Loss of being a daughter: Melissa Bright
Melissa Bright: I am Melissa Bright, and I'm going to be talking about losing myself, as I also lost the role of being a daughter.
Claire Sandys: This is The Silent Why podcast and we're glad you found us. In this episode, we're exploring loss Number 8 on our mission to dig into 101 different types of loss.
Chris Sandys: That's Claire. And I'm Chris. To help us with our mission we connected with Melissa Bright from Missouri in the United States. She hosts a podcast called The Bright Side of Life, where she talks to people about learning to deal with worry, self-doubt and self-worth, by changing the way you think.
Melissa: I don't want to be just some sad, feeling sorry for myself person, if I can do anything I can serve others and to show them that they can heal after their pain, after their loss.
Claire: Melissa fell pregnant when she was 16, and her mum's support through those early years sealed a deep friendship between them, but sadly, less than 10 years later, her mum died, and then earlier this year her dad also died.
Melissa: I've just lost a lot of family and it's like 'Am I just supposed to be without family on this freakin planet?' Am I just supposed to be this strong person that nothing can be affected?
Chris: Melissa sees her life in two parts, before she lost her mum and after. And it's only recently she says she's learned who Melissa Bright truly is, and what's been leaking from her luggage.
Melissa: Walking down the street with having a suitcase open, and your suitcase is full of all your self-worth, let's say it's a whole bunch of rolled up socks, you don't even know that your suitcases like open, slowly trickling out these pairs of socks that you have, all the time.
Claire: Even though we could have spoken to Melissa about so many aspects of grieving, we chose to dig into the loss of her role as a daughter since losing her mum. To hear more about her story before this, have listen to her podcast, The Bright Side of Life, Episode: My Story, in October 2020.
Chris: We begin our chat around life now in Missouri, where she lives with her boyfriend.
Melissa: I am the host and creator of The Bright Side of Life podcast. And I bring that up because that is literally what I do all day, every day. I am a full-time podcaster at this point, without the full time pay, if I can just note that. And so, my boyfriend, he owns a painting business, and it really took off during COVID. So, I was a travel agent before this and travel just completely went in the can during COVID. And so, him and I kind of had this conversation and he had faith in me that, he said if you want to do this podcast and try to make it a thing, I completely have faith in you, that's awesome. So, I get to stay home and work on my podcast full time while also helping him with his painting business. I do all the managerial work. But that's kind of what my week looks like. Probably much like your guys's. But it's fun, and I would not trade it for the world.
Claire: Yay! I'm in a similar boat. Spend most of my time on social media or learning something techy. Yeah, love it. Great fun.
Chris: And I know we're talking about a different loss today. But stopping being a travel agent, was that quite tough? Did you love doing that? Because obviously podcasting is quite different as you're on your own, but yeah, was that was that a big sadness to bring that to an end?
Melissa: If you want me to be honest, I'm going to say no. I have always felt that I have been meant for more, that I had a bigger purpose in this world. However, I did not know what that purpose was. I felt it, but it wasn't like it came to me. And it's like, Melissa, this is your purpose, this is your purpose. So, it was fun, don't get me wrong, I've got to travel to some amazing, beautiful countries. But no, I was not, I was sad I lost the money. I wasn't sad... I felt it truly was my wake-up call to be like, this is your time, this is kind of your excuse that you get to figure out what the hell you're really going to do in your life and what you want. And that's when I asked myself, what do you really like doing? What do you enjoy doing? What do you think your purpose is? And that's when I came up with the answer. It sounds so simple: I like having deep conversations with people. And can it be as simple as that answer? Well, I feel like now that podcasting is such a big thing, it absolutely can be a simple answer of Yeah, I mean, look at Oprah Winfrey. What does she do? She has deep conversations all day every day. And yeah, that could be my answer. And so no, I don't. I feel like who I became when I started podcasting was a different Melissa. I told myself that I was no longer going to be fake on social media. In terms of fake I mean, I was always real Melissa, but I wouldn't post real vulnerabilities, like struggling with my mental health or struggling with 'I'm ashamed that I have $80,000 in college debt and I never finished college', like these things that really made me ashamed of myself, that you just don't bring up on social media, I stopped all that I became the real Melissa, I talked about everything I was ashamed of. And through that, I have had so many people reach out to me thanking me, for me being vulnerable, because it's almost given them permission to open up themselves. Maybe personally, maybe just themselves, like asking themselves questions, or it could be on social media, if they so choose to become vulnerable on social media. But I sincerely feel like I'm finally getting to the point where I am 100% honestly, the real Melissa that I've been waiting to be and not caring if people, they either gonna like me or not like me, but I'm going to be real. And talk about what I want to talk about.
