by Kirsten Falsey
In memory of my wonderful, funny, brave, inspirational Mom.
Grief is a universal emotion. But how each of us navigates the grief process is very personal and private. Some people may grieve for weeks, months, or years. Others may handle it alone, seek out friends, or professional help. No matter how one goes through the process, the most important thing they need is support from non- judgmental friends and family.
Growing up the oldest of two children in Tucson, Arizona I had a very close relationship with my wonderful Mom. We laughed often, took long walks together, and enjoyed frequent shopping trips to the mall. Our happy world was turned upside down when she got diagnosed at the age of 62 with stage 4 cervical cancer. It was a confusing time with too many doctors appointments and chemotherapy treatments to count. I had a career as a registered nurse in California and the flexible schedule allowed me to visit with her often. My husband and I learned we were pregnant with twins, (our first children), about a year into my Mom’s diagnosis. She was so excited about our pregnancy and continued to fight hard.
There were so many ups and downs through her cancer journey and the lowest point came at the end of 2010, right in the middle of the holiday season. My Mom had gotten tired, weak, and unable to stay strong enough to keep fighting through. She had done well for 18 months, I assumed she would be there for the arrival of our twin girls in the spring. I was half way through my pregnancy when her battle with cancer ended on 1/1/2011, a date I will never forget.
After the chaos of the Catholic funeral, phone calls, cards of sympathy, and meals ended, I spent a lot of my days lonely and afraid, not sure how I was going to survive without my loving Mom by my side. I wondered, who was going to share stories about what I was like when I was a baby? Who would sing lullabies to my girls and rock them to sleep? I attended a few grief support groups but it was too painful to relive the horrible memories of my loss. A loss that was so powerful it took over my ability to cope under stress, find the hope in every day, and believe that I could ever be happy again. In the spring of 2011, we welcomed our healthy beautiful girls into the world.
The first few weeks were filled with lots of tears of loneliness and disbelief that my Mom was missing out on the biggest moment of my life. As I navigated the path of being a new Mom over the next few months, I noticed that my mood had shifted and I was no longer the happy, confident, upbeat person I was used to. I was eventually diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. I didn’t have a history of depression and being a nurse who always helped others, I had a hard time reaching out for the help I needed. I thought I could get back to my old self alone. But the days were becoming darker and darker and I started to feel like I was a horrible Mom.
Eventually, I was put on medications and I sought out consistent weekly therapy to help myself understand my feelings and cope with the loss of my Mom. One technique the therapist used with me was journaling. When my girls would nap I would take the time to type at my computer and let my words, feelings, and memories spill over my tears. It was a very cathartic experience to come to terms with my fears, anger, frustrations, and loneliness and to read about where I had been. Journaling was a way for me to heal. It was just me alone with my thoughts with no one there to respond, judge, or offer advice. That is where my inspiration for my first book, Hope and Emergence: A Journey Through Grief and Postpartum Depression, came from. I knew I had a story to tell and I wanted to make sure that others’ knew they are not alone.
Grief work takes time and often it feels like no one around you understands. You feel alone, afraid, and unsure if life will ever feel normal again.
You have to patient with yourself and give yourself the time needed to find healing and peace. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. It took me two years of grief to finally accept my Mom’s death. Personally, for me, I needed to share my story with anyone who would listen and had to explore each of the stages of grief multiple times in order to grow and heal. It’s OK to ask for help, to seek out a therapist, and attend support groups. By sharing my story I hope that others find the strength through my words to heal knowing that they are not alone and that there is someone out there who truly understands.
My Mom will always be a part of my life and her memory will live on through stories I share. I once thought that if I didn’t cry for her and think of her daily, I would forget. But the heart never forgets. I believe that she gives me the strength to move forward and would want me to be happy, brave and strong, like she was through her illness. At times my sadness will come back out of the blue and I know it’s OK to feel this pain and that it will subside. Grief changed me and it showed me that my loss was real. It also gave me the bravery and strength to move on in life and find my happy place again.
In memory of my wonderful, funny, brave, inspirational Mom,
Patricia Rose Forgacs 8/22/1946-01/01/2011
About the Author: Kirsten was born in Elk Grove Village, Illinois and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She moved to California and was a Labor and Delivery nurse for ten years. Kirsten lost her beloved mother to cancer just before she gave birth to her twin daughters. Soon after giving birth, Kirsten started seeing a therapist, and eventually, a psychiatrist. During which, it was determined that, Kirsten not only was grieving the loss of her mother, but was also suffering from postpartum depression. For Kirsten, the combination of grief and depression lead to several stays in a psychiatric hospital. While getting the help and support she needed, Kirsten was eventually able to heal. She wrote in a journal throughout her entire process and those journal entries became the foundation for her book, Hope and Emergence: A Journey through Grief and Postpartum Depression. Kirsten, her husband, Jim, and their three daughters live in Southern California. More information about Kirsten, her journey and her new book, can be found at EstepFitzerald.