Do I fall to pieces or pick up the pieces and turn them into something beautiful?
My sweet and spunky mom died in January and I'm about to experience my first Valentine's Day without her. I've had moments where I can't help but wonder why it hurts so much. After all, it's normal for a parent to go first. It's the natural order of things. It happens all the time, so why is it so painful?
One of the sympathy cards I received explained it best: "Your mom was your first love." I hadn't thought of it this way before, but it's true. She was my first love and she was my first valentine. No matter what Valentine's Day brought, or didn't bring, my mom loved me through it.
Growing up, there was never any doubt about whether I'd receive a valentine or not because my mom was a sure thing. Even if the little shoebox I'd converted into a pink and red heart-covered mailbox came up disappointedly empty, my mom had something sweet for me at home. If a boy broke my heart, or if it was a year without a special guy at all, my mom made me smile with a humorous card and chocolate.
If the day just didn't live up to the Hallmark hype, my mom simply reassured me with a hug that I was loved.
My mom was my best friend and my rock. Through every devastating heartbreak and joyous celebration, she was by my side. She loved my children and me in a way that no one else could. She was our number one fan and she wasn't afraid to brag about us to the world.
How will I get through this first holiday without her? The fact of the matter is, this is a turning point in my life where I have to question myself. Do I fall to pieces, or pick up the pieces and turn them into something beautiful? Despite the moments where I wonder how possible it might be, I'm choosing to do the latter. I have to and I want to.
I'm a mom now. My own mom taught me how to be one. She loved her role as mom, and perhaps even more, her title of "Grammie" She wouldn't want me to use Valentine's Day, or any day for that matter, as an excuse to shut down or to give up. Instead, she would want me to make the most of the day and remember what really counts.
So this Valentine's Day, I will lead my family in celebrating the love we had with their Grammie and the precious memories we share. I will use the opportunity to remind my teenagers that Valentine's Day isn't just for lovers; it's a day for anyone who loves someone. It's a day to cherish family and friends, as if it were the last.
We didn't know that Christmas Day would be my mom's final day at home. We didn't expect her to pass away as soon as she did, and we certainly didn't have the chance to do or say all of the things that we would've liked to. It all happened very fast. Unfortunately, this is the way it often works in life. We don't know when our last day together will be, so each moment is precious. Every day is a gift, not just on Valentine's Day.
I know I'm not alone, as I feel some trepidation about facing this first holiday, and many others in the coming year, without my loved one. My simple hope is that the millions of other heartbroken people who are missing one of their valentines this week will find some comfort in their precious memories and the love of those who are living.
And yet, I know this isn't necessarily going to be easy.
Grief is a journey. I hope that people who are hurting like I am accept themselves for feeling exactly the way they do and know that there's no right or wrong way to do it. There isn't a timetable either. Even though society tries to rush us and expects us to "get over it," we won't.
It's not going to get easier — we're just going to get stronger. We will adapt to the loss over time and learn how to live in a new way, with a different and evolving relationship with our loved one.
My desire to celebrate Valentine's Day in a positive light, in honor of my mom, is in no way an attempt to speed things up. I'm real about the fact that it will simply be one step in a long journey of ups and downs ahead.
As I venture down that path, I will be sure to make time to feel what I need to feel, take care of myself, and know that it's all about making the most of my life as I have it. One day at a time. Just as my "first love" would want me to do it.