Chris: Gosh, how do you know just based on that, how do you know that this is me being real? What are some of the main ways that you just really feel like you've come to life?
Melissa: I opened up a lot about how much my mom's loss really did affect me in terms of my mental health, my debilitating anxiety. You know, on social media, you compare yourself so much to the people that have the big houses and the wonderful marriage, and that's something that I haven't had either of those yet. And I was never upset about the marriage because I, I had my daughter when I was 16, and I actually pride myself on not marrying the first person that came along in my life, or even her dad when we weren't a great fit. But society puts all these pressures on you that you should be married by this time and have this white picket fence and this perfect job, and that's just not how my life has played out. And for a long time, I felt so guilty about that, when I was, truthfully, not in control of half of these things. I had no control that I was going to lose my mom at the age of 25. That would send me on a spiral like, she died two weeks before my senior year of college, I think it was my senior year, I didn't go back. I couldn't I could not go back two weeks after I just lost my best friend who I was so not expecting to lose. And then life just kind of happened. And for so long, I thought it was a bad thing. And now I truly believe that life happens the way that it's supposed to in the right time that it's supposed to. Sometimes it's so easy to believe, And other times you're like, God, this sucks. But I'm trusting it more now. And yeah, with just people messaging me and in saying thank you, and I appreciate what you're doing and what you share. And that's given me an opportunity to open up and question myself. It's, it's just been awesome. And I'm, I'm so grateful for that.
Claire: Why don't you go back to that a bit then and tell us about losing your mom and you know what life was like back then and where you were with your life stage. You said you already had a daughter, so what that look like and then what happened for you to lose her.
Melissa: Yeah. So, to back it up before, I had had my daughter at the age of 16. Obviously not planned, but my mom and I were always close before that, but once you are 16 years old and you are a mom, your mom just finds out that their her daughter is pregnant, there's no more hiding. There's nothing left to hide, like now she knows it all. And that really got us into a closer bond. When I had my daughter, we lived with her forever until I moved out at like 17 or 18. And my daughter was the first grandchild my brother had not had a baby yet. And so, we really formed this super close bond. She was at my parents house every weekend because I was working weekends, still in school, went to college full time. So, my stepdad and my mom and my daughter's other grandparents played a huge role in her life when she was little because when I was working weekends and so when I was 25, my mom went to the hospital because her lung collapsed. And she was in the hospital for about three to four weeks during Christmas. She literally got out like three days before Christmas and they told her that she was diagnosed with COPD, which is chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder from smoking most of her life. And basically, she was diagnosed with that in December and gone in August. It went really, really quick for her. And she had made the decision that she was going to go on hospice, I'm assuming that, you know, the doctor said that it was not, you know, looking hopeful, so on and so forth. But that's a really hard pill to swallow whether you're, you know, I always asked him like, would it have been better if I, I hadn't known she was going to die because that now you're faced with this. I was told this in around July, you know that she was going on hospice? Do I have her for two more months, another year, another five years? What are we working with? Obviously, it was only a month after that, but that that's really, really hard to know. And so, yeah, losing who was my best friend, for sure was extremely hard. And it was extremely hard on the other fact that that was my, my support system, in every, in every way because of my daughter. And here, she was now 10 years old, and I'm about to go into the hardest years of my life raising her without my mom and my mom to tell me do this, don't do this, you know. And so, I was really, really scared. So, I was different in that way, I feel like, after I lost her, I lost a lot of who I was. But that's who I was before. And of course, I was happy. I was naive, like, I never thought in a million years that I would be losing my mom at 25. And that, that takes a lot of your naive naiveness, if that's a word, away, it really does. And you realise that the world is, I don't want to say cruel, I don't like to be in that mindset, but it really puts things in perspective really, really quickly. And I myself would have liked to stay naive a little bit longer than 25.
