My mom is Wonder-Woman. Growing up, I watched my mom put family members and friends before herself, always. She would tell me that by helping others she helps herself. This was a motto our family began to live by. Following the tragic death of my brother in 2003, as much as my mom tried to continue this, she failed.
She could no longer put others needs before her own; it was exhausting her mentally as well as physically. Our family went from having home cooked chicken pot pies and steak dinners to eating cereal or whatever we could find in the pantry. My mom went from the most sociable person to dreading going out in public, seeing people she knew, and having to make small talk, which always included the unnerving questions regarding children. She was no longer the same person. My mom realized she could no longer live this way, so she joined a group called Compassionate Friends.
The day my sister and I walked in our family room and saw our parents watching a slideshow of family pictures and listening to “I will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan, we knew that our parents, especially our mom, had begun their healing process.
On August 19, 2008 before walking out the door to start my next journey at Virginia Tech, my mom looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry I’ve been such a horrible mom, Laura.” I stopped her before she had the chance to say any more and asked why she would ever say that. “I have been absent for some of the most important years of your life, and I will never get a chance to get those years back.” My mom was never absent during any time of my life. She was there for me in a heartbeat when needed. It was just many days she was distracted because she was focusing on her healing process, and, as it should have been, I was not at the top of her list. She was doing what she should have. While my siblings and I were heating up frozen dinners, she was attending Compassionate Friends meetings, one of the few places where she said she felt at peace, and reading books on self-help; she was taking care of herself.
My family and I are able to share my brother’s story and our experiences and hopefully along the way, one person will find hope that life does go on. In the end, my mom was absolutely right. It is true that you are able to help yourself by helping others; you just have to remember to help yourself first. I believe, above all else, putting yourself and your needs first is the only way to survive.
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