Nothing can beat a mother’s love and care. They nurture you ever since you were little and look after you even as an adult. That’s why when they pass away, they leave a huge gap in our hearts. Joining me in this conversation is Mary Parker, who opens up about her grieving journey after her mom Cynthia died. She talks about her fondest memories with her mother, whom she considers her most trusted guide and confidante in life. Mary also explains how therapy, community support, and bravely facing tough conversations about death helped her get through grief much easier.
Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.
I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide.
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A Story Of A Mother’s Love With Mary Parker
My guest is Ms. Mary Parker. What I want you to know is Mary has been part of widowhood before it even was a thing. I am so grateful for her. When I was in the genesis of this process, meeting with people and thinking about how the show would go when we were dealing with grief during the holiday, Mary was in the background and so supportive. I am grateful to have a moment to put her in the forefront of this conversation and highlight her life, how beautiful she is, her journey, and her resilience.
I want to welcome Mary Parker officially to the forefront of the show.
You know you have been. When I was thinking, “I don’t know about this,” you were like, “I know you’re going to do it.” I was like, “Ugh.” I want to acknowledge that. I want that to be known. I know you’re a lot being in the background in administration and doing all that but shine, my star.
Thank you. Sometimes, it pours out. I love when we’re able to jump into an idea, project, or a thought and figure out how to make it work.
You are a master at doing that. This isn’t part of what we were going to talk about, but Mary is so skilled. She supports a lot of nonprofits. She jumps in and can make things flow. What I’ll say about dealing with grief during the holiday is that I had this idea of like, “We’re going to do this.” My sister Ilonka was like, “We’re going to do it.” We started looking at all the details in the background and I was like, “We are lost.” I called Mary and was like, “Do you know how to do this?” She was like, “Yeah.”
It went from, “Let me help you out,” to, “Move out of the way. I got this under control. You need to go do your part over there.” She took control of everything. There is so much to do on the backside. The word zoom has a whole different meaning to me. I am beyond grateful. I can go on and on about that, but I’m going to switch it over. This is about Mary and sharing her journey. Where are you from originally?
Virginia’s home. I was born and raised in Chesapeake.
This has not always been home. Tell me about some of your travels. Where’d you go to undergrad?
I went to Norfolk State University. My major was Sociology and Criminal Justice, which means I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was supposed to go to college, so I went.
What did you do after that? You graduated from Norfolk State.
I graduated from Norfolk State. I graduated on May 5th of that year, and by May 21st, I was in South Africa with the Peace Corps. I was sixteen when I saw a Peace Corps commercial on TV. They used to have commercials then. It touched my soul. It made me realize that before I even had the words for it, that I was always interested in people, cultures, different environments, things I didn’t know, and the desire to explore.
I knew at that point that I wanted to travel overseas and do it on the level of the people. I wanted to be in the community. It was not necessarily staying in the city, driving into the village, but being there with the folks, learning the language, trying to understand it that way, and being of service. Peace Corps gave me that. Plus, they paid for it all, so that was key.
Do you recall what it was like when you first landed and first started? What was that like for you?
I was wide open. I was twenty. I turned 21 after a month of being there. It was the first time I was away from home.
This was your first time away from home and you went big. You didn’t go to another state. You said, “I’m out of here.”
I crossed a body of water and entered into another continent. It was such a good example of what I was looking for and what was drawn to me as well. In that, I don’t really remember telling anyone my birthday was going to be in the middle of our training. I remember that the entire community that we were involved with and the other Peace Corps volunteers all came around to celebrate. Even some of the families in the community I was staying with, because they put you in host homes, surprised me that evening. That was an emotional connection that I hadn’t expected.
Twenty-one is a significant age that causes a lot of things to shift in people’s perspective of life and everything. You turned 21 in an amazing way.
I remember it was special because I got a glimpse of what I meant to someone else, if that makes sense. Sometimes, you go about your everyday life, even if you’re doing something that’s a service, but you miss you’re impacting someone’s life. You’re touching someone’s life, whether it is the conversation you have as you’re waiting in line or the work that you’re doing in that area. To see these strangers come and celebrate this monumental birthday was like, “I’m becoming a part of this community. They have value for me.”Whatever you are doing in your everyday life, you are always impacting someone else’s life. Click To Tweet
How long were you there?