Chris: On reflection, being a 25-year-old and facing that loss. How did you react?
Melissa: Yeah, so I, I cried, I was I was really upset. You know, I told myself that she was no longer in pain, because it was really bad to see her the last, you know, couple of weeks not being able to breathe, all of that stuff. And then really, I like pushed it down completely. Like I was a server. I stayed busy. I worked all the time constantly. And I really feel like I pushed it down and didn't deal with it. Here I thought I was; 'Oh, I'm doing good, like I don't I don't sit here and cry about my mom all the time 24/7.' Well, that's because I think I went to the opposite end of the spectrum, and I just didn't deal with it at all. And you can't do that, because I promise you at some point in life, it's going to come back on you. And it did. And that took 10 years, but it did.
Claire: Yeah, I can imagine it's quite detrimental on a loss of that scale, because it's, you know, it's a huge bereavement, and it shifted your whole life. So, pushing that down, probably didn't, didn't go well for you I'd imagine, long term.
Melissa: No, and it, I, I developed debilitating anxiety. And it took me even a long time, one, to figure out what it was, two, to figure out why it was happening, and then three, I didn't really get a full grasp of anxiety until I got into therapy. But my whole thing was, I would get anxiety when life was going so good with my boyfriend and my daughter, because at any moment, they could be taken away from me and I don't get a warning. I don't get any warning sign. And so here in the back of my head, it's like Melissa enjoy life, but just enough just enough to be ready to deal with any kind of grief again. And that is a horrible place to be. But that's what my body felt. I mean, I have my mind has ruined so many good vacations and good moments because of 'I'm so scared, they're going to be taken away'. And I finally got help with that this year, meaning I had to be put on medication. I couldn't handle it without medication, even though I tried for 10 years and I regret doing that.
Yeah, I was just wondering, because I presume were you finding that physically, your body was reacting very differently to how you were thinking mentally?
Melissa: 100%. My physical symptoms were terrible, like super nauseous all the time. That's the part that I couldn't handle was the was the physical part. I could not handle it anymore. I mean, I've done breathing, I have done everything that that people have said, you know, and I just couldn't get a grasp on it. And finally, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. But I feel like I have that probably before my mom even passed away because I have some trauma from like being younger. But I feel like it really came out when my mom passed away. So right now, I'm on medication, and it does help, it helps the physical symptoms for sure. But I want to I eventually want to get to a place where I'm not medicated, but it's kind of almost like somebody explained it to me, it kind of gives you this pause to get the rest of it in order. And then I could potentially go off my medicine, but let's fix the other parts first, in this kind of gives me a break, if that makes sense?
Chris: Yeah. What's the setup with your dad? And even how things have been in the last couple of years?
Melissa: Yeah, so my dad, and my mom and my dad got divorced pretty much when I was like, in second grade, they were married twice, they should not have married twice. Really, he grew up in a really hard childhood, also, his dad was extremely hard on him, so he was hard on me and my brother, I don't want to say he didn't love us, but I don't think he knew how to be a father and how to be affectionate and loving and caring, And 'oh, it's okay'. That was not my father. And so, for a long time, I felt rejected from my dad, and then getting older, you're a teenager, your dad's still not in your life, your dad's not there, and then you're just like, 'what the hell did I do so wrong for my dad not to be in my life, or my brother's life?' It's not just me. And so, we were never in each other's lives. He didn't even live in the same state as me never really made quite an effort or anything like that. Then in 2020, actually, everything changed, and he called me and said that he was retiring, and he was actually moving back to Missouri, which is where I live, about three hours away. So, three hours away is a hell of a lot closer than 12 hours away in Texas. So, I'm like; this is awesome, I'm going to have a chance to talk to my dad to maybe get a relationship that I finally wanted. Because I also was healing myself and knew that while I was angry with my dad for not being in my life, I knew that he had his own issues because of how he was raised. And I don't think he was ever given the proper tools of how to handle his anger, or not having patience. And I feel like he was just like, this is who I am. And this is who I'm going to be, and I'm never going to get better. But maybe he wasn't even aware of it. So, I had forgiven him for that and really wanted to come to him, the next conversation was going to be a place of compassion and be like, 'Dad, I forgive you for not being this person and that person, but I want to have a relationship with you'. And this is something that me and my therapist had discussed about four months prior to him passing away. Sat on it, sat on it, was scared, you know, that's like going to your spouse about something you're really scared to talk to him about, because you don't know how they're gonna handle it. You don't know if they're going to reject you. I was scared of rejection, I was scared, he was gonna throw it in my face and say, well, you weren't here either. You didn't attempt to call me. So, the conversation never happened. And then in January of this year, he went in for a heart and kidney transplant, double transplant literally back-to-back hours apart. The heart transplant happened, it was successful in the fact that it came out and he was able to get a new heart, but there was still a lot of complications and then kidney, same thing. It was successful, but he there was just too much damage done to his body already. And he didn't survive that. That I was not prepared for. He called me to let me know like that he was going in for the surgery, and I knew why he called me because that was potentially going to be the last time. So, I didn't take that well. And, you know, my boyfriend tried to tell me, it's not gonna happen, Melissa, it's not gonna happen. I'm like, 'My worst, my number one nightmare's already came true, why could number two not happen?' And it did. And that was a whole other hit of losing a parent because there was such hope from me to have a relationship because he just moved back to the state that I lived in. And that didn't happen. And so that was another hard pill to swallow, and still is.
