Kate Ylitalo
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I Feel Lost Without You

To Anyone Who Is Going Through a Difficult Time, Needs Someone to Cry with, or Has Lost Someone Special in Their Life

Photo by Edu Grande on Unsplash

She remembers like it was yesterday. The flashbacks come back little by little, fading in and out, and there is a 16-year-old girl screaming, terrified in the hospital. The place where babies are supposed to be born and people are supposed to be saved. But not today. Not for her. Doctors in their white lab coats are still bustling around, but the rest of the world has just started winding in slow motion. While everyone else is continuing with their day, she is trying to figure out why hers has come to a full blown stop. It can’t be real, right? Other relatives and friends try to calm and hug her, as it feels like her heart got crushed a hundred times over. What happened, what went wrong? Stop saying I’m going to be okay because I’m not! That’s what she wants to say. Instead, she welcomes the tears, hugs, and soft words from others because it’s all she can do. Cry with others and have others cling to her. 

“All I want is my mom,” she faintly whispers, but she already knows the woman who gave her life and love is already gone.

The girl is me, and the story is 100 percent true. I always liked to think of myself as an optimist, as they see things positively, with a happy side, never clouds in sight to blind them. I realized after this day, life is not always optimistic. I mean, it is, if you make it. But, no matter how hard you try, you can’t battle the truth, and you sure can’t hide it. Life is not a garden of just simply roses. Instead, there are thorns that wound you and don’t care how scared you get. There are thorns all over our lives while the Band-Aids only mask the pain for so long. I use to think my mom and dad could always scare away my nightmares and fears because they did that for most of my life. Due to my parents and three other siblings, I had a fulfilled childhood, not to mention a great community, church, and extended family and friends. It was pretty amazing, to say the very least. See, I got to witness love first hand every day from my parents, something I still hope I find, eventually. I’m not saying they didn’t have disagreements or were perfect, but when two people have that much love for each other, imagine how much love they give their children. So, yes, my siblings and I were beyond lucky.

Especially, now that I have started to get older, I realized how fortunate I was to grow up the way I did with the family I had. I always knew I had great parents but I don’t think I fully comprehended how much they did for me until one of them was gone. It made me have an idea what a parent goes through and gives to take on that role. My parents would travel hours on end for me, spend hours of their time with me and take the worries and stresses of my life like they were their own. I had an easy childhood, and I know not everyone’s childhood is like this. My worries were very minor, and if there was something major to be worried about, I was clueless. The way some kids have it isn’t fair and breaks my heart. My only hope is that when they become a parent, they will strive to give their kids everything. And I don’t mean everything, literally. Give your kids love, discipline, confidence, motivation, and time- those things will make them the person they become instead of the ones with a price tag. My parents may not have had everything figured out, but it sure seemed like they did in my eyes. 

They helped me in my low moments, praised me at my highs, pushed me when sometimes I didn’t want to be pushed, and mostly, they allowed me to be my own person. None of my siblings and I were ever compared to one another. They didn’t force me to be anyone I wasn’t. And the days where I fell short or was hard on myself for not performing to the best of my ability, my mom and dad would say, “It’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You can’t be the best at everything all the time. And besides, we are just average.” They may have said average to be modest or make me feel better, but I always knew they were far above average. For all the parents out there, you don’t give yourself enough credit. Average means you do the bare minimum or simply go through the motions. If you try your absolute best to teach your kids and give them everything you have in you, then you are going above and beyond. At some point, kids need to fly on their own, but always know they never would have been able to fly in the first place if it wasn’t for you by their side. I hope my mom knew this, and I hope my dad forever knows this. We, being kids, don’t say this often enough. People, being people, don’t tell each other this enough. We say the words in our head over and over until eventually, we can’t say them out loud anymore to the person we care about.

This is a story I’ve been wanting to tell. Everyone has a story of their own. Sometimes they are accomplishments, adventures, or significant events, and sometimes they are the things that give us the most pain. So, if you are someone like me and lost someone in your life close to you, I hope this will help you. And if you never have, I would never wish this upon anyone, but I still hope you get something out of this.

