Today marks the fourth year since my mom passed away and it is tough.. Getting through the night and day without breaking down is difficult. On days like these I try to practise self care. I take a day off from work or school to allow myself to just be and cry if I need to.
During these four years without her, I often wonder how she would feel about the decisions that I make. Not having her around to ask for advice is still something I’m getting used to, even after four years. My life has changed a lot in this time span in so many different ways. But the one question that keeps me up some nights is:
”Would she be proud of me?”
I’m not necessarily a validation seeking person, not at all, but the opinion of my mother always meant a lot to me, which makes sense I guess.. Having lost my mom at a young age, the age where you may not be considered fully adult yet and not having to make any serious adult decisions, it is hard to imagine what type of advice she would give in certain situations. Not only that, but also what her stance and opinions would be during difficult times.
Everyone around me always tell how she would be proud and even though those words mean a lot, they don’t give me a lot of comfort, because they aren’t their opinions I need to hear in times like those. That being said, I am extremely grateful for everyone offering some kind of support and/or understanding. It is nice knowing that there are people out there who care. But I feel as if my mother’s words and advice are the only ones that can help me get through it, but she’s gone..
The best way of describing this feeling is like going all the way back to when I was small and mom and I would go shopping. When you’re small, these stores are HUGE! Imagine that and then losing your mom in that big store. But instead of having that uncomfortable and scary feeling slip away and feeling relieved when you find her again, she is gone. Because that’s what it feels like. I feel all alone in this great big world, knowing my mom won’t be there to find her way back to me.
I had to start my adult life without her, having to make a lot of really tough decisions without her. And even though in the back of my head I know that she would be proud, I can’t help but wonder.. I hope she would be. I would just love to hear her say it one more time.
Luckily for me, not all hope is completely gone. I have a great support system of family and friends who are there to pick me up when I fall and for that I am thankful. Without them I wouldn’t have made it through.
And to any of you out there who have lost their mother,
I’m proud of you for sticking through the hard times. You’re a badass and you deserve all the good things in the world. You got this, you always have and you always will.
Lately I haven’t been feeling very grounded. With school, exams coming up, trying to keep a social life and visiting family I have been nothing but busy. All of those long days and days away from home I have really not been able to practise yoga the way I want to. Not just in the physical sense, but also mentally. For the past three years I’ve been keeping my practise (somewhat) consistent, but this year has been really difficult!
I started my practise back in 2015, only a couple of months after my mother passed away. I felt very lost and as if my life had lost all of its meaning, so I decided to look for something to do.. I had been flirting with the idea of yoga years prior, but had never seriously considered it. I only saw the physical aspect of it, but never the mental aspects. The thought that I wasn’t flexible enough or skinny enough went through my mind a lot. But the more I thought about it, the more the idea of Yoga pulled me in. So I bought a cheap yoga mat and started following along with video’s on YouTube. At first it was only 15 minutes a day, but I could immediately sense how calm it made me feel.
During that period of my life my mind was racing. Thoughts about how much I missed my mother and my family back home, but also thoughts that were much, much darker. I felt the need to be in control of my life, since I couldn’t be in control of my mother’s fate. I was yearning to find some peace in my life. Starting with yoga was scary to me. I was very insecure, having been overweight and bad with any type of ”exercise”, so this was a challenge. But I decided to face it head on and so I did. Soon I found myself on my mat ever. single. day. My practise started on my mat, but soon expanded itself into everything I do. I focus on how I breathe, how I speak to other people and take time to meditate a little, even if it is just for a minute or two. But it also made my relationships with other people better. I feel as if I have a deeper understanding of why people do what they do or say the things they say.. Before I used to be very quick to judge, not really paying people any time of the day and just living on the fast lane.
Yoga has taught me in times of stress to take a step back, reflect and ask myself: ”What is this teaching me?”. If something doesn’t serve me, I let it go. If I can’t control something, I let it happen. It has also taught me a lot about my own body too. Asana is one of the 8 limbs of yoga and asana means posture. It is what you see people do on their mats. Asana humbled me beyond belief. I used to see a pose and think: ”Wow!! I want to do it too, I’m totally ready for that!” even though I wasn’t. In the beginning that made a dent in my ego. Not being able to do a handstand or a middle split within 3 months bugged the living daylights out of me and even made me want to stop at times, but as my practise progressed, I realised that it really doesn’t matter. Sure, it is a fun goal to have, but that’s the thing. You should enjoy the journey towards those goals instead of only focus on the destination.