Chris: So, and just this initial sort of 11 months since that. How has that 11 months been different to the first hit of that loss of your mum?
Melissa: A couple things. Thankfully, when my dad died, I was in therapy. So, I had a professional to talk to when I was trying to make stuff up in my head that wasn't true. I really really really had a hard time grasping how my dad died once again, feeling like picturing him in a bed in a hospital nobody around being alone all this stuff, and my therapist you know told me a lot of stuff like when you when you pass, and really put me at ease. But there was a whole other component my dad got cremated. Totally didn't think that was going to happen. Didn't get to say bye to him. No funeral whatsoever. So, it was just your dad died, he's four hours away, and now you're gonna move on with your life and there is absolutely zero closure, none, zero. So that's been hard. But like I said the therapy really helped. And I'm really trying not to get into the victim mentality of 'Oh, poor me, they're gone, my dad's gone'. I just want to focus on healing and forgiving my dad for him not being able to be the father, because I don't feel like that's an active choice that he wanted to make. I feel like if he had to choose, 'hey, if I snap my fingers, could I be all the things that my children would want me to be?' I feel like he would have if he thought it was possible. And I just have to tell myself and I feel like I have to forgive myself because that's or forgive him because that's the only way I'm going to be able to heal. If I'm still angry at my dad, when he's dead now, that's only going to hurt me and I'm not going to heal. I'm not going to, so I do forgive him. And that's really helped a lot. So, I have my moments, I have my moments that I get sad you know, I'm probably it's getting to be the holidays it's probably gonna be sad to think about it, sad to think he's not here, even if he wasn't in my life. It makes me sad to think he's not with his wife and stuff like that. But overall, I've dealt with this one way better than I did my mom.
Claire: How is it? How does it feel now being in the world and you know, not being a daughter because you haven't got that, whether your dad is, you know, there, but at a distance or not in touch, you were still a daughter of somebody and now having lost that role in life? How does, how does, how do you cope with that?
Melissa: Yeah. So that is definitely a tough one to like, think about. And when you said that, like in that, like at that angle, like I lost my mom, well, you've lost the role of being a daughter. I was like, 'Oo that is something I hadn't really considered before'. And it's weird, it's weird because I feel like I gravitate to other people's moms so much, like my boyfriend's mom. She's now like my mother, you know, because I don't want to say desperately, but I, I want that and I want to treat somebody else's mom, the way that I treated mine. Cause I was, we had a great relationship. I didn't disrespect her, but it's been hard. It's been hard to see other friends if they get frustrated with their moms so easy, or if they're like, oh my gosh, my mom is calling me for the 10th time today. I'm like; you don't even know, like, I would give anything to have my mom call me 10 times today. So, it's hard, it's hard. I still have my stepdad who she was married to, he's still in my life, so I'm grateful for that, and he still considers me his daughter. So, I am grateful to have him and I feel like I'm still his daughter, you know? So that has helped also.
Chris: You have a daughter. How do you think that she has witnessed you having to process, having to grieve? What would she, if we asked her, what's it been like watching mum grieve? How do you think she'd answer that?
