucky. We all needed to bring a memento that we have from our parent that passed. People would bring dolls, shoes and pictures. Mine was special. After the Shiva House was over my mom’s best friend gave me a letter. Little did I know it was a letter my mom wrote me while she was in the hospital and I’ll treasure this letter forever. They told me how lucky I was to have this and at this moment I felt somewhere I belong.
I learnt so much from this experience. I noticed differences in each student, as well as siblings within the group. The first session we all described how the death occurred, many being illnesses than others that were unexpected. One that I will always remember is this boy in the group explaining how he, his mom and his aunt went to go see a movie at Guzzo Theatre in D.D.O., when he was four years old. They walked out of the theatre and just then his life changed, his mom got shot by a group of gangsters and killed instantly. He is now a bright student who is very careful at everything he does. According to Pynoos, this case should have resulted to PTSD because he was witnessing the death however he beat the odds.
From experience people grieve in different ways. My sister used art and paintings to release stress. I played music to allow myself to forget about the bad and I played songs that reminded me of my mother. Unfortunately my boyfriends family needed to go through the death of their mother as well, he is the oldest (19 years old) he was 16 when his mom passed away he used sports and exercise to let loose as well as therapy sessions. He has two younger sisters one who is 16 (14 at the time) and another sister who is 11 (she was 8 at the time). All three of them went to Corrie Sirota the grieving councilor that I interviewed. I never felt that talking to people helped me grieve but helping others allowed me to feel better.
The death in the family could trigger many emotions. There are different coping methods of how to deal with this awful situation. People say with time things get better but honestly it depends on the person and their support along the way. Having someone taken away from you is the hardest thing to deal with in our lives. I needed to deal with my mom dying at a young age but that was in the past the next thing is to focus in the future and deal with everyday obstacles. Finding a happy place, mine is being camp; doing things you love, mine is playing music; and being there for others in need. I am still a teenager, I need to still grow and even if my mom is not there following and teaching me what to do, I am not alone, it is important to laugh and know you could be happy. In the letter my mom wrote me it said “Spread your wings Maayanie travel, love, experience and live.”