I survived...The Death of A Loved One

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What do you do when things don’t go according to plan? What do you do when your world falls apart? When everything you’ve ever known and been taught is in question? What if those things happened simultaneously? How do you make sense of it all?  Do you ever? These are all the answers that I’ve searched for over the years. Some are more clear than others. This is my story.

2014. That was the year that changed everything. The year that almost took me out. 2014 was the year I lost my mother to cancer. It was so unexpected, so quick, so aggressive in its progression. It beat up her body badly. I watched it do so for months. My vibrant, sassy, full of life and style mom, was reduced to just a shell of her former self.  I wasn’t ready. In the weeks before her passing it had gotten so bad, she couldn’t even talk to me. That was devastating. As a result, I hated cancer. I hate cancer. With a passion.

17 days. That’s how much time there was between when I was made aware of her diagnosis and her transition. Which is really no time at all. The worst part was, she didn’t tell anyone. Not one person, and she made me promise not to tell anyone about her health problems either. It was the hardest secret I ever had to keep. I wrestled with it so hard. I felt both blindsided and heartbroken. It was as if my soul was ripped out of my body.

I begged God for us to switch places on multiple occasions. I was desperate. I would do anything to save her life at that point. Anything. Looking back, I still would, without hesitation.

May of that year she passed. I was 23 at the time. It was like time stood still. As much as I was expecting it, you’re never prepared for the call. Ever. Truthfully, I felt like a part of me died that day too. I felt so unprepared to face the real world. Now suddenly, I was thrust into it. What felt like, headfirst.

The days and months that followed were long and dark. I tried to keep myself busy, and often did, but I was not myself. I was completely lost and confused. I felt lonely and frustrated. There were many days I didn’t feel like smiling, talking, or even coming out the house. If it was up to me, I would sit in my bed and cry all day. But, that wouldn’t bring her back. I desperately wanted her back. The little girl inside me needed  her mother. I wasn’t ready to let her go. It wasn’t real.

 Jasmine and her mom at her high school graduation in 2008

Jasmine and her mom at her high school graduation in 2008

The first year was the worst. The absolute worst. I felt so uncertain. So confused. So unstable. After all, the world keep spinning. It didn’t stop me for me because I had lost my mother. There were still decisions to be made and things to do. I tried my best to keep a smile on in midst of it all. Some days were harder than others.

 

I had to rebuild my life, from what felt like the bottom up. The most daunting task I’ve ever taken on. My friends and family often wondered how I coped. That first year, I just went through a lot of the motions. I had lost family members before, but nothing prepared me for this. I didn’t have the slightest idea about how to grieve and what the rules were. There were too many questions to count.

My grandmother  taught me not to question God because he knows best. I believe that honestly. At the time though,  I couldn’t understand why he took my mother away from me. So suddenly. It was unfair. At that point, even my faith was on trial. I honestly didn’t know what to believe anymore. Because if God was so good, why did she have to die? From what I knew he could’ve most certainly healed her. That was the dark place.

 What got me through honestly, was just baby steps. Taking it one day at a time. Allowing myself to not be ok, which is something that was completely foreign to me. I had to give myself permission to cry when need be. It took a whole lot of prayer and talking to God. A whole lot of leaning on the people I still have left. I learned about the power of community. Children aren’t the only ones who need villages. We all do. As the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers.

I had to learn that healing is not instant. I’m still healing in fact. I had to understand that my process, my way to the light doesn’t have to look like everybody else’s. And that’s ok as long as I find it.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a survivor as: A person who continues to live on after hardship. One who continues to function and prosper in spite of. Fast forward almost 4 ½ years later and I definitely consider myself a survivor.  

While I didn’t battle cancer directly, the up close and personal seat to the fight put me in a position I never in a million years imagined to be. Everybody thought that would be the thing that broke me, and it almost did.

 Jasmine’s mom on her Senior Class Trip

Jasmine’s mom on her Senior Class Trip

Cancer and it’s affects forced me to grow up. It taught me the value of taking control of my life and decisions. I had to make a choice, between life and death. Between victory and defeat. I couldn’t let the good things in me die with her. I believe that we all have that choice in whatever trails or issues in life that occur. Some are not as dramatic as cancer, some are worse. But, I’m sharing the this story for the first time, to encourage anyone who may come across these words.

The good days truly outweigh the bad. Every day is not going to be easy, but every day, as long as you have breath, choose life. It takes the same amount of energy. You’ll eventually find your way. You’ll actually be much stronger as a result. When you get to the other side, even if you have to crawl across the line, it’s worth it. One day you’ll look up and say, yeah I went through that. It was horrible, sometimes ugly, but by the grace of God I’m still here. That’s all that matters.

 

Jasmine Barnes is a 28 year old writer from Brooklyn NY. She loves to laugh, have fun and encourage others. Her blog, “Confessions of A Twenty Something” is a work in progress, dedicated to millennials navigating adulthood like her. Check it out at justjazee.wordpress.com