I vividly remember one of the first times it happened. It felt like a movie scene where the paramedics rushed in, an oxygen mask was put on, and my mom was wheeled out on a stretcher except there was no stop button, no actors, and no set. It wasn’t pretend and that was one of the first times I thought I was going to lose her. The scariest part of it all was that I realized how urgent and unpredictable my mom’s condition was. It wasn’t just another intimidating word the doctors used; it was something she was either going to survive from day in and day out or be something she would die from. Strength is not based on how much you can lift, strength comes from within, and that is just what my mom had. Amazingly, she fought to survive all the scares she had. Despite all the medications, shots, recoveries and everything else thrown at her, she still managed to keep this upbeat outlook. There would be days her medications would get the worse of her and make her lethargic, but you still wouldn’t hear her complaining. Instead, she chose to find the positives and count her blessings. My mom wouldn’t just act like everything was okay, but she made herself be okay for everyone else. Selfless. That’s what she was constantly worrying about and caring for others.

I still recall getting ready for school one morning. While hearing my mom yell from the kitchen, I knew we were running late once again. 

“Okay, I’m coming!” I kept yelling until I realized my mom’s voice had a sense of urgency, more than it typically would have. 

My hair braided back and smiling into the mirror, I knew it was going to be a good day, even though we were running late to school. Or so I thought. Rushing into the kitchen, my mom was no longer standing by the table where the delicious fixings she had out for my lunch were. She was lying on the ground, clutching her chest with tears leaking from her eyes. Heart attack was written all over. After witnessing it once, I knew what was going on and that I had to do something. My oldest brother happened to be home, so I ran downstairs shaking and yelling at him to wake up, as that was the fastest I ever saw him jump out of bed. Soon enough, my mom’s friend, Carolyn was there, helping us, also. Little did I know, my mom had called her earlier and told her how she was feeling. She didn’t tell me because, of course, she didn’t want to worry me. Like I said-selfless. Even though my mom was the one in pain, she was still looking out for me.

All of us helped her to the couch and offered her some water while she kept mumbling, “Sorry you had to come, didn’t want to bother you. I should be fine; I just need to sit down…Someone needs to get Kate to school.” 

School? She was worried about getting me to school? Again, she wasn’t even the slightest bit concerned with herself, as she was more stressed about her eight-year-old daughter making it to class. 

“I will be okay; we just need to find my doctor.”

See, all the other times my mom was okay, just like she said. When I became the most worried and expected the worst, there ended up being a miracle. The damage done seemed to be surmountable, and we would continue with our life as any other normal family would, except with the realization, tomorrows were not always a given. Most of my life, I struggled with worry (a constant battle, today, I still haven’t won). As much as I told myself not to, I still continued to worry because it is a lot easier to tell yourself one thing then actually do it. My fear wasn’t something unrealistic, instead, it was the most devastating thing-death. And the thing was, I didn’t fear death myself, I was scared of others dying. So, in my freshman year of high school, my worst nightmare became true.

It’s funny, the one day you want to forget the most is the most prominent and the hardest to push away. I could go through the steps over and over until my head is spinning, but the result is the same. My mother died that day. In one moment we were at church, and the next, my dad was driving her to the hospital. My dad says one minute she was joking with the nurses, and the next, all of them were in there trying their best to revive her. I still recall a friend of my mom’s calling me while I was home with my friend.

“How is your mom doing?” She asked. The reason she was wondering was because she had heard from some others my mother had passed away.

However, when she asked me, I said, “She is doing okay the last time I checked with my dad.” 

I remember saying this through tears, trying so hard to believe that myself. I wanted to be optimistic about the fact my mom was going to be okay.

My mom’s friend, then, started dialing others and telling them it was a mistake. 

“Kim is still alive! I just talked to her daughter, and she is.” 

