Name: Lynn B.*
Tell me about the person who died:
I lost both my mom and my stepmom within months of each other. I was very close to both of them. My mother was a smoker from about the age of 11. She developed lung cancer and kept it from the family. We found out on the 4th of July in 2008, and it soon metastasized into her brain. She passed away 2 days after Thanksgiving that year.
I was finally pregnant with my first child after having had two miscarriages, and my son was born on Valentine's day of 2009. I was still grieving the loss of my mom and coping with how to be a mom without having mine. Then on March 19th, 2009, the phone rang and I was told that my stepmom had died suddenly of a heart attack.
What was your experience of grief like after your loss? How did it change over time?
Looking back I don't remember a lot of my son's infancy stage. I was quite numb. We had moved to a different state for my husband’s job just before finding out my mother was ill and I had no friends or family out here. I sought out counseling and that's when it all seemed to click: that I am a mom alone without any moms left to guide me. That for my son I had to think about what my moms would do and be the best I can be for him and make them proud. A year later I gave birth to my daughter. My grieving heart was still on the mend, but my children helped me through each day.
About two years later my best friend called me up asking if everything was ok with me and my husband. It turned out that her husband and son had seen my husband on a date with another woman and he had been making out with her in public. I am now divorced and happier that I have been in years. I have two beautiful children, friends that are like family and while I miss my moms every day I know that they are still with me and are proud of me.
Did anything surprise you about your experience with grief?
Yes, and apparently I surprised a lot of other people too including my therapist. I never asked for help with the kids. I did everything myself. I was wise beyond my years when it came to compartmentalizing. I didn't know how I would make it from day to day. It was extremely difficult.
How did the people in your life support you in your grief? What was helpful? What was frustrating?
My family was grieving as well, and they all became very quiet. We didn't speak much. My husband told me to get over it. He was tired of hearing about it. There is nothing that can be done about it, nothing to bring them back, so why dwell was his standpoint. That upset me, and that's when I sought out the outside counseling, which helped a lot.
How did your private grieving relate to your public mourning?
I didn't want others to know I wasn't ok. I held it together and would only cry at night. I didn't want the look of pity or sorrow from others.
Tell me about something I can photograph that reminds you of the person who died, and why?
My moms were very opposite people, so finding just one thing to represent both is a challenge. They both liked flowers, although my mom had a green thumb and my stepmother had a black thumb. My mom loved hot pink roses and my stepmom loved hydrangeas.
How did your loss and your grief change you?
It taught me that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. Grieving my moms taught me how to cope with the "loss" of my husband of ten years as well as how to help my kids with the changes. How to turn a horrible situation into a positive impact on my life.
If you had to describe your grief as a literal landscape you've been passing through, what would it look like and feel like at different points in your journey?
My life is like a forest with a very small stream running through it. When a tree falls down it feels dead, but the forest bed sees it as food and life and grows from it. The stream running through the forest brings with it change and new life like frogs and tadpoles. The water slowly changes the earth, not because it is forceful but because it is persistent.
*Name has been changed.
This post is part of Grief Landscapes, an evolving art project documenting the unique terrain of people’s grief. Participants share an experience with bereavement, and I then photograph an object that evokes the person who died, transforming it into an abstract landscape inspired by the story. I’m looking for many more submissions and for a range of experiences, so please share widely! Learn more about the project and submit your story. - Mindy Stricke