Two and a half years.
You’re right. We may help someone and it may feel remote because you’re not embedded in the trenches with that. If you’re helping with a fundraiser, you know the ultimate gold and what that’s going to look like, but you may not be connecting with the people who are receiving the help. That does change your perspective. It changes the entire process of what showing up and helping looks like.
That’s key, how you show up. It made me realize that you’re seen, you’re being observed, and people are getting a sense of your character and of who you are. Sometimes, once you get in the process of what you’re doing, you overlook those things.
There’s no room to hide. There’s no room to pretend. There’s no room to have this mask on. You are living. You are embedded. Who you are organically is going to show up in two and a half years. There’s going to be something that’s going to make you mad. There’s going to be disappointment. Life is going to happen in that process. The whole part of you is showing up. You were there for two and a half years. You had your birthday there. Are there any other significant memories during that time?
That was a time when I surprisingly grieved the loss of my mother. My mother passed when I was nineteen. By twenty, I was on my way to South Africa. It was a few months before turning 21, so a year had passed. Although I knew I was missing the space of my mother, I felt like, “We’re processing it. We’re moving forward.”
Who was we?
That was a detached way to say me.
You had other people.
You’re right, but I came to find out they hadn’t processed it as well. With the Peace Corps, in the first three months, we were training. You’re learning language, culture, and those types of things. I was sitting in a school room that we were using for the training. I can’t even remember what the facilitator said, but he said something that made me think about my mother. The tears came and wouldn’t stop. I was sitting in the back trying to do that quiet wipe away. The tears started coming. I felt it in my chest and then I felt it in my stomach. It came out as a wail. Everyone was surprised, so I had to walk out. I cried for 30 to 45 minutes. I get emotional even thinking about it.
Many things came out of that. One of the beautiful things was community. It was how everyone came around to see how I was doing to try to help me process it. In between that crying, I got out, “My mother had passed. He reminded me of this.” I had to let it out. One of the mothers said, “She has to let it out.” I never would’ve expected that. My body grieved separately from my mind grieving and my heart grieving. We’re made up of our mind, our heart, and our soul. At that time, my soul was like, “We got to get this out. You don’t even know what you’ve gone through through the loss of your mother. It’s so compacted that we have to get it out.”
Thank you for sharing that. Can you share your mom’s name with us?
Yeah. Cynthia Parker.
What are some of your earliest or youngest memories of your mom, Cynthia?
I remember she came from a family of ten. She was a baby. Even though I was growing up with my mother as this adult woman, I remember how her older brothers treated her even as an adult as a baby. It was how they would pick on her and tell little jokes about her. It felt like she was a spoiled one because she came after all of them. They didn’t have to go through rough parenting. She could have everything.
I remember how they treated her. I remember she was peaceful. One thing I remember about her is her hands. It was always soft. When that mother’s hand touches you, it touches your soul. They were warm hands. A lot of women have that gift. It was that mother’s touch that said, “I’m here.” I remember that. I remember her brothers taught her. I remember she always had a smile. I remember she was well-liked. People gravitated to her. She wasn’t that sociable, but I remember whenever we did things in the community related to her job or within the church, people gravitated to her. I always liked that.A mother’s hand can touch your soul. Click To Tweet
Do you mind sharing how Cynthia died and what you remember about that?
It was beautiful how it happened or for it to have to happen and the way that it happened. God gave us a Saturday morning together. She passed on a Saturday morning. She was doing an activity for work at a rec center nearby. My mother was a social worker. That morning, I remember I was in college, and the job that I was doing, I had to do something for it that morning as well, so we were all up early. We all ended up congregating in the kitchen.
I remember laughing and joking, I did her hair really quickly with a flat iron. My sister was telling her something about the clothes that she was wearing. I remember she had on a yellow shirt. My dad was there. I have a brother and a sister who come after me. My brother was in college, about two hours away. That morning, it was me, my sister, and my father. We had a really good morning. I remember her laughing. I remember her walking out the door and the sun shining.