That is when it became a realization no one had told me, yet. Although there was no humor in it at the time, it gives me a chuckle now to think back on the miscommunication. I just wish the miscommunication would have been right.

That car ride to the hospital was the worst ride of my life. A car of silence, as my friend’s parents drove us there, and that’s when I knew this couldn’t be good. Maybe it was just getting bad, though, and maybe it would turn around for the better. There were so many mountains in life she prevailed and won, and this would be another one. However, when I heard my brother's voice on the other end of the line, the vision I had sunk and was destroyed. As we pulled into the hospital, I knew it was over. And I’ve never felt so wounded in my life. I felt trapped in a nightmare while the only person I wanted was my mom, but she was miles away and I couldn’t get to her. Instead, I had to look at a corpse of her, feel her cold hands, and hug someone who no longer resembled my warm, vibrant mother. There are so many things we consider the end of the world, but that really was the end of the world for me. I couldn’t eat, speak, or barely think. Nothing seemed to matter to me anymore. I would go to sleep and wake up, hoping it would all be over while sadness and anger loomed over me. Why was this happening? I would rather get punched in the gut twenty times over than to feel that again. I would be willing to take that if I meant I got my mom back.

After my mom passed away, it helped me to read other stories to understand that several other people have gone through this kind of pain or are hurting in some way, also. It helped me realize I was not alone in this battle, and it felt like someone really understood me. For those of you who haven’t gone through a hardship like this, you are lucky. And I don’t mean it in a way, “You are so lucky, we all resent you for it.” NO, you are lucky. You should take this as a good thing. And even if you have had a pretty good life, everyone has likely gone through some hardships, stresses, worries, something you have hung your head about. There may be a time in your life when you will feel lost, terrified, and almost as if life isn’t worth living anymore. A similar way I felt when my mom left this world. You don’t have to lose someone special in your life for this happen, for everyone is battling something different. There is always someone out there who is going through worse than you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cry or feel hurt. Pain is pain, which is defined in several different ways. I don’t care how the dictionary defines it; there is not one way to describe pain. Everyone feels, reacts, and copes with it, differently. Writing has been a coping mechanism for me because it allows me to share all my thoughts with full honesty.

Like anything in life, you don’t really know what a person is going through until you experience it first-hand. I can try to imagine what it would be like if I had gotten abused when I was younger or had to rely on scraps for food, but the truth is I have no idea. I can try my best to comfort someone who has gone through this but the consoling words don’t change the past or all the pain it burdened them with. The best part is finding those people that will listen and just be there for you.

I use to think it was something I did. It was my fault that my mom passed away. I felt guilty, and a part of me wanted to blame myself. Maybe you feel this way or maybe you don't. Whatever the case is, don't believe that for a second because it's not true. Know that when difficult times find us, it is easier to put the blame on someone, and sometimes the scapegoat is ourselves. I was worried something was going to happen to my mom. It seemed impossible, though, because my mom hadn't been sick in years. She had made it to fifty, a huge and unexpected milestone for her and all of us. As my parents dropped me off at a friend's house, my mom kept assuring my family and I it was nothing, likely hoping herself it was nothing. And again, she didn’t want us to worry. In that moment, why couldn't I have said something, something that would have stuck with my mom and let her really know how much I love her? What would you say to your loved one if you knew they were going to be gone tomorrow?

This is what I would have said to my mom if she was still here:

You are my biggest role model. You are my biggest supporter. When things got difficult, I always knew I could go to you. Even if I did something wrong, I knew you would still love me. I am scared of a lot of things in life, but one of my biggest fears is losing you. So, please come back to me. Don't go and leave me here to figure the rest out. I don't want to have to imagine the kind of mother you would be to me; I want to experience it instead. Fight until all your strength is gone. And I know you will. I know you will be fine, but if it doesn't end with you coming back here, know this: you mean the world to me. I owe you so much that I never can repay you for because of everything you have done for me and all the love you have given me. I don't know what I did to get such an amazing person like you to be my mother. If you leave me today, always know our relationship and the love and memories shared won't leave. You will leave a whole legacy behind just for being you.

