The Reality of What It’s Like to Lose Your Mom

There’s something to be said about the abstract side of grief. I was reading a book this morning called Mistaken Identity. It’s a story about two families from Indiana whose daughters’ identity were swapped, thus forcing one family to bury who they believed to be their daughter, while their actual child lay comatose, in the warm and loving care of another family.

The story in of itself is inherently tragic, and one that, while I read, I try to use to help me come to terms with my own inscrutable level of grief.

I go to a chiropractor four times a week. While that may seem valueless to my point, I seem to catch myself each time I sit and wait to make a right at the stoplight. This intersection holds no particular value, and aside from traveling the few times we had on this street to visit my brother and his family, I can’t think of a good reason as to why every single time I’m at this stoplight, I ask God to wake me up from all of this.

When I lost my mom, the first day was surprisingly easy. We sat outside, a cool yet tolerable day in February. My fiance and I chugged cups of coffee. My friends arrived, sitting on the stoop with me sharing stories about their day. I cried, but not like I’ve cried in the months since her death. By the time our entire family and friend group was gathered in the kitchen, I was so bowled over in laughter that it seemed like we were celebrating someone’s birthday rather than the sad and heartbreaking news that my mom had been alive only 12 hours earlier. Her mug was still sitting dirty in the kitchen sink. Her shoes, still warm and smelly. Her toothbrush, still damp. Her clothes still wet in the washing machine.

The next morning, I woke up before 6:00 am, guiding my body through the darkened house to make my way toward my father’s office. I flipped open the laptop to write but the words refused to come out. I had never been so devoid of words.

I wandered outside and my father was already sitting out there sipping on a cup of coffee. It was a Wednesday morning – the first day in March. The chills of late winter floated through the porch, but it still wasn’t as cold as the memories housed within those four walls. Something as simple as walking into the bathroom meant stepping over the exact corner of the house where my mother had died. I remember feeling the need to extend my leg over where she rested, like she was still there instead of a morgue with a toe tag and a shrill white sheet enfolding her.

We sat in silence until a neighbor from across the street pulled her jeep in front of our house and made her way to our porch. Her eyes welled up and all she could muster was, “I’m so sorry for your loss. She wa -” before beginning to cry and my father, in full hysterics raising his palm as a sign of gratitude while I remained motionless, scrunched up on my mom’s wicker chair. Bubbling over with emotion, I remember my father breaking down and whimpering, “I don’t know what we’re going to do without her.”

For the first time in my life, I had no idea what to say.

Those first few days felt ungodly surreal, like there was no way that I was the one living through them. I remember my mom, who was held up at gunpoint during a store robbery when she was 22, said to me when it came to the harsh realities of life, “Sometimes it’s not always the other guy. Sometimes that guy is you.” When she died, all I kept wishing for was to not be “that guy.” This must be happening to my fiance instead of me. This must be happening to my friends instead of me. I wished this was happening to my friends, because then, I wouldn’t need to find the words to say. I’d hold them and do my part to comfort their grieving hearts and heavy souls. I could continue on with my day – my life – without ever skipping a beat, because their heartache was not my own.

Whenever I’m in the car driving the ten minute trek to my chiropractor’s office, I think about all the times I still wish this devastating incident didn’t happen to me.

There’s a level of pain and anguish that comes along with the months after you lose someone. I think it’s because the longer the days become, the more insatiable your appetite is for normalcy. People dub the time after grief as developing this “new normal.” There’s no better way to describe it. I often feel this pressure and fear of holidays. Even something as mundane as Labor Day can alter my mood like a mood ring, quickly turning me from a calm green to an angst crimson. I’ve retreated from those that are closest to me. I avoid family dinners, and family celebrations. I often say no to get-togethers with my friends. I make plans only to quickly rectify them because I don’t want to go out in the world and rejoice. I don’t want to have fun. Grief has taken a very isolating role in my life.

I feel better when I hang out with friends. It’s good to laugh, because anymore, I refuse to do it. Things just aren’t that funny. I’m at this point in my grief where I’m still eager to retreat. I’m grateful for friends and family members who can and continue to understand, even if they merely tolerate it.

It’s a hard thing to cope through something so tragic. I marvel at what I’ve been able to accomplish, like choosing my mom’s casket and paying for her burial plot without a second hesitation. I wrote her eulogy the morning before her funeral. Transcribed and etched into the yellowed pages of the black, floral journal I bought for her, I skimmed through the pages that were bleak and sad with my mother’s anguishes. It wouldn’t be until months later that I scrounged up the strength to read them, coming to grips with many entries being about how she didn’t want to die before she saw me happy, wasting time on boys who used me and made a mockery of my emotion.

Her eulogy is etched in the back of the book in block cursive, bold and filling up three whole pages front and back. I wrote about life and how much we loved her, and when I stood in front of a room, with her lifeless body sitting next to me, the surreal nature of this entire thing was overwhelming.

I continue to make strides. If anything, the past year and a half have shown on me an inner strength and force-field I possess. What people don’t always see is what goes on behind closed doors. It’s easy to gather false information through a text message or through someone else’s story. While people understand my sadness, there is also a level of frustration that blooms when I turn down invites and say no to holidays spent at the beach. There is frustration when I refuse any help on the wedding, because it breaks my heart to have to share in a mother-daughter activity with anyone whose not my mom. It bares repeating that this is a situation I’m still trying to navigate, and while there are countless books on grieving and recovering hope in the most dense and dismal of times, there is no one recipe for how we get from Point A to Point B; it’s a blind and often bumpy navigation.

I wake up every Saturday with a feeling of melancholy washing over me. While many parent-child relationships include a conversation after work, or throughout their day, my mother texted me good morning the second she got up. If she didn’t do it, it was considered to be odd behavior. Each and every morning I’d wake up to a flashing text message laced with several pink, bursting heart emojis and prayer hands, and frogs and flowers – anything that would make her greeting fun and wholly special. On Saturdays, when I’d wake hours and hours before my fiance, I’d get on the phone with her. We’d talk about work and gossip about family. We’d discuss our plans for the weekend. We’d just bullshit. During the summer months, we’d accompany them on yard sales, or at the very least, bump into them multiple times while sourcing out items we didn’t need for a decent price. We’d run into my parents so often that it wasn’t ever weird to see them walking to the same exact yard sale just as we were about to leave.

I remember one time my best friend and I were walking up to a yard sale and ran into my mother. She was wearing these ridiculously tiny sunglasses and an outfit that looked like had zero sense of fashion. Both me and my best friend saw her and instead of saying hello, immediately said to her, “What are you wearing? You look ridiculous.”

My mother sashayed her way down the steps, donning an outfit that made her look like an asshole, and said with a smirk, “Well fuck you to you both” and just walked away. The three of us burst out laughing, and my mother quickly ran back up the stairs, touched both of our arms, and said loudly, “Don’t buy anything at this yard sale. Woman’s got shit.”

How can I wake up on a Saturday and reel from that kind of vibrancy?

The new wave of normalcy has to include something as simple as a Saturday morning. It’s as simple as losing the ability to text her, or hear her voice because I got a new cellphone and her voicemails didn’t transfer over. It’s as simple as only holding on to pictures and snippets of videos where I can catch a glimpse of a vibrant memory that lasts 38 seconds long.

It’s having just 38-second long reminders and snippets to rely on.



Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Motherless Bride

I often feel like those around me hate me. I don’t live up to this “traditional bridal” role, and it often makes me feel worse on top of how shitty I already feel.

When my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer at the age of 55 in 2011, it never occurred to me that she wouldn’t be around to watch me walk down the aisle. While I feared losing her, I was wholly ignorant of the concept of death. I forgive myself for feeling that way because let’s face it, coming to terms with your beloved person dying is not very high on the to-do list.

When I got engaged in the summer of 2016, I remember having a quick doubt about planning a ceremony in October of 2018. I looked at my fiance and asked if my mom would still be alive. He smiled and reassured me, neither of us realizing that God had a different plan.

When my mother died, I was told on the side of the road by my fiance who put his face down on the steering wheel and nodded at me when I asked, “My mother’s dead, isn’t she?” A police officer escorted me to my parents’ house, where my deceased mother’s frozen body laid limp on the tiled floor in between their bedroom and the bathroom. I waited in a neighbor’s house, telling her Lieutenant husband that I wanted to see her before he put his arm on my shoulder and quietly told me “no.”

The entire day seemed like a blur because the shock of losing someone you loved more than anyone in this world doesn’t fully hit you until months later. It was around August of last year when I was slumped on my kitchen floor, banging my head against the cabinets, screaming to the heavens why God took her – and when could he take me so we could simply be together. My fiance scooped me up and I cried, broken down as a shell of who I used to be until my pain went numb.

The months following such a traumatic loss are fueled by rage. I often questioned God why then subsequently hated the lack of answer I beheld. I grew angry with my dad for telling my mom “no” to the tacky blue drapes she wanted for the bedroom. I grew angry with my sister for moving in and wearing my mother’s butterfly blazer. I grew angry with my brother  who lives walking distance from my home but never visits. I grew angry with life, because why, at 26-years old, did I have to pick out my beautiful mother’s coffin, lace her frozen fingertips between my own, and bury her? Why, at 26, did I have to lose my mom, write her eulogy in the journal I had bought her for Christmas and deliver it to a tear-soaked room? To this day, a year and a half later, I still catch myself driving aimlessly thinking I’m living out the sick plot to someone else’s life, devastated by my bitter reality.

