I am embarking on an impenetrable milestone in life. On January 29 it will be the fourteenth anniversary of my mother losing her life in a car accident. It is hard to believe that it has been fourteen years of navigating life without her. I was thirteen years old the day my mom died, which means I have officially reached a point in life where I have been living longer without my mother than I did with her.
I used to be entirely consumed by the grief. I would spend the entire month of January in dread. I refused to sleep at night because I knew with each passing night, the anniversary of the accident would approach sooner. I could not bear the thought of living yet another year without her.
Looking back, I was frozen in a self-inflicted cycle of gloom. I believed I had to be sad. Nobody told me otherwise. I was afraid of betraying my mother by moving forward with life. And so for years, I allowed the grief to cripple my joy.
I had become good at pretending, and only a few people knew how stuck I really was. I embraced the midwestern tradition of shoving down my true emotion and appeared to be ‘fine.’ But deep down, I was a bitter little girl. As I physically grew up, my grieving heart never did. My thirteen-year-old self was stuck inside my young adult body.
In college, I attended a SEEK conference in Nashville. I was surrounded by thousands of catholic college students who were in love with our Lord. It was captivating, and for the first time since my mother’s accident, I felt like I could let my guard down. I did not have to appear to be ‘fine.’ I spent the majority of the conference in healing tears as the Lord probed my heart and asked me to share my grief with Him.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
There was Eucharistic Adoration on the final night of the conference. As the priest carried the Lord of Hosts in procession around the room, I knew I was finally ready to be set free. There was no better way than to receive His forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. I set out for the confession line, where I received the sacrament from one of the hundreds of priests.
I left that confession with a restored hope in my heart. My penance was to pray for all children who lost a parent, especially those who were orphaned. I never told the priest about my mother passing away. I never told him I was imprisoned by grief. Yet his words broke open my heart. I received the restorative power of Christ and knew it was time to let go of the grief I had been mentally clinging to for so many years. It was time to pray for other children who experienced a similar or relatable loss.
There is no doubt that I still miss my mom tremendously. But I am no longer clinging to my grief alone. I now know Jesus is walking alongside me. I do not have to be sad or appear to be 'fine.' Humans are complex beings. Our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can influence our biology and affect our overall health/quality of life. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He brings completeness to our mind, body, and soul. He died to set us free. May His restorative love also set you free!
Until next time, your sister in Christ,