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  • Jennifer Dowd

A Letter to My Mom on the Anniversary of Her Passing - Oct 4, 2023

Dear Mom,

It has been a year since you left us. This past year has been filled with overwhelming grief, endless tears, fear, anxiety, and anger. For most of this time, I've felt like a mere shell of the person I used to be, going through the motions of life, my soul forever shattered by your absence.

In the immediate aftermath of your passing, I was diagnosed with broken heart syndrome and deep depressive grief. Those were some of the darkest days of my life, and I often felt lost and disoriented, not knowing which way was up.

In the midst of my grief, life presented its share of challenges. I moved, endured the loss of a beloved pet (Willow) just months after your departure, faced a medical emergency in a foreign city, and encountered countless other obstacles. Through it all, you were constantly on my mind, every moment tinged with your absence.

Together with my brother and Aunt, we planted a tree in your memory, a tribute not only to you but also to Aunty Shirley. It was our way of showing the world just how much you meant to us.

Many well-meaning people tried to offer comfort by telling me that you wouldn't want me to be sad and that you would want me to find happiness. They reassured me that grief takes time to process and that I'm strong enough to endure it. While I appreciated their intentions, hearing these sentiments repeatedly left me frustrated, as if my feelings were being dismissed. As Megan Devine so wisely puts it in her book, "It's OK to NOT be OK," sometimes all I needed was for people to acknowledge my pain and simply say, "That sucks. I'm sorry for your loss."

In the moments when I wasn't consumed by tears, I turned to photography and writing—passions that you wholeheartedly encouraged and supported. I realized that these pursuits became a form of meditation, a way to redirect my mind from the pain that threatened to overwhelm me.

Reflecting on this year without you, I've come to understand that despite my profound loss, I possess a resilience and strength I didn't know I had. I've discovered that I can endure deep pain, make decisions for my dog and myself independently, and even find moments of joy when I get out of my own way. For so long, I was in a constant state of caregiving, ever since Dad passed away 11 years ago. Remarkably, I found my perseverance, resilience, and inner strength.

Dad - I miss you every day!

There were moments during this year when I couldn't imagine reaching a point where I would want to move forward and begin building a life for myself again. My lifeline during these times has been spending precious moments with my last remaining Aunt, my faithful fur baby Baylee, my two cousins, and a few close friends. They remind me every day that I am valued and loved.

As Saturday, October 7th approaches, the day I will lay your and Dad's ashes to rest in the family plot, I feel as though I am finally closing the chapter on grief and sadness. I'm ready to step into a new, unknown chapter. I'll be taking your spirits along with me for the journey. While I can't predict what the future holds, I believe I am prepared to find out.

Mom, please know that I will never stop thinking about you, carrying your memory with me, and loving you. You played an instrumental role in shaping me into the person I am today, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Someday, we will be reunited, and until then, please know that I love you beyond measure.

You will both be loved forever.

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