And then, of course, I’m getting married on top of all of that. The closer the event draws near, the more it is laced with dreaded emotion and vulnerability. Marriage and weddings are different species. Marriage is spending your life with your best friend. Weddings are about family.

I always say that people can understand that I miss my mom, but they can’t understand why I’m not excited about my wedding. People often scoff, saying that they do understand and can’t imagine my pain but in the same sentence will say, “But it should be a happy event. Your mom would want you to be happy.” As someone who was pretty close with my mom, I’m fully aware of that fact.

See, my mom wasn’t a woman I actually looked at as being my parent. My mother was my best friend. My mother and I shared the kind of quirky bond that made us sisters. No topic was ever off-limits with either of us. I remember meeting her at the mall one time after a night in the city with the man I was dating and as soon as I sat down, my mother without missing a beat, took a sip of her lemonade and said, “So…how was he?” Perhaps that kind of relationship was inappropriate, but it outlines how much information about my life I shared with my mom. She was more than just a parent: she was my cheerleader, my confidant, my best friend, my support system, my conscience, and the person who I did everything with. There wasn’t one aspect of our lives that weren’t intertwined, and when she passed, I realized more than ever just how much of an extension of one another we really were. I often say that I don’t know where my mom ended and I began, and now being forced to live without her constant guidance and support, I find just how little happiness there really is in my world. It’s hard to appreciate how much light someone brings to your waking hours until their flame dies out.

So, here I am, months out from my wedding and I can’t hide behind that sadness anymore. There are reservations to be booked, plans to be made, moments where I’m going to be triggered with the inevitable reminder that unlike most brides, my mother lives on another playing field. At the start of this year, the emotions weren’t that bad. I still held a level of excitement, holding reservations only for the moments I’d ordinarily be sharing with my mom. This included picking out a bridal gown. People wanted to go with me – my dad, in-laws, best friends, and bridesmaids. Before my mom died, I was centered on the idea of sharing that beautiful moment with those women closest to me. When she died, no other woman could even compete. I walked in with my fiance, letting my attendant know early on how hard the process would be. I walked out with a gown without getting that “bridal” feeling; in fact, I wanted a dress that didn’t scream “bride.” I wanted it to scream “me” – because being a bride actually feels too overwhelming. If the dress was fun and non-traditional, then maybe the pain that came along with what I had traditionally expected may lessen.

A few weeks before my bridal shower, I knew about the date, feeling more pain than I ever had in my life. On the morning of the event, I was broken down on the side of the street hyperventilating on a wooden bench, with my fiance rubbing my back and my best friend saying the cliched thing, “your mom would want you to be happy.” While my event was decorated and designed beautifully, it was the hardest three hours of my life and something I never want to subject myself through again.

You’re probably reading this and thinking to yourself, “this woman shouldn’t get married because she’s too emotional.” You, along with most people, are hearing this information for the first time and to an onlooker, it seems devastating. It seems deserving of immediate modification. So then I hear the plethora of helpful cliches:

  1. Your mom would want you to be happy
  2. Why don’t you medicate yourself until after the wedding?
  3. Why don’t you cancel your wedding?
  4. Why don’t you postpone your wedding?
  5. You’re making this harder than it has to be
  6. Why don’t you honor your mom at your wedding? Maybe turn her wedding dress into a purse.
  7. Your mom will still be there. She would never miss this for the world.

The list can, sadly and heartbreakingly, go on and on and on and on.

See, people don’t know what to say so it becomes kind of like tossing spaghetti against the wall in an effort to see what sticks. When I become upset, naturally emotional over the common act of just missing someone I love, it becomes painstakingly obvious that there is a disconnect people think I have over life in general. When you utter to someone who recently lost their parent, “your loved one will still be there” it’s actually quite hurtful. I feel ignorant over all the times I used to say it to people because unless you’ve experienced that magnitude of loss, you can’t fully comprehend how hurtful it is more than comforting. When someone says to me that my mom will still be there, the first thing I think of is, “Yeah? Which seat?” What photo will we take together? What song will we dance to? What words of love and advice will she tell me and my betrothed? How many hugs and kisses and slow dances will she share with my father?

It’s comical in a way because people become legitimately offended when you kindly remind them that they can’t understand what you’re going through. The bottom line is that unless you’ve lost a parent, you aren’t going to know the pain that is associated with it until you lose them for yourself. I’ve lost friends, all of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family goldfish, beloved dogs, the most comforting of house cats – and none of them compare to the loss you feel when you lose a parent. It’s an indescribable and inscrutable level of agony, only matched by losing a child – if not less than the pain tied to that horrific tragedy.

The biggest pain, perhaps, is when people ask me if I’m excited about my wedding. The answer is almost, always “no.” The closer the day of my wedding gets, the more apparent and painful the void of who will not be there becomes. My mother will not be able to help me get dressed in the morning. It’s not a matter of who will be there to volunteer as a competent substitute. At the end of the day, it’s not my mom – it’s not the person I’d prefer to be standing there. People often fail to understand – or maybe the right word is “relate” – to the traditional aspects of a wedding are the ones that occupy the most grief, anticipation, and worry in my heart. It’s not only getting dressed the morning of, but it’s the family photos, walking down the aisle to an empty chair and both me and my father having to come to terms with it.

At the end of the day, a year is barely enough time to fully heal from the loss of a loved one, let alone when that year is met with question after question about your wedding.

There is this ridiculous notion and gender-biased misconception that the groom doesn’t partake in any details of the wedding, except for when and where to show up. Aside from the blatant misogyny tied into that way of thinking, my fiance and I are the antitheses of that rumor. We equally play a role in the wedding planning, meaning every aspect of it from the dress, the tux, the invites and the wedding decor, have been picked out, discussed and paid for by us. This means that while it can be easy to come to me with questions, it is just as easy to go to him for answers.

I have spoken up time and again with what I need during this difficult time, and it often fails to be kept. It’s met with broken promises and a perpetuating cycle of being exposed to topics that I, unfortunately, am unable to handle at the current juncture. When I hear that it’s unfortunate that I can’t be excited about my wedding, I agree with them. It is unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that I had to watch my mom suffer for six long years with a debilitating disease that invaded her brain and killed her. It’s unfortunate that at 26-years old, I lost the opportunity to ever have my mom watch me walk down the aisle to the love of my life, never be around to answer my host of pregnancy and child-rearing questions. It’s unfortunate that my mom will never meet her grandchildren. It’s unfortunate that my mom will never see my children’s book hit the shelves. It’s unfortunate that my mom never got to see one of my paintings. It’s unfortunate that she’ll never watch me walk across the graduation stage in an ill-fitting navy gown, achieving the degree and career she paved the pathway for me to obtain. It’s unfortunate that I lost her, and it’s unfortunate that I can’t make my pain go away any quicker.

When you say to a motherless bride “Are you excited about your wedding?” try to think about all the aspects that they may be devastated over. Think about all the things you were fortunate enough to have and maybe you’ll begin to understand – and even support – all the things she lacks. I can’t call my mom. I can’t do something as simple as even hear her voice or talk to her. When I’m grieving, I’m not just grieving the loss of her on holidays or days when the absence is wholly apparent; I’m grieving the ability to smell her perfume. I’m grieving the opportunity to even touch her.

Asking a motherless bride if she’s excited about her wedding is the same as you slicing her open and performing an autopsy. Perhaps you need the evidence of a raw, bleeding muscle; a chunk ripped out and buried in a white, chantilly lace-hued coffin buried six-feet under. The aspects of her wedding that will exude happiness are the moments when it’s over, and she’s lying on the couch with the love of her life, eating Ben & Jerry’s, grateful to have a partner to share and triumph over her darkest moments. Marriage is not a wedding; weddings are so heavily laced with familial traditions that it makes embarking on that journey one that’s riddled with pain. It doesn’t diminish the love she holds for her partner. It only emphasizes the sadness she holds over an event wholly out of her control.

That sadness over the inevitability that everything she feels is out of her control is what affects those around her the most. People want to get excited about a wedding. They want to be excited for their son, daughter, friend, sibling. They want to share their love and celebrate it. That in itself is a beautiful and very loving thing; it’s one I’m thankful for each and every day. It doesn’t negate the pain that the bride may feel when it comes to discussing her wedding at length. Or in general.

The best thing you can offer motherless brides who are still inherently coping and reeling from the untimely death of their parent is to simply say, “I’m sorry. You will get through this.” Remove the fluff. Don’t try to overcompensate. Don’t think that saying too much is better than saying too little. Don’t pressure yourself by thinking that saying too little isn’t enough. At the end of the day, just knowing that you are sorry for our loss and sorry for what we’re going through is enough to make us feel like we’re not alone. Because, losing someone you love, can and often is a very isolating situation. People gather at the time of death and at the funeral, but they disperse rather quickly shortly after. People fear to bring up your loved one, thinking that if you’re doing well, this will only upset you. What people often fail to realize is that my mother’s death and her life are on my mind 24/7. You can’t remind me of a subject my mind’s already focused on.

And some days are harder than others.

  • Some days I wake up and feel burdened by my situation.
  • Some days I come home from work and listen to “Slipping through my Fingers” from the Mamma Mia soundtrack I played at her funeral.
  • Some days I listen to Elvis on repeat.
  • Some days I’m on my floor crying into a pile of dirty laundry.
  • Some days I’m extremely angry.