That lesson I could also apply to my real life. You see, after my mom died, I was waiting to die myself as well. I didn’t see any point in living anymore if she wasn’t there to see me do the crazy stuff I do today. I then realised that I am going to be around for a long time still, if I’m lucky. So why would I wait for that final destination, the day I die, while beating myself up about so much stuff that is not my hands? That final destination will happen, whether I like it or not, so I might as well enjoy the time I still have left. And that is how yoga saved me. It saved me from a life filled with emptyness and misery.
I might not have time or energy to practise asana every day, but you better believe I try to practise the other 7 limbs from the moment I wake up until the moment I hit the hay. And that’s the beauty of it. You are completely in charge of the way you want to practise as long as you are not forcing it.
This week my grandparents celebrated their golden marriage, something that seems to be a rare occasion nowadays. Growing up I never had parents to show me what a loving relationship looked like, since my parents divorced when I was only 6 years old. But luckily for me, I have grandparents who are the living breathing example of what a loving marriage should be like. They have faced some really difficult challenges, but fought through it all. They really live up to the ”for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health” part.
I never really knew what it was like to live in a household where both parents truly loved each other. My parents got together under weird circumstances and their divorce really didn’t come as a surprise. I often spent days over at my grandparents just looking at their daily routines and observing how they interacted with each other. They bicker a lot and my grandmother always has to correct my grandpa whenever he’s telling stories, but when you look past all that, it’s obvious how much those two love each other. I’ve asked Opa often how he did it. How is it possible to stay with the same person for decades? And he gave me some pretty great advice..
”A marriage is a give and take type of deal, but you ALWAYS give a little bit more than you take. And a good partner does the same thing for you in return.”
He told me that you shouldn’t want to be selfish in a good relationship, since you are in this together. Of course it’s okay to be selfish every once in a while, but you should never do things where it would only benefit you. In the end, the goal should be to make this person happy and only thinking about yourself can ultimately damage your relationship.
”Choose each other, every. single. day.”
My opa and oma have had their fair share of health issues. My oma has had a bad functioning body for as long as I can remember and my opa ended up with a really bad back injury three months into their marriage. He was bedridden for months and Oma took care of him, without complaining. It was a rough time financially though, since Opa was the one bringing home the bacon, but he couldn’t work. They made the best of it though and despite all of this, they still look back on it as the best years of their marriage and a period of growth. Opa took care, and still takes care, of Oma because she can’t do as much. Many people have criticised and berated him for staying with her, but he stuck with her, and still does till this day. When I asked him about it, he simply said that the easy way out isn’t always the most fulfulling and that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
”Have fun. Lots of it.”
My grandparents like to joke around a lot. Whenever I’m there Opa likes to crack lots of jokes about how small Oma is, or how she can’t do anything to him anyway, since she can’t run that fast. He’d have to duck though, since she has no issue throwing her slipper across the room. But they always laugh a lot. They have these funny little inside jokes that only they can laugh about. The kind of jokes that would raise eyebrows if they would be said out loud in public. And I love them for it. Lots of bellyaches have occurred in their living room from laughing too hard.
”Stick together, even when times are rough.”
They’ve experienced the one thing every parent out there fears. The loss of a child. The past four years have been really tough for them, but they fought through it. They still struggle with it, but they raise one another up when falling down. They hold each other when the days are tough and they make it through anyway. They could’ve chosen to lose optimism and succumb to that downwards spiral, but they didn’t. They make the best of it and try to spend their time doing things they like doing. Together.
”Communicate. Don’t ever go to bed angry at each other.”
One thing that Opa and I talked about a lot, is the fact that you should never go to sleep when you are mad at one another. You never know if you’ll wake up the day after. Talk through your grievances, even if it means that you’ll be sitting there until sunrise or if it means that you’ll end up fighting. Sometimes it needs to get bad before it gets better. But it’s never good to let small annoyances or frustrations sit there and fester. These small things combined can lead to something nasty, so why not just solve it by talking it through the moment it bothers you?
”Don’t stop falling in love with each other”
And with that I’m not talking about the happy sappy cheesy ”get a room” honeymoon kind of love. I’m talking about kissing each other on the cheek while they’re doing the dishes, or putting your hand on their knee as they’re sitting next to you on the couch. These small and subtle little gestures you can barely see, but that are there. I feel warm inside when I see those tiny little things as they go about their day. It’s so obvious that they’re still crazy about each other after 55 years of being together. It’s sweet and adorable.
