I wish I’d known.

This is another piece of what may eventually become a memoir about my mom.

I’m still not entirely sure on writing the memoir. Now it has less to do with finding an audience (I’m a marketer, for god’s sake; if I can’t find an audience, I should fire myself), but more to do with my painful inability to consistently write about it.

The piece you’re about to read is actually my third attempt. Every previous draft was such a pile of crap I wouldn’t dare share it with anyone but my trash bin.

This happens every time I try to write about Mom. Maybe I’m just being extra finicky about it, but I feel like I can’t possibly put the weight of my emotions into words well enough to write one essay, let alone a whole book.

But, at the same time, how can you? I can hardly find the means to articulate my emotions over Mom in expression, let alone actual words.

Regardless, this is another creative-nonfiction piece stemmed from thoughts about Mom on the drive home tonight. If I were a better writer, if I was able to capture the emotions I truly have on the subject, you would probably see at least one of these every week, especially during the holiday season.

Mom loved Halloween.

I guess my mind just isn’t ready to share everything yet.


* * *

Everyone says the same things…
I love you.
I’ll pray for you.
Call me if you need me.
It’s going to be hard–

Fuck yeah, it is.

…and they say it over and over again, as though the words are meant to soothe their own fears and sadness, to offer a false beacon of hope in a time that is already so full of those false beacons the path is just as lost in light as it was in pure blackness.

And it doesn’t help. It can’t help.

Since Mom’s death, I’m learning, slowly, the things I wish I had been more prepared for. Instead of having a guard up, instead of being able to save myself unneeded worry and stress, I find myself floundering.

I wish I’d known.

Because no one tells you about the fear. No one tells you that you will spend the next few years worrying, even believing, you will die from lung cancer. No one tells you it’s normal, and the pain in your chest is nothing more than stress. Instead, you sit alone in your room, terrified to tears, thinking of all the things you haven’t had the time to do yet–of all the things she hadn’t had the chance to do.

You’re not ready to die.

And yet… part of you wants to. No one ever tells you that, either–that sometimes your grief and your fear will be so much you’ll wonder if it would be easier to not experience it at all. And no one ever tells you that’s normal, too, and that it does not make you suicidal. No one ever tells you that you will be overwhelmed with guilt every time the fear and grief gets this strong that you cry again. No one ever tells you you’re healthy. You’re fine. You’re going to be okay.

No one tells you about the paralyzing grief. No one tells you to prepare for random emotional outbursts so excruciating, so fresh, it feels like you watched her slip away only yesterday. No one tells you how hard it is to find comfort, when the one thing you want more than anything else in the fucking world is to hear her voice again, to hold her hand and remember it warm and soft, so unlike the way it was the last time you held it.

For some reason, that memory is stronger than the rest, and no one tells you how hard it is to shake.

And especially, no one tells you about the shame. Everyone is so focused on telling you how strong you are, they close the door on your weakness. No one tells you how worthless you will feel when, even two years later, you can hardly make it through a week without breaking down. No one will tell you how badly you want to reach out to the people around you, but that you will be too ashamed of your weakness to show them how much help you really need. No one will tell you how afraid you will be to ask for a hug. Just a hug.

No one will tell you that, in your obsession with being strong, you will feel weaker than ever.

No one will tell you how hard it is to reach out, even though everyone you know has said, “I’m here for you if you need me.”

Because all you want is to hear her voice and hold her hand.
All you want is to feel as strong as everyone says you are.

And when you’re that strong, you don’t need their help.


Categories: Creative Nonfiction, My Life, Writing


  1. Always look to those dear to you that are willing to be there for you, even when the pain hits. No matter how seldom or often it visits, even if you want to be strong, there is no shame in finding solace in the company of those who care for you enough to understand what you’re feeling, and will not judge you for all the emotions that come out.

    May just be the emotional side of me talking; I get too easily emotional, nowadays, after the past two chaotic years. Had a health scare that really shook me, last semester. And the pain had been so bad I had to withdraw from the local community college. Turned out to be an internal cyst that took months to dissolve; but I still feel pain in my abdomen to this very day from all the stress.

    And, recently, my grandmother is facing another health scare of her own; and she is my true mother, the woman who’s raised me practically all my life. Few people understand me and look out for me as much as she does, and I try my best not to think of life without her. Our whole family would suffer greatly, without her.

    I don’t know the depth of your pain, but… Having been a fool girl who has been saved more times than she probably deserved by her TRUE mother, I feel there is no right on anyone’s part to ever judge you for continuing to feel that loss. Hell, a friend of mine I haven’t seen in a long time still misses her mother (who passed away long before I met that friend) like crazy to this very day!

    Your mother had been someone special to you; and for that, I personally believe no-one has any right to judge you for missing someone so special.

    Mariyah Wayman

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