Mother’s Day Mourning

Guest Post by Meghan Ross

Today marks two years since my Aunt Dawn passed away suddenly, or what I like to call “the universe’s shittiest plot twist yet, and that includes all Riverdale storylines.” You probably don’t know her, but to give you a little context, she was one of the best woman beings that graced our rapidly warming planet.

About 12 years ago, I started calling my Aunt Dawn “Mom,” mostly as a joke, as if I was her more ethnic-looking daughter that came out of nowhere. But then it stuck and it felt natural. She didn’t replace my own mother, the most glamorous woman I know named Diana Ross (and I’m not just saying that because she may be reading this). Instead, she gave me another strong, caring, and selfless woman to look up to in my life, and to whiningly call “Moooom!”

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And now today (Mother’s Day and the anniversary of her passing) is going to suck. Not to be outdone by the freshly unrepressed memory I have of what would have been a spontaneous trip home that my sister booked for my broke ass so I could surprise my family for Mother’s Day weekend in 2017. My flight was scheduled for that Saturday morning, but I got the news of my aunt’s passing around 3:00 am the Friday before, which meant I had just missed my last opportunity to see her.

It was also the first time I was dealing with intense grief over a close family member, particularly one who was so young at the age of 48. At that point, I was already a person prone to sudden crying outbursts (shoutout to depression, anxiety, and public places I’ve made people uncomfortable via openly weeping). But now I had reached a whole new level of uncontrollable sadness with my Aunt Dawn’s death. And I had no idea how to deal with my grief.

I’d like to use this opportunity to call bullshit on a lot of grief-themed blogs, articles, and publications that tell you “it gets better.” In my experience, it doesn’t get better, it just gets longer. That is, the time you can go without remembering, “that shitty thing that happened is real and permanent and this amazing person who was an important part of my life for 28 years is no longer physically with us.”

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I compare it to those “# of days without workplace accident” trackers, except it’s more of a “# of days I went without a sudden tidal wave of grief drowning me” tracker. So no, it doesn’t get better, I just learned to convince myself for longer amounts of time that it’s not real or permanent, until my brain reminds me it is (honestly, so rude).

And for those looking for (hopefully) more relatable tips on how to deal with your grief rollercoaster (side note: Why does this continue to be a commonly-used analogy? Rollercoasters are fun as hell but this one sucks), here are just a few I’ve applied over the past 2 years:

1. Express your grief.

Cry, scream into a pillow (okay, a bit cliché, but it sometimes works), talk it out with a therapist, friend, or stranger (a JetBlue customer service employee provided me solace over the phone a week after the funeral). Don’t feel pressured to keep that shit on lockdown, just because others seem like they’re holding it together.

2. Honor that person’s life through your own actions.

My Aunt Dawn may not be physically with us, but I try to keep her spirit alive in my own life. I dedicated an episode of my comedy show to her, as well as my first short film. At this point, I feel like nearly all of my comedy endeavors are motivated by my cool ghost Aunt Dawn (she was a loyal supporter of my comedy “career”).

I also connected with the founder of Meningioma Mommas and held a small fundraiser to make a donation in my aunt’s name.

3. Accept that the most random things will set off your grief alarm.

Everyone told me how Hereditary was such a scary movie, but no one warned me that Toni Collette would display the most accurate depiction of someone’s immediate reaction to finding out a loved one is gone that I’d ever seen in TV or film, resulting in me crying for most of the movie.

My grief is hard to predict or contain, but the best I can do is learn to live with it, while holding tight to the fond memories I have of my Aunt Dawn. Poop and fart joke birthday cards included.

Bre Cruickshank