Hey, my name is Jadi!
I’m a Montanan now living in Nashville, Tennessee. I lost my mom to cancer the week of Christmas of 2015. I was only 22. Here’s the full story. Since then, I’ve been taking my time to grieve, adventure, reflect, remember, work my li’l butt off, and sometimes mope about the house. You know, balance.
I have spent the past years witnessing not just my own grief, but also that of my dad, my mom’s family members, friends, colleagues, and community. Damn she was loved! And while of course we all grieve differently, I have noted one significant distinction between my process and everyone else’s- I’m young. I’m an only child of an only child, so I didn’t really have a sibling to share this grief. Being the only person under 30 deeply grieving my mom has opened my eyes to what a unique experience it is to be twenty something and grieving.
It wasn’t so bad at first. We were definitely still in shock, and I had the luxury of getting to live at home with my dad so we could see each other through. He and I did everything we could to make grieving a team effort. We took spontaneous road trips, we spent a month in Europe, we hiked miles on end. We chased the Northern Lights. We talked endlessly about her, about missing her, and about who we were without her. But eventually, it was time for me to move on. Dad didn’t want to watch me waste my youth, and so he told me to get a move-on. So, not even a year after my mom passed, I moved to Nashville.
I learned my biggest lesson very quickly: Grieving is hard enough without having to survive your twenties on top of it, and the opposite is also true- your twenties are hard enough without trying to survive grief at the same time.
So how do you reconcile your grief with the other challenging facts of your life as a young adult?
Starting to create a real adult life for yourself is a messy process. The prospect of the future gets you excited. The prospect of the future scares you shitless. You try to learn how to create a career for yourself, how to find love, how to create a home that reflects who you are and then how not to destroy it every time you get dressed or attempt to cook something more than Mac and cheese; you fail at every single one of these. You go out partying. You learn the consequences of partying. You try to make the kind of friends who feel life-long, you lose old friends you thought were life-long. You absorb everything you can- tv, books, movies, fashion, culture, travel, xcell spreadsheet skillz. You move a million times. You try to learn how to save money or make more money. You worry a whole lot about money. You still don’t have a whole lot of money. You don’t get very much sleep, but you dream constantly.
But now? Now you have to grieve. You want to go out, but you’re depressed. You are on your closet floor, listening to your roommates pregame through the wall, sobbing in your thigh high boots and false eyelashes. And you damn-well better believe you’re still going to go out!
You want to find a career you love, but you’re lost. Do I want to be an accountant? No, I just want to sit here and cry and miss my mom.
You want to find love, but you now have some pretty heavy baggage- baggage that overwhelms your first dates pretty fast.
Being a twenty something is amazing and terrifying. It’s a lot going right and just as much going wrong. So when you add a lot of weight (ie grief) to the “wrong” side, the scale starts to tip. You have to work extra hard to get things to be at least just balanced properly. How can you leave the nest and learn to fly when it feels like you’re already drowning?
But you continue to be optimistic about your future. You want to be resilient in your efforts to become the best adult you can be and proactive about creating a life you’re excited to keep living. You dread becoming paralyzed by grief and accepting defeat on your studio apartment futon… or pulling a full on “Wild”. (Not that I’m knocking Wild, Cheryl Strayed is my hero. My parents just raised me to be too well-adjusted to pull that ish.)
And the kicker is that we have to do this mostly on our own. There aren’t many outlets for grief when you’re a young adult. Nobody really expects the word “grief” to apply to a bouncy young blonde. I don’t look like I’m grieving. And that makes sense. Not many 20-somethings have experienced major losses. There’s also no community of mutual understanding to immerse yourself in because most, if not all, of your friends haven’t had loss in quite the same way. My friends are worried about getting into grad school and I’m, like, worried about growing the rest of the way up without a mom and my borderline suicidal thoughts. 💁🏼♀️ (Dark humor, embrace it people.) In contrast, my dad has plenty of people to turn to who have experienced his kind of pain. I have learned the hard way how very isolating it is to confront grief on your own.
Ours is a small and generally neglected demographic.
There aren’t many resources to tap into, either. I was in therapy for awhile… but that got really expensive and I barely make rent as it is. I did try a support group series for awhile. I was the youngest one there by at least 25 years, and all the old ladies just felt really bad for me.
But you still have to try. Try everything you can to find your balance. You’ll go to grief groups and be the youngest one there. You’ll read literature online, but it will all seem impersonal, cliched, or inconsistent. You will talk to your retired family members who are also depressed, but they won’t have to haul their depressed selves out of bed for a crappy survival job.
BUT. In those moments where you do regain your balance again, you find that this journey has made you a better person. You’ve learned to be more gentle with yourself and others. You’ve found your resilience. You’ve found your humanity.
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how to be good at being a twenty something and I sure as hell don’t know how to be “good” at grief. But I’ve studied. I’ve done the best I can, and I’m doing pretty well given the circumstances. I chalk it up to the fact that I have sought out knowledge, knowing it is the only weapon I’ve got as I face this big ol’ sadness monster. I have gone searching for the answers all over- from my own self-examination, from connecting to others like me, and from learning all I can from people who make these topics their life’s work. If you want to continue to actively question and seek out answers with me, then welcome.
Looking back at my journal from the time immediately following my mom’s death, I found this entry: “There’s a fine line between enchanted and haunted. And it’s up to me to make the difference.”