And there are days that I’m not. Days when I’m motivated and cheerful. Days when I can handle tougher subjects and marvel at my strength.

Both are a stark contrast yet a bitter reality.

Not every bride will fall into the category of “showmanship” meaning, not every bride talks and celebrates their wedding like it’s a royal ceremony being covered and glamorized by Page 8 of the New York Times. Not every bride wants to wear a bridal sash, and matching t-shirts and talk about their impending nuptials when you were simply asked what time of day it was. Not every bride has stiff requirements on what people wear or kind of decor or the fact that there was a noticeable typo in their save-the-dates. It doesn’t mean that brides who exude that level of excitement are determined for divorce court because they scrutinized over the tiny details, just as it doesn’t mean that those who lay relatively low aren’t happy about being married.

When you’re dealing with a motherless bride, especially one who lost their mother a year prior, try and understand that it’s not as simple as canceling or postponing her wedding until the severity of their grief is dispelled. It’s a vile thing to say, “Why are you torturing yourself?” because these elements are out of her control. She’s continually on the precipice of wanting to have the wedding of her dreams, but also want that for her partner, wanting that for their family, wanting that for her friends who dished out massive amounts of money. She’s caught between wanting and non-wanting something and it’s often a confusing and overwhelming time as she tries to come to terms with the simple notion that she doesn’t want to get married without her mom there. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to get married. It simply means the motions of a traditional ceremony are heartbreaking due to her level of grief. It’s not an emotion that requires medication. It’s an emotion that is a part of her. It’s one that needs time, and it’s unfortunately, only temporarily exacerbated because this is her first major-life event without her mom.

We’ve all lost someone close in our lives, and a common thread amongst us all is that we’ve all grieved in different ways. Any psychologist will tell you that there aren’t time constraints on grief. You will never stop missing that person. Every holiday, every birthday, every small, minute moment that occurs on a daily basis is a newsworthy event I wish I could still share with my mom. That will never change, as it will get easier to adjust to the longer time goes on.

I’m different since losing her. I’m no longer the woman I used to be, and in many ways, I find that I’m a better person because of losing her. I’ve marveled at my strength and resilience at the young and tender age of 26, a time when I was still blossoming. I’m very much still blossoming into who I’m going to be, redefining who I am without her. Losing a parent changes you, in good ways and in bad.

It can be hard to look at a bride, hear her sadness, and not feel inclined to make it better. It’s an unfortunate situation where there is no single thing that will make it better short of resurrecting their loved one from the grave. Be mindful of the things you say to a motherless bride, because even if you think it’s innocent, or simple chit-chat, to her, it may be words that slice like a knife. If a person doesn’t answer the phone, or avoids messages, or tells you how they feel, please try your hardest to understand them, and at the very least respect their boundaries. At the end of the day, they’re the ones who are living through the worst day of their lives every day. Be thankful that it’s not something you can relate to.

Brides Can Have Anxiety About Their Bridal Fittings, Too

Brides Have Just as Much Anxiety

I have my first bridal fitting tonight and I’m pretty anxious. For the past year, anytime it came to doing things for the wedding, I’ve politely skirted around the issue. When my future mother-in-law would ask, “When are we going to look at bridal gowns together?” I’d kindly smile, say, “soon” and avoid the subject until it was inevitably brought back up to me thus perpetuating a cycle of dishonesty I held with everyone around me: I don’t want to indulge in bridal activities with you. One of the things I’ve learned is that brides can hold the same amount of anxiety as they can happiness.

The furthest thing people around me should do is take it personally. The last thing in the world it is, is personal. It’s simply the fact that having to go through the motions of planning a wedding so soon after losing my mom to breast cancer, is heartbreaking for me. It’s overwhelmingly emotional. In fact, there aren’t even words dark enough to describe the emotions I feel on those dark, down, bitter days that sometimes take me through an emotional vortex for the better part of two weeks.

I think back to my bridal shower that happened several weeks ago. While my bridesmaids, friends, and family all did a wonderfully beautiful job at creating an event that complimented my interests, I went home and spoke to my fiance about how it was the hardest three hours of my life. No amount of frills, small talk or delicious pound cake picked up from Shoprite was able to eliminate the emptiness I felt with my mother not being around to share in these activities. My pain level was so incredibly high that before the event, John had to peel me off my living room floor. When we arrived to the parking lot, my body had gone so numb at just the thought of it, my legs had gone weak and I was hyperventilating on a bench near the venue with my maid of honor rubbing her hand against my back, absorbing the reality that I live – and the ones they’re only sometimes privy to.

Brides Suffer Through Dark Moments, Too

When I’m in these dark moments, my inclination isn’t to call up a friend. My only motive is getting out, is being able to breathe again; it’s a call to action to stop my frantic cries. It’s to placate myself to a point where instead of being riddled with pain and overwhelming sadness, it’s just to feel comfortably numb enough where I can remain expressionless. When a few days go by, or weeks, and I’m on a call with my friends, I’m not going to bring up what happened because the last thing I want to do is remind myself of the nauseating pain that swells inside my darkest moments.

When people finally see it in action – such as my maid of honor watching me have a panic attack on the morning before my bridal shower – or when they hear me wail in agony and joy over a framed picture they gave me of my mom, only then does the pain become tangible.

I can’t get angry when I do let my friends and those close to me in on my emotions, because to them, it seems as outrageous as I sound on the phone. They become quite frantic to devise a plan that will help me. Maybe I should cancel or postpone my wedding. Maybe I need medication to help me cope. Maybe I need to go talk to someone again. Maybe I should keep it to a small ceremony only. Their helpful tips sting like knives cutting me so deep into the parts of my heart that are already so vulnerably exposed and raw. On times when I hear the ironic statement, “This is your only time to enjoy and experience being a bride” I can’t help but to laugh and feel completely isolated, especially since my divorce papers are sitting in the nightstand beside my bed.

It’s difficult for people not in my shoes to fully grasp and comprehend what level of pain I’m experiencing. Sometimes I feel as if people close to me are let down that they are not able to experience in this traditional, bridal experience with me and I hate to tell them that I feel it, too. Losing my mom a year before my wedding was not in the plan. It wasn’t even in the realm of possibility. Often, if I share Snapchat photos or personal tidbits of John and I picking out invitations or decorations, there is this automatic assumption that I am better and able to conquer all the other facets of the wedding. It’s an awful thing to be a bride when you don’t live up to that stereotypical “bridal woman” who is only capable of sharing information about her upcoming nuptials when you ask her what time of day it is.

Traditional Weddings

I’ve often been confused by this traditional concept that any and all questions must go through the bride only. John is as much a part of this wedding as I am. He has opinions, wants, traditions he wants upheld, and patterns he’s most drawn to. At the end of the day, people are able to go through him just as much as they go through me because what people don’t always see, or I guess understand, is that any decision gets made by the two of us regardless. That’s one aspect of this wedding that breaks me. While there’s no harm in sending me pictures of floral centerpieces, chances are it’s not just one person whose sending them to me; it’s multiple. Multiple conversations and pictures and questions about wedding, wedding, wedding and the irony, is that anytime the wedding is brought up it leaves me feeling desolate, isolated, heartbroken and devastated. People can understand that I terribly miss my mom. They can’t understand why that should hold me back from being a bride.

For me, they go hand in hand.

Bridal Fitting

Tonight, I have my first bridal fitting and I realized after they called me to confirm my appointment, that I never even bought shoes for the event. My mind is elsewhere: it’s on school, and cleaning my house, travel, and making extra money to finish paying off the honeymoon. Essentially though, my mind is primarily focused on things outside the wedding, like simply just being happy because too much bridal talk is hurtful; it serves as a painful reminder of what I lack.

I have a lot of anxiety about tonight and what I hope people close to me begin to realize is that it’s not just anything wedding-related that bothers me, it’s only moments I’d ordinarily be sharing with my mother: like tonight. Had my mother lived, John wouldn’t be accompanying me to my first fitting, just like he wouldn’t have been the one who helped me pick out my gown to begin with. Had she lived, we would’ve made plans for dinner tonight before going to the appointment. During, she would have started to cry and tell me how beautiful I looked, despite me not being at my goal weight. Tonight, would have originally served as a good memory, even though it exists now as a vile and wholly empty one.

When people say to me that “I should be enjoying myself as a bride” it’s a thought that’s a lot easier said than done. I can’t rush through my emotions. I can’t take a pill and make myself cope with the trauma I’ve endured and hurry myself along because, “I’ve got a wedding to get to and it’s got to be nothing less than perfect!” My feelings are real, they’re raw, they’re defining me. My mother’s death has inspired me to move forward in life and take hold of a lifestyle I’ve craved for years before she passed. I’ve traveled. I’ve landed a writing job in my field. I wake up each and every morning, and that alone sometimes is hard when all I’d rather do is lie in bed, eager to awake myself from this obvious nightmare. People are only privileged to the information that gets shared with them.

I’ve finally come to terms with stating that I can’t wait for this wedding process to be over with. I can’t wait to be married, to be the wife and loving partner to a man whose gotten me through these rotten times, to the man who had to be the one to tell me that my mother died, to my light, my salvation. Excitement toward marriage doesn’t have to parlay into excitement toward a ceremony and reception chock-full of traditional moments that it’ll be painstakingly obvious my mother is missing from. After all, it’s only been a year. The first eight months after I lost her were mainly fueled with anger and shock. I’ve only begun to even process it.

