A Year of Loss

Last week marked the one year anniversary of my mom's death (and the two year anniversary of my car accident). Needless to say, it was an emotional week. I don't know about you, but my "loss anniversaries" come with a lot of charge. Like, how am I going to feel? How am I "supposed" to feel? How do I want to spend the day? Having just gone through this experience and posing all of these queries to myself and others, I felt it only right to share. 

Loss in Review

I had heard lots about the "one year mark" following a loss. How it can send you into a tailspin, reflecting back on all that has transpired between that fateful day and wherever you happen to be now. I did my best to just let the experience be mine - not that of my friends, or those I've read about, just mine. I've done a shitload of work this year to grieve out loud, to let my pain move through me, to take time to honour myself and the person I've become. I am different. Loss changes you and all around you. Nothing is the same - but everything is as it should be. Its been fucking hard, but I'm proud to be standing where I am today. And thankful for what loss has taught me (which I can say now looking back, but in the thick of it I just wanted it to end). There will be more hard times ahead no doubt, but for now when I review this past year, I feel grateful.

Celebrating Life

I figured the best thing I could do to honour my mom on the day of her death, was to celebrate. It was, for me, the perfect timing for her Celebration of Life. My mom swore against any sort of memorial, but I felt strongly that wherever she is now, she would appreciate her loved ones coming together in this way. And so, one year later when I finally felt good and ready, we did.

The celebration was precisely as I would have hoped - full of love, laughter and libations. We reminisced and we held space for the beautiful human that she was. I got to learn about who she was in a way I never had before. As one of her dear friends shared, it is only when the mighty tree has fallen that we truly get to see the magnificence of its rings.

I couldn't have imagined a more lovely memorial, or how wonderful I would feel in the presence of all those who loved her, and who love me. It was powerful and sad and glorious and liberating and healing all at once. I stood firm in all that has transpired in the year since she died - the pain, love, despair, peace, agony and surrender.  It was as perfect as such a thing can be - and to everyone who showed up, for her, for me, for us both, I thank you.

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n Honour of My Mom

Below is the eulogy I prepared for my mom's Celebration of Life. I wanted to share it with y'all because it sums up so much of my experience this past year and in life (if you prefer to skip over it, all good, there's some good good for you at the bottom).

I should also share that after having spent 4 hours putting a speech together, my computer froze the day before the memorial. I may or may not have thwacked it out of frustration (both at it, and at life generally given the week at hand); and it then called it quits entirely, taking everything I had written with it. So, just to be clear the week wasn't without its tribulations.


I've been imagining delivering this speech for the majority of my life, so to actually be here. At my mom's funeral - is just, weird. Thank you everyone for being here today to honour the life of my mom who died exactly one year ago today.  I should start by saying that my mom was hell bent against any sort of memorial, so this is literally "over her dead body".  I had to kindly remind her that this event is for us, not for her, so I hope we all find some healing here today.

My mom was a complicated person - as many of us are.  I don't think any of us truly knew the depths of all she endured in this life. She was, in a word, exceptional. A fashionista, pioneering female stockbroker, interior designer, curse word connoisseur (which is genetic I've learned), hostess with the mostess, but most importantly, she was my mom.

It was her and I against the world, and, when she came into my room when I was 13 and informed me that she had Multiple Sclerosis - I knew then and there that it was my job to protect and care for her. And, until her last breath, that's what I did.

As her disease progressed, her circle of friends waned. Partly, I think because she was proud, independent and a wee bit passive aggressive. But certainly also because people have such a hard time facing mortality. It makes us uncomfortable and anxious in a way nothing else does. So, we make excuses. Justifications. As to why we can't and needn't show up for those who are suffering. Those in need.

Some of you in this room will have regrets about this, I have no doubt. Be it about my mom or someone else. But whether you do, or you don't - I have this to say: If there is one thing I've learned from this experience, its that we need to show up for one another from now on. Its hard, its confusing and there's no "right" way to do it. Still, we must.

My mom battled MS for nearly 20 years, and I mean fucking battled. In the end, she was bedridden. Bones piercing through her skin, completely astute and trapped in her body, in unbearable physical, emotional, psychic and spiritual pain. Death was her only way out.

But, as with most things in mom's life - death would not come easy.  We begged and fought and pleaded but in the end her only solution for finding the solace she so rightfully deserved was to starve herself to death. And so she did. And I watched. After 12 days of slipping between this world and the next - she finally found peace.

I share this with you to illustrate that life - and death - can be shitty and pain omnipresent. But my mom, and all others like her, exist to remind us that unconditional, unwavering, authentic, generous, reliable love - for ourselves and for others - is our salvation. I urge everyone in this room to let that love fill your heart so completely that you can't help but share it with the world. This is how we pay homage to the suffering. To love, is how we honour my mother.

To all those who helped us over the years, who advocated, cared for, checked in, showed up, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. It was and continues to be your light that shines the way through my darkness.

My mom died horrendously, but she did her damnedest to live oh so fabulously. And it is her elegance and her grace that we shall remember.

She taught me to always have champagne in the fridge. In case something great happens, but in particular in case it didn't. She inspired me to be kind, thoughtful and generous. Above all else, she instilled in me the core belief that I can do anything I put my mind to and that no dream is too big. I am eternally grateful to have had a mom who believed in and supported me no. matter. what.

Mom - wherever you are - thank you for the lessons, the memories and most of all, the love. We are all better off for having known you and we will carry your legacy just as you would have wished. With a good meal in our belly, laughter in the air, curse words on our lips, champagne in our glass and love in our hearts.

The Takeaway

For all those who are facing a "loss anniversary" or other significant day of some sort, honour it and your loss however feels best for you. Celebrate. Cry. Gather with friends. Spend time alone. All the above. Whatever and however feels most fitting for you, do that. My only suggestion would be, to honour it in some way because in doing so you honour yourself and your experience. Do not fret about what that looks like, or how to "best" do it...again, whatever feels best for you on the day is exactly as it should be.

From my heart to yours - I send you strength, compassion and most of all, love!

How have you gotten through your loss anniversaries? What worked/what didn't? I'd love to know in the comments below. xo R

NarrativesAnita Cheung