When a loved one passes away, it can leave you feeling a rollercoaster of grief. The permanency of death weighs on you like you’re holding up a brick wall while crumbling pieces fall around you, despite your efforts to hold it all together. You know if you move, everything will fall and you’ll be left with a mess bigger than you can handle on your own. What happens if you give yourself permission to let go? To step away from the heaviness of the load you’ve been bearing all along? The one you started building before the passing of your loved one?

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In just under two months, the first anniversary of my mother’s death will bring to life moments in time I’d rather not relive. But it will happen regardless of whether or not I prepare for its arrival and impact. In true Jess fashion, I’ve already made the decision to take a sick day so I can avoid being present in school. Going back through each moment in the environment where it happened will surely make for an emotional day.

But, there will be no sick day for me on November 5th because it will be the weekend. I can glide through the day as I please, grieve when grief comes as it pleases, and choose to be focused on my family to please everyone, including myself.

Moments after learning of my mother’s passing, I sobbed at the missed opportunity to forgive her for the mess of a life we experienced together. I innocently thought forgiveness would mend the broken and disconnect relationship between mother and daughter. Over the year, I learned that forgiveness is for yourself and nobody else. It’s like the missing piece of the puzzle you thought someone hid from you, but you had it all along. The power to finish the puzzle was within you, and sometimes it takes a long time to locate it.

For the first time since my mother’s death, she came to me in a dream. I didn’t see her face, but she was there. We were in her house, my childhood home, and of our current ages. Well, she appeared to be the age she was when she died. We talked, even though I didn’t see her face. What she had to say to me that day was what I needed to hear.

My mom forgave me.

I never thought I’d needed to hear that. After all, I blamed her for all of the rotten stuff from my childhood and how it impacted my life growing up. But it was because I so desperately wanted to have a relationship with her, you know, like “normal” moms have with their daughters. The kind of relationship where you call each other and talk on the phone for any reason, just to talk. Or go shopping or to restaurants or visit each other’s houses without notice. Just like the ones reflected on the Facebook posts on Mother’s Day gushing over the love and devotion to the perfect mom everyone else has. The kind of relationship I am building with my daughter. I wanted that with my mom, but never got the chance to have it. I truly believed that if I just told her “I forgive you,” that things between was would start to heal. But I never had the chance to tell her.

And so, I carried more weight around with me, and it started the moments after I learned of her passing. I’ve worked so hard releasing this guilt and shame I’ve carried with me since her death. I’ve made progress. I’ve healed. But when she told me, “I forgive you,” in the dream, in spirit, in whatever it was that I experienced, and you can call me crazy…it was needed. She knew from the other side that my burden was too much. I could lay down the heavy weight I’d been carrying around, and give myself permission to accept and believe I deserved forgiveness.

Grief continues to come in waves. Over time and through working closely with my coach, I have been able to open up and process everything that I had locked away for decades. I’ve released emotions I didn’t know kept me in pain, leaving me stuck. I’m growing into a different version of myself, a rebirth of sorts. I version that shed the old and is stepping into the new.

That’s all for now diary. Until next time.