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Fear, loathing and a year of firsts without Mom
Death turns holidays into a struggle
Published Tuesday, April 3, 2018 7:06 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Life has many firsts.

Some leave lovely memories, like your first car. Others simply establish milestones of experiences you feel you just need to get through, like the first wave of holidays after a parent dies. My mom, Mary Mahoney, died from cancer before Labor Day 2017. She didn’t get another Thanksgiving or Christmas, and the one Easter she did spend in Charlotte came right before the ceiling started sinking.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2017 all resemble mimosas, but Easter arrived after I decided to quit drinking. Easter, which symbolizes hope in the universe, didn’t come with a mask of bubbly cheer like the previous three holidays. I dreaded Easter this year, wished for it to go away, and prayed for it to be any other day. My mother adored the holidays, but she loved Easter most of all in a way that could only be called a direct manifestation of her faith.

Dealing with death—it’s different for everyone. In the beginning, I thought I had it figured out. Something akin to, “wow, this is so much easier than what you read in books or see on television. I can do this.” Grief would occasionally knock me down a bit, but then I would foolishly think I had made my way to the other side of the storm…again. Instead of getting easier, letting her go became harder.

How do you let something like the person who raised you go? How do you give up control, knowing that some things just cannot be cured? How do you trust the God of the universe, the one she taught you to serve that everything will be OK?  These incoherent thoughts turned into a lot of cursing at God, but when the ocean of tears and slurs finally stopped, a quiet voice said, “I still love you, even when you hate me.” 

Moment of truth: I loathed God a lot in the weeks leading up to Easter, and even saying “a lot” seems like a bit of an understatement. I’m not the only person who experienced Easter for the first time without a loved one last weekend, and I’m hardly the only one He loves. It is so easy to say “Yes dear, Jesus loves you,” but for a lot of people going through something like this, that’s not enough.

Everyone needs something different while they navigate grief. Some need professional counseling. Some don’t. There isn’t a checklist for this. There isn’t a box. There are the pegs and holes that I quoted my big sister on in my first column after our mom died. Somewhere between August and now, suddenly the pegs seemed round and the holes became square. I haven’t quite figured out how to reset the table without her, and perhaps that seat will remain empty until the next first.


I know ALL TOO WELL HOW YOU FEEL. My mother transitioned in March of 2017. I ache sometimes like someone stabbed me over 30 times in my heart. But then I have my good days remembering just how much she loved me. But I could go on and on about it. Just know that you are not alone in this world, even though it feels like it. No one understood me as my mother did so when I start crying I say this to myself. Grieve, grieve, and grieve some more. She is your mother and you?re ENTITLED TO GRIEVE forever.
Posted on April 3, 2018

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