I wish I would have said more than "love you," but in the moment, it all happened so fast. Plus, it’s hard to think of everything you would say to someone you love when you need an entire book to write about them, not just a couple of sentences. I didn't believe that it would actually be the last time I would talk to her. My mom never wanted to stress me out with her condition and usually downplayed how she was really feeling in front of me. When she told me it was probably nothing; It was what I wanted to hear and believe, but it just wasn't the truth. Once they rushed her to the hospital, the doctors found out my mom had an aneurysm that burst. When I arrived at the hospital, the news seemed absurd to me. It was devastating and took everyone by shock. It was as if I had already heard this news though, last night, when I was lying awake in my bed. So, that day at the hospital, I blamed myself. Because I thought what if I had told someone how I had been feeling? Would it have changed the outcome? I thought what I was feeling was so strange where I couldn't even tell anyone much less believe for it myself. It would have been weird to wake up in the middle of the night and tell my mom that I thought something bad was going to happen to her. It was just because of the movie I had watched the night before. It was just my mind worrying and making up incidents in my mind. I still to this day don't know what it was. I honestly don't think it could have changed the outcome, but I don't know and that's why I feel guilty. That's why I can't help blaming myself and thinking it was partly my fault. However, there were a lot of people that could have blamed themselves the day my mom passed away. We try to look so hard and deep for a reason because we don't want to accept it. I know I didn't; I was screaming in the hospital for my mom once I was told the news.

It is not easy to accept the challenging circumstances of life. There are so many times we feel burdened to handle our business and our issues alone. But, of the many times I laid awake at night, crying my eyes out, and the sudden sadness compelling over me on drives by myself, I wish I would have shared it with someone, anyone. Not when it was the "right time" or not when I felt it was okay to bring up, but in the moment when I was hysterically crying. I've come to realize so many people probably feel this way on a daily basis, even those with the biggest support systems like me. I didn't want to feel like I was infringing on anyone else's life, but what I failed to realize is that so many people would have been eager to hear me out. Our emotions and feelings are real, and it is okay to admit we are sad or feeling down. We can acknowledge this because life sure has a way of bombarding us in miserable ways more than one can count. But, we have each other, we have loved ones to get us through the toughest times, to still give us a reason to keep going. 

So, mom if you're reading this, know this:

I miss you so much at times my heart aches. There hasn't been a day that goes by I don't wish you were here. But, I want to make you happy, and I still want to smile and laugh for you. Because I survived this, I know I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I was. There are times I don't want to be strong though, and I just want you to hold me a little bit longer. I still think about all the milestones in my life you won't be here for which makes my heart hurt. Over time, I have realized hurting means missing and missing means loving. So, I am thankful that I can miss you. I am thankful I can share memories and cry with others that love you as much as I do. You are someone extraordinary; someone who is irreplaceable.  I only hope someday I can be half the mother that you were to me.

Love you more than words can say or write, 

Kate

Now, you are probably wondering how I got through this, or more like how I am getting through this. I wish I could tell you it’s eventually going to get better. Eventually, you won’t feel the pain you feel right now. The pain that feels like someone opened up your heart and took a piece of it. If I told you that, I would be lying, and you might think for a second, this is something you will be able to get over within time. Similar to a heartbreak or losing the first dog you ever had. While these are also saddening events, nothing will compare to this. Everyone around you is going to try to find the light, the positivity, and they will tell you it will be okay. I remember people saying that to me and thinking they were crazy. How can I overcome this? How can I ever possibly be happy again? And for a minute, I was wondering why we live in a world where horrific things knock us off our feet continuously just to see if we can stand upright again. I was also thinking that I would literally give up anything to have her back. Take my basketball away, all the money I could ever make, all the clothes I could ever have. While it still may be a valid point, I’ve come to speculate maybe these events occur out of some purpose. It’s not to try to ruin us, although it pretty much does. It shows us what’s important, what’s not, and while it crushes our hearts, it also increases the size of them. 

