Liberia: The Fear of Grief

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As my birthday drew closer, over the last few weeks, I found my anxiety level soaring. It felt like a guerilla warfare of emotions. And while I felt overjoyed and grateful for being blessed with the priceless gift of life to see another birth year, there was this overriding emotion that shattered my soul. It was the fear of experiencing my first birthday without Teeyah, my rare mom who left us on June 10, 2019.

She has been gone for 9 months now. Yet, it hurts as much as the day she left us. I think of her every day, every night, and the thought of not having her around saddens me and makes me cry like I’ve never cried before. It’s an excruciating pain that continues to haunt my very existence; a wild, crippling pain that knows no bounds.

By March 11, my fear of being consumed by grief had further escalated. I found myself doing everything to avoid acknowledging the fact that my birthday was just three days away—March 15. I was extremely afraid of facing the reality that Teeyah will no longer be singing my favorite ‘happy birthday’ song for me. I just did not want to accept the fact that she is no longer with us.

Typically, my mom never took my birthday lightly; for her, it was a huge deal.  She would stay up all night just to sing ‘happy birthday’ to me, making sure she was the first person to wish me well on this day. She would pray for me and tell me how much she loved me, how proud she was of me, and how confident she was that I would be great. “You will do wondrous things,” she would say, while flashing an infectious smile.  Even if she didn’t feel well on my birthday, she would fake it just to make me smile.

Put bluntly, Teeyah made me feel celebrated, loved, and cherished. She was my greatest fan and cheerleader, my protector, my guide, and my mom.  Indeed, losing her has created a huge void in my life that only gets deeper.  No wonder my fear of feeling abandoned on my birthday soared as my day drew closer. All I wanted to do was to sleep through, while letting the dam to break its bounds at some point.

But then, the strangest thing happened on March 13; my coworkers threw a surprise birthday party for me. It was a truly beautiful party, which inspired me to face my fear, and endure the pain. I realized that ignoring my fear was only fueling my anxiety.

I would later find solace in burying myself in mom’s memories; replaying those fond moments we shared and smiling at the thought of her calling me multiple play names, such as “Golden Girl” which was actually my favorite of them all.

Teeyah may be gone today, but I know that she is watching over me and wishes nothing for me but happiness. As such, on my birthday, I did as she would have loved to see me do: I loved, cherished and celebrated myself in honor of my rare, uber cheerful mom. Granted, life will go on but I am sure that there will never be a full stop in me breaking down when I think of Teeyah. Losing her is something that I will never recover from.

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