Finding a Family

By Andi Goddeyne

In just a few months I will graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Colorado Mesa University. It seems surreal. I have worked towards this for nearly 20 years, after all. While I feel accomplished in this endeavor, it is another bittersweet moment; it is another milestone my mother won’t be here to celebrate with me.

My mom died on October 30, 2008. I was fourteen. Needless to say, this isn’t the first milestone I have celebrated without her following her death. It doesn’t really take the sting out, though.

I always thought it would get a little easier. At my high school graduation, I thought, “Just get through this; in college, it won’t be so hard. You will be used to her not being at these types of events.”

That was an outlandish belief. I am not “used to it.” I don’t think you ever really get used to the absence of a loved one. I also can’t tell myself she will be there in spirit because that saying never really made me feel any better. In my mind, she should be there physically. It may help some people, and that is great. But the cliché just bums me out.

I do love to hear that my mom would be proud because I know that she would be. She raised me to do this. She told me I was going to college from the time I could talk. This was part of the plan. Part of her plan.

For lack of better words, it sucks that she isn’t here to see me finish what she started for me when she engrained the importance of higher education into my brain so many years ago.

For the record, it isn’t as if I don’t have an amazing support system. My aunt is one of the most influential women in my life. My sisters remind me each day of who I am. My cousin will be there to cheer my name as I walk across the stage. My closest friends will hug me until my ribs break. Even my cat will probably let me hold her for more than five minutes that day.

It took some time to realize this, but I have who I need. I have created a new family. It isn’t nuclear, and it isn’t picture perfect. It isn’t what I thought it would be ten years ago. It is my family, though. When I graduate this May, I will have a group of people that love me unconditionally, the same way my mother would have. Finding a family, following the most difficult endeavor of my life really was possible, even though for many years I felt I would never have that again.

Part of healing is opening yourself up to new people. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t a replacement. And it won’t take away all of the pain from missing someone. It will help you feel whole, though.

And trust me, you can find a way to be whole once you lose an instrumental piece of who you are. That’s what is so special about human beings: we are resilient.

I think this time around I will try to remember everything she ever told me about how important it was to receive my education. I will think about how proud she would be. And then I am going to hug the family members that are here a little tighter. I am going to be in the moment and feel every ounce of love they throw my way.

Because that’s what she would have wanted for me. To be whole, loved and happy.

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