Melissa: Oh yeah. I have been asked this question so many times, and it's such a great question. And, but unfortunately, like, I don't even know how to answer it. So, whenever my mom passed away, my daughter had a dad obviously, and he was just getting back from the military from Germany and he really wanted a chance to help raise my daughter. And at that point we had no like bad blood, he was just gone from the military forever, and so he's like, let me have a chance to raise Trinity and so on, and so forth. And that involved her, moving to Colorado from Missouri. And at that point, I felt like that was in both of our best interests, because I did not want, I didn't want my daughter to see me grieve and be so upset about my mom. So, she went to her dad's actually for three years, of course I saw her on holidays and stuff like that. I think as I got older, she saw it affect me a little bit more. Now I'm obviously open about it, she knows how I feel, how it's made me feel, she's seen my anxiety, and there's some like generational curses that I don't want to bring up. I don't want her to have also so she's very much like in the mental health field, just as much as me, she's been through therapies and she's been a sophomore in high school, so she has seen me hurt, but I feel like she has also healed in ways, as well. So, I feel like it's, it's been okay, but I feel like I do need to go ask her this question. I'd be like, 'I have been asked four times now, how you thought I dealt with my mom's grief, and I need to know how you thought I dealt with it'.
Chris: Yeah. Well, it's certainly doing the podcast that you do and having these deep conversations about loss and grief, and quite often that we find that the feedback that we get is from people saying it's so important to have these conversations. You know, you don't hear them all the time and its encouraging people to empathize, to go a bit deeper to join people in their sadness. So, on the one hand, you’re wanting to make that something that you can actually bring your daughter into, while at the same time thinking, well, what sort of distance do I want her at? I want to protect her. I want to protect myself. How close do I want her to be into the big snotty, crying mess that I am, or, you know, the, the, the down, the sad, whatever it is. So it must be, it must be confusing to know what distance to, to hold them, at what times.
Melissa: It is. It is. And sometimes I feel like she has a better grasp on her emotions than sometimes I do, because like I said, she she's been in therapy for, sophomore year, so going on five years now, I was only in therapy only since last year. And so, she has been through a lot of this stuff, almost to like, I envy her for, for learning about all this stuff, and she originally did not have a choice to go, (there's backstory there). But it it's wound up being so great for her. She is actually going to school to be a therapist and social work and all that fun stuff, but yeah, you want to protect her. You don't want them to see you sad, you don't want them... you want to be the strong one. What is the answer? Do I be sad to show her it's okay, to feel your emotions? Or do you be strong? Which one do I do? She's 19 now, and we are both open books to each other. So, I feel like it's, it's easier now.
Claire: And what a role model I was just thinking, you know, you grew up in those early years and then you had that devastating grief of losing your mum. Whereas she's been gifted seeing how to work through grief and how it kind of can be done and I can't help, but think that's only going to be a blessing in some ways. You talked about that generational thing, I feel like that's the sort of thing that would break that, she's seeing how to healthily grieve, rather than having gone through the grief like you had to do, you've sort of flipped it, which is a lovely gift in many ways.
Melissa: Yeah. And it, it it's, it's also scary. Like, of course I don't want to think her without me. Like, I don't want to think about that. And sometimes I look at her and I'm like, oh my gosh, I'm so jealous, you have your mom in your life, and I'm like, it's literally me, that's so weird to say,
Chris: You've mentioned a couple of times forgiveness, and particularly around your relationship with your dad. Well, I guess two things that I'd like to ask just about forgiveness and the first thing is whether that was just a one-off thing. I know you said you forgave him when he was alive and then you forgave him after he died. How was that experience?
