Grieving the Death of Someone You Never Knew, Guest Writer: Lindsay

When it comes to death and grief, people often say to “think of the good times,” or “cherish the memories.” But what if you didn’t get the chance to know your loved one? What do you do when there aren’t any good times or memories to help you cope with your loss? How do you grieve a relationship you never got to have?

I’ve had to answer these questions myself because my mom was murdered when I was only one year old and unfortunately, I don’t remember her. Growing up without my mother was the hardest experience of my life but I also didn’t know any differently. Yet when I became an adult, I realized how much I missed her and what little right I’d thought I’d had to grieve compared to everyone else. Just because I wasn’t able to develop a relationship with her doesn’t mean my pain should hurt any less but that’s what I used to believe.

Given the tragic and traumatic circumstances of my mom’s death, it’s only natural I’d feel overwhelming anger and sadness. But I ignored and minimized my pain because I couldn’t understand let alone explain the intense yearning I felt for someone I never knew in the first place. Grief is tricky like that. There’s also this widely held belief that what you don’t know or can’t remember won’t affect you so I was afraid others would think I was too much to handle, too sensitive, or seeking attention if I brought it up. The times it did come up were just as challenging though because people would usually shut down or exploit the conversation like it was a soap opera. 

For a long time, I acted like nothing was wrong when the truth is, it’s the strangest feeling to mourn someone you never shared your life with. It’s an infinite, massive hole of longing except you don’t even know what you’re pining for. Like wanting to hug or talk to them just one more time yet you can’t imagine what that would’ve been like in the first place. There are endless questions about who they were, what they were like, and what made them tick. At the same time, you’re never satisfied with any details you do get because frankly, you want the chance to know who they were without a third party filling in all the blanks. 

In a lot of ways, I felt like an outsider too. Even though I carry the same weight as anyone else who’s lost someone they love, I don’t have the reference of before and after she died. I can’t remember struggling through those year of firsts without her. I can’t relate to the pain of what it’s like to pick up the phone from habit to call her after she’s gone. On the other hand, I know her death shattered me to my core and I’ll never know what life without grief looks like. There are so many things that I compared my unique experience too and it only made me feel more confused and alone.

As I got older, the more I struggled so I had to find ways to create meaning and connection with my mom’s memory to help me cope. I’d spent so much time justifying my pain that I began with giving myself permission to grieve on my own terms instead of believing what society said it should look like. Bereavement is different for all of us and it’s okay if you’re “still” grieving. Your experience is valid and your pain matters no matter how long it’s been.

I also started leaning in to the pain instead of trying to fix it or will it away. We’ve been taught to “do” something with grief but instead it’s about acknowledgement and letting yourself feel whatever comes without shaming yourself out of it. More and more, I’m learning that grief just needs to be seen and brought into the light but that can’t happen when you’re ignoring or judging your feelings. Healing can’t be forced by keeping your grief small.

Another thing that helped was engaging in positive outlets that remind me of my mom, like dragonflies {her spirit symbol}, roosters {she collected them}, and running {she ran races}. I even had my middle name Joy tattooed on my wrist in her handwriting. When I was little, I used to sift through her jewelry box for hours just to feel close to her and that inspired me to make remembrance keepsakes to help you honor your lost loved ones too. Now I get to help others who are suffering while also keeping her memory alive and it’s comforted me more than I could’ve hoped.

There are many meaningful ways to cope but if you don’t know where to start, I created some free resources like journal prompts, music playlists, and self-care reminders to help you connect with your loved one and manage the roller coaster that is life after death.

Very few people talk about bereavement, let alone all the complications that arise from sudden or tragic loss. Grief is lonely enough without thinking you’re not allowed to feel the way you do but as I’ve shared my story more, I realized how many others can relate and that I’m really not alone. Neither are you. 💛

grieving someone you never knew ceci frost

Grieving someone you never knew, ceci frost

 

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Comments (2)

  • Carhy 4 weeks ago Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have 5 sisters. Two of us have memories of our mom who passed at 32. Four have nine. Sharing tour story with them. Hope it creates more healing.
    Thank you again. Cathy

    Ceci
    Ceci 4 weeks ago Reply

    Hello Cathy! Thank you for your kind words ♥️ wow, thank you for sharing. That’s so young. I bet it makes them feel close to your mom when you share memories!

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