Contemplating Pregnancy

Deciding to Get Pregnant

Today was going to be the day John and I tried to conceive.

For as far back as I can remember, I had always been eager to become a mom. More specifically, I always wanted to get pregnant. I remember being five years old and shoving shirts underneath my pajamas so I could pretend I was older, in labor, and then finally holding my small Thumbelina doll with wideset eyes and pouty lips that my grandmother bought me from Bradlee’s. The older I got, the more I thought I was ready for kids. When I was nineteen, a year into being married to my now ex-husband, dear friends of ours, (who were our age) had just brought home their baby boy. Ten tiny toes, restless, tiny fingertips and wavy, wispy hair naturally left me starry-eyed and confused, thinking that perhaps a baby would be what would save our dying marriage.

Should I Get Pregnant to Save My Marriage?

On the first night we tried, I actually felt ill when it was over. I knew that what we were doing was wrong, yet, I felt desperate to capture what little love we held between us; I craved something that would bring us together. I took several pregnancy tests over the course of our time together, each negative and full of relief. I remember having a conversation with my mother who one day, casually told me over the phone that it took my father and her eight years to finally get pregnant. I didn’t feel like I was 19-years old. I lived on my own, overseas, in a home I’d decorated and a wedding band securely bound to my left ring finger. When you’re in the military, having children is a natural part of the process so if all my friends, also 18, 19 and 20 years old were doing it – why couldn’t I? What seemed full of stigma on the outside world seemed inherently acceptable on a military base.

I remember this one conversation I had with my mother that actually stokes anxiety every time I think about it – let alone jot it down in bright, obnoxious letters. She said, her voice blaring on the other end of the telephone, “I don’t know, Courtney. I’ve never wanted to have a baby at 19 years old!”

It’s a decade later and that line still stings me like a stinger caught in my lip. I felt like I was disappointing her; like I was a failure who was doing the wrong thing when at the time – at the moment – it felt right, it felt acceptable.

As I got older, and my marriage fizzled out at 21, I felt embarrassed whenever someone asked me about my time being married. I felt absolutely petrified if a friend – or my parents – brought up “that one time” I coveted a baby as a quest to obtain a happy marriage. I’d later come to understand that it’s my own shame that permeates those memories and it’s an emotion I struggle with, even today.

It wasn’t until my mom died and surprisingly, it became the year of my wedding that I began to find acceptance in taking these next steps in my life. I no longer feel the shame or the stigma attached to acting like a married, almost 30-year old woman because now, I finally feel like I’m at the right stage of my life to be able to feel excited about those things. I’m no longer “playing house” as my late mother so lovingly used to put it.

Announcement on Social Media

And that’s good because it brings me to the kind of post I made today on social media.

A little more than a year ago, John and I were discussing the prospect of having kids. The conversations we’ve had, in the beginning, so early on in our relationship started out pretty tense. Like I did when I was 19, I’d confuse the warm feelings of comfort and love I held for a new baby in our circle of friends, to thinking it was something I was ready for. I always wasn’t. For as much as I desired to be pregnant, the actual responsibility of a baby stifled me. What happened to moving to New York or writing a book? What happened to my life – my needs? I’d routinely complain about work, receive overdraft statements from my bank and yet, like a child in her early to mid-twenties, I felt like a baby would be a way to complete a part of myself because as it turns out, that’s what I’d somehow been searching for.

Fast forward several years and John and I were lying on the couch, discussing our future. The notion of children became more desirable. We had decided that since our wedding date was October 5, 2018, that we’d try and conceive in mid-August, that way if I did become pregnant, I would barely be showing on our big day. When trying to figure out a day we wanted to do it, I kept hearing August 16th pop into my head like It’s a Small World on repeat. The date came out of nowhere and I typed it into Google only to find out it was the day that the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley had died. 

This information is paramount because as a little girl, my mother didn’t just talk about her love for Elvis, she showed it. Donning black on the anniversary of his death, blasting “Can’t Help Falling in Love” every Sunday morning on the oldies station, grabbing my hand and twirling me as I tried to drink my morning OJ, my mother’s love for Elvis almost outweighed her love for me. One particular afternoon, I remember being in the car with her driving to nowhere special and her getting annoyed that someone in our family shared a birthday with the anniversary of Elvis’ death; “Someone good deserves to be born on August 16th” is what she insisted to me, and when I uttered the importance of the date out loud, John and I both took it as a sign that it was my mother’s Heavenly-bound approval.

But, the months came and went and I continued to grow anxious. I would push the date back, citing I no longer wanted to be pregnant for our wedding because that would mean I was pregnant for our honeymoon, eliminating how much enjoyment we’d get out of something that’s cost us an arm and a leg. I pushed the date back to November, then December, then January, then indefinitely because let’s face it, I was still a loser with nothing going for her life, a woman consumed with grief, who figured that her insatiable need to bring a child into this world was met only with the longing for a mother-daughter relationship that seemed familiar to her.

Over the course of a year, I began to grow panicked with the idea of sacrifice, a notion you shouldn’t carry when it comes to being a parent. I had to take a step back to analyze what my fears were, and when it came down to it, my biggest fear was never being able to achieve the kind of life I’d always wanted. I wanted to be selfish just long enough for me to grasp it.

More than anything, I’m quite glad I felt that way because we’re all entitled to be selfish for a little while longer. I’d dreamt of a life where I could go to a family dinner and introduce myself to the newest member sitting across from me and boldly say, “I’m a writer” when asked what I do for a living. I wasn’t comfortable walking into a room, identifying myself as a receptionist. I craved more from my life, and it wasn’t until I set out to actually do something about it, would the fears and anxiety about bringing a child into this world start to dissolve.

Today, I shared a post on Instagram and here’s what is said:

July 2015.
I had gotten an MRI because I had this incredible pain in my lower back. I was born with a tethered spinal cord that went undiagnosed and untreated for a decade, causing me to experience lifelong pain and suffering in my back and legs every minute of everyday. When I couldn’t take the pain anymore, I feared something was wrong. And something was. And it was larger than I had ever imagined.

My MRI report showed that I had an uterine abnormality and when I asked the neurosurgeon what it meant, she blew me off telling me that it wasn’t her speciality. For the next month and a half I called primaries, specialists to try and figure out what was wrong with me. I cried everyday thinking I couldn’t have children. I dove head first into Google and WebMd which only made it worse.

After almost two months I was told that I have an extremely high risk of miscarriage in the second and third trimesters. The time when you’ve already begun to show. The time when you can feel your baby kick. The time when you’ve shared the happy news with friends and family. The time when you begin to decorate and spend too much money at Target. The time when you already love that child to a point it’s almost inexplicable. That’s the time when I could lose it.

That was the day I realized you could lose something you never had.

With the wedding in a countdown of just a few short weeks, we were eager to start a family soon after. But we needed to make lifestyle changes. I wasn’t healthy. And I wasn’t about to complicate my pregnancy journey any more than it already is.

I began to take care of everything. I went and assessed my cancer risk since my mother passed away from the disease. Learning I have a higher risk was daunting but necessary so I can make informed decisions. I went and had my teeth taken care of, removing my impacted molars and getting Invisalign. My severe back and leg pain is finally starting to melt away thanks to the miraculous hands of my doctor (who I see 4 times a week). I’ve made en effort to start seeing my primary, something I’ve avoided because I’m terrified of bad news. I’ve had cysts removed. I’ve seen a therapist to work on my grief because the last thing I want is to add any unnecessary stress during that time.

I’ve made personal changes. I no longer wanted to sit around and wait for life to happen. I was tired of going to a job everyday that wasn’t in my field. And so for a year a half I sent out resume after resume, being insulted by big bosses and big named magazines who scoffed at my experience until I finally landed something in my field. I’ve worked hard to secure a life for myself because I will be able to give my child the kind of life they deserve, that’s not integrated with my bouts of selfishness. I’ve taken on non-stop college classes to speed up my graduation time, securing a 4.0 for the last two years that way on weekends, I’m not burying my head inside a book.

Each journey is different and it started July 2015, when I thought for a month and a half that I would never be able to get pregnant and carry a child full term. I still don’t know what the road ahead of me entails and I pray each day that it isn’t something I can’t handle. A year ago we decided where we wanted to be in our preconception journey. And it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.”

Facebook friends messaged me telling me about their miscarriages, their fears…

Suddenly, I was overcome by this enormous wave of emotion. My words – they did that? It never ceases to amaze me how powerful a single thought is until you share it with the world.

I Was Diagnosed with a Bicornuate Uterus

In 2015, I was diagnosed with an extremely high rate of second and third-trimester miscarriages. I remember going to my mother-in-law’s birthday party the weekend after I found out I had a uterine abnormality and had to excuse myself to the bathroom where I broke down in tears because there was a baby shower in the room next to us. It was the same weekend my best friend sent me the pregnancy announcement of my ex-husband and his new wife. I threw a stuffed animal across my bedroom when I heard the news.

I’ve taken a lot of pride in making a stand against the lies of social media, the landscape where everything is always greener and a filter can eliminate the blemishes the world urges us we hide. We share our perfect moments, but not our struggles. On social media, we don’t live truthfully, but I’m on a mission to share my stories with the world, because as was proof today, what I have to say counts; it’s reciprocated by thousands.

