I don’t know you, but I already care for you. I’m writing because your mother helped me, and I want to “pay it forward.”
How difficult it must be right now for you, at 8 years-old, to have your mother pass away so suddenly. My heart goes out to you. I wish there was something I could do to make the hurt, confusion and grief go away.
I hope that you will one day read this post when you are a young man. I write because I have context. And, I want to be there for you in the future if you think I can help.
You see, when I was 8 years-old, the world changed suddenly. My mother became very ill and she almost passed away before my very eyes. Not once, but a few times. We were bounced around from caretaker to caretaker. In the ensuing years, her health was always touch and go. I didn’t know when I came home from school if she would be there or not. I grew up with ever-present and deep uncertainty.
Also, my brother-in-law passed away overnight, leaving behind my sister and two children, ages seven and nine. I’ve watched them have to cope, battle and conquer.
So, I have context.
If you’ll allow me, I have some suggestions. You may be 8, 18 or 28 when you read this, but here are some suggestions which I offer to you with great compassion:
It’s not your fault. Your mother’s death did not happen because you are bad, unlucky or somehow not worthy of her. You didn’t drive her away. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re not cursed or singled out because of a personal defect.
Pain = suffering x resistance. I recently learned about this at a meditation workshop. Suffering is a part of daily life. And, everyone suffers. If you can accept the suffering, you ironically will be in less pain. Your mind and body will relax. Otherwise, you’ll be in a “clenched fist” mode as you live, and that will be draining.
Give yourself permission to grieve. Did you know that your brain has an “immunity system?” Just like the body protects you from colds and viruses, your brain will jump into action to protect you from trauma.
So, in my case, I “blocked out” many memories from my childhood. My brain simply didn’t want to go there. For example, when I remembered the past, I would get sharp pains in my head, tunnel vision and the sensation that I was falling. Weird, right? My brain was saying “don’t go back in time–it’s too painful.”
But, here’s the rub: you won’t heal from the memories until you talk and write about them over and over again. Believe it or not, the sting can then go away. But, it will happen only if you “rewire your brain” and disassociate your memories from the pain.
Good will come out of your grief. I fully expect you to roll your eyes at this one. But, I can only tell you that has been the case for me. Because of my childhood, I am extremely driven to “do well and do good.” I did well in school. I was blessed with financial independence early in life, and I try to be helpful to others. I have a very soft spot in my heart for children in need (here’s an example). I want to be on the look-out to give compassion to others.
That’s why recognizing suffering is a source of good: you end up having more compassion for yourself and for others.
Your mother had lots of grit–and, you do, too. As you know, your mother was a legend. She broke many gender barriers in the workplace. Before there was Sheryl Sandberg, there was Joy Covey, taking Amazon.com public and completely kicking butt.
But, when I met your mother for the first time, she was in a moment of panic and stress. She was a new employee, fresh from getting a JD/MBA with highest honors from Harvard. We were both working at an investment bank that prided itself on hazing. You often received “assignments” late at night, to be due the next morning. You as a result had to stay up most of the night to work.
When I first met your mother, it was 11 pm on a very long day/night. She had an assignment due the next day, which required her to use a computer program she had never used before. And, she had the courage to come to me for help. She had enough grit to know when she didn’t have the answers.
Imagine how hard it was for your mother to drop out of high school at age 15, and to leave her parents’ home shortly thereafter? Well, she had grit then, and in her 20s at the investment bank. She had it in her 30s as CFO of Amazon.com. It was something she consciously developed, I suspect.
Tyler, that grit exists in you. Right now. Your mother is in you. Right now. You first hand have observed her grit. Channel it, model it, develop it.
So, that’s probably enough for now, Tyler. In the coming years, when you are older, feel free to reach out. Ping me on social media. Let’s set up a call if you have time. If you’d like to meet up, I will fly to you. I want to help.
Many, many people want to support you, Tyler. You most definitely are not alone. The world is actually filled with tremendous love and compassion, and both are there waiting for you in spades….