The last few weeks have been challenging and bittersweet. My daughter has been reaching new milestones, and it’s been amazing to watch her grow as a person. Even though I am beaming with pride, I find myself shrouded with guilt and grief.

When I left my toxic family home at the age of eighteen, there wasn’t much that I could bring with me. Things that I never thought I would need were left behind, which held a lot of meaning. For instance, my ‘baby book’ that my adoptive mother curated. It contained all of my milestones and a golden lock from my first hair cut. Now that I have a child of my own, I am longing for these connections and comparisons.

Over the years, I’ve accepted the fact that I don’t have roots, as many other people do. Although at times it can be painful, I know that I cannot blame myself for what happened. I cannot blame myself for not taking that baby book when the only thing surging through my body was flight mode.

Whenever I get into this mind-frame, I think about my adoptive mother. I think of all the love that we shared in the short amount of time that we had together. I’m so glad that those memories of happiness can still burst through the dark times.

Grief has a funny way of showing up, and I think it’s amplified now due to our quarantine. We grieve for the loss of our freedom, jobs, and normalcy. It’s only natural for the loss of someone important to us to jump in. It doesn’t matter when we lost said person; it could be days, months, or twenty-two years.
I try my best to push through the guilt and grief… but it’s hard.
We need to remind ourselves that we can’t be perfect every day, and some days will be harder than others. I just so happen to be going through a harder day today, but I know tomorrow won’t be the same.

I do wish my mother was still here, and I think on some spiritual level she is. As each day passes with my daughter, I realize that I am my mother. I am everything I ever wanted her to be, and for that, I am thankful.

Last week was one of the hardest weeks that I’ve ever dealt with, both physically and emotionally. I’ll start chronologically on this one, with the beginning of February when my grandmother, Evelyn, was admitted to the hospital. I kept in close contact with my Aunt and Uncle during this time, we all knew that she would not be going home. We sat on the edge for weeks, wondering when the fateful day will arrive; my aunt & uncle were swarmed in her final arrangements while I held myself back in Toronto, tending to my little bump. My grandmother has always been a strong person, so it was no surprise to us all that she held on for as long as she could. On March 5th, two days after her 94th birthday, she passed away.

Even though I knew that this was coming, it was still a gut-retching thought to know that I will no longer hear her voice twice a week. Losing someone so close to you changes your day-to-day life, leaving you in an extremely vulnerable place which causes anxiety to surface in profound ways. Since I’m no longer on medication due to my pregnancy, it’s difficult dealing with my grief symptoms on top of everything else. Everyone deals with their anxiety differently, but I know that the best thing to do in these situations is to talk it out.

When I lost my mother at the age of 11, I did not manage my grief well during this time, and I bottled everything up. Most adults in this time frame just assumed that I would ‘get over it’ since I was still in school and would have a good distraction. To some degree, they were right, but not talking about it made my grief and anxiety worse. This time around, I was lucky enough to have a huge support system that kept checking up on me and making sure that I did talk about it. Even though this was overwhelming to a certain degree, having this sense of community was lovely.

I took four days off of work for bereavement before I have to go back to “normal.” Funerals and burials can be considered closure for most people, but due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to attend both. Even though I was in a severe car accident, and worrying about my baby, I kept saying over and over to myself “I can’t believe I’m missing this.” I was unsure if I would get the closure that most people would get and my worrying started to snowball into my anxiety. I became reclusive and blamed it on the back pain from the accident.

I am thankful that my aunt decided to have a Shiva day in Toronto so that I would be able to immerse myself with family and say goodbye in my way. I figured out that anxiety was a normal response to loss, especially when you lose someone so incredibly close to you. Even though I suffer from G.A.D., my feelings were normal and valid. I just needed to remember what I learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and continue with my breathing exercises to know that soon enough it won’t hurt as much.

It still does, though, and that’s OK.
I will never ‘get over’ this, but I can learn to live, heal and re-build.

20 years ago I lost my mother to a long battle of cancer. From the age of three to eleven I had to understand what exactly was happening to her and didn’t fully grasp it until I saw an episode of Charlie Brown called “Why, Charlie Brown, Why?”.why charlie brown why

When I approached my mother after the show tears welled up as I asked “do you have cancer?” the room fell silent as she nodded yes. I tried my best to be hopeful, knowing that within the episode the character survived her cancer. My mother beat it once; there was no reason for me to believe it couldn’t happen again.

Not long afterward she passed away. I remember being angry for the longest time – I didn’t know how to access my emotions properly and became reclusive as the depression sank in. I felt so incredibly alone even though I lived with my adoptive father. We never had the best relationship, and we handled our grief entirely differently. He went through the five stages of grief within a year whereas I was stuck in the fourth stage, depression, for too long. It probably didn’t help that I had other stressors in life and I would always think that if only she would still be here, things would have gone differently.

Recently I read “The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck,” and a chapter on grief hit me hard. How I reacted to my mother’s death was my own choice.

Pain of one sort or another is inevitable for all of us, but we get to choose what it means to and for us.

It was my choice to wallow in my grief, and I know now that it wasn’t healthy for me. I didn’t choose how my life unfolded, but I was capable of choosing HOW to live with it. It took a long time to accept that my mother wouldn’t physically be around anymore. I would always think about my life adventures that she would miss out on – graduations, marriage, kids, etc. Sometimes I would have to stay home from work on this date just to make sure I wouldn’t show my “ugly cry” to others.

20 years later and this date still brings a tear to my eye. I don’t think my sadness will ever entirely go away, but I can make a choice – to celebrate the woman that she was and all of the positive influences that she brought to me. Her unconditional love made my heart full, and I cannot wait to share that once I have kids.

In the past couple of months, I inherited some pieces of vinyl from my Aunt that belonged to my mother. She signed the cover of her Beatles and Supremes LP’s, and I’m so thankful to call them a part of my collection. As well, My husband came home with Candy Buttons during Christmas. I was elated to tell him that it was my mother’s favorite. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion, and I know today is that day.IMG_3160

I will be spending the remainder of the day unplugged from social media and just focusing on how much my mother meant to me.

If you have any wonderful memories of Reesa Stein, please leave them in the comments