Just Buy the T-Shirt or: How I’m Coping With My Mom’s Death

Nearly two months ago, my mom went into the hospital due to pain caused by metastatic cholangiocarcinoma which she had been diagnosed with six months earlier. Four days later, she died.


Guys, I get it. I really do. You come here to read goofy reviews of some random horror movie every four months and definitely don’t come here to have to deal with heavy shit. I get it! That’s what I think about a lot, too. Why would I want to burden any of you guys with stuff that’s a major bummer when I could possibly entertain all three of my readers with some poorly-written review? Well, here’s the thing: the biggest factor that sets anyone apart in the world of “horror blogging,” or really any sort of journalism is the personal perspective that someone injects into anything they write about. If I can’t personally enlighten you guys about the shit I’m going through and affecting my outlook, what the hell is the point of writing anything? Admittedly, some of you might have already wondered why I write anything hundreds of posts ago, but that’s beside the point. If I can’t tell you (yes, all three of you) about my life, then I might as well post under a pseudonym or something.

Oh, yes, anyways, my mom died. For those of you out there who have lost a parent, however close or distant you guys were, you know it sucks. Despite not having lived in the same time zone as her for more than ten years, we talked regularly and I was lucky enough to see her half a dozen times a year. It’s only been two months, but now everything is just…different. My brain hasn’t entirely processed what has happened and I’ll regularly think, “Oh yeah, don’t forget to tell your mom…” or “Well, when I see her at Christmas…” Admittedly, part of that is me being a complete moron and my brain still catching up, the other part is just how everything is now completely different in such a drastic way that my brain can’t even wrap itself around her being gone.

One of the best analogies I’ve heard about grief is that it’s like a rubber band. No matter how much time passes for me without having a memory about how she’s gone or how we won’t get to have all those experiences I was waiting on, the grief snaps me right back to the immense sadness I felt in the moments I realized she was gone. I might go days, I might go for weeks, but eventually, the rubber band snaps me back to those first moments and it’s like no time has passed at all.

Hey, Wolfman, what the hell does all of this have to do with a t-shirt? Well, just give me a friggin’ second and I’ll get to it!

Most of our visits were vacations for her, whether they were going to the city I lived and doing touristy things, going to a concert, or going to a national park. Virtually every place we went, there would be some sort of overpriced souvenir t-shirt that my mom would ask if I was interested in having her buy for me. This is, of course, an incredibly sweet thing to do, but my thought was always, “Do I like this shirt that I sort of glanced at enough to have spent my own money on it?” and most of the times the answer was, “No.” My mom, on the other hand, would take a momentary hesitation while browsing a gift store to mean, “Oh, well he needs this damn shirt so I’m getting it for him whether he wants it or not.”

A month after she died, I took some of her ashes to a park in New Hampshire near where she grew up to spread. While I was leaving the gift store, there were various items adorned with bears and moose that caught my eye, in addition to a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of the park on it. While I hesitated to purchase it, I heard a little voice in my head that encouraged me to buy it, knowing that my mom would have used my hesitation as an opening to buy the shirt.

The next week, I went to a show and was contemplating buying a shirt, despite none of the shirts typically catching my eye. But, yet again, I heard that voice in my head saying, “Just buy a t-shirt.” So I did. Now I have even more shirts, even though I already have too many.

The lesson I’m trying to impart is that, while we’ve all lost people, and will lose even more people, there’s nothing we can do to bring them back or get those experiences that we were looking forward to. The least we can do to honor their memories is to take the lessons they imparted on you and let them affect your life. While my mom ultimately wouldn’t really care that I had two new t-shirts, I know she’d be happy that, in some way, she can still make sure I get that t-shirt from that thing I went to, even if she didn’t get to be there with me.

The next time you’re wondering about whether or not to get the t-shirt, my advice is just to get the t-shirt.

2 responses to “Just Buy the T-Shirt or: How I’m Coping With My Mom’s Death

  1. Hey Wolfman, short time reader, first time mourner. I lost a brother two years ago and know how hard it can be. Especially, the reoccurring guest star dreams where you realize that appearance is only momentary. The feeling is always bittersweet and a waking reminder that, yes, those lessons are the silver lining. No matter how small or insignificant they may appear to be. So, good for you for buying the fucking t-shirts! Your mom would be proud-hang in there!

    • Sorry to hear, Geena. I’m sure your brother showed you countless ways to live in his memories, I just feel lucky that I found a definitive way to keep her spirit alive, which I’m sure your brother has found a way to do in ways you might not even realize yet.

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