Getting older is new territory for many of us. For me, it's seeing things through a newly created lens with very little context.
If you don't already know, I was seven when my mother passed away. She was 40; I'm approaching that age...quickly, I might add.
I often reflect on how once upon a time, everything I did was from memory--appointments, important reminders, phone numbers. All of that would come straight off the "dome." Now though? I walk into a room for a specific purpose, but 1.8 seconds later find myself wondering, "Why the heck am I even in here?"
If you're reading this shaking your head in agreement, welcome. It's OK. (HA)
Those of us for whom getting older seems strange have to remind ourselves that realistically speaking, we don't have an in-house blueprint. We don't always talk about it, but many of us whose parents died young are clueless about what the aging process means for us. Whether it's simply the struggle of not remembering where you've placed your keys from day to day, or getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom...the way our grandparents used to do...there are lessons of getting older that we never had the opportunity to learn from our loved one(s).
My personal experience does not include that of a mother getting older; I don't know how my mother would have done what I'm doing now. I can only imagine her being anything beyond 40.
I'm still here though, and don't plan on going anywhere anytime soon. So the beauty--the "Pineapple Sugar," if you will-- is that I'm writing a unique story of again, and not looking to anyone else's for definition.
I own MY story and I get to share it with others who may be trying to figure out their own pathway to gray hair.
And so do YOU!
So to my "I'm getting older" crew that may be reading this, I can't write anything here, honestly, that could give you "instructions" on what we do from here.
We're just "winging" it.
And that's OK.
Do it your way...that's the BEST way there is!
P.S. Always put your keys in the same spot. That's the only way to consistently find them (smile).
About the author
Cynae Punch Brown is a Houston (TX) based writer,
educator, public speaker, and singer. Follow her on
Twitter or Facebook @cynaepunchbrown
One of my most precious missions in life is to make certain people--especially kids and youth--know that grief is a process they CAN survive. I write about grief because it's a rite of passage (of sorts) that everyone should be allowed to go through when they lose a loved one.
I share a signature #NotAlone hashtag--my somewhat feeble attempt to make empathy trend. Admittedly, I'm nearly 40, I miss the 'good ole days' of quality over quantity, and I'm slowly embracing what it means to try to spread a message to young folks during the time in which we live.
What I'm unclear, about, however, is how I -or anyone else for that matter--is supposed to just sit down and write to those who grieve loved ones because of senseless acts.
#NotAlone really is an insult for these beloveds, as grieving those who may have been murdered, and those who have been neglected and left to die is totally different than grieving a passing associated with illness.
My heart has been aching for days about an 18 year old just trying to make it home on a train in Oakland. I listened to her father's wounded cry for justice as another heartbroken soul mourned in the distant background.
Someone "stood their ground"...to a kid with a beverage and some candy; the child, as a result, is now buried in the ground--his mother and father robbed of their chance to watch the seeds they planted in him as a young child, blossom into the strong man they for which they had hoped and prayed.
The nation watched a man die--one whose words, "I can't breathe" didn't move anyone on the scene to think twice. I'm unclear about what any of us could possibly say to a family in public mourning just because of a few single cigarettes sales.
I'm a teacher; in so many ways, so was Philando. There was a baby in the backseat. I'm just unclear. The #Howard and #Harvard degrees--together--can't seem to help me understand how any of this works. What book is an #author just trying to help build a better world, supposed to write for a child who may always see a beloved bloody black man in the front seat whenever she closes her little eyes to go to sleep?
We gave a hashtag to the #PulseNightClub in Orlando --just for a moment--as we watched the crime scene from near and far, only for many to act as though associating the phrase "hate crime" with the tragedy, was a travesty.
We were OK to hear of a Charleston, SC white supremacist get a value meal after murdering nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church--we even wasted time debating whether or not that was actually true. Some scoffed at our then president as he--recognizing it for what it was, I can only imagine--attended and spoke at the memorial services.