Excited for Motherhood

While I’m still eager and excited to experience pregnancy, my true desire is to bring that child home, to love and nurture it, to take a seat along the bumpy, burpy ride where I know the job will suit me. There are not only biological changes that happen when you become ready to conceive a child, there are also signs you start to notice. I think about kids a lot more than I used to. I integrate them into conversations I hadn’t before. On casual outings, John finds himself picking up toys and stuffed animals for our friends’ daughter – an act neither of us had ever seemed too particularly keen on has somehow transformed into our favorite hobby. When Babies R’ Us was going out of business, we raced to three different stores, buying a carseat base and teething rings, onesies, and soft, canary yellow blankets, stuffing them into our car because “we’re going to be parents soon anyway!” Our mentality has changed, and I’d attribute it to my experiences beforehand, allowing me to see the differences and even more so, to develop these emotions over time.

I needed time to come to terms with who I was as a person, to find comfort and closure in who I used to be and who I am now, a woman persevering in the daily strive toward greatness – or just, okayest. I’ve worked hard to keep tabs on my health, make informed decisions about my body, my mental state, and its corrosion after grappling with the loss of my mother. I needed to fall into my deepest, darkest depression, to tackle my discontent for my job, my title, my ambitions before I would be even capable of loving myself the way I (and my future children) deserve to be loved.

I’ve found happiness with where I am in life, and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work my way toward where I wanted to be before starting a family. The reverse isn’t impossible – and I understand that now. While my dreams will never go on the back burner, I’ve developed a deeper sense for what it means to actually be mentally, financially and physically ready for a child. That whole saying of, “you’ll never be ready” I find is just a fallacy, an excuse to make us feel better when we have anxieties about something society tells us we should have by a certain time, a certain age limit.

If you have anxiety, even in the slightest about bringing a child into this world, then it’s okay to trust those instincts. We’re allowed to make up our minds, then change them, to pursue our dreams and to live life according to our own timeline, rather than those around us. If I had gotten pregnant – 10 years ago, or five, or even a year ago, I would have missed out on having experiences and pursuing opportunities that perhaps, would have been swept under the rug for another time, another lifetime. I wanted to be the best version of myself when I bring children into this world, because I want them to have someone to look up to, someone to be proud of, and likewise, I want to be able to provide to them the kind of life my parents never could, the kind of life that makes them feel safe, happy and healthy all year round until it’s almost nauseating.

Always trust your instincts, because they will guide you to do the things you ordinarily deemed impossible, drive you to understand and maximize your full potential in the best way possible. A year can change a lot, and I’m full of hope and wonder and bewilderment over the fact that this time a year from now, could be a time when I can’t sit down to write this so easily because someone in a darkened room, with tiny toes and restless fingertips and wavy, wispy hair, needs me.


Write for Us! We’re Accepting Guest Bloggers

Do you want to become a successful blogger?


Write for us courtney dercquWhat do you want to write about?

It’s a simple question with a complex answer.

Often, whenever a writer sits down to write they have a list of topics they need to discuss. Maybe their job is to describe movies or politics. Perhaps it’s a review on the latest restaurant opening or a revival on an old family classic that sits like a hidden gem in Society Hill. A writer has only one job. That job is to tell a story.

Writers use all these visual tools to evoke emotion. We use a turn of phrase, commas, sometimes in so many places, acting like a dramatic pause and breath in between phrases (like this). Writers have deadlines, just like every job. The task at hand is not to count the registers at the end of closing, ensuring that there was no slight of hand. For writers, our task is to address the slight of hand; its blood-soaked aftermath. We attack it. We analyze it. We dissect it.

When you sit down to write, do you just let the keys take you? Do your fingers linger on the keys, thumping down beat by beat until you have one page filled with red underline marks because you couldn’t be bothered with spellcheck? Do you force yourself to write about the things that speak to you – the phrases that are bold because the thoughts you own are bold?

What kinds of stories do you enjoy reading?

There are many aspects of writing. As an English major, I’ve covered all the aesthetics. What I think a writer’s most daunting responsibility to the public remains to be is to tell your story with integrity – and by that, I mean telling a story wholly and unforgivably honest. We read the work of others because it connects with us on a personal and spiritual level. If I’m writing to you about body confidence, then why not tell you exactly how much I weigh? If I’m writing to you about the woes of my divorce, then why not tell you about the things that go awry? If I’m writing to you about the bitterness of grief, allow me to wash those emotions over you; let me dunk you.

It’s okay if your writing doesn’t match up to the impeccable structure of an 1847’s clad Emily Bronte, or doesn’t fit into the Modernist musings of a disillusioned F. Scott Fitzgerald. Like Holden Caufield you can be unsure of your next move, pondering the construct of your very existence. All of those emotions belong to the written word. Pen and paper is the window to the soul, along with mint chocolate chip ice cream and globs of cheddar cheese. Emotions are what drive the story, motivate it to keep flickering well after the final page. Our experiences are derivative of what we write when we sit down on the other end of a computer, staring into a glowing white screen that often, writers look as an empty canvas, a way to start again.

Ask yourself: What do you want to write about?

Why Should You Become a Blogger?

What is the story that you just need to tell, to share with the world that is unique to only you? In the world of blogging, there will be millions upon millions of other individuals who will want to share the same broken, inspiring tale as the one that’s eager to bleed off your fingertips. Drive the story home from emotion. Capture those experiences, twist them until they’ve churned out a story worth telling.

What Social Media and SEO Promotion I Can Offer

If you’re ever interested in sharing a story: of losing a parent, a loved one, relationships, miscarriages, and infertility (just to name a few) I’d love to hear it. I will promote your content on my website and personal social media accounts, link it to my Mogul profile which has 700 followers and add SEO promotion that will help garner traffic and increase your Google ranking. I will allow backlinks to your personal website. I am a full-time writer and Content Marketing Strategist who works exclusively with SEO, backlinking and writing promotional content that will foster audience engagement.

All I ask before you submit a request to post with me is to think about this:

What do you want to write about?

I’ve found success by writing about what I know. There’s a famous line in the cheeky Drew Barrymore film, “Never Been Kissed” that says, “Somebody once said, “To write well, you have to write what you know.” Well, here is what I know…”

That Somebody was Mark Twain, father of American Literature.

My words have chronicled the various musings of my past and had it not been for those bitter experiences, I often question if I’d be sitting here, clanging away at a keyboard, restless over what to type, what to say, because my thoughts cascade over me like Niagara Falls. In the depth of sadness, confusion, despair, I found hope, flickering long enough until I grabbed hold of it. Like Holden Caufield, those words are “…running and they don’t look where they’re going, I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.”

I’ve committed my life to being candid with my audience because that’s the relationship we’ve developed. They’ve been there to hold me, like a catcher in the rye, catching me as I fell from a bitter divorce, overcame emotional abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, falling in love, being scared to date, afraid of my own vulnerability, my own ache, the stretch of time when I thought I was infertile, to the disastrous realization that my mother has lost her luster as nothing but a memory and decomposing body.

Life is filled with tender, loving moments, but it really blooms after the storm, when the petals are heavy, wet from nature’s burden, still eager to rise up. And they do. They rise up, yearning toward the burning sun, lifting their heads once again because that’s what they’ve always done; will always do.


Creep: A Night Out With Radiohead

Every good relationship involves making sacrifices. That is why last Tuesday, you found me at a Radiohead concert. 

I can’t stand Radiohead. Their music, outside of the song ‘Creep’ has never been on my radar. If they decided to sing ‘Creep’ while I was there, even if it was the last song they played, I would have walked out of the concert feeling like my two and half hours were anticipating a song I actually really like. Like is perhaps a strong word, but I don’t change the station when it starts playing on 104.5 so I’d like to think that counts for something.

John and I have varied taste in music, and by that I mean, he cannot stand any of the music I listen to and I definitely can’t stand any of the music he listens to. Last year I surprised him with tickets to go see Metallica and every time I re-tell the story I feel another bit of my soul actually die. It was the worst concert event I’ve ever been to, just as John can say wholeheartedly that spending two and a half hours listening to Keith Urban was a prison sentence. Personally, I fail to see the hatred for country music song sung by a man whose Australian! It’s an argument for another day.

A few weeks ago, John and I were on the couch with another round of Office re-runs that we basically pay $10 a month to own playing in the background, when we started talking about Radiohead. He turned on a few songs and had me listen to them like “Everything in it’s Right Place” which I surprisingly enjoyed. The thing about John and his music taste is that he likes so many different bands, most of which are metal bands, that it’s hard for me to keep track of who is his favorite. The man’s got a lot of favorite bands, let me tell you.

“I think Radiohead is my favorite band,” he said which actually surprised me because I’d never heard of that before. John is the kind of person who has favorite bands for certain things. Metallica, for example, is a band he’s always wanted to see because they’re the reason he picked up the guitar. John’s an absolutely gifted guitarist who actually started his own YouTube channel a few months back. He’s been taking a hiatus, but you can check it out here.