Melissa: That's a great question, and it was not a one-off and I feel like there are still moments that I have to forgive him, that I can still be angry. So, the other part of it is that he taught me some really shitty qualities, really bad behaviours, I get angry easy, I'm super impatient. You know, you're taught things as a kid and you pick them up and you start to act like your parents and me trying to change those behaviours is awful. Awful. And my brother who is a 42 43, I forgot how, 43-year-old man now, he's worse than me because he is the man. And I really, really get mad at my dad a lot still for those behaviours that I have. I know that I'm responsible for changing them, and I am, I know that, but that stuff does not happen overnight. Every single conversation that you have with another person could be a trigger for you to get sensitive, to get angry, to be impatient. So that's every different conversation, and so I, I still have anger with my dad there because he made me who I am, but in other ways, there are other times that I have to remind myself, Melissa, how do you think he was raised? He had a dad who had literally three sons. All boys, grew up on a farm, had to do stuff all the time, he was really hard on all of them, he was taught exactly what he's doing to me now. So, whatever you're taught, so no, not a, one-off, still forgiving him for certain things, still mad at him for certain things, but at least I'm aware now, you know, I'm like, dad, I'm pissed at you for making me this way, but hey, I'm working on it. I'm working on it.
Chris: The second part of the question quite nicely, because of how it makes you feel. What about forgiving yourself?
Melissa: Oh, yeah. And I've had to do that because along this journey of losing my mom and losing my dad, now I lost a lot of my self-worth because, and that's something that I didn't even realize. It was like walking down the street with having a suitcase open and your suitcases full of all your self-worth. Let's say it's a whole bunch of rolled up socks. You don't even know that your suitcase is like open, slowly trickling out these pair of socks that you have, all the time. And over these last 10 years, I have lost my self-worth because you have that one person who was my, for me, my mom, that you always go to; Mom, am I doing this right career change? Am I doing this right thing? Should I be with this man? Should I, whatever it is, you always want to go to that one person just to have that validation or this like, no, like don't do that. I haven't had that. I, I have my friends, but there's nothing that can replace a parent that no matter whether they had their own issues, you still look up to them. And so, losing my self-worth is, was really, really hard, but I've had to forgive myself for that because there was, there was a reason why I did, and now I can look back and look at that and be like this, this is why. But since I do feel like I am the only, I don't want to say the only person, I have my daughter and I have my boyfriend, but I feel like I've been abandoned a lot in my life, not by choice. And so, I have, I have to love myself, because at the end of the day, if they're, if I'm the only one left, I have to rely on myself. I can't hate myself. I can't do all these things, cos that's going to make for a really crappy relationship with yourself, and when you don't love yourself, you don't want to invest yourself, you don't want to go for your dreams, you don't want to do that. And I'm done with that, I don't wanna do that anymore. So, I have forgiven myself, yes. But sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's like, how the hell? Why am I even forgiving myself? I did not choose this, but yet here we are, right?
Chris: Well, collecting socks, collecting socks from the pavement and putting them back in the suitcase, sounds like a fun activity.
Melissa: Yes! Oh my gosh. You got to go find them all!
Claire: When you look back, cause obviously it feels like you've had a lot of losses, whether you've recognized them as losses or not, you know, not just with your mom and your dad, but obviously having a daughter so young, I'm guessing there were losses that came into that, even if you weren't aware, and then obviously I know on your podcast, you said you'd moved home a few times and you've had different situations like that. There's a lot of losses. When you look back over it all. Is there one that stands out one period of time that stands out as like the, the worst period of time that you went through and, and is it surprising which one it is? Is it, is it your mom or are there other areas that were difficult?
Melissa: It would be the overall loss of myself. I feel like that, cause I was the hardest one to get back was, was me. To think about the last 10 years and what I've done and it's just crazy that my, you know, when we're all young, I guess even at 25, of course, like I had my daughter when I was 16, okay, that was the one thing society like, okay, you're not supposed to have kids at 16, but then it's like, okay, I'm going to get, I'm going to go to college, I'm going to get the dream career, I'm going to work the nine to five, I'm going to do this. And like, all that crap went by the wayside. And I started feeling like; 'you just lost yourself', you lost yourself. And like I'm done with that because I feel like maybe that's exactly where I was supposed to be. Maybe I wasn't supposed to finish college. Maybe I wasn't supposed to have a nine to five. And I've accepted all that, but I lost a lot of myself in that because I didn't have that go-to person to just tell me. And I don't know if anybody out there, like that is listening, can literally say, I see what she's talking about cause I literally call my mom to like ask her if I should get a vanilla or chocolate shake, like from the most minute things to the biggest problems, you have that one person that you go to for just to seek comfort, to seek validation, to hear their opinion. And when you don't have that, it's like, literally you're navigating this, this world and it's scary cause you don't, you don't know, you're like, I have no idea if I'm doing this right, so I need somebody else to tell me I am. But I'm happy that I have found myself again, cause I, I do not want to lose her again.