I'm a #HowardUniversity graduate, so pardon me, cause I still tear up thinking about the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing of 1963. What angers me today, however, is that with ease, I can only remember the murderer's name off the top of my head, as it was the first to be tagged and spread around social media--not the names of the victims. I barely remembered how many under the pastoral leadership of #ClementaCPinckney lost their lives during a prayer service in 2015.
There are others about which I'm unclear:
The lists. The hashtags. The unnecessary loss. The inconsolable grief. The injustice.
I'm just unclear.
One thing I am certain of, however is this: Our young people have the fire to push change! In spite of our sorrows, we have to guide, love, and nurture them to their purpose so that they will be bold enough to say, write, vote, and do their part.
I feel in my soul that #InjusticeIsOnBorrowedTime
So I'll just keep writing, singing, teaching, loving, and learning what my part is.
Cynae Punch Brown: A mother raising children who look like those whose memory has to now be spread using hashtags.
#HelpUsGrieveWithJustice #IMayNotUnderstandButYouAreNotAlone #ForThePeople #ForTheChildren
Grief can be more about the presence of a vacancy than anything else. We grow accustomed to a loved one simply being there. Even with those individuals we don't see often, knowing that they are accessible to us is a comfort. When such comfort is lost, a space for grief is opened.
Grief is what's left when that which we have grown accustomed to is no longer there. If not addressed, it can seemingly demolish portions of the pathway of life's journey--grief has the power to destroy the bridges that connect developmental phases of life.
This is often why-- I believe-- children who grieve sometimes get stuck. If we're not careful, this is where the grieving get stuck as well.
When a young person loses someone they love, the world that they once knew no longer makes sense. As the natural progression of growth and development occurs, if we fail to help a young person navigate away from the point at which they were prior to their loss , then that young child--that young person--is forced to find her own way. And quite honestly, the comfort of staying the place that makes sense, is more manageable than moving on in a healthy way.
Death, grief, and loss are things that we really don't want to think about; it is, however, a part of everyone's journey. If you love a young person who is experiencing grief, don't ignore their grief by simply offering thoughts and prayers. Engage them. Acknowledge their hurt. Facilitate--at their respective pace-- forward motion. Do what you can to help rebuild the pathways and bridges that they may have believed were gone forever.
#PineappleSugar #Death #Grief #Growth #Development #Loss #Bridge #Journey #Love #Parenting #Terminal #Illness #MentalHealth
If you're searching for a way to start a conversation about grief, death, terminal illness, or loss with a young person, check out my short novel, Pineapple Sugar--a labor of love: amzn.to/2LnScrL
It has been thirty years for me—thirty birthdays since she has been gone. Thirty years since my mother left this earth.
For you, it may be new, though. The sting of death, of grief, of loss, may still be present.
Maybe it has been a few years... a few weeks; you may even have stumbled upon this message in the mere days since your mother left this earth.
For a few, however, only hours,minutes, or seconds have passed since you saw her take her last breath.
This message, dear one, is for you.
See, those of us who have lived at least one day since the departure of the ones we endearingly know as Mother, Mama, Mommy, or [insert your special name for her here] know at least one thing: Life continues. You can still breathe. You can still move. Even when she's not here and EVEN on Mother's Day...or any other day that reminds us of her love.
The clock doesn't stop. Time—even though it may seem to stand still once she's gone—still moves on.
These realizations are hope for those of us who have lived beyond our mother's last day. Recognizing that your life still has meaning is the first step to living beyond the death of the one who gave you life.
...it seems hard to breathe.
...difficult to move,
...impossible to live.
The sun has yet to set on the final day of her life and you don't quite know if you can carry on.
Beloved, know this:
[Insert her name] birthed you.
[Insert her name] helped you grow into who you are today.
[Insert her name] planted strength in you.
So YES. You can survive this, your first day without her.
And then tomorrow, remember today.
Remember that you lived...
...remember that you breathed...
...remember the strength that you found on day ONE.
