I was fifteen and lying in the middle of my living room floor, sobbing. I couldn’t control my emotions. I’d just broken up with my first boyfriend and I felt like my insides were simultaneously on fire and also being torn from my skin. It was my first experience with heartbreak, at least of this magnitude. This was the worst kind of pain, I was sure of it.
I was in college and sitting in my boss’s office holding a phone that had already been disconnected on the other end. I was frozen, tears streaming from my face, after listening to the news that was just delivered. My grandmother, one of my best friends, had just lost her battle with cancer. She was gone. The next time I would see her she would be in a casket. Right then in that moment I knew this was the worst kind of pain, I was sure of it.
I was sleeping on the couch of my childhood home when my mother woke me in tears. My first friend, the closest thing to a brother I ever had, had been in a car wreck and consequently the ICU of a local hospital. I visited him for days, finally headed back to college when I got the call to turn around and head back. I drove as fast as I could and as I parked the car I saw my dad walking towards me. I knew immediately my friend was gone– too soon and much too young. There, in the middle of a parking garage, I knew this was the worst kind of pain, I was sure of it.
After years of hiding an addiction that wasn’t mine and battling the consequences of being married to an addict, I told him it was over, that we were over. After years of emotional turmoil and trauma I dragged myself to the lawyers office and filed for divorce. I felt like a failure for not being able to save my marriage or the man with whom I shared a name, but motherhood changed my priorities and the ones worth rescuing. And as I sat in the courtroom signing papers to seal the fate of our broken family and walk into the future with so many unknowns, I knew this was the worst kind of pain, I was sure of it.
And through the years I kept learning pain, immense and immeasurable pain.
My final living grandparent died.
Another family friend.
And I kept thinking I knew the worst kind of pain that existed.
And then I lost you, my mother— the person that gave me life. I always felt lucky to have a mother like you, not every daughter does. You were always there, always, until the moment that you weren’t anymore.
And that was pain.
Unexpected pain. Incomprehensible pain. The kind of pain that feels unsurvivable.
And I was sure, undoubtedly sure, this was the worst kind of pain.
And then came the ripples of grief from your death, always surprising me each and every time. And I thought that was the worst kind of hellish pain, the reminders of your absence, as if I needed any.
And then came each new day waking up, only to lose you again and again because the harsh truth was that you were never coming back. And I thought that was the worst kind of pain.
And that’s when I knew that there is no ‘worst kind of pain’, because pain shows up as unique as a fingerprint, always transforming and shifting. But this pain, the pain of losing a mother, well there certainly isn’t anything to compare this kind of pain with.
And so for now, I live with the worst kind of pain– the pain of life without your mother.
A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.