Twenty years ago my beautiful mother, Faith Suzanne Bonnell Bourne – Bonnie as everyone knew her, passed away from colon cancer.
My beautiful mom just weeks before she passed away
She was 53.
I was 29.
I was married only 4 years at the time and we hadn’t yet started to have children.
Losing anyone you love is difficult. Losing them so young feels unimaginably overwhelming. Before she passed away, I feared that I would go right after her from pure heartbreak.
She was my best friend. She was my mom for goodness sake, the person who carried me for 9 months and brought me into this world. The person who loved me UNCONDITIONALLY and BELIEVED I could do ANYTHING!
In the past two decades so much has happened in my life, both good and bad. I have struggled through some very dark, sad days when I missed her more than ever, to be able to talk to and hear her sound advice. And I have experienced overwhelming moments of pure joy and gratitude for all that I have in my life today, despite the loss and hardship. Today, we are raising three of the most amazing young ladies who my mother would have adored, and who would have loved her right back. I ache for my children who never got the chance to meet her, spend time with her and be loved by her.
My mom was crazy, inspiring, childlike, feisty, spirited, loving, lovable and so much more. She was that unforgettable presence that lit up the room when she walked in. The one everyone asked after and told funny stories about.
Having her pass away just days before Christmas put a real wrench into the JOY of this holiday for many many years after her death. Despite the fact that I had children shortly after she died, Christmas was just not fun for me for about 8 years (8 L-O-N-G years I might add). I suppose I needed that time to grieve, but I missed out on a lot of fun with my own girls by allowing myself to be stuck in the “loss” for so long.
Even if you have lost a loved one in any other month than December, Christmas is a time for family being together and it can be a real trigger for sadness when that loved one is so obviously missing from the festivities.
With age, comes growth and wisdom and the understanding of what life is all about. I have learned many things over the years and decided to share some of what I have learned to help ease the journey for anyone mourning the loss of a loved one at this challenging time of year
- Give yourself permission to cry
I say this to everyone. I held in my tears, the best I could, for so long, to appear strong. In the end I think it weakened me inside. Crying is a beautiful, therapeutic way to release emotion. Let it flow. I have discovered that the recovery time is much faster when I give myself permission to cry, and it is incredibly healing.
2. Speak about them
When someone passes away, people around us tend to stop talking about our loved one out of fear it will trigger us to “think” about them, which could make us feel upset (or God forbid CRY). The best thing you could do is to speak about them, reminisce about what they did that was funny, tell stories, share pictures or videos of them with friends and loved ones. Doing this eases the pain for the survivors and allows us to celebrate their life – something we do not do enough of. This helps keep their spirit alive and honour their life!
3. Create NEW traditions
No you don’t have to entirely abandon the traditions you had established when they were still alive, but being open to morphing and changing your traditions, layering in new things, is an important step in healing. Feel the gratitude of all the joy they brought when they were alive AND acknowledge how much they would have loved certain things (NEW or OLD).
4. Take time to LOOK at what you DO HAVE
We can get so bogged down in the feeling of sadness and loss that we actually MISS what is right in front of us. Our families, significant others, spouses, children are here with us TODAY, creating NEW memories and looking to us to bring meaning to our celebrations and our time together. Take the time to look into the eyes of the people you LOVE who are standing right next to you and HONOUR their presence and LIFE. There is no greater tribute you can give to those with you now, to yourself and to those you have lost. Life truly does pass by so fast for us all, and time is the one thing we cannot get back, so make the most of the time you have today because one day, this season, this year, will also be a distant memory.
5. Believe that time WILL heal the pain
I remember people saying the phrase to me, “Time heals all wounds.” I can tell you when my mother’s death was fresh and raw, that was the last thing I wanted to hear. It actually felt dishonourable to think that one day the pain of losing her would fade away as if she didn’t matter. Well, over time, I have discovered that that couldn’t be further from the truth. There will forever and ever be many many spaces in your heart reserved only for your loved one, filled with memories and love, that will, for all eternity be a part of your soul. They have helped shape the very fabric of WHO YOU have become and those can never be taken away. It is a beautiful thing to LOVE someone so deeply and come to realize that that love NEVER goes away and that by YOU continuing to live your life, shine your light, share your tales and stories of the person you have lost, with your friends and loved ones, for generations, you have created immortality for them. The pain WILL lessen as time passes. You WILL still cry. They WILL live on in you every single day and that is a pretty magical, underrated quality of living and loving.
6. Know that it IS better to have LOVED and lost than never to have loved at all
Another phrase that used to scare me. The fear of “losing” someone I love and surviving with any quality of life seemed pretty remote. I believe that the very BEST part of being HUMAN is our capacity to LOVE, in a myriad of different ways. We are at our BEST when we are loved, and when we LOVE in return. Although I miss my mother like crazy every single day, I would not be who I am without HER, without my love for her and her love for me and in the end that is all we have and all that we keep with us.
7. Find GRATITUDE in TODAY
Gratitude is a feeling of “appreciation and thanks” for all that we DO HAVE! Gratitude is the single best way to shift our energy from sadness to feeling better. We can find gratitude in so many different things – big and small. We can find gratitude for the fact that we are HERE today with the chance to make life better for ourselves and those around us, gratitude for the life we are living, gratitude for all that we have learned not only through the loss of our loved one, but also through their life and their impact in our own life, gratitude for the opportunity to love more and share more and give more, gratitude for the ability to live amazing MOMENTS today that will last a lifetime in the hearts and souls of those around us long after we are gone. You will not be grateful for their “death” it is sad and heartbreaking, but we can be grateful for their LIFE and how much richer in spirit we are for having had them in our life for the time that we did. Gratitude for today is healing.
8. A commitment to LIVE your BEST life
Death is a reminder that life is precious. It is a reminder of WHY it is important to TRULY LIVE with passion, courage, truth, abundance, forgiveness, openness to new challenges and always leading with LOVE!! As I celebrate my mother’s life, I have also over the years taken time to reflect on the things she shared with me that she wished she had done, the regrets she had. I am reminded that life is fleeting and it is our duty to LIVE our very BEST life imaginable, to leave the world better than we found it, to forgive and to LOVE with passion so that there are no regrets. So that we can leave behind a legacy of love that will forever remain tucked away in the little corners of peoples’ hearts whose lives WE have touched while we are here.
I hope you gain some peace from what I have shared from my own experience of loss and that even one nugget will help you navigate your way with grace, through the holidays. I wish you nothing but LOVE and beautiful moments celebrating LIFE at this wonderful time of year.
Always remember one person can make a difference…that one person is you.
With much love always,
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