I was out doing my job, and maybe 2 or 3 hours later, my sister called me or my father called me and said, “Something happened to your mom. She’s at the rec center here.” I was near that place, so I went. By the time I got there, my father had waited for me and said, “The ambulance is already gone. We’re going to the hospital.” He did not look good at all. My mother had health problems before, so I have experienced her in the hospital before, but the look on his face was different. I remember that. By the time I got to the hospital, she had passed. She ended up having a heart attack. She was 46.
She was very young.
It was a shock. I’m glad we had that time together that Saturday morning. One thing I feel about experiencing death, too, is you have all these events that happen. They happen linearly, but then they pop in and out, too. I don’t remember walking into the hospital, but I remember seeing her lying on that table. I don’t remember leaving that room, but I remember going back to the room to see her one more time. I don’t know if I recommend that because I walked in while they were zipping her up in the bag.
Why do you say you don’t know if you recommend that?
It didn’t affect me like I thought it would, but to see her being zipped up in the morgue bag always reminded me of how, with your loved ones, to make sure that they are in places where they are cared for. I felt that the gentleman who was zipping her up was doing it with care. Others’ experiences have been different. That cemented that, “She did pass. She is gone.”
You were like, “This is for real.” There’s something important if you have the capacity and the ability. Unfortunately, we’re coming out of a world pandemic. That ability to be able to have that closure and to be able to see your loved one is a hard thing to look at, but that finality is necessary for our mind, our heart, our body, and our soul to come to the reality of that. It presents a different struggle if we’re not able to see that part of that death.
You’re right. I can see where watching your mom being handled with care may have had an underlying input of how you care for people when you’re in their presence. That was a very early impression, even though the commercial and everything. That resonates with us in how we show up in different spaces because it does matter.
That’s very true.
I’m starting to believe that life makes a lot more sense looking backward than sometimes when you’re in situations where different things stand out to you. There’s a lot of importance in that and how that resonates. Did you guys have a service for your mom? How did you celebrate her life after that moment in the hospital?
We do what our society says or what everyone does. You find the funeral home. You find the funeral package. You let family know. You bring them all together. I remember my father took us all with him to the funeral home. In his mind, it was like, “You guys can play a role in this in helping to figure out what we do from the casket to the whatnots.” I remember sitting down. I remember the funeral director feeling nervous. In my mind, I was like, Don’t you do this every day?”
Was that his sympathy or his empathy showing up?
In the eyes of a nineteen-year-old, he seemed nervous. He couldn’t hardly look at us or whatnot. Maybe he was new. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
When you’re saying that, I instantly put myself in the perspective when I told Katherine and Alex that they needed to come with me to have a role and have some ownership of those decisions that need to be made. I almost remember leaving the house without them and then I was like, “This is their dad. They should have a voice in this process.” Go ahead from the eyes of the nineteen-year-old.
He was nervous. I do remember looking at different caskets. We all had an opinion. I felt our mother prepared us for debt. She had no problem talking about the type of service she wanted. Whether or not she wanted her casket view, she did not want to open her casket. She wanted it to be like a celebration. Throughout our lives, she had those conversations.
Was it organically in the midst of something like, “I want this?” In my mind, I’m trying to think of when you’re growing up, your parents had the birds and the bees conversations like, “Sit down. We’re going to have this talk.” Was it like, “I’m doing your hair,” and then, “I was thinking about that,” and she slipped it in? How was it?
As I remember it, I feel like it was spontaneous. It was as if you were doing something. You might be watching TV and it triggers something about a funeral, death, or whatnot. She’ll say, “This is how I would like to be taken care of,” and those things. We all knew that she wanted a closed casket and that she wanted a nice casket, but it didn’t have to be anything fancy because it was going to the ground. Those little things she shared with us.
The funeral wasn’t hard. That process of preparing her for the funeral home wasn’t a hardship. We talk about culture globally. It was a little different, too, growing up. My grandmother played a role in our lives. She would tell stories of how, during the time she was growing up, the funeral home would embalm the body and bring it back to the house. She was like, “That’s what the front room is for. It’s to keep the body.”
