A Frightening Look Inside My Brain

Initial Observations of a “New Normal”

(Disclaimer: This is the first of what will probably be numerous posts regarding the death of my mom and my subsequent struggle to wrap my head around what my life will be like going forward without her. I’m writing this for my own therapy as much as anything else, but I’m also hoping that my journey might help others that find themselves in this surreal situation.)
(Disclaimer #2: In all likelihood, this series will contain some salty language here and there. If that offends you I’m sorry, but right now my emotions are just raw and sometimes there’s no other way to express what I’m thinking.)

On Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 5:00AM, the reality that I’ve known my entire 46 years of life ceased to be as my mom went to be with her Lord after a courageous fight with cancer. While my family and I were aware all along that this was a possibility, and a certainty as of late, nothing we could have done would have remotely prepared us for the chasm left behind by her loss and the realization of all our fears over the last 24 months.

People ask me how I’m doing. I’m truly at a loss on how to answer that. I struggle to find a simple and concise response, and while I know that most pose that question with the sincerest of motives and deepest of care, they don’t REALLY want me to answer it truthfully. I’m not even sure I could at this point, but even if I did, it would be a long, nonsensical response that confuses the one asking, and would probably just make us all feel awkward. I’m still working my way through understanding “how I’m doing” myself.

My standard answer up to this point has been, “I’m doing okay.” While that may seem like a dismissive and inauthentic response, strangely enough it’s the best summation I can find for how I have felt up to this point. As long as there was decisions to make, sleep to catch up on, a memorial service to plan, medical equipment to return, guests to entertain, and other pragmatic details to take care of, “I’m doing okay” was a relatively true statement. Not great. Not horrible. Just okay. Up to this point, I’ve been running on adrenaline and have been able to successfully cloak my new reality and postpone having to deal with my feelings for the most part.

Fast-forward to today. All the services are over, decisions have been made, all the guests have left, and now I and my family return to our routines and are forced to encounter our “new normal” face-to-face. The time has come when I have to be honest with myself and not dodge my feelings (or so I’m told). So here goes. Here’s a list of what I’m feeling today. Maybe it will change tomorrow, who knows. But for now this is it. In all of its rawness and brutal honesty.


  • My “New Normal” SUCKS. It’s a place where my daily messages to my mom go unreturned. It’s a place where the one person I could ALWAYS go to for encouragement and grace is unreachable. It’s a place where I continually pick up my phone with the intention of texting her something I hear or see that she would find humorous or interesting, and have to face anew the fact that she’s no longer here. EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s a place where everything I see or do reminds me of her, and it’s a place where the memories (even the good ones) hurt like hell. It’s awesome.
  • I am sick to death of crying. I hate crying. It makes me feel weak. It makes others uncomfortable. It seems totally unproductive to me. I have cried more in the last two weeks than I have my entire life. I’m so tired of feeling the sadness come on like a tsunami, unannounced and at totally random times. Just about every single thought of her makes me tear up. I hate it. Please tell me it gets better.
  • I am PISSED at God. Don’t get me wrong…My Faith is unwavering. I have assurance and fully believe that my mom is in the presence of God, completely comforted, completely healed, and completely whole again. I believe with all my heart that we will see each other again, and it will be a sweet reunion. But right now, I’m so mad at God that I can’t see straight. For two years, He allowed us all to agonize over her illness, treatments, and an uncertain future. For the last six months, we watched her waste away as the cancer and chemo ravaged her body. Even after we knew that the end was near, she hung on for 72 hours as we sat by, begging God to take her and watching her slowly die in the hospital bed, unable to communicate and struggling for every breath. She didn’t deserve any of that. I hear talk of theological nuances such as “we live in a fallen world”, “God’s sovereignty”, “eternal healing”, etc. I know all that, and some of it will perhaps give me comfort at some point, but right now it just sounds like a load of crap. While I know where she is and am happy that she’s no longer suffering, I also know that she’s not here with us, and it makes me LIVID. Yes, I’m aware it’s selfish. I don’t care right now.

Well, there it is for now. Hopefully, these posts will begin to take on a less angry tone as I continue to work through all this. The hole in my heart is huge, and the wound is still very fresh. Here’s hoping all the cliches and helpful advice will one day ring true. I sure hope they do. – B

3 Comments

  1. Julie Wolfe

    Oh my gosh, I can totally relate! Put into words, that’s exactly how I felt when I lost my mom…18 years ago. It seems like yesterday, and it seems like forever! Honestly, the pain, the love, missing her … never totally goes away. And I kind of don’t want it to, if that makes sense. She was everything a good mother should be: my best friend, mentor, spiritual advisor, confidant, prayer partner..,you know. It’s hurts to lose someone so irreplaceable,. I was numb for so long– seemed like I was going through the motions of life but not really living. So, go through whatever grief will be for you. There’s no set time, but I do promise that it gets easier eventually. You will feel joy again, in time. Cry, scream, curse, withdraw…whatever you need to do. You WILL make it through. I’m praying for you! I get it.

  2. Cathy Jackson

    I can certainly understand….. I’m praying for you

  3. Cindy Gilpin

    Brennan,

    The words you have spoke could not be any more true. The pain in your heart never leaves completely. My dad has been gone 17yrs. and there is not a day that goes by i don’t think of him. And yes i too was mad at God. I understand he was in a better place BUT that place was not where i was….I know right now you want the world to stop around you but it doesn’t. Loosing a parent is difficult even as a grown up. And then come a part you really don’t think of in the begining, watching the other parent do life without their spouse…. My mom honestly has never been the same since loosing my dad. So she also has changed and we have to try to pick up the pieces there also. So know you will be in my prayers daily….. And this next year will be difficult because of all the first without your mom…… Stay strong my friend…

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