Have you heard the song, “I Need You” by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill? If you haven’t, you should give it a listen. It talks about a couple and how much they need each other. “I need you like a needle needs a vein,” are the exact lyrics. Every time, I hear a love song, especially this one, I am sad deep down, picturing my parents. Picturing my dad losing the love of his life. Something unbearable, as I don’t even know what to say to console him. I imagine how their life would have been, as they grew old. Why were they robbed of that? That is something I’ll never be able to fathom, but I have to hope some good will come out of it. A sort of peace to help us get through this. And that’s why losing a person doesn’t compare to anything else, a championship game, a materialistic item, the list goes on and on. A person has so many roles and affects so many others. I lost my mom; someone can’t just jump in and take that role. Years of her love and teaching made me into the person I am, today. My siblings all lost pieces of her so significant, no one can replicate it in the same way. Different ways she helped that not one of us can do the same, no matter how hard we try. My dad lost his wife, someone he vowed to spend the rest of his life with, and now all of that is gone. They went through many stages of life together, and this wasn’t supposed to be the ending. It was supposed to be another beginning. I’m not even sure I will able to find a love like theirs in today’s time.

“Be thankful for the memories,” people say. 

Yes, I am forever grateful for the memories, but that also means the pain is three times as earth-shattering. Just to know I will never be making new memories with her again. I will continuously have a definite idea of what it would be like, how it would be different if she was still here, and wonder what could have been. There are days I have dreams of waking up to her making me pancakes and welcoming me with a hug in the morning while, in reality, I wake up to an emptiness inside of me.

The first week, it will feel like you are being suffocated from a never-ending nightmare, waking up each time to the same treacherous reality. There are going to be days you are going to be angry at the world. Days you will hear someone complain about a minor thing, and you’ll want to give them a piece of your mind. Days that it will be hard to smile, to laugh, and to act as if everything is okay. The tears will seem endless along with the heartache. Now, take a breath. Notice how you are breathing. You are still hanging on. Your heart is beating. When my mom passed away, I also felt guilty of being alive. If she wasn’t here, why should I be? It wasn’t fair that she was called to go. Then, I realized I had a life, something I shouldn’t just throw away when it can be taken any day. Even though the person you are missing makes you ask yourself if it’s even worth to live, they would want you to. They wouldn’t want you to feel guilty and if you do, try to think of it as of living for them. There are so many things you are meant to do and accomplish, people you are meant to meet, and happiness you are supposed to feel. I promise you will get through this. Someway, somehow, you will. The pain may never disappear, but it will subside. It will be a battle scar you wear on your sleeve where the battles you fight may come and go. You are stronger than you think, but always know that being strong doesn’t mean you can’t shed any tears or share with others how you are feeling.

For the most part, we can hold it together and force ourselves to smile through the pain. But, there are going to be moments, you won’t want to smile and laugh, and it is okay to feel that way. We live in a society where males are expected to hold it together, to not be vulnerable. A society that is scared to talk about death because with that comes to the biggest heartbreak. A society that thinks time mends you more than it breaks you. And unfortunately, it’s not true, in my opinion. We need to cry and become emotional with each other. We need to talk about the hard stuff, instead of dissecting the small stuff, because it will help us connect and feel for each other better.

When my mom passed away, I had several people that wanted to help and do something. As much as the gestures were appreciated, I wasn’t sure what they could do. Taking me out for ice cream wasn’t going to solve this. Others thought my family and I were holding up because we smiled or laughed in public. We seemed to be “okay.” People rarely see behind the scenes, as not all of those smiles may have been forced, but I know, for a fact, a lot of them were not coming on automatically. Sometimes the easier thing to do was smile. It was easier than to explain what no one saw. The sleepless nights. The days where it was hard to wake up and face the world. The happy times everyone was excited for, but you couldn’t help but feel sad. And even today, sometimes, I will randomly see or hear something that triggers a memory of my mom, and it will make me suddenly bawl. And some days I am able to laugh about memories of her. I saw two girls cross the street holding hands, one afternoon, and the tears started immediately. I was picturing my younger cousins, nieces and nephew never meeting the woman I so highly admire. 

