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When Your Mom Dies, The Sadness Never Really Goes Away

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when your mom dies the sadness never goes away

"When did your mom die?" someone asks me over drinks.

"10 years ago — 11 years this January."

"I'm sorry."

"No, it's OK," I start to say, to smooth the edges of ‪#ThatAwkwardMomentWhen your dead mother suddenly joins the party, to reassure my friend that it's fine, really, it's fine.

Because unless you've lost someone, you expect there to be a timeline: From that last breath to burial, to uncovering the mirrors again through a year marked in mourning, to "getting on with it already," to "moving on." But that's bullsh*t. 

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The sadness and missing her never goes away. It changes and you live with it, but it never is OK.

In the beginning, I couldn't breathe; it was like drowning. Big angry wave after big angry wave crashed over me, knocked me over, spun me around. I would wake up and have to say the words aloud: "Your mother is dead, your mother is dead.”

You're smashed against a rock, drenched in your grief, maybe drowning, you choke and sputter but then you realize the breathing spaces in between each wave are getting bigger.

You're shivering, still, but you feel sunlight on your skin. So you open your eyes. And the waters are mermaid blue instead of ink — it changed somehow when your eyes were squinted shut.

So you lean back, the sunlight full on your face, and you float.

You float...

You float...

And it's almost OK again. "Maybe I'm OK," you say.

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And you start to believe it ... until the water swells around you and another wave bares down, and you're back against the rock, smashed, bleeding, shaking in its icy blast. Only this time, you remember while you're clinging to the rock: "It does get easier. This too shall pass."

And you hear this in your mother's voice, the way she whispered to you when your first love broke your heart when you were 15. "It does get easier. This too shall pass."

And it does.

And you take that chance and slip back into the waters where you float again, only just as you remembered while you were being smashed that it may come again, you remember, too, this time, "It does get worse."

And it does.

But the spaces between those brutal waves stretches — and in that time, you are (sort of, maybe, kind of) OK as you trust yourself to be OK.

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And you are. And you remember in your mother's voice again, "This too shall pass."

But still, you know that it isn't gone, not forever, not the missing. It's always there, that wisp on the horizon, reminding you "Enjoy this now, because the storm will come again."

And even though it's OK now, it still isn't. Not really. Not ever. And it's OK to say that, even over drinks.

So, I take a deep breath and say instead, "You know what? It's not OK. It f-ing sucks."

And then I feel better.

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Sarah Tuttle-Singer is a writer and editor focused on parenting, divorce, death, and Jerusalem. She has been published at The Times of Israel, Kveller, Scary Mommy, Ladies' Home Journal, and TIME.com.

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