When you have a body, my father would tell stories about how they would hear moaning or groanings from the body that would be in the foyer as people would come by and pay respect before the funeral. Those conversations were had. Growing up with my father as a pastor, we would attend funerals and wakes often with them. In that process, I felt like I jumped into a role that I knew.
You’re in the front row. This is different. I can see how you were not a stranger to these types of situations. Your mom did a wonderful job of preparing you. That is something I’m an advocate for. It’s not if. It’s when. Why not have these conversations? When this person dies that we love, we need to be able to have an automatic default to, “These are the things that they want,” instead of you and your family not having to struggle or have guilt going, “Maybe she would’ve wanted this,” or, “Maybe she wanted that.” You could automatically say, “Remember when mom said this or she said that?” You could have comfort in knowing that you were fulfilling her wishes instead of guessing. Those conversations need to be had.
I often wonder if we were still in those times when it was in the front room, how much better of a society we would be in dealing with death or in dealing with the grieving process. We couldn’t run from it in those particular scenarios where now, it seems a little bit more off-putting that the less we’re involved, the more we need to have to deal with it.
That’s true on so many levels. She had those conversations with us so much that it became a light conversation. We were like, “Why don’t you want your face seen?”
Why didn’t she? Do you remember why she wanted that?
I do not remember, but we said, “We’re going to do it anyway.” She says, “You’re going to honor our wishes.”
What did you do?
We honored her wishes. She was fine with having it open before the service, so we allowed that. As soon as we began, we closed it.
Who wants that open while somebody’s talking? That should be closed.
Exactly. It feels good to be able to say that we honored something that she wanted. Even having this conversation, I feel, is honoring her as well. One thing I felt was the way that I handled her death was detached.
You fell into a role you knew, so you went on autopilot. As the daughter of the pastor, you were like, “We have another funeral. These are the things that I need to do,” and you do those things. You greet the people, put on a smile, and do all the other stuff, but then the funeral’s over.
That was a thing. We have the funeral. We each, meaning myself, my brother, and my sister, spoke at the funeral as well. We know you stand in the receiving line. We know you go to the cemetery and have another little cemetery ceremony. We get home after the cemetery and sit down on the sofa. It was all of us, my father, my brother, my sister, and myself. It was a collective sigh. It was like, “Now what?” We were like, “I don’t know this part.” We were all sitting on the sofa and staring at each other like, “What do we do? What happens now?” What happened to me is that I jumped back into what I was doing before.
You got busy.
I went back to school. I remember this happening. This is why I say you have to pay attention. The random conversations you have sometimes can be so enlightening. I remember telling a fellow student who was like, “I haven’t seen you in a couple of weeks. What’s going on?” I said, “My mother passed away.” He said, “When?” I said, “About 2 or 3 weeks ago.” He said, “I don’t know if I could have come back and finished the semester and my mother had passed.” I was like, “I didn’t know I had a choice.”
I didn’t know there was an option. I didn’t know I could take some time off to process that grief. In my mind, I see adults taking two weeks off of work for grief leave, if you will, which was the thing at that time, and getting back to it. My mind hadn’t processed, “If you need to adjust yourself to allow yourself to grieve, you can do that.”
Did your brother, your sister, and dad go back to life?
I don’t think any of us handled it in a way that allowed our bodies to grieve. My brother went back to school. My dad went back to work. No qualms with him, but that was what he knew as well. I knew when I saw them do it.
That was a pattern. It was like, “We go back.” You go back to school and classes are going. What year of school were you in?
I was a junior.
You go to school. It’s not until this trip with the Peace Corps that it finally catches up with you.
I realized so many things. Looking back on it, I realize how grief is not a two-week process and then you heal. I realize that grief and how you process that loss is ever-going. How I feel emotional talking about my mother, I can have another conversation and it won’t be that emotional. It let me know that your body often operates off of how it was created. If it feels that there is something that’s a threat or something that might feel uncomfortable, these emotions, we have to process it. If it feels that there is something that’s a threat or something that might feel uncomfortable, these emotions that we have to process to let it flow out can act on their own.
