Hi, my name is Sofia Weaver, and I am 17 years old. I’m going to talk about my experiences with grieving the death of a loved one because I want to give hope to other teens who may be going through similar situations.
What is Grief
Grief refers to feelings of distress or suffering, often caused by the death of a loved one. The emotions that someone goes through while grieving has been organized into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone experiences all stages while grieving, or experiences them in that particular order. But they do effectively organize and explain the process that people go through while grieving.
When I was ten years old, my mom was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. This means it had already spread past her breasts and into her liver (a vital organ). After multiple treatments, in March of 2016, she passed away when I was only twelve. As a child, I always struggled with anxiety and would get separation anxiety when I was away from my mom for too long. As you could imagine, I was lost, and I didn’t know what to do when she passed.
Denial and Bargaining
The first two years after my mom died, I think I was in a stage of denial. When I first think of the word “denial,” especially in this context, I think of someone who is doing everything in their power to suppress the memory and deny the fact that their loved one passed away. This was a misconception because, at least for me, when I was in denial, I did not actively deny my mother’s death. It was more of an unconscious act of me not being able to process what had happened. During this two year stage, my sadness didn’t really affect my day-to-day life or keep me from doing the things that I loved.
The bargaining stage consists mostly of saying “what if…” or “if only…” statements such as “What if the cancer had been caught earlier,” or “If only I had spent more time with my mom.” The bargaining stage didn’t play a huge role while I was grieving at all. These “What if” statements popped up in my head maybe once or twice. Not everyone will experience each stage of grief as prominently as other stages. As my freshman year came to an end, reality started to set in, and I was no longer in denial.
The summer after freshman year, I didn’t have many friends, so since I had nobody to hang out with, I was stuck in my room all day, every day. This left me alone with my thoughts. I had this mentality that nothing was ever going to get better and that I would be sad forever. I remember every day I would just think, “How is anything ever going to get better if my mom isn’t ever going to come back?”. I had never felt more lonely, and I felt like nobody understood what I was going through. I didn’t see a reason to live if I wasn’t ever going to be happy again. This thought of not wanting to live changed from just a passing thought to a more prominent one as the summer went on. I honestly didn’t think that I would make it to my sophomore year; I expected to take my life by then. I saw a therapist at the time, and she told my dad that I wasn’t doing too well. My dad decided that he wanted to sign me up for a summer camp, in hopes of getting me up and out of the house, as that was a big reason why my mental health was so bad. He signed me up for a summer camp called Camp Kesem, a camp for kids whose parents have been impacted by cancer. At camp, I immediately felt an underlying connection with everyone as soon as I got there. Everyone understood what I had gone through with dealing with my mom’s cancer and also losing her. I had never in my life felt so close and welcomed by a group of people. This camp truly saved my life, because I didn’t feel lonely anymore, and I knew that I now had a group of people that would understand anything I was going through.
The beginning of sophomore year was going smoothly, and my mental health wasn’t nearly as bad as it was the summer before. Around January of that year, my dad got a girlfriend which was very difficult for me. I hated the fact that my dad could love anyone else other than my mom. I could feel my mental health worsening as the winter went on. Although I was beginning to feel depressed again, I more so felt angry. I was angry because I was never going to get to hug my mom again, angry because all the other girls in my grade got to come home to their mothers. Then I started to get upset because of the fact I was so angry, and it was a constant cycle. I didn’t know what to do about this anger, and I felt so lost that I started self-harming as a call for help. I wanted someone to notice and then somehow take me under their wing and help me get out of my misery. I was so fed up with being upset that the thought of taking my life started to enter my mind again. It wasn’t as serious of a thought as it was the summer before, but I saw it as the only solution to my problems. The thought of ending my life was all that was on my mind to the point where one night in March, I was so fed up with all these emotions that I started to have a panic attack. I was crying and hyperventilating because I was so overwhelmed with the thought of wanting to end it all. I was in my room while all this was happening, and I looked over to my bed to see the stuffed animal that I got from Camp Kesem. I was reminded of all the love and acceptance I felt from that camp, and I was able to calm down. That night I hit rock bottom, but thankfully the only way to go once you’ve hit rock bottom is back up.
Something that I finally realized towards the end of my sophomore year was that the only person who could truly get me out of my depression and anger was me. Sure, other people could say things to motivate me or to make me feel a little bit better, but as long as I wasn’t trying my hardest to get better, I wasn’t going to. After having this mindset that I was going to be sad and angry for the rest of my life, I slowly started to change my mindset to a more accepting one. I began to accept the fact that this was my new life, and that as hard as it was, I wasn’t going to see my mom again. I realized that I couldn’t dwell on the past, and I wasn’t going to let it consume my life anymore. I didn’t move on from my mother’s death, rather, I moved forward. I didn’t forget my mom, and I never will. But I knew that I had to move forward with my life, and I couldn’t let this tragedy negatively affect my life forever.
It Gets Better
After my mom died, people always told me was, “it gets better.” I never believed them, because I thought, “how could it possibly get better? It’s not like my mom is going to come back from the dead”. Although it may seem like nothing will ever get better after losing someone so close to you, I believe that humans are equipped to deal with this kind of pain. We are made to experience the lowest of emotions as well as the highest. I hope that anyone reading this who has lost someone close to them understands that things do get better with time.