The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

The Student Publication of Keystone

The Keynote

Notes on Grief; Lessons from my Mother


It is February 10th, 2024, at 3:28 CST, and I am seated in front of my mother’s grave. One year ago today I was in the car on the way home telling my dad about my day. One year ago today, my mom was sick, and I didn’t know that was going to be her last day with me. Today, I am left with a year of grief—grief I tried to run from, grief I tried to hide, grief that would not let go of me. There is a simple truth I have learned in the past year—you cannot let go of grief nor the people you lose. Instead, you learn to grow with grief as it becomes a part of who you are. Eventually, the grief will soften, will become moldable, and you will find where it fits in your life. But it does not let go.

When I reflect on my mother’s illness and the month-long journey to the end, I am filled with a twisted sense of nostalgia. There are incredibly distinct moments that feel frozen in time. I’ve reimagined the moments of telling my closest friends about her illness, her hospitalization, the terminal nature, and her death: the first text I sent to someone that night, my voice echoing as I asked people to come in and say goodbye, the taking off of her wedding ring I now wear around my neck for good luck. I look back on last January with a sense of longing to comfort not only myself but my mother. My feelings have shifted from pain for myself to pains for the life she could’ve lived. My mom had dreams and plans that I am confident she would’ve achieved given the time. Instead of hurting for the time I lost with her, I hurt for the time she lost with herself. 

My expectations for grief have continued to change, they’ve continued to be wrong. Losing my mother has become a part of who I am, something that is mentioned in passing far more than I ever thought it would be. More than anything, I felt like grief would single me out. That it would isolate me as I felt so different from the world around me. Last year, I believed my grief would consume every moment of my life, that it would feast upon any happy moments I had the chance of having. I expected each moment to make me feel more saddened and heartbroken, yet reality does not match with my old road map for the year ahead. 

I resent the normality I feel. It seems at times that the only way I am expected to be is sad. That everyone expected tears and no words from my mouth. That I wouldn’t even be able to talk about my mom. In the eyes of so many, I was reduced to my grief when my mother died. Yet I felt no different than I was in the moments before her death. I was still me, just with a dead mom. I continued to have the same passions and dreams, and I continued to do everything I had done before, despite conceptions I wouldn’t. The truth of the matter is that the past year of my life has not been all sad. I’ve had some incredible highs, conquered parts of me that I never knew I could. So many moments in the last year have filled my heart, tinged as they might be with the reminder that the best I can do to tell my mom about them is to leave a voicemail or to speak into the universe. There have been, inevitably, the lows. But there are always lows, and there are always highs. The merry-go-round I am moving on never stops. From high to low, I keep moving. I keep changing. Next to my side, there is grief. I grow, my grief changes. I overcome the next reminder, Mother’s day, her birthday, and there is another on the horizon.

Grief is anything but simple. It cannot be summed up as a straight line of a process. There is no end. I doubted and debunked much of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ ethos when it came to the five stages last year. Today, I offer a new final stage—comfort. There is no prerequisite to this stage; and sadly, I can give you no guide book. I miss my mother every day, there is no doubt about it, but where my grief once felt like a cloud looming over me, it now surrounds me, and I am part of it. I have learned to be comfortable in my grief. Grief is heavy, but my mother’s memory sits as a weighted blanket rather than a dumbbell. Comfort is seeing the beauty in the world as my mom. Comfort is feeling a sense of calm when I see a picture of her or read a letter instead of waves of pain. Instead of reminding me of the person I have lost, my mother’s love and memory serve as a reminder of the person I want to be. 

I’ve processed my grief in my own way. I’ve discovered my own path through a minefield of flare ups and memories. Creative writing has become my shield against grief, a defense made solely of my weakest spots. This piece I write today tells my mom’s story and my own. It is healing in its own right, and it has a power that I can no longer take for granted. When I think of my mom, I think of all the people she saved. As a trauma surgeon for over twenty-five years, there are a countless number of people that walk the Earth today because of her. I’ve met or re-met many of them in the past year. To me, they represent all the ways she chose to live. Through their lives I see her passion and her joy. I am one of those people, not who she saved, but who she created. I am grateful for the love my mother gave me and instilled in me. 

The past year of my life has been one filled with grief, in a variety of ways. My grief has motivated me, has pushed me farther than I ever thought I would go. My grief has scarred me, has left me with a constant reminder of a feeling I will hold onto until it is my own time. It’s taught me lessons about myself that I am incredibly grateful to have had. My journey with grief is not over and never will be, in the same way my love for my mom will never leave me no matter how many years go by. 

I miss the days of returning home and getting to retell the day’s events to my mom in the same animated way I tell my dad on the way home, recalling little conversations, difficult questions on tests, and where my friends spent their lunches. It seems that every time I would retell her the events, there would be something new that I remembered. Her death scars me in the same way. Each time I tell the story of losing her there is a new, important detail to remember. My mother is no longer on this Earth, at least not her laughter or her joy. But her story remains in each and every person she touched. She no longer tells her story; her book of life does not continue to write itself. Instead, my mom’s story evolves in everyone she left behind. I continue to grow for myself, but more importantly I grow her legacy.

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About the Contributor
Julia Doski
Julia Doski, Junior Editor In Chief
Julia Doski is a junior and has been attending Keystone since kindergarten. Her passions lie in global affairs and international relations. She is an active member of Academic WorldQuest, Model United Nations, Debate, Yearbook, the Keynote, and Quizbowl. A fan of writing and editing, Julia's focus with the Keynote is to help writers create the best articles possible.

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    Mark BostonFeb 23, 2024 at 9:30 am

    This brief, poignant and vulnerable reflection says as much about living with loss and grief as anything I’ve read on the topic. This is truly a gift born out of tremendous pain and I’m sure it has the power to heal both the author and all who read it.