March Happy Hippy Mama
February 18th, 2020 was my best friend Heidi's fortieth birthday. March 9, 2020, will be the three year anniversary of her death. This month I am going to stray from my normal column a bit and share with you something I wrote about how life feels today, and what it has felt like getting to this place. Next month, I will return to my normal column but this one is for my sweet friend. Forty would have looked good on her.
A love letter to Heidi, and loss
My best friend Heidi was an amazing soul. Her sparkly blue eyes and signature toothy smile could light up a room. Her sense of humor and strong work ethic made her an unforgettable wife, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, mother, and more. Heidi was a woman of many titles and excelled at all of them.
In October of 2015, our whole world fell apart. Heidi was diagnosed with a softball size tumor from a rare childhood cancer called Synovial Sarcoma. She was in the prime of her life, working as a Special Education teacher, and flourishing as a mother and wife.
In an attempt to get ahead of this very aggressive Cancer Heidi had her left lung removed. The surgery was considered a success and within a few months, she had adjusted her activities and gained enough strength to return to work. But, sadly this wasn’t the end.
Cancer returned two more times, and Heidi was forced to consume the only cocktail she didn’t like. A cocktail of chemotherapy. It was strong and wiped out Heidi’s heart and kidneys. Eventually, the Cancer grew too large and stole my sweet friend’s physical body.
In the months and now years that have passed since Heidi left us after just thirty-seven sweet years here on earth. My heart has ebbed and flowed in ways I didn’t know possible and I have learned so much about loss, life, and all the in-betweens.
In the immediate months, I floated through the fog of loss detached from my true self. I survived and stayed as present as possible for my four daughters. But as my therapist put it, I thought I was moving forward..but I wasn’t. Too often my eyes were in the rearview mirror.
I realized as I approached the second year my feelings were starting to come to the surface. I was truly feeling things, the numb fog that had once encompassed me was lifting. My feelings felt like raw nerve endings begging to be helped.
Over the last year, as I left the numbing wine, sugar, and late-night binge TV watching behind. I realized I had to feel these feelings to move through them. Trying to snub them out with alcohol or the entire 20 seasons of Grays Anatomy wasn’t working.
Keeping myself busy with my kid’s schedules wasn’t working. Trying to live my life forward while still being stuck in the past, wasn’t working. I wasn’t the wife I could have been at that time. In fact, it was through that realization that I found I actually wasn’t the me I wanted to be.
Slowing down, moving, and writing helped to bring my soul back to my heart. Finding ways to honor Heidi has given me purpose and peace. We have a scholarship at our high school set up in her memory, and I raise funds for the American Cancer Society each year in her memory. I run road races, and each time I do I whisper her name. Because she can’t run these races and because each mundane little bit of this tragically beautiful life is a blessing.
As I approach the third anniversary of her death I am more aware of the passing of time and feel the weight of her loss lifting. At the same time, the memory of how heavy it was is ingrained in my heart forever. I am focused on mothering my girls with Heidi in my heart. I will never return to the young care-free thirty-six year old who thought we would live forever. But, today, I can see the beauty in the scars of what life has thrown my way.
Feeling my way through this tragic loss without numbing the pain, has saved me. Writing stories like this one has healed me in a way I didn’t think possible. Being a mother while also trying to juggle all of life’s titles and losses is hard.
Feeling feelings is easy if you give yourself the space to be flawed. Allowing happiness and sadness to co-exist in my heart the last three years has grown my soul. I will never get over the loss of my sweet friend. Rather, losing her has changed me, and because she lived I am the person you see today.
The tired nearly forty-year-old eyes that stare back at me from my reflection show strength and courage. I see my friend’s sparkly blue eyes in the sunsets and soft snow. It is not the same, it never will be, but today I feel my friend’s beauty in the present moment and for that I am thankful. Moving forward is hard, but it has a beautiful view.
Have you experienced loss, or can you relate to this? I would love to hear your stories. Continue this conversation on Facebook at Happy Hippy Mama or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This months mantra:
Life is short. In a blink, it tends to pass us by. Don’t waste yours. Fill your life with authenticity, happiness, and love.
Until next time...
A Peninsula, Ohio, native, Emily Holody is a stay-at-home mother and freelance writer with a degree in Sociology from Kent State University. She has a background in mental health and social work, loves yoga, all things outdoors, and lives in Euclid with her childhood sweetheart and their family.