There are days I cry my eyes out in my car, but once I arrive somewhere, I wipe them off, and put on a “pretend” smile. Because it is easier. It is easier than feeling like you are bringing down the mood. Seeing their sad faces and seeing how bad they are feeling for you. It sounds like it’s a hard boat to please, and I might be the only one in the boat. But, I think most of us become immune to this. We become so worried about holding ourselves together and how others perceive us, we hide how we really feel. The truth is most people wouldn’t be bothered, and if they were, that is on them not you. Why can’t we just cry for a little while? Why can’t we just hug each other a little longer than we usually do? I feel like everyone could at least agree on this one thing if not anything: we live in a screwed up world where screwed up things are constantly happening.

So of the many things I couldn’t, I can promise you this: there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s hard to see, but eventually, you will get there. The road is going to be miserable, however, you will become empowered with things you didn’t know existed within you and the devastation you once instilled will soon dissipate. It may seem as if you will never be happy again, but eventually, you will. Your happiness will be redefined, but you will feel content, again. Allow yourself to feel this way because you deserve to. I am not going to lie to you and say that I have completely accepted the fact my mother was taken at such a young age.

Five years later, and some days are just as hard for me than others. And even though time does heal somewhat, there is always a piece of me that was taken the day my mom died. Taken from all of us. And five years later, I don’t even know how to ask my family how they are doing. Because I want them to be happy and not feel pain, although I know it’s visible. I wish I had the right words to say or something I could do to take the hurting away for a little bit. From all of us. So, as much as I love laughing about her, I’m sick of pretending that five years somehow has made me accustomed to the fact she won’t be coming back.

There would be days, I would look in the mirror and say, “You can do this. You will get through this.” 

But, it wasn’t like sprints. I couldn’t just push through this, get over it, and have it be done. Because tomorrow, this would be the same reality. And it’s not like I wanted a pity party; I actually wanted people to stop looking at me with those sad eyes. I really wanted my own personal visit to heaven. So, now that I’m writing this and making my feelings so transparent, I want to give you some advice. The eyes people give you, they do it because they are sad too and are trying to understand what you are going through. And the phrases people use, they say it out of love but also because they are unsure of what to say. Because there is nothing to say to make this better. So, let the people you love, let them see for who you are, and if they turn their back, that’s their own fault. Why are we so scared to share our emotions in front of others? Since when was crying ever a sign of weakness? News flash, it’s not. It proves you are human. Don’t force yourself to cry, but don’t hold back either. It’s likely a lot of others are feeling the same way.

So, yes there are still times I’m frustrated at the world and feel jealous of those who still have their mom. But the jealousy doesn’t last long. You know why? My mom lives on through my family and the people she touched. I talk to my aunt, my mom’s sister, and I hear my mom through her. I listen to stories about her from friends and family while I share stories with others about her. I am able to laugh and cry about memories with my dad because he still allows her to be a part of our lives, a part of our daily conversation. I see my mom in my siblings through the qualities they possess. I’m overjoyed at the fact they found the loves of their lives who bring so much happiness into ours. Along with that, little blessings came from them to really show us the true meaning of love. The day I actually lose her is the day we stop talking about her, and you can mark my words that will never happen. When my mom died, I wanted to give up everything in this world, as she was such a big influencer. The purpose I once stood for did not seem to exist in me anymore. A garden that was once blooming started to die. I can’t say I’ve for sure found my purpose yet. I may not know exactly what I am called to do or have my life figured out, but I know I have a purpose to live. I smile at the fact my mom knows my future better than I, myself, do. I smile at the fact she was and still is one of the most amazing parts of my life. Someone I wouldn’t ever want to or be able to erase. I owe her the biggest thank you of all time which is the reason behind why I choose to keep going.

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