The very next day, as I was getting in my car to go back to work after my lunch break, I heard that Radiohead had a concert coming up in the next week. I couldn’t believe the timing of it, so I went on to Vivid Seats, ordered the tickets and planned to surprise him the day of the event. If there’s a flaw about me (and let’s face it, there aren’t many!) it’s my ability to keep a secret. I remember every Christmas my mom and I would get so excited about what we’d buy for each other and then a month before exchanging, she’d be like, “Do you want to know one of your gifts?” By the time Christmas morning actually rolled around, we ended up feigning surprise over half the presents under the tree.

I held out for six days, pretending that John would be leaving work early on Tuesday so the two of us could have a much-needed date night. Poor guy, he was so excited for dinner and a movie. Earlier in the day, I had asked him if we could swing by the mall. When he came home, he asked me, “What do you need to get at the mall?” Like Cady Herron and her word vomit, I couldn’t contain my secret anymore. “I need a Radiohead shirt,” I said nonchalantly. John’s eyes twinkled and he began to smile as he stammered, “Wh-aa-aat-tt?”

“Yeah, we’re going to Radiohead tomorrow night!”

We went to the mall only to discover that both Hot Topic and Spencer’s ironically don’t sell Radiohead shirts. You’d think they would, wouldn’t you?

Radiohead Wells fARGO

When we got to the concert, I was donning a Monsters University baseball cap to hide my greasy hair. The show began and immediately, I realized that I was in for a long night. I had hoped they’d play ‘Creep’ or at the very least the song John just showed me, “Everything in its Right Place” but to no avail. Two hours later, I hadn’t known a single song and spent more time sipping my Malibu Baybreeze I scored from the bar. In the midst of the show, though, as I’m internally screaming, I look toward John whose sitting to the right of me and he has the biggest smile plastered between his cheeks. His smile was literally radiant!

I smiled, slunk back in my chair happy that he was experiencing this.

John Radiohead Concert Philly

When you’re in a relationship, sacrifices will be made, but these don’t always have to be substantial. I know so many couples who, after years and years of being together, choose to go to concerts with friends or alone because it’s not their significant other’s interest. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a show with a girlfriend.

What I love about John and I’s relationship is the partnership we share and the ability to do something as simple as enjoying a concert with the other person. Music speaks so loudly to a person’s soul. Music is what gets them from Point A and transcends them to Point B. Songs play a vital part in our lives, whether they’ve helped cement us into the adults we’ve become, helped us grieve, or inspired us to pursue our dreams, music is the most intimate way you can get to know someone.

If you’re looking for a way to get to know your partner better, take them to a concert. Watch as their eyes light up and their feet tap to the rhythm. Watch their movements – how swift they navigate through the crowds. Watch them fold into the show, lose themselves to the music as they float worlds apart from the seat beside you.

Sharing a concert with the one you love is the best date night idea, and it’s one that allows you to get closer to your partner and express a new dynamic between you. When you’re at a concert, your inhibitions run wild. You’re a world away from bills, and work, and even kids (if you have them). I’m fortunate to have been able to share a Radiohead concert with John, even if I hate their music. The memory of his smile permeates every song.



My Bridal Shower Sucked, But I Got Through It

If you want to know what the hardest part of this whole wedding process was, just ask me about my bridal shower. Back in May, I was experiencing one of the hardest weeks of 2018 since my mom died. I can’t remember why, but I remember crumbling at the very mention of the word ‘wedding.’ And, it coincidentally, I suppose, happened to be around the time when guests, bridesmaids and the like needed me to make final decisions about my upcoming nuptials. The wedding was – and is – the least of my priorities if I’m being honest.

I remember breaking down over the thought of my bridal shower because this was going to be the first major wedding-themed event I was going to have to get through without my mom. Had she passed away several years ago, I’d like to think that while the pain never goes away, my heart would have had time to heal by the time my bridal shower came around. A year after her death is not enough time to heal, let alone have to fake a smile opening presents without the one person there I needed. In the midst of my breakdown, I asked my fiance if he knew when it was and he did. I begged him to tell me because I couldn’t deal with the anxiety anymore. I figured if I knew when the date was that it’d be easier for me to cope and maybe readjust the way I had been thinking about it. Lovingly, he told me, and it didn’t ruin anything for me; it eased the anxiety a bit knowing it was still a few months away.

The months after were quite easy to get through and in the middle of them, I picked out wedding flowers, tried on my dress, fawned over Pinterest. There is this misconception that because I can’t deal with some wedding things, that it means I detest all of it. It isn’t true. Things that can be solely based upon John and I are easy for me to handle, and even get me excited. It’s familial traditions that get me – things like picking out a wedding dress, bridal shower and the wedding itself that are difficult to swallow – and they have every reason to be, especially a year after my mother passed.

The two weeks leading up to my bridal shower, I fell into a deep depression. I was crying at work, coming home to play all her favorite songs on repeat. I was angry, cursing out the entire event, refusing to go, breaking down crying day after day, getting into arguments with my friends, who I felt so disconnected from. I kept hearing things like, “Your mom would want you to be happy” and “Why are you torturing yourself?” and “Maybe you need medication” from loved ones who had been closest to me, who supposedly understood my level of grief and the pain this caused me. Their words caused me to retreat, to hide back within myself only to find that it angered them, saying “Don’t avoid me.”

Picket Fence Tea Room Haddonfield NJ

I felt like no matter what I did, or said, or didn’t say, I was in the wrong, that I kept having to justify myself for feeling the way I had been feeling. I wrote articles, thinking it would make me happier, that it would perhaps relieve some of this pain that had been eroding inside me. The day before my shower, John took me out to the mall to get me out of the house and I broke down near Forever 21, hyperventilating.

The morning of my bridal shower consisted of two panic attacks, and in the car, only minutes away from the location I could barely breathe. My hands were clammy, my neck dripping with sweat, my erratic breathing beginning to worry John who parked the car slowly and suggested we stay inside for a couple of minutes. When I got out of the car, I felt so weak that I had to hold on to him for balance, before collapsing on the bench outside, having two of my guests – and friends – hide behind their hair walking past me as I’m screaming out in agony that I couldn’t breathe, that I can’t go in, that I can’t do this.


My maid of honor – and best friend – came out and rubbed my back. I fought back the vomit. She assured me that it was a small affair, nothing grand and once again started saying to me that my mom would “still be there with me.” That’s the harshest thing we say to people in mourning: “they’re still there.” Where? Which seat will she be sitting in? What photo will we have together? What present did she buy me off my registry?

I’ve come to detest that traditional phrase I’ve told people in mourning. It seems innocent, but really, all it does it send daggers to your already constricting chest.

John and Courtney wedding

We walked inside and it was very quiet. I kept my sunglasses on like I was a Kardashian, too good to show my watery eyes to the room. I was shaking, trying my best to stay to one side of the room with my head down while I took it all in. My friends did a beautiful job, adding hints of Disney everywhere in my cake and in small, bridal games. My future mother-in-law bought me a pair of bridal Minnie ears, and my best friend, a bridal sash which I didn’t know if I had the strength to wear.

My bridal shower was an afternoon with tea, a blend of fruity flavors, cucumber sandwiches, croissants, and scones at the beautiful Picket Fence & Garden Tea Room. It was a nightmare for some of my guests who despise high tea, but for me, it was everything I’d ever envisioned my bridal shower to be. About an hour in, I began to come down, laughing, making jokes with my friends and John who was kind enough to stay by my side through the entire event.

When it came time to open presents, my friend’s mom urged me to wear my ears and bridal sash and I saw my friends out of the corner of my eye, look terrified at her actions because the more this event felt like a bridal shower, the more it made me miss my mom. I took a deep breath and tried, slinging the sash over my shoulders and tucking the hat strap beneath my chin. I sat in the center of the room with all eyes on me, feeling the weight of my anxiety creep up.

I got through it though, and as the event ended and I began helping everyone clean up, my friend Nicole handed me a box from the bridesmaids which contained a bridal bouquet trinket with a quote that says “Mom, walk beside me every day” and a photo of my mom. The second I saw my mom’s face I broke down – not a tearful smile, a heavy, broken down sob. My friends circled me and when I had eyeliner dripping down my face, I ran into the bathroom to fix myself up, coming out to thank them for the gift that I actually am using as a keychain up until my wedding day because I like having an opportunity to see her on a daily basis.

Courtney Dercqu bridal shower

As I got home and unloaded all the gifts, I was thankful that the event was over and proud of myself for getting through it. My mother-in-law texted and said she knew I was upset by the gift my friends gave me but in time, I’d learn to appreciate it. What people don’t understand about losing a mother can be summarized by that one quote. My bridal shower had sweet, loving moments and that is what I will remember from it. My father, about a week before the event, came to my house and while I was crying on the couch, said to me, “Everything about the wedding is going to suck. It’s all terrible. You just have to find some happy moments in between.” 

Bridal Shower Haddonfield NJ

I think that’s the best way to surmise what planning a wedding without your mom is like. Maybe there are some people who are able to handle it better than me, or maybe they had a different relationship, all of which is fine. My mom and I were extensions of one another. I didn’t know where she ended and I began. We talked every day, multiple times a day. My mom was a part of every one of my decisions, every part of my goals, my happiness and even my woes. Without her, life feels bleak and that’s okay for now. I know the misery won’t last forever, just like I know my friends who try to cheer me up do it to the best of their abilities.

