Houa Lor
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Learning To Smile

Learning To Smile

Nov 19, 2023

When we lose someone we love, it sets our world into a turmoil that leaves us fighting to find breath and hoping that any tiny spectacle we grasp will help us live for the next hour. My mother’s death had created a huge hole in my heart 7 years ago and I remembered becoming numb to everything around me. I cried when I thought no one heard me and put on a smile in the presence of people. Pretty soon, I faked it so well that people began to believe me, but in silence, I was drowning. I think my mother knew this too because one night, she came to me in a dream and she said to me, “I  am at peace, my darling girl. I am no longer in pain, but you will be for the rest of your life without me. That’s life, but you cannot stop living and you cannot stop pretending you don’t need help. You have to live.” I woke up in tears and I thought a long, hard time about what she said to me.


I began to write to her, to tell her what I was doing each day and I knew that she was reading and seeing me. It helped me to heal. It helped me to face the day before me and get ready for the next. And before I knew it, I had a lot of letters written that made me begin to understand that I was going to be ok. I didn’t need to act brave in front of people and if no one understand, it was not their fault. I had something inside of me that broke and no one could reach out to glue it back together. This kind of loss…not everyone can fix or gift me something to make it go away. Gently overtime, I would find a way to breathe again and everything would be ok.


It’s been 7 years since her death and I find I am getting stronger every year. The absence still hurts, yes, but not in a way where it literally shuts me down. It reminds me that I need to live for her too and that if I were doing something, I just needed to keep her in my heart. She would get to experience it with me and that was how I found myself after literally drowning in hiding pains. Losing someone you love isn’t something that will go away overnight and it probably never will. Over time, the feeling of being unable to breath becomes  a bit better when it comes to enduring. You learn to let go a little of the tight knitted fist you hold over their loss because you are afraid that if you live, it means you have forgotten. It’s not true, I can tell you that much, and please don’t let anyone tell you that not crying enough means you didn’t love enough. We all mourn differently and in times of loss, respect each other with either silence or a simple, “I am sending love your way.”


For those who have experienced a loss recently, the light and love I have in me is being sent to you to help you work through this difficult time. For those who are remembering loved ones, you are not alone. I walk this path with you as do many others. We are all fighting a battle of simply trying to live on in the memories of those whose smiles are remembered in photos.  


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