#DontBeAfraidToCelebrateMothersDay#GriefDuringTheHolidays #PineappleSugar #MoreThanJustABook
She was only forty. I was only seven. The last time that I saw my mother at home was the day that she was carried out , barely able to move or speak from the sickness that had overtaken her body over several years.
That was on a Thanksgiving day.
I took my big brother's hand, ran upstairs to his bedroom, and prayed-- I prayed that my mommy would be able to speak to us again.
I got to visit her in the hospital a day or so later, but not long after that, she passed away.
Over the years, I held on to the burden of that prayer. Somewhere inside of my heart, I blamed myself for praying the wrong prayer.
I couldn't help but continuously think that I should have prayed for my mother not to die.
For as long as I could remember, my mother had been sick. In fact, I had never known her to ever be well. Because of this, I began to blame myself-my birth-for both her sickness and her death.
I was seven. In fact, I had only been seven for twenty-three days before my mother died. These were the pieces that my young mind put together and held on to.
The day of my mother's funeral I couldn't help but notice that life kept going. The sun came out--even though it was cold out. Cars still traveled up and down the highway. Time didn't stand still. Life continued--a confusing concept for me because it was probably the first time that I had to accept the fact that the world didn't revolve around me and my little family.
A few days later, I was back in school. No one, not even teachers, really knew what to say to me when I marched in and turned in my homework that I had done while I had been gone. All I knew to do was continue business as usual, and in response, so did everyone else.
The problem, though is that as time separated itself from that November day when my mother died, I was unable to move beyond that moment that changed my life forever.
Over time, the introduction to my personal narrative always began with "my mom died when I was seven years old". My position as a girl with a deceased mother became my primary identity.
That identity followed me into early adulthood and I found myself still searching for a way to process the fact that the very person who gave me life had missed every important event in it.
Not having the necessary outlets to process my mother's death in a way, caused me, to remain a seven-year-old Cynae. While I had great success in several areas of my life, time had not been taken to heal the little girl that clung to her mommy for everything.
Over the years, I can honestly say that I searched and searched for books and magazines that could help me cope. I always felt like something was wrong with me-I was different than others, and I saw life differently. I read not only to escape my reality, but to try to "fix myself" and attempt to adjust my actions and words to the likes of others my age. Beside the fact that this simply didn't work, there seemed to be no books that anyone could give me at the time that would allow me to see a young person actually living through and moving beyond a parent's death.
I decided early on that there needed to be something to help kids "like me"--kids who had to say goodbye to their mom or dad too early due to a terminal illness. Around the age of fourteen, I knew I needed to write a book so that other kids and their families could take the steps necessary to move them beyond the day that their parent died.
Times have definitely changed, and more resources are available to kids who have experienced grief and loss. However, that's not my reason for finally writing Pineapple Sugar. I wrote the book for the children of the many folks who believe that their child will "be okay" on their own. I wrote Pineapple Sugar to help begin a conversation about grief and loss that doesn't end. My goal is to make sure that no child ever, again, feels like they are alone in their experience of losing a parent or a loved one.
Over the course of this year's book "tour" for Pineapple Sugar, this space will be an open book of emotions, feelings, and points of growth for anyone who has gone through grief and loss. At times, it may read like the pages of a diary. At times, honestly, it will be my open journal for the simple fact that I've found that people are most helped when we share our true selves-- exposing both our good and bad experiences so that others may identify and come to see that .
As a survivor of loss with a mission to maintain hope in the hearts of the bereaved, there was simply no way I could write and publish a book on the subject of death and grief without sharing pieces of my own story. Somewhere, in between the fictitious pages of Pineapple Sugar and my own details shared on this page, I hope you grow to believe that if a Texas girl-turned-woman name Cynae can struggle through grief and survive, then so can you.
If you know of anyone who could benefit from this labor of love of mine, please feel free to share any message that you see fit.
This is my story. Thank you for allowing me to take this journey with you.