I was happy in a way that my friends got to see that side of me because actions speak a lot louder than words. You know, when someone dies, your friends and family are there 24/7. They’re there for every pained phone call, the funeral, and doing whatever they can to make you laugh, or reminisce, and even in those moments, phrases like “she’s still with you” make you feel better because you just lost them. After the funeral though, people drop off. My aunt and uncle stopped inviting my dad and me over for summer barbeques. My brother who lives five minutes down the road refuses to visit. My nephew who lives with my dad has never even mentioned my mom’s name to either of us. Friends care, but it’s a topic they don’t know what to say because it’s something they’ve never experienced.

When I talk freely about my distaste for wedding planning, it’s because I’m sad that I’m doing it without her. It doesn’t go against my romantic feelings toward John or negate my desire to start a life together. It just means that waking up on October 5th, getting dressed, walking down the aisle, having my first dance and all the traditional aspects of it are difficult to swallow. They’re difficult for my father to swallow, too. When people get frustrated [out of kindness] that “I should be enjoying this time as a bride” it, in turn, makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong like my grieving has extended past its’ warranty.

There is no timeline on death or grieving. It moves at its own pace and to say things like, “Why are you torturing yourself?” or “Why don’t you cancel your wedding until you’re feeling better” are not statements that are rooted in toxicity, but they’re filled to the brim with it.

The time leading up to my bridal shower ended up filled with these kinds of statements and it made my grieving process worse. At the end of the day, I know better than anyone that my mom would want me to enjoy my bridal shower and for it to be perfect. At the end of the day, I knew she would be there in spirit. But, when I looked at all the pictures my friends took of me, I looked eagerly to see a small orb or imperfection that resembled her as proof she was there. All I had were empty photos, crystal clear, zoomed in on my face where I knew my mom would be able to look at it and say, “I can tell by your eyes” something’s wrong.”


At 183 Pounds, I’m the Fattest I’ve Ever Been

I’m fat.

I never really realized I was a fat person until I saw a picture that my fiance took of me on Saturday. I was on my way to drop off my latest abstract painting to Brigandi’s Barbering Company located in Audubon, New Jersey. Ariel, the owner of Brigandi’s and someone I’ve unbelievably known for  14 years (god, we’re old) was kind enough to ask if I was interested in bringing down one of my pieces of artwork for Audubon’s National Night Out on Tuesday, August 7th. I was delighted about the opportunity to showcase one of my paintings that are a part of a thousand, non-cohesive collections sitting on my Bad Art and Meow’s webpage.

So, on Saturday morning, after racing to clean my house and attempting to get part of my homework on my linguistic analysis on Wuthering Heights and the Great Gatsby completed, I ripped the tags off the new blue, warehouse-inspired jumpsuit I snagged from Target last week, poofed out my curls and threw on my Francesca’s sunglasses circa Twiggy 1964 and posed nonchalantly outside my house, painting in hand, waiting for a fantastic artistic aesthetic to blossom on the other end of the iPhone. This is what bloomed on the other side of the camera.

Pink Abstract Art Painting Brigandi's Barber Shop


When John handed me the phone, my jaw dropped. Look how fat my arms are! Look at how the jumpsuit – size XL – drops down past my waist and hugs me. Look at how my frizzy hair adds more volume to my already voluptuous silhouette. Look how choppy my legs look. Look how ugly I am!

I tossed him the phone, could barely breathe as I stumbled back into the house, jingling my keys in the front lock, panting, disgusted that this artistic aesthetic turned out to be a fat loser in an ill-fitted jumpsuit. I opened up my closet to outfits I can’t wear, to my drawers, busting out with shirts and pants and size 6 this and size 8 that, clinging on to the same fallacy I have: that one day they’ll fit again. That one day, these clothes I was able to wear recently will drape loosely around my shoulders instead of resembling a sausage with the fingers to match.

I put on ripped jeans and a t-shirt, forgoing a bra with socks peeling out of my shoes and my pair of obnoxious sunglasses, and rode quietly in the car until we got to our destination.

Courtney Dercqu instagram

“You look beautiful,” John told me, grabbing my wrist with his one free hand before resting it back on his steering wheel. “I’m a whale,” I retorted, fighting back tears over how I looked.

It’s confusing because I don’t feel this way when I put on my clothes in the morning. I take pictures of myself – flattering angles – and enjoy going shopping. I look in the mirror before I leave work and I guess I’m standing too close to my reflection because then, everything seems moderately skinny. I’ve been 130 pounds the majority of my adult life. And now, standing here, at 183 pounds, delighted that I’m down from 185.6 – I’m the fattest I have ever been.


When I lost my mom I was wearing a Size 8 comfortably, and while that was still a little heavier than I was used to, I liked the way I looked. Do you ever have those pictures that when you first look at them, you’re like, “Wow, I hate the way I look?” but then a few years down the line you look back on the times you thought you were really disgusting and you wish, “Man, I still looked like that?” Well, that was me at Size 8. I was happy, healthy, a balanced blend between eating right and lack of stress. When my mom died, I didn’t eat the first two weeks, and I remember fitting into a size 6 easily, as I shopped for clothes for her funeral and that first trip I took to J.C. Penney’s to try and find some direct way I could still be close to her. When I went back to work, my torso was basically flat, and the appeal of food was non-existent.

And then, a few weeks turned into a month, then two, and by August, I was sitting with my back arched against my kitchen cabinets underneath my sink, with my head banging into the plywood, begging for God to kill me. John had to come home and raced to my side, peeling me off the floor like I was a sticker as I just asked him, “Please let me die,” over and over and over and over and over and over and over until the pain went away and I was lying comatose on our olive green couch, all cried out with nothing left.

Tensions became even greater the closer it came to my birthday, our first Thanksgiving, her birthday and then Christmas. I was angry that the last Christmas I ever spent with her was filled with rage and hopelessness and depression. I was enraged that her last Christmas was spent with lack of resources because the government takes too long to send out a disability check. I was enraged that she didn’t feel like putting up a tree, or lights and that a few days before Christmas she sat across from John and me breaking down, crying that all she wanted to do was die. I was enraged that our final Christmas was mostly silent, and weird, and awkward during times when I opened up the gifts from her that she asked me to wrap myself because her five brain tumors fucked up her vision.

We went away for Christmas in an effort to escape those memories, and as we walked down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios, 8:00pm on Christmas Day, I still felt alone in a sea of people.

2018 came – the year of our wedding – and from what was originally an exciting time in my life took a turn and added so much stress and sadness of me not being able to share in this event with her. Coupled with a job that treated me badly, with stress and inconsistency running loose like a California wildfire, I felt the grief enclosing me.

Over the course of the year and a half since she’s been gone, I’ve turned to other avenues to dispel my grief: painting, traveling – but at the core of it all is the one truth that I became isolated because of my grief. I stopped cooking. I let my house grow dirty. I let the laundry pile up. I’ve come home, night after night after night, ordering Domino’s or Buffalo Wild Wings, digesting as much greasy, fatty foods as I could that would somehow comfort me, give me that ‘warm belly’ feeling that I’d used to have when I was happy, when I was down and needed the sincerest form of flattery and being picked up. I ate ice cream almost daily. I stopped caring because when you’re grieving the magnitude of a loss like your mother, all you care about is getting through the day.

My dad, he grieved the opposite way. He lost thirty pounds and his interest in all the hobbies he once loved. I gained new hobbies – and new weight.

Lately, I’ve been trying to become more body positive, because at the end of the day, regardless of size, women are capable of doing so much with their bodies. We grow babies, we cope with stress, we bare stretchmarks – which currently aline the bottom of my stomach. We’re the foundation in our family’s lives in a very big sense of the word and my body is a reflection, right now, of my grief, of my incredible sadness, of my depression.

There are times that I wished I was one of those people who took out my anger and frustrations with the world in the form of running or kickboxing instead of stress-eating, but that’s the path I’d chosen and it’s one that brought me comfort during my darkest days. I don’t like the end result, but the funny thing is, after staring at that picture a little bit longer, it’s not the worst image I could ever find of me. This image shows off a lot of things I hadn’t noticed the first time around: it shows how I’ve turned my grief into a new venture – and all the places it’s still taking me. This image shows a new pair of sunglasses, a jumpsuit, and handbag which means I’ve found an interest in going shopping again – a hobby my mom and I did exclusively. This image shows my home, where I still come home to, where I still find solace and warmth and comfort.

And this body, it shows resilience. It shows the damage of grief and depression but it also shows hope – because she’s still standing there, tall and proud, showing off something she made for the world. She’s still hanging on amidst the days when she feels like stopping. She still has hope, and that’s something she’s not ready to lose just yet.


Letting it Go: The Magic of Frozen on Broadway and the New York Skyline

I’m not the biggest fan of the Disney movie Frozen. I was 25-years old when the movie came out and by no means did I, along with all of my other 30-something year old friends gather around the plasma TV freaking out when Elsa suddenly changed her clothes and then forced my mom to watch the movie with me the following weekend AFTER I had her braid my hair and her ask me during that famous scene, “Is this why you had me braid your hair?” So, no, I am not the biggest fan of Frozen.

When I heard that Disney was doing a Broadway production of the most popular and wealth-inducing movie they’ve ever produced, I wasn’t itching to get up to New York and watch it. If I was bound to see any Broadway adaptation of a Disney movie, you better believe it’d be the Lion King. Then, one morning as I scrolled through Facebook sipping my raspberry coffee, inevitably staining my Invisalign my dentist told me not to drink coffee while wearing, a video of Caissie Levy popped up on my newsfeed. It was a glimpse into her, as Elsa, singing Let it Go on ABC’s The View. I don’t discriminate when it comes to Disney, so I played the video and without exaggeration, actually became awestruck at this performance. While Caissie Levy is absolutely lyrical, the effects had me going crazy! Elsa’s glove and cape just disappear on stage, while frozen effects turn the entire stage into ice. The entire video left me positively speechless and became the #1 most viewed video in my household that week, with John haphazardly waltzing into our bedroom being like, “Seriously? Again?

Ever since I lost my mom, I’ve been on the hunt for ways to add more excitement into my waking hours. Grief is hard and it’s necessary to “escape” in order to reintroduce fun times again during my incredible moments of weakness. It’s necessary for healing. I’ve become more adventurous, understanding that life is incredibly short and the best thing I can do is follow those impulses that lead me to somewhere new, someplace where I can find joy again. I purchased the tickets about a month after watching that video, and it just so happened to be on a weekend we were insanely busy!

Frozen on Broadway New York

While most people who follow me on Instagram and other forms of social media may recognize me for my articles and routine travel to far-off places, what a lot of people don’t know is that I’m also a college student. I attend online classes and have been for a little over two years in pursuit of my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing and English. I go to classes consecutively every eight weeks and since enrolling, have maintained a 4.0. Most days of the week are spent logged on to my computer, reading chapter after chapter on Shakespear, Editing, World Mythology and as of late, the study of the English Language and Linguistics. It’s an incredibly hard class and I was up at 5:00am yesterday morning, continuing to work on my paper which is currently analyzing the linguistic principles and differences between Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Needless to say, after getting swept up in my paper and having to add only 5 more references before I could call it quits, we were already thirty minutes late. We live about two hours from New York and decided to drive up to Seacacus, New Jersey to hop on the train into the city. The best way to describe our trip is my utilizing the definition of Murphy’s Law: everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

NY Subway 42nd Street

Our train over to the city was stopped for traffic, leaving us only 20 minutes to get to New York, buy a ticket, navigate the subway systems to 42nd Street, and get to the St. James Theatre. Once we got to the subway, we tried buying tickets, only to discover that it wasn’t working. On to the next booth! We buy tickets, race to the entrance and….can’t get through! We try again, but alas, we still can’t get through. We try again but still, no avail. At this point, we have ten minutes to figure out our ticket dilemma, take the subway, and get to the venue. We stand in line to speak to customer service until I have the grand idea that our ticket says bus transfer so we hop out of line to go buy another ticket only to realize that our ticket wasn’t good for a subway to bus transfer. The line is even longer! I cursed, because that’s what I do in stressful situations and it’s New York, I figure they’ve heard worse.

We finally get the ticket debacle straightened out, walk down to the platform, confused over which train to take before hopping on the 1 to 42nd Street. For as many times as we’ve taken this exact same route, to my internship interview with Mogul, to our photoshoot in Central Park for Tacori Jewelry sponsored by Mogul, to seeing CATS perform on Broadway twice, we’re still consistently baffled when it comes to using the NY-subway system. We sprinted off the train and plummeted ourselves onto the grimy, New York sidewalks, running past tourists and locals who hate that we’re even here. It’s funny, for as many times as I leave my house thinking I look ‘effortlessly New York’ I always turn into a frizzy, sweaty, mess once I’m there.

Frozen Broadway New York City

St. James Theatre was about a seven-minute walk from where we were and halfway through, I’m doubled over on the sidewalk, panting, sweating, and half-convinced my toe is cut off because it’s completely numb inside the Mickey Mouse flats I bought at the Disney Store. We get to the theatre, walk upstairs – four flights – to the balcony where one of the staff hear me say “I’m dying” as I heave up the steps, ready to collapse. We slink down into our seats, our backs dripping against the velvet seat cushions, panting like a dog that’s spent too much time in the heat.

Then the show started. Patti Murin was born to play the gaffed, rambunxious Anna. Caissie Levy captivated the stage like a regal Ice Queen. The ensemble cast, the introduction to new melodies, the unique lighting and stage effects all cultivated and transported me out of my seat and into Arrendale.

Times Square New York City

Once the play was over, it was the same old stuff: waltzing around Times Square, “accidentally” walking into the two-tiered Disney Store, buying whatever mugs that are only available in New York, squeezing my size-8 foot into a size-7 Cinderella inspired pair of shoes, a bite to eat and then taking the subway (ironically with no issues) home, and quickly finishing my references before hopping into bed and passing out quicker than I have on times I was a child and legitimately exhausted from a day in the Disney Parks! NJ Transit Subway New York

It’s kind of funny, actually. All my life, I suffered from that ‘writer complex’ idolized by Carrie Bradshaw. Aside from the walk-in closet, which I did actually have while I was a teenager (thanks, dad) I craved a life in an overpriced Brownstone writing about life and love and all the trial and error that permeated those very notions. New York was the end goal – where I’d end up once I graduated college, once I worked up the courage to leave my parents, once I wrote and sold that ‘first great novel!” Then, I traveled to Portland, Oregon and fell in love with the artistic aesthetic of the city. For an entire year since, my mind has been made up that once things fall a bit more into place, then we’d pack our bags – and perhaps, little one – and move there. While I was in Portland, I was like, “New York’s got nothing on here.”

I remembered last night how ridiculous that comparison is. Because once you’re in New York, you realize that there’s no place in the world that’s more spectacular.

Holding On To What Makes Us Happy

The Genie AladdinI’d be lying if I said most mornings didn’t start out talking about Disney in some sort of capacity. Whether it’s talking about an upcoming trip, friends, a new movie coming out like Christopher Robin, or simply reminiscing about “that time when…” Disney is just a part of our culture. Perhaps, more appropriately: it’s just something I love to talk about because it makes me happy. That’s what Disney does, right? It makes us happy. It breaks apart the sadness and mundane cycles of Philadelphian life. My friends and mother-in-law make fun of me, lovingly of course, that I’m a 27-year old woman who chooses to have their wedding, bachelorette party, honeymoon, first birth announcement and child’s first birthday party in the Happiest Place on Earth. And maybe it is a little funny to watch someone snuggle up with a Flounder plush they found on their last trip, but for me, Disney is a part of who I am. And, even more so, it’s a place where I’m not a motherless daughter. There, I’m not in credit card debt or thinking consistently about my mother’s grave. There, I’m not overweight, denying myself cupcakes or chicken stir fry that melts atop my tongue. There, I’m not struggling with the confusion over pregnancy, or where I want to be in ten years. As much as people claim that it’s wrong to have an “escape,” when you’re going through difficult times, sometimes an escape is just what the Mouse ordered.

This morning I was thinking back to a woman I had met several years ago. I walked up to her yard sale, thrilled because she had set out hundreds of Disney pieces – mainly Aladdin. It was my ideal yard sale scenario and I could just see John in the background thinking to himself lovingly, “Here we go again!”

I picked up a gigantic Genie cookie jar. It was beautiful, in perfect condition like it was never even used for much else besides display – which in all honesty, is how every cookie jar I’ve ever owned has also done. With excitement, I waltzed over to her holding the cookie jar asking how much she was charging, half expecting her to say $5 which meant I was now in an environment where money was of no concern.

“$20,” she responded. I looked at her kind of confused and startled and gently placed the cookie jar back down. Ordinarily, this is a situation I would leave, call her an asshole when we got in our car and contemplate for a few seconds if the item was really worth the asking price.

“I love Aladdin,” she said, picking the cookie jar back up and smiling at it. It was a few months after Robin Williams committed suicide. Tensions were high, just like emotions. I mean, who didn’t love Robin Williams? As a child of the 90’s, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Jumanji, and Aladdin were staples of every boring Sunday and every sleepover. His loss was the first – and only – celebrity death I actually cried over. To this day, I miss him, which is a weird thing to say about a celebrity I’ve never met.

This woman felt the same way I did but on a much higher level. She began describing what the movie Aladdin meant to her, about how it helped her through so many difficult times in her life.

“My husband is making me sell it all,” she confessed, and I actually became angry over it.

“Don’t sell anything you don’t want to,” I told her, lowering my voice so her husband wouldn’t overhear me and rebuke.

“I don’t use them anymore. He’s right, they’re just taking up room.”

In the middle of a stranger’s lawn, I found myself the center of this woman’s existential crisis. And it broke my heart that she was being made to sell something that obviously carried so much meaning for her.

I touched her arm and smiled, “You do what you want, not what someone else wants. I think you should keep them.”

And then I walked away.

I think about this exchange often and wonder what she ever did. I wonder if all those items are snuggled safely in the confines of their storage box in her attic, or if they found homes, were broken, and if she still feels the pang of regret that she sold them before she was ready? It may sound silly to even stress about, but at the end of the day, we all hold something to us that carries more significance that the outside world can understand.

I met my counterpoint that day – a woman who loves Disney because it helped her get through some of her most difficult, iconic moments. It propelled her strength, coped through her sadness and maybe – made her stronger by the end of it.

Disney is the same for me. As I navigate these murky waters, experiencing my first go-around of wedding planning and bridal showers that leave my broken, hyperventilating on a worn-out bench in the middle of a sunny Sunday afternoon, my happy place is Disney, because there, I’m not a girl without a mom, I’m a Disney Princess, learning her strength and fighting toward her happily ever after.