I really admire the way they handle things and I can only hope that if I get married one day, that won’t be the kind of love you read about in fairytales, but the love my grandparents have for each other. It’s real and raw and it hasn’t always been pretty, but it also shouldn’t be. My opa and oma are from the generation where you fixed things when they were broken, instead of throwing it away. And I’m a firm believer of that as well. Obviously, if it no longer works you have to let it go, but problems that are easy to fix, should always be fixed first. I am proud to have such amazing rolemodels in my life, knowing that not everybody is that lucky. I am grateful for them and I am grateful that I got to experience their love for each other. 50 years down, and hopefully a whole lot more to go!
So this week I’m up to something pretty big! I’ll be going back to the Netherlands for the first time in over a year to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It always ends up being pretty awesome whenever I’m down there to visit family, but the time leading up to those trips are always pretty stressful for me.
For those of you that don’t know me that well, my mother passed away only a couple of months after I moved to Denmark in 2014 and basically right after I moved here, I had to go back to be there with her. The weeks leading up to it was grueling, because she was very sick, and I knew that nothing would be the same way as I left it. But then she passed away and suddenly it felt as if my home was taken away from me. Even though I still have all of my family and friends over there, it feels as if I no longer belong. Part of me is probably also just nervous about receiving bad news again, the same way as it did back in 2014. Now I know that that is absolutely irrational and I have nothing to worry about, but still. Going back is hard for me, because it’s a constant reminder of the life I once had. A life I once took for granted. My friends moved away, our dogs have been adopted, my entire family lives in different parts spread out over the country and well.. the house I grew up in is no longer ours.
I remember walking around my hometown last year with my Opa and my sister and even though everything looked the same, the feeling was gone. It was like a familiar painting, but without the warm colours..
Whenever I do go down there to see everyone, it feels like a warm bath. It’s lovely to be surrounded by my family and friends and sometimes I really do wonder if moving abroad was the right decision, but then I look at how much I have grown and the little life I’ve established here and it made me realise that I did something right. But there are moments where I really hate being so far away from everyone I love. It makes me wish that sometimes I wasn’t so adventurous and found contentment in a simpler life, closer to the ones I love. But then I think about a quote my mom once sent me:
”Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages”.
I see where she was getting at.. I used to ALWAYS follow my head and play it safe, but it also made me very unhappy. The one moment I decided to follow my heart was the decision to move countries, something lots of people in my direct circle never expected of someone like me. But I still try to protect my heart from things that may hurt it, so I keep it tucked deep within me, within my ribs. Isolating myself is a bad coping mechanism I’ve created over the years and I am not very proud of it, but it has always worked. Now that I live so far away from my loved ones it’s even easier, although I try not to. Staying away from the place that confronts me; my own bloody home, is easy, but it’s not a solution. It’s bittersweet really, because this longing for being with my family comes with this fear, this sense of anxiety of returning to my home, because of the events that have occurred there 4 years ago, not even to mention that this month marks the fourth year since my mother has passed.
So in a way, this upcoming trip has given me a lot of sleepless nights too. I procrastinated booking my flight and letting my family know if I’d be there, because of this tug-of-war in my head. However, I knew I couldn’t stay away. This is a milestone in my grandparents’ lives and they had already considered holding it off, since my mother couldn’t be there too. And I can relate to this feeling, because I’ve been there too. I didn’t want to marry or have kids if she wouldn’t be there to experience it, but in the end, life doesn’t stop because her life ended. So I’m proud of my grandparents for deciding that they’d celebrate anyway. I couldn’t say no when they asked me if I’d come too, knowing that they’d already have one empty chair at that table. I didn’t want them to have to look at yet another empty chair at that dining table. And I’m happy that I get to see them again. Spending time with them is fun. They’re amazing people and I am so grateful to still have them.
Life is strange. It’s incredible how much impact the loss of ONE person can have on so many lives. My mother’s death may have caused us to be far apart from one another, but our bond is closer than ever. I only get to spend 4 days in the Netherlands, not very long, but my loss also taught me to cherish those moments, as big or as little as they may seem.
As my favourite Disney character once said:
”This is my family. It’s little and broken, but still good.
Yeah, still good”
To all of you reading this,
Hug your loved ones a little tighter today. You never for how much longer you’ll have them..