You made a really good analogy of reality. You may hear the term grief fog or grief brain. When someone who is very close and dear to us dies, the brain treats it as a trauma. In that trauma, it needs to protect itself. That is why sometimes people say, “I don’t remember that first year that they died.” The ability for the body to try to keep functioning in the midst of this traumatic situation, some things are blocked off. Some things are not operating at full capacity because the body is grieving, and it’s draining.
Oftentimes, people don’t have regular sleeping habits when their loved one has died because their minds are racing. They’re thinking about their death. They’re thinking about their own mortality. People are coming. There are a lot of conversations. You’re trying to make sense of this world that you’re in in their absence. All of that becomes exhausting.
You’re trying to pick up regular everyday activities while we’re still mourning because grief is more than the funeral. The real process begins after the funeral when you guys are sitting on that couch and it’s like, “What does life look like in her absence? Who do I pick up the phone for?” That’s one of the things I wanted to ask. How did you function in your mom’s absence? How were those places that your mom showed up? How were those needs met for you or how did that go?
It’s interesting you asked that because I felt, as a nineteen-year-old, I was in a place where my relationship with her was shifting. I was beginning to see her as an adult woman outside of mom. I was like, “She’s a woman. I feel those things. She’s our mom, but she’s also a woman.” I felt like my relationship with her was turning from the teenage, “I could do it by myself. I’m all right. I’m good,” to, “I want to engage with you. I want to do things with you. I want to experience you in that light.” I feel like her death happened right at that cross.
You were meeting her as that guide to womanhood and being a woman in this world.
Interestingly, when I asked my sister years later how she processed my mother’s death, she had a little bit of anger towards me and my brother. She felt like we went on and did what we needed. Being blessed to be able to work and live in other cultures allowed me to see how these cultures process death, how they have their funerals, and how they celebrate the life of their people.
Sometimes, in some cultures, the funeral or that actual ceremony is a week long. There are different activities that may happen during the month that lead up to that week-long or even maybe that long weekend of celebrating their life and putting them in the ground. It’s a combination of people coming together, which is what we do as well. It’s a combination of honoring their family and their children and celebrating with food. Maybe they have different things that they do traditionally on different days. It wasn’t, “The person passed. Let’s have the funeral.”
It’s not rushed along, and neither is there grief. It sounds like in some of those different cultures, people have the opportunity to openly grieve and to let it be. It’s not something that has to be whisked away or put in a nice little process and be done.
Some cultures will have certain colors you wear when a family member has passed. That’s almost like sending a message to everyone, “I’ve lost something. I’m experiencing the grief of someone special to me.” As an adult, I see the strength in that. We were talking about impact earlier. We were talking about community earlier. If you have a culture that understands that this color means that there has been a death in your family, there’s a respect that comes with that. I would imagine different levels of kindness and favor that you might extend that can help during that time. Sometimes, you don’t even know what you need. You don’t even know how to ask what you need because you don’t know what to say.Sometimes, you don’t even know what you need and don’t even know how to ask. Click To Tweet
That is true. If we had an accident and our arm was severed, you’re in a sling. People know that when they approach you, “This is gentle and approach me as such.” Those colors represent, “Approach me with care because I’m going through a deep sorrow.” If I show up and wear regular clothes every day and everything looks normal, we get treated as normal.
It got to the point where that made me realize I struggled to express my feelings and issues with people-pleasing. Inside, Mary wanted you to recognize, “I’ve had a loss and then I’m grieving.” Outside, it’s, “Everything’s back to normal. Let’s keep going. I’m hurting. Some kind words might be needed right now.” Even then, I didn’t know how to face that. I didn’t know how to deal with that. Later, as an adult, therapy and prayer go a long way to work on those things.
I do want to ask you about that moment during the training with the Peace Corps when emotions overcame you. Did you start housing your grief differently from that or did you try to go back to what you were doing before?
It gave me permission to talk about her passing because no one knew. I hadn’t shared. Maybe I’ve been with this team for four weeks. It’s not like we all go to our separate rooms. We’re living together. We’re doing everything together. It gave me permission to start talking about her.
