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Growing Up Without Mom: Challenges And Overcoming

Akward Introduction

My life has always been weirdly “tragic", my parents divorced when I was about 4 years old then my mother died of cancer when I was 7(it was pretty bad.) mothers are seemingly magical, they’re somehow both terrifying but the easiest to talk to and seem to know what to say. (Alternatively, so I have heard from my older sisters, I have three of them). There are those of us that never had that luxury or had experienced the joy of having a mother but suffered her loss. I lost my mom at a young age and honestly, I had to “tough it out” myself for the most part.

The Odd One Out

Do you know the awkward feeling of having to make a mother's day card in primary school? I do. The quiet looking and listening as everyone excitedly tells each other the fun things they do with their moms, arguing over which card is better. I always felt alone amongst the other children, even worse yet; my teacher would stare at me pitifully as she knew the truth. No one ever addressed the elephant in the room because it made them sad or uncomfortable, in all honesty I felt like that too. My only solace was my grandma; she received my mother's day cards with love and cherished them after my mother passed. Every year, I would give her a card and told her that I loved her, I managed to find a mother figure who loved me and I gained some sense of normalcy.

Cherish the people who do their best to love you correctly. That does not mean toxic and manipulative behavior is excused, never feel like you owe anyone anything for love.

Oh really? Can’t relate

There are lots of core childhood experiences that I have never had happen to me. Rites of passage for mothers and daughters, cute maternal moments and fond core memories of her, it is foreign to me. The little I remember gets hazier as I get older; I do my best to remember ever so often so I never forget. My sister’s talk about vacations, parties, and days without electricity, carnival camps and church events, all filled up with funny moments and happy times. One memory I have not forgotten is combing through my mother's hair as she chatted with my grandma and her older brother while they watched wrestling one night.

My sisters however, had to walk around and buy graduation dresses, get their makeup done and have my mother take pictures and shop with them. I recently turned 18 years old, graduated from secondary school and due to the covid-19 pandemic, I was robbed of a graduation ball but despite that, it occurred to me that I’d never experience that and usually, it wouldn’t bother me but I won't lie.

I mourned that opportunity and experience. Instead, my partner and I dressed up and showed each other what we would have worn on a zoom call then a few days later my friends and I attended a birthday party at a pool and enjoyed the time spent together. Try to enjoy your life despite the pain of loss, the departed would not want you to sit and waste away your life mourning them. They would want your joy, stability and health to be flourishing, live for yourself and those who love you.

In terms of chill: we have no chill

“You become what you need” it is a quote that I heard recently and it was not one with a lot of research attached to it. A friend of mine pointed it out to me after they spoke with a relative. Growing up, I had motherly figures in my grandmother and eldest sister. My grandmother and I got along great, we never argued and obeying her was never a chore or an issue. My sister and I however, have rarely ever seen eye to eye on anything but I cannot blame her because she was young as well. That kind of responsibility must have had a lot of pressure attached to it.

Although, I had a lot of weight on me as well, I constantly heard; “you need to make your mother proud”, “don't disappoint your mother”, “if mommy was here, you could never do that”. Honestly, it pressed on me constantly as a child (it really destroyed my self-image). This overwhelming need to be perfect and self-sufficient overtook my childhood and I became very stressed from a young age. Usually, I could hide it but during exam season, it became apparent. I have always been proficient in my English skills but in mathematics (I sucked at it), I struggled.

Bullies made sure to publicly display my bad grades in front of everyone and I would cry, saying that I had disappointed my mother...this continued for a long time. I learned to isolate myself and escape the world through reading and art; even now, I still have trouble with disassociation. When I entered secondary school, I never asked for help from my family for projects unless absolutely needed, “in charge and in control”. I did this to my own detriment because, I never wanted to be a “burden” in reality, needing help was okay and expected. I grew up too quickly because I felt the need to do everything on my own and in the end, all I did was stress myself out. Do the best you can and when it becomes too much to handle reach out for help (there is no shame in being human).

The heartfelt and witty conclusion

In conclusion, I survived. In addition, that means you can too. Life is cruel and uncertain but humans are adaptable and hopeful. Things get better eventually; all you need is some time, reflection, meditation and self-love as well as some loving friends or family (ones with feathers, fur or fins also count). Never forget that your mental health is always important, there are no entirely right ways to grieve (but there are many wrong ones) so doing research on healthy ways to do so is good. You are not alone, everyone has lost someone and it will be okay, do not worry.

By: Keryse Lokai

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