By Brittany Hanna

My life changed forever on the evening of September 14, 2016. When my mom took her last breath, I was not entirely sure I could continue on with life, nor care to. With being an only-child, my mom was my best friend beyond being a parent. At 24, the last thing I thought that would happen to me would be losing my mom. I had just ran a half marathon the prior weekend and crushed my PR. One of my papers was being presented at a conference. Life was going pretty well in early September. When my mom got sick, the last thing I would have thought was that this would be it, but it was only six days later.

Initially I felt as if I was in a daze full of denial and uncertainty. The days were long as the weeks flew by. After the week of bereavement time given to my by employer, I went back to work believing that a sense of normality would mend my broken heart. I quickly learned that the “old” me was long gone, and I was unsure if I could ever live a normal life once again. After breaking down on a Monday morning, it was suggested to me that I take a leave of absence. Me giving up? I’ve fought so hard my entire life to not give up, but I had no other choice. I was falling apart. The holidays were coming up and I was still unsure of the point of life without my mom around.

The next four months were spent in therapy, seeking answers to why life has thrown me down this path, why I cannot be who I once was, and mostly to try to find my purpose. I had never seen a therapist prior to my mom passing, so I had a lot to work on when it came to myself. But after my mom’s memorial six weeks since her passing, I completely fell apart. I quit eating, self-loathed, obsessed over my weight, was angry at the world, and turned into someone I did not recognize. I surely did not love myself, and lost the only person I felt was ever capable of loving someone like me. I was doing the bare minimum to survive, but there was a small voice in the back of my head that told me if I could survive the next six months, life would get better. My friends were constantly around, but even then I started to wonder if I was more of a burden than a friend in their lives.  It was on New Years Eve of 2016 that I made the very conscious decision to better my life. I was set to go back to work in 2 weeks, and while by then I had accepted that the old me died with my mom, facing a normal life that would be my day-to-day life absolutely terrified me. But it had to happen, and it did.

I started off by facing life one day at a time. I tried to not think about what tomorrow held. As someone who has always rushed to do anything in life, taking life day by day was a challenge. I wanted to get on with healing. I wanted to find the new me, and get through this part of my life. I slowly noticed that my life was evolving. I was someone that I did not previously know, but I was turning into who I needed to be. My new routine was in place. I started to find sparks of happiness. I started to live again.

The song Blue and Yellow by The Used has a lyric, “and you never would have thought in the end how amazing it feels just to live again.” It is hard to find the words to describe how it felt to realize that I was capable of living with my mom’s memory, and letting that be a positive experience. I started to find my self-worth again which lead me to eating a normal amount, rediscovering yoga, going to shows again, and believing that I need to be alive. I did whatever it took each day to find something worth living for. It could be as small as a great cup of tea, or as large as seeing my favorite band. This perspective allowed me to rebuild my life. The silver lining behind hitting rock bottom is that when you are ready to rebuild, you can start entirely over. While the pieces of my life could never go back together where they used to be, I started to see what I am capable of creating in my life. I did not have to simply think about what I needed to do to get through each passing day. My goals are now focused on creating better relationships, continuing to learn to love myself, and living a life full of positive experiences. I learned how short life truly is, and I know this is the life my mom would want me to be pursuing.

I honestly would not be here typing this if it was not for my friends, therapy, yoga, and music. There is not a day that has passed where I have not missed my mom. I would give anything to have one more conversation with her, but I choose to be grateful for the experiences I did have with her for 24 years. If there is one lesson that I have learned from this experience is that mindset is far more powerful than I ever previously knew. If I didn’t make the decision to make a change, I would have continued to wallow in my depression. As a motherless daughter, society would have let me live in that mental state for years to come, but there is absolutely no way I could live in such misery any longer. I still actively work on my mental health each and every day, as I know that the events of September 14, 2016 will forever be a part of me. I have so much life to face without my biggest fan. It’s scary being on the verge of 26 and being alone, but I’m out here doing it. I don’t like to think about what life would be like had tragedy not struck, but rather focus on believing that I am turning into the change I’d want to see in the world.

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