All that she was, how it felt to lose her, and how I didn’t know how to process the fact that she had gone. Coming back and being able to have that conversation with my sister, who is two years younger, her experience was she felt abandoned. She was the youngest. She had stayed home during college. After my mom passed, I moved on to campus. I was still staying home while going to school. I wanted to experience that. My brother was already away at college. She felt like she was left at home. She had to watch how my father grieved without also being able to talk about it. For her, the woman within her church became a backbone for her. I never knew that. I never knew that she relied on the woman in her church to help process her grief.
When did you find that out?
A few years ago. We were having a random conversation. I began to see how a certain woman she would speak of, there was a tone of endearment. I would say, “How did you get close to this particular person?” That’s what she said. When our mother passed, this woman was instrumental for her.
Did you allow someone to be that for you?
I did not.
In what you’ve experienced, what recommendations would you give to someone who is reading this and whose parent has passed? From what you’ve learned, what would you give them for some guidance?
It’s not that I ever want to experience that again, but we grieve in different situations. It’s not just the passing of a person but the loss of a job is grief. I often think about that. The biggest thing was that I would let myself be. You don’t have to define it or have to categorize it. Let myself be. If that means going back to work or going back to school needs to be extended, that’s okay. Make it happen however you can.
The second thing would be that grief has no timeline. Be aware of that and then let your body do what it needs to do because it was made to keep you safe, if you will, to your point. I never thought about that word, like how it protects you from trauma. Those emotions are a filter. Allow your filters to work. I stuffed it because I thought I needed to keep moving forward. You can move forward and that person will always be with you.
You talked about being a people pleaser. Is that something you feel like you still work on, trying to allow yourself to communicate, not to stuff your feelings and to be a little bit more as far as what your needs are?
Yeah. It’s something about your 40s. Once you hit your 40s, your body is like, “This is stuff you haven’t dealt with from when you were a teen in your 20s and 30s. We are going to deal with it now because 50 is coming and that’s a whole another turnaround.” For me, the Bible is so important. A generation is 40 years. Something psychologically, physiologically, and spiritually happens, I believe, when you are entering your 40s.
I say that when I look at my friend circle and my family circle. It was between 40 and 45. There were things that happened that made them face things that they had ignored or chose not to look at. I felt like entering into my 40s, I had a reflection of looking at where I was and the different experiences that I had and realizing that some things needed to be addressed. That began that journey. As an adult, I can say people are pleasing, but I didn’t necessarily have words for it at that point. I knew I put others.
It wasn’t confirmed. It was used at that point.
It is listening to what your body is saying. Even if you don’t understand what it’s saying, the beauty of therapy is, more than anything, a conversation. There’s healing in a conversation because a conversation, on some levels, is a confession. You’re confessing what’s on your heart. You’re confessing what you’ve gone through. It’s not a matter of right or wrong, but you are speaking it. You are letting it out. It’s another filter that your body goes through. A good therapist has a way to give you words for what you think and feel. That’s healing when you get to the realization of, “That’s trauma.”
That’s the difference. I will do grief coaching with someone. My purpose as a coach is to help you find your own words and to guide you. It’s not so much to give words to it but to ask you questions to help you draw out what’s inside of you to come to your conclusion. A therapist is going to be more of a guide in giving you an assessment, giving you impact, and giving you homework, coping tools, and things like that.
People hear those words and think they’re the same thing. They are not. Your voice should be louder, but they’re asking the questions to prompt you to get to where you need to because you’re taking ownership. It’s like you’re playing baseball. They’re like, “You can do it. You’re going to swing that bat. You’re going to run those bases. You’re going to do that.” The coach is encouraging you along the way.
The therapist is when you have that injury, they’re going in and helping you eliminate the pain and deal with the issue and those things of life. When I think about life and what you’re doing, what are some things that are coming up for Mary? What is life looking like for you? With all this you’re doing, life continues. You’re moving forward. What does life look like for you?
Putting in the work allows you to get to the other side. Sometimes, we stop so short and you never get to know who you are when healed.
It’s painful going through that work.