Claire: Is there a definitive point when you thought I found myself or has it just been ongoing?
Melissa: It literally was when I started my podcast and when I found my purpose and when I asked myself, what is my purpose in life? What do I enjoy doing? It was like a culmination of everything. The therapy that I started, the podcast I started, the conversations I've started with people, the experts that I've talked about are talked to, in mental health. It literally has been the last year has been the most eye-opening experience. It was the little self-care that I started doing for myself. Small investments that I would do in myself, doing things that scared me to tell me, see, Melissa, you can do it, you don't, you don't need anybody else to, to show you this or whatever. But it's been an amazing journey
Chris: With the sadness’s and the challenges, the trials of, of the various losses that you've experienced. Can you start to see things that have come out of them, you know, where there's been good and joy and hope and things that have come out of the bad?
Melissa: For a long time. I couldn't, but now, now I do. And that literally is taking the initiative to heal is, is so, so important, because for 10 years, I didn't heal. For 10 years I just put all of that down either. Didn't think about it felt sorry for myself, felt like I was just going to be another statistic and be not successful and struggle with money and all this stuff. And now I'm just like, no, Melissa, you are in control of all of this. You are control of mostly everything. At least where you want to be, how happy you want to be, how sad you want to be, whatever it is. And I have finally found that again. So, I say with, with all the loss I've experienced, would I be where I am if I, if I haven't, if I didn't lose them? Of course, I would always choose to have them back, but it's really given me a chance to reflect on the person that I want to be and how I want to look at their loss. And I don't want to be just some sad feeling, sorry for myself person. And if I can do anything, I can serve others and to show them that they can heal after their pain, after their loss. That would be my answer.
Claire: Did you ever sort of ask the question why, or get stuck in that mentality of why me? Why am I going through this?
Melissa: Yeah. Which is crazy because I did that so much more with my mom, I have never done that with my daughter. Like some people might be like, where you ever said you had your daughter at 16, never, never in a million years did I be like, why me? Why me? Why me? Well, obviously, because I had sex and that's what happens. So, but I never, like, I was so grateful. But with my mom, yeah. I was like, what the hell did I do to deserve this? And then losing my family. I haven't even said this part of the story, but I found out my dad died. His wife didn't call me for 24 hours later, and my grandma had died two days before him. My grandma died at home and she was very old that, I mean, that one, I, I wanted her to pass because she had such bad like cancer that was, was not good. And so, I was grateful for her to go and be with the Lord. So, when my brother called me on Thursday night to tell me my dad died at 7:00 PM, I went to my grandma's funeral 10 hours later. And I was like, is this like, seriously a joke? Is this a joke? Is this a joke? And this is my mom's mom. And so like, I've just lost a lot of family and it's like, am I just supposed to be without family on this freaking planet? Am I just supposed to be this strong person that nothing can be affected? Yes, I have asked why me a lot, but I don't want to stay in that mindset. You know, I don't want to, not at all.
Claire: What would you say if you were talking to other people who were maybe earlier in the journey with grief? And having lost family members like that, have you got things that you would sort of tell them that to hang on to or to do or any advice?
Melissa: Yeah. My biggest piece of advice would be not to push it down and it would be to sit with your feelings and feel whatever it is that you need to feel; sad, angry, whatever those feelings are, because I feel like when it happens, when you lose somebody, you start to feel, I feel bad for feeling angry, I feel bad for feeling this, I feel guilty for being alive, they're not... I mean, there's so many emotions and you think there's an answer. Well, you should be this, and you shouldn't feel this, and that is not true. And then the next thing is, is if you don't feel those emotions, like 100% guarantee, they are going to come back up in your life at some point, or they're going to come back in your body as an ailment, some kind of anxiety, because if you don't deal with this stuff, it stays in your body. That is for certain. And it's not easy. Like people are like, literally, what do you mean by sit with their feelings? Do you mean go sit on a couch and just be like, okay, come on feelings. I'm ready. I don't know. I can't say that.
