Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicidality, alcohol abuse, and depression

Note: I apologize in advance for bad grammar and/or muddled ebonics that may not be accessible to all readers. This post is very hard to edit without triggering myself.


I used to split my life into days of the week, Mondays, Tuesdays, and so on. Now, my life is split into two parts before my mom died on 01/13/2022 and after.

Her Story

My mother was born on December 9th, 1978, to a young single mother of one, and her father passed in the April before her birth. By her own accounts, she was a girly girl while having very tomboy interests like GI Joes, NASCAR, and sports. Not having a father placed a lot of strain on her throughout her childhood and onward. She did well in school academically and was active in sports such as cheer and track and field. She spent her late teen years living in south-central Los Angeles. My grandmother would have another child after her. My mom and my aunt were fourteen years apart. My grandmother became extremely sick with throat cancer, making my mom after finishing high school, a caretaker to both her mother and younger sister. Then on Valentine Day 1999, I was born two months after her 20th birthday.

Apparently, a lot of the riffs between my mom and her family began with me. She was encouraged not to have a child because she wasn’t married and didn’t finish college. My dad was still married to another woman the same way my grandfather was when my mother was conceived just 20 years ago. The entire situation likely retraumatized my grandmother while making my mom feel isolated and depressed during her pregnancy with me. My grandmother completely cut off all contact with my mom for a time, and closer to my birth, they reconciled. After I was born 18 months later mom my gave birth to my younger sister.

Growing up I saw, my mother exhibited extreme scrappiness, and although she was an incredibly gentle and emotionally available mother. She would show her momma bear side, and even I was afraid. Although my mom only had two kids in high school at the same time, the administration knew her well. Making a security guard remark on one occasion “who pissed off Miss Lawson ” upon her arrival. While I was in high school, my mom worked at least two jobs around the clock. I remember she was always able to get a job. I admired that about her. She had this ability to charm people and relate to them very quickly. She was especially good at being a service to others, whether that was a listening ear, party planning, or bookkeeping.
Our family usually consisted of my mom, my sister, and myself. But around 2010, my mom and dad tried to make things right and tied the knot. My mom’s family was not happy again because they worried about how my dad would provide for “Tamara and the girls.” Time goes on, and eventually, we move in with my dad into a duplex with one half of the house my aunt and four cousins, and our now family of four on the other side of the duplex. We had good days, but it was by no means perfect. My dad went back and forth, staying employed and would get fired or flat-out quit opportunities for petty reasons. A lot of financial responsibility was on my mom for our family of four. But wait, soon to be five.
While shopping in the mall with my sister, my mom, and my mom’s older sister. I was playing games on her phone and decided to read the messages between her and my dad. I found a picture of a positive pregnancy test. This was good news, I was 12 years old and so excited, and our family was excited. My dad seemed to really stick to a job. I gave my mom week-by-week updates that my brother had kidneys and could see light followed by me putting a flashlight directly to her belly to make him kick. I started decluttering my stuff and my sister’s stuff “to make room for the baby.” If I wasn’t already extremely clingy to my mother, I was practically back in her uterus. She pulled me out of school early one day, and we went to her doctor’s appointment. I saw him on the ultrasound and started crying. I know I embarrassed her that day, but I really was so happy. About a week before my sister and I went back to school from summer vacation. My brother is stillborn.
Our family unit fell from five to three again. My parents tried to make it work for a while but eventually decided to separate. My mother was diagnosed with type two diabetes following the pregnancy. Because my mom gave birth to my brother in her and my father’s bedroom, she found it traumatizing to be there. Immediately after, we packed an overnight bag to my grandma’s house and never went back. My sister and I eventually moved schools. But before that, I would go through my first round of going to the hospital for hearing voices and being a danger to myself, at 13 years old. My sister would have three rounds of knee surgery to correct her being knocked kneed. My mother would be in and out of the hospital for health complications for the next 10 years. My dad had been sidelined completely because we were going through a lot while all three of us shared a room at my Gram’s house.
This entire time, my mother was working unless she physically couldn’t because of being in the hospital. It’s not just that my mom worked for me to admire her so much. She was transparent with me and my sister when things were bad. She made time to do silly things with us. Have breakfast for dinner on Thursdays. Get on a bus and then a train to go shop at the UCLA book fair. Drive us and our friends anywhere and everywhere between our house and just beyond the local mall. My mom and I loved period dramas, so we saw Belle when it was in theaters because “Wait, she’s black!?”. She was smart, resourceful, goofy, loyal, and selfless to a fault.

Los Angeles – Portland

After I finished high school, my mom and I got a little distant. I had this narrative in my head that my mom was my good parent, and my dad was my bad one. But apparently, they each had flaws. In the time, it took me to process that my mom wasn’t perfect. Her boyfriend at the time lost his job, and my mom was hospitalized because she wasn’t taking her insulin, which led to her getting let go from her job because of her attendance at work. She told me she was moving to Arizona to live with my gram and I could go with her or stay and live with her older sister, my aunt, and my uncle. I chose to stay. I had a job and was in school, I was nineteen and didn’t want to leave my friends. Living with my aunt and uncle drove me insane, to be frank. While I appreciate their generosity, they are a dynamic duo, lil ole me was not going to change that, nor did I want to be a trio with anyone but my sister and mother. After a year and five months of living with them and seven animal roommates. I got a car, learned to drive, threw all my stuff in it, and moved from LA to Portland. I moved to Portland with roommates and easily had the best year of my life during a pandemic. I started going to therapy, discovered I’m autistic, worked on this blog, and made some great connections while I was there. I loved it. I went on aimless walks and took pictures of flowers, I saw snow for the first time and then had to drive in it. I called my mom and asked her how to drive in snow, and she replied that she didn’t know and replied, ” I grew up where you did.”
In May 2021, my mom started to text me saying she wanted to move to Portland with me, and we’d get a place together. I was really in love with my new freedom and shut it down. I went to visit Arizona in May 2021, and she wasn’t doing great, but she was walking, driving, and taking her insulin. While I lived in Portland would send money home to her and my sister. I didn’t mind because this was something I just did since I started working at 19 years old. The phone calls were getting more worrisome than they were in May, so in August of that same year, I drove to Phoneix Arizona from Portland Oregan for 22 hours just in case inquiring minds were curious My mom and sister lived in an upstairs apartment that my mom struggled severely to climb with her walker. When I was getting ready to make the day-long drive back, my sister and I had a talk outside my car for like an hour. I was planning to move to Arizona to help her take care of Mom because I was sending most of my money there anyway, and I couldn’t wait any longer.
My mom got sick again. This original plan was to wait til the end of October to move, but I tossed everything in the Honda again and moved to Arizona on October 5th. I told my manager I needed to talk and just broke down. I told her how sick my mom was she basically sent me home about an hour into my shift. She told me to go home and be with my mom. My manager asked me about my rent, I told her it was month to month and some of my other bills. We had a big hug and cried and told each other I love you. My coworkers got together some money for me and sent me on my way. My roommate/ best landlady ever understood my abrupt departure and tried to give me more than my security deposit, but I wouldn’t let her. I am so enormously thankful to these friends I made in Portland. They remind me that there are good people out there.

Phoenix Az

When I moved down there with my mom and sister. The house was a mess, and I threw myself into planning. I started applying for jobs, cooking, cleaning, and unpacking because although they lived here for almost a year they still had stuff in boxes because my mom couldn’t walk to unpack things and my sister was sleeping, working a 12-hour shift, or taking care of my mom. It didn’t take long for me to freak out my mom when she got back from the hospital. She complained I was “always moving something.” My family unit back at three decided that we would wait to tell extended family in Arizona that I moved because my Grandmother is the matriarch and had her hand in everything. I didn’t want my Gram bossing me around before I got there or calling my Mom stressing her out with questions about me moving.
On the weekend, my mom stayed with my gram while Tia, my sister, was at work. I decided I would clean and apply for jobs when they were out of the house. I got a message from my mom saying “Darnell can you come to pick me up?” Darnell was my code name while I was in Arizona without my extended family knowing. My mom had spilled the beans to Gram. I was frustrated and annoyed because I hate being inserted into family politics, and my Grandma is an autocrat. So she wasn’t going to be pleased that a big decision was made without her knowing. But I didn’t care and still never tell my Gram when I am coming to Arizona. I get to my grandma’s house, and my Gram is surprised I’m there, but my mom has told her everything already. The cat was out of the bag. I got a job that first-week making okay money, but it was far from enough to pay for Humalog scandalous prices and the many other medications my mom was taking. We had mostly good days or tense days where I and my sister were scrambling to get things like food, medicine, or something from Gram’s house. We still had the same laughs and silliness. I was not used to living with people I knew so well anymore, and their every move made me alert as opposed to my passive attitude to many stomping, banging, and music-playing roommates just weeks earlier. My sister and I fought about the bathroom, which was not a fight about the bathroom at all. I started working a temp job at a behavioral health office for children… This place was extremely understaffed, and not only that, given my medical history, but the work itself triggered me because I saw a kid’s chart with all the medications that made me a zombie from ages 13-17. It began to rub away at the emotional bandwidth that I desperately needed to go home and take care of Mom. I still had a therapist, but we were splitting ways because I moved states. My mom got hospitalized around mid-December of 2021, and a few days before Christmas, she had a heart attack and stroke. She was going to be released but tested positive for COVID-19. She remained in the hospital.
A day before my contract was up with the temp agency, I got a call on the desk phone from my sister. She said she had some cinnamon ( my sister is allergic) and she couldn’t breathe and basically told me to come home. I was like, okay, whatever my last day is tomorrow. I drive home, and just before I turn to our street, I think to myself, if I continue straight, I can ” get six hours with mom of visiting hours.” When I make it upstairs, my sister is standing right in front of the door. I don’t remember what she told me. But I remember being angry. I was going to punch the wall and stop myself. I tried to cry and couldn’t, I was cussing. “This is bullshit,”
“Let’s go” I need to go see her.”
My gram was waiting in the car to take us to see Mom for one last time. In the hospital room, the doctors and nurses told us she basically collapsed while leaning on the table because she couldn’t breathe. The bedside table was a rolling one.
“They tried everything they could but they were fucking incompetent”
I asked why they didn’t call me first. I didn’t get a real answer. We stayed there for maybe 2 hours. Because my mom died suddenly in the hospital’s care her body was a part of an investigation. I took a cut of her hair. A thick dark brown ringlet that fit perfectly around my thumb. When I kissed her goodbye I remember how cold she was. That sealed it in for me, my mom was gone.

After Mom Died

When you’re a writer when you go through something hugely altering like losing a parent it becomes the thing you haven’t written about yet, until you do. I fixed that by writing about everything else. But before that. In the immediate aftermath, I was so royally angry. This was the first time I threw everything I had at a situation and did not get my way. I drove 22 hours by myself. Got a job on my third day out there in Phoenix. Cleaned everything. Meal planned and cut cucumbers for my mom. Went to the pharmacy, the grocery store. Unpacked boxes, decluttered washed clothes, and slept on the floor in the living room just to lose it all in three months. This was my first real heartbreak. I’ve never experienced so much rage that wasn’t pointed inwardly. I’d had many bouts with depression and suicidality. But to be angry at other people was a different ball game. When I’m angry with myself I… punish myself. How would I punish the people in my mom’s life the boyfriends, cousins, sisters, uncles, and aunties, that my brain had transformed into large flashing neon signs that read “failed Tamara”? I was too scared to even engage with them aka all the people I was waiting to smash over the head with a vase or poison at Thanksgiving.

Blind Rage

When my grandma asked me (22 years old) and my sister(21 years old) if we wanted to put together a funeral for my mom. I declined. I was so angry. I didn’t want to be in a room of people who would be there to pity my sister and me, to pity my mom, who they let work herself to literal death. Her friends and family, not mine, I don’t give a fuck about these people, they don’t deserve to grieve my mom. Who whispered about her, who questioned her parenting, financial decisions, and romantic decisions. No, my mom wasn’t perfect but she shouldn’t have been shamed and side-eyed by all the people who were going to supposedly come and pay their respects after her passing. In other words, I was also scared I would fly into a blind fit of rage and kick everyone but my sister off the first row.
The “immediate afters” are really messy in my mind. There was so much movement. I changed jobs and started working not even a month later and I know this because my birthday was a month after the day she passed. My sister and I moved into my Gram’s sharing a room for the first time in a while. Moving stuff around in the Honda from house to house, house to storage, storage to goodwill. I started driving super fast at night to blow off steam. My boyfriend came to visit me in Phoenix from Los Angeles for the shittiest Valentine’s of his life. His girlfriend was turning 23 a month after her mom died on Valentine’s Day. I went to work and got a crybaby drunk after. I also let in some new relationships with my mom’s younger sister, a coworker, and my dad of all people. My dad was never a simple guy, and he likely has a lot of the comorbidities that I do. I had empathy for him because it was time to give him grace after 7 years of almost no contact. I had finally lived long enough to have life throw me around like a rag doll and forgive my dad. I finally saw myself in him and him in me.


As the weeks went on, I tried to channel my anger into something productive. Any trained set of eyes would tell you I was manic: I started doing pilates, posted consistently on this blog for the first time, posted on this blog’s Instagram, Posted on this blog Pinterest, was featured in an article, did tarot card readings, tried to become a notary public, worked full time, and planned to move to back Los Angeles with my boyfriend. Mania felt better than being angry all the time with no resolve. Wait! In May of 2022, I self-published a poetry book. I want to be clear that during this time, so many loved ones were happy for me and sending me the kind words I needed. But all this buzzing around would come to a near-dead stop. I started sleeping for 14 hours at a time or longer. One by one, all those extracurriculars went by the wayside. I was convinced I was narcoleptic and not grieving my mother. I was so afraid to start grieving my mom that my body put me to sleep. Another fun bit of this is I have lucid-dream every night since I was a little girl. I remember the first dream I had that “felt real” scaring me and the first time I changed a dream because I was having a nightmare. After losing my mom every night in my sleep I’d argue with her, viciously by choice. Saying all the things, screaming matches, and her arguing back, screaming back. At least in my sleep, I could see her. I fought so hard to stay awake at my job and drank two or 3 celius to get through my shift, which gave me aura headaches ( do not recommend).


I think in late June I enter into the 4th stage of grief. This is a few weeks before I move in with my boyfriend. All my rage had turned inward, in the way I was all too familiar with. My brain said “It’s your fault she’s not here. If she didn’t have you at 20 years old. You are so worthless and stupid. You took everything from her, you were the beginning of the end of her life. She’d have a good life if it weren’t for you. It should have been you who died. You took everything from her just like everyone else.” Finally, on that last note, I got sloppy drunk and I’ve never been that drunk before… I was crying and falling all over the place ” She was only 19 why did she keep me” “Mommy I’m so sorry” I remember hitting the hell out of my head after falling down again. My boyfriend was standing over me telling me my sister was on the phone. The only person who could calm me a little. I remember crying my sister’s name over and over. These days I try not to touch alcohol because it tastes like ” I miss my mom”.
Even as things were starting to fall into place around me(new apartment, new job). Grief had reorganized my soul in the most unexpected ways. I had no urge to write, no urge to do anything. I found myself relying on the old stories about myself before my mom died. But those stories felt hollow and gave me no direction. Grief had turned me into an NPC. I could only react to what was in front of me when it was in front of me. It felt like I had lost that arrow that always led me to my next mission, that kept me intrinsically motivated. I was so apathetic about everything or angry about everything. But the feelings I wanted back so bad was that version of me that is so Type A and stubborn. The version of me that was resilient, ambitious, and creative.


How did I make it out of depression? Very slowly. By loving the people my mom loved. By forgiving the people who did her dirty. By repeating my affirmations every day, and making space to cry when I needed to. By staring at candles until my eyes were unfocused. By writing and writing and writing.
I have a different outlook on my mom’s passing than I did a year ago or when I started writing this post months ago. Her life is like a drop of water that I perceived in slow motion spreading out in ripples. Everything she did, all the times she showed people mercy, cleaned up after herself, spoiled my little cousins, brushed my hair, laughed with my sister… she tangled herself with a version of the universe that can not exist the way it does without the chain reaction of her singular beautiful self. The best thing about it is that she lives with so many people over and over, and they have no idea. When people love me, or my sister, my aunts, and my dad, my friends… There are bits of her spreading out faster than I can comprehend, creating my mother in the form of true entropy.
Now, even on the days when her absence feels so uncomfortable and painful. I remember that she could never be that far. That no pain can compare to the love she made when she tangled herself up with the fabric of this reality. There are still days that it feels like I got hit by a bus. I get stuck and go back to hurtful dialogues… I was a bad daughter, I was selfish, and I should’ve done more for her.  There’s one affirmation that helps me and it goes: “If I were my mother I’d make all her mistakes, in the exact same order, at the exact same time, and be exactly who she is.” I try to surrender to the fact that I was not a licensed caregiver I was just a 22-year-old daughter.

To anyone in it right now

If you’re grieving right now. I hope you remember that we are all locked in observers of this life. We have no power to go backward and are forced to remember them as we go forward. Your loved one lives in you as you are. You don’t need to change, accomplish anything, or build monuments to honor them. You honor them as you are in your uniqueness. Live a life the best way you know how feeling deeply, learning from your mistakes, and loving others until you fold into entropy we are all fated to become.