We’re talking about scratches. I remember being a kid and running through the neighborhood, thinking you could jump some bushes, and you ended up falling through the bushes. That’s what it is.
I used to have this pogo stick. I would jump up and down. Both my knees are jacked up for that, but I had fun.
Do you still remember it?
Yeah. I remember riding a bike and getting one of my big toes stuck in the spokes. I’m probably the reason why they say, “Wear your shoes when you ride your bike.” I had fun.
That’s exactly how it is. You’re going to hang out with your friends. You’re going to go explore the creepy house in the neighborhood. Change and healing are all of that. There are all of those scratches, bruises, and scars that come with it. I remember listening to a man once. He was like, “What stops people from truly healing is that they don’t stay with the process long enough to get to the other side and know who they are when healed.” Once I heard that, I was like, “I could keep going through this.”
If you are really committed to therapy, it can be tiring and irritating. When you have those moments where you realize something clicks, it’s enough to keep you moving forward. For me, it was a therapy process, a spiritual growth process, and an identity process like, “Who am I in God’s eyes? Who am I to my father at the age that he is now? Who am I within my brother and sister’s circle?” It is all of those things compiled with processing the hurt and the experiences you went through that you didn’t know how to handle.
Coming on the other side of that is freedom. It is like, “This is how I felt as a little girl running through the streets saying, “I can jump that bush.” This is who I am.” It’s the joy of that. There’s an internal joy that I can say that I have instead of knowing. We can have internal joy, but it is feeling that and knowing that. Knowing who I am and knowing who God is to me, who I am to God, what I’m made for, and what I’m made to do all come together.
God made me to be a global ambassador, if you will, before I even knew it. I was a sixteen-year-old thinking about other cultures. I thought the Peace Corps was something I could do in the summer in summer camp. I got the information and I remember asking my dad, “Can I call the 1-800 number?” I got the packet and it was like, “It’s a two-year commitment. We want you to have your degree.” I said, “That’s it.” In doing that, I got to understand even more about who I was, what came easy to me, and what I enjoyed.
Walking in the fact that I’m a global ambassador, God has said, “Go.” I am working to relocate to West Africa very soon. It’s a blessing. There’s the unknown. It’s a new country, a new culture, and those things, but I know myself. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I know my limitations. I’m capable of boundaries. I understand that there will still be ups and downs and there will be things that I grieve for in this lifetime. In the healing process, I realized I had gotten stuck. I realized I had reached a point where I wasn’t moving. Sometimes, they say it’s not about falling down. It’s about how you get up. I hadn’t fallen. I was lying down in it and wallowing.
That’s true. A lot of people reading this conversation may find themselves stuck in grief. They may find themselves believing in time, it will get better. It requires work. It requires leaning into that grief. It requires leaning into, “What are those hard situations in life where I can be healed from some of these traumas or some of these ways of thinking? I do want to get on that other side.” If I had met you years ago and asked you to have this conversation, you’d have said, “No.”
I would’ve ignored your call for a little while.
This was the season to be able to do that, to inspire people globally, and to be encouraged to know it hurts but there is still life to be lived. There are still places to travel, things to see, and people to meet. You are honoring your mom in each one of those things that you continue your life.If you don’t allow grief to process naturally, it can dampen your life. It will become your identity even if it is not who you are. Click To Tweet
Grieve in the things that can come with it. If we don’t allow ourselves to process it, it can dampen our light. It dampens who you are. That perspective becomes the identity that we assume, and it’s not who we are at all.
Instead of celebrating that life. Thank you. This has been a really good conversation. Thank you for being here.
About Mary Parker
Idea Strategist. Organizational Development Specialist. Speaker. Global Leader.
Mary connects your idea to strategies that yield the desired outcome for your event, project, or challenge you need to solve.
Mary is the Founder of Parker Development Solutions, a consultancy service that empowers leaders and business owners with strategies that are solutions to the hurdle in front of them.
Born in southern Virginia, she has lived and worked in 10+ countries and is skilled in culturally responsive program measures, making her a unique asset to any project. With over ten years as a Public Health Strategist, her specialty is design and development that move ideas into action.