I just say, just feel it. If you're angry and pissed off, be angry and pissed off. If you're sad, cry it out, do whatever you have to do. That's what, that's what I mean by that. And also educating yourself on the grieving process. When I say process, there is a grieving process, but there is no like timeline to this process and there are grieving stages, but you might be in the angry stage for two years, you might be in the denial phase for one year, there's no certain time, but some people aren't even aware that there's grieving stages. And then they're like, why am I angry? I shouldn't feel angry. Well, did you know that that's part of the grieving process? No. Oh, okay, I'm not so crazy. I feel like some people aren't even aware.
Claire: When I was listening to your podcast where you, the episode where you talk about your story, or at the end of the second episode, you said you were about to find out what stage you were in. And that was obviously a year ago. So, do you know what stage you're in now?
Melissa: I think the stage I'm in now is acceptance. What stage I was in back then, I think it was closer to denial, but I wasn't in denial like I thought my mom was coming back, it really was just pushing down those feelings and just not dealing with it. I've been to my mom's grave site once in my life. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing, but I don't want to deal with that. I don't want to go. That's just not something I want to do. I don't know why. I don't know if that's more permanent. That's just another reminder she's really not here. I can't answer that. But I just don't know if that's how I want to remember her.
Claire: I know that you've got, you've mentioned therapy a few times, and you've got a sponsor on your podcast that some that you've used through that. Is there something that you would say to encourage people to use therapy if they need it?
Melissa: Yeah. When I first, when my mom first passed away, my dad actually talked to a grief counsellor and he offered it to me, my stepdad, and I said, no, because I thought there was nobody else on the planet that could absolutely understand that I lost my mom. When, of course there's plenty of people that lose their parents. So, one, just knowing that don't be so stubborn that you should go and talk to somebody because even just the education factor around the grieving process and getting to talk to somebody that isn't somebody you're close to, because you might feel like, oh my gosh, my best friend is so tired of me talking about my mom, I know she's over it, I know she's over it. Talk to your therapist. They have to listen, that's what you pay them for, but it's, it's good. It, it is so good to just talk it out, it's so important, because if I didn't have those, you know, mandatory appointments that I had with my therapist, that's just another week that I'm pushing this stuff down, when you can healthily, talk about it and also get some education around why you're feeling that way. And to know that you're not so weird for being mad.
Chris: In your experience has the therapist sort of just enabled you to find the answers or is it that you're, you're gaining wisdom from them and what they say and their expertise?
Melissa: Oh yeah, I think it's, I think it's been a bit of both. I think she's definitely wanted me to come to my own conclusions, kind of give me like, well, have you ever thought about it this way? Or why do you think you're feeling that way? Because what's so important to me is asking yourself, these questions, which I feel like therapists really do. Why are you angry? Where's this coming from? Why is this emotion coming up? So, it's been a little bit of both. I think I really feel like she did a good job at, from, from both sides.
Chris: One more massive question. What's your Herman?
Melissa: I love this question and I love the story behind it. And I really thought about this. And if I would have to say anything, besides it being the kindness that my mom passed on to me and my daughter, and to be respectful to people. My mom had a really, really, really, really hard childhood way, more worse than I could ever even imagine. And I think she was so desperate to get help and to heal and to not pass that on to me and to anybody else, she was sober for 14 years, did AA, did therapy, all that stuff. And I think she was so desperate to come to a peace with herself and to love herself and not blame herself for all these things that have happened, that she didn't get to choose. In her own way she passed that on to me, and I want to pass that onto my daughter also. That we can break these curses and we don't have to be the people that our dads were and our grandmas were. We can start changing the story and the narrative for future grand babies and all that. To love ourselves and to heal. That's, that's my Herman.
Chris: We're loving the analogy of the rolled-up socks falling out of a suitcase. Melissa, thank you for sharing a bit of your story with us and others.
Claire: We'll pop the link to her podcast, The Bright Side of Life, in our show notes for transcripts of all our episodes, my blog, and a very helpful page to guide those who really don't know what podcasts are yet, visit the www.thesilentwhy.com
Chris: But that's it for episode 8. Thank you for listening to The Silent Why, and make sure you check back with us in a few days for Claire's latest My Why.
Claire: But for now, we're going to finish with a quote from Anne Lamott, an American novelist writer and public speaker.
"You will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken. And the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved, but this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through, it's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly. That still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp."