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We drive by a hospital. It’s not the one my mother was in, but it still brings the same sting and reminders. It brings pain just looking in the windows, knowing what’s inside. Sickness. Death. Dying.

Probably other things too, but my mind doesn’t know those. It knows the devastation of test results, and surgeries, and cancer—my mother’s cancer.

It only took 10 seconds to pass that hospital as we drove on the interstate, but the feeling of that view is still sitting with me, just like grief has done since the moment my mother passed.

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It’s ironic how a building, one you’ve never even stepped foot in, can cause such havoc on your soul. Sad that it can crumble your heart to pieces with one life-changing memory. A memory so harsh it rewrote everything that came after. A memory of your mother dying.

As we travel farther and farther away from that hospital, the grief and heartbreak stay. So I honor them. I let them do their job—reminding me of the blessing my mother was. Reminding me of the greatest woman I’ve known and have ever had to miss. With grief, there is immense sorrow but also immense gratitude. I hold both together, always.

The past few years of life, the years since my mother’s death, have taught me that this feeling will stay for a while. This jarring grief will linger until it dissipates though never leaving completely. It feels like being both homesick and heartbroken at the same time–an invisible and emotional chaos.

As tears stream down my face, I pray. I close my eyes and pray for the ones inside that building. May they experience the healing my mother never received on this side of Heaven. May they know memories and futures beyond those hospital walls and those difficult moments. May they never know the trauma and grief of simply seeing a hospital and being flooded with memories of sickness and separation–of death.

RELATED: When a Parent Dies, Part of Your Heart Will Always Be Broken

The hospital is long gone, now completely out of sight. And the most ironic thing is that while my grief is out of sight too, not visible to those around me, it’s still present. It’s still here. It’s still powerful. It can’t be seen, but I assure you it can be felt, like a punch to the gut or a knife to the heart.

And all it took to bring it back was the sight of a hospital and the memories of sickness, of death, and of dying within walls similar to the one I’ve just passed. It only took 10 seconds to pass that hospital, but it will take much longer to recover from the grief, from the memories–the memories of those hospital walls.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller is well-known for her blog, Happiness, Hope and Harsh Realities. She has written for multiple platforms such as Her View from Home, Love What Matters, and Scary Mommy. She has had essays featured in two Chicken Soup for the Soul collections, as well as the national bestseller So God Made a Mother. Her first book will be released August 2024. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband and three children. Website: www.hopeandharshrealities.com Instagram Handle: hopeandharshrealities Facebook: @hopeandharshrealities 

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