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No One Tells You This About Losing A Parent Too Soon, So I Will

Inspiration

Growing up, my mother was no nonsense, and all about raising my sister and I to be exceptional women.

I was always expected to be above standard, even with whatever chaos that surrounded me at any given time. It was no secret that she loved us more than anything in this world and as I got older, my mother suddenly shifted to a friend; someone I could call and she was always there. The loyalty was unmatched. She was my best friend.


Well, unfortunately, months ago, things made a turn for the worse and my mom unexpectedly transitioned. She wasn't sick, she had no illnesses. She was mobile and energetic in her last days even; the queen she had always been.

And that, my friends, was the dagger.

Now, don't get me wrong, a parent's death is never easy. But this one, was definitely hard to swallow. And honestly it still is. It never gets easier to process.

But it does get better.

Here's an honest and expressive list to explain what I've learned through it all.

You Won’t Feel Like You Can Relate to Anyone Anymore

This may come across as a bit selfish, but after an unexpected death—especially one of a parent—you become a shell of yourself. And you start to subconsciously not want to deal with anyone. Unless they've been through it, no one understands how you feel, so you sort of file everyone in a category as just someone being kind during your current hardship. And in a weird, completely unselfish way, you do not want them to. You even start to think of ways that you can get "thank you, I really appreciate it" stamped for automatic reply.

But the fact is, everyone feels sad for you and they all want to support you. But because the situation isn't exclusive to them as it is you, you find yourself uncomfortable with the comfort and feeling alone. I remember chatting with my sister and telling her:

"The hardest part of this whole ordeal, is that you've been ripped apart, and you can't breathe, and your whole world is falling apart. And to everyone around you, it's just another day."

Particularly, I remember receiving group chat messages of the usual memes or videos we'd often share and looking on social media and seeing my entire feed being completely normal.

And it's hard. Because to you, nothing is normal anymore.

People Will Disappoint You

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Listen, yall: when my mom died, the community came out of the woodwork. And I mean that in the most literal form. We had people come from all over the country, some asking how they can contribute to anything, food was coming from every corner of the city, and flowers and cards and messages and calls and WHEW.

You never know how much you are loved and valued until this moment. I even had friends I hadn't seen since high school to come to my mother's funeral service. All the love is incredible, and it got me through for sure.

But for a very few, you will be disappointed, and those relationships will subconsciously become re-evaluated. I had friends and family who were there for me and checked on me everyday, no matter how much I didn't want to talk.

But I also had friends and family that I would have been that supportive person for, that I never heard from—some even to this day. My mother had 7 brothers and sisters, only one came to her funeral. Family drama will come to the surface that people cling to. Jobs will wonder when you're coming back because you just have to get those emails out. And companies will apologize for the death, but still want their money no matter what kind of debt you've just taken on or had to go into.

Friends will become question marks, family will become strangers, and situations become accentuated. But in a time where you need all the support, you have to not let that disrupt your energy. You are not obligated to comfort anyone, no matter how strong you are. And you do not have to take on anything that doesn't help you heal.

All you can do is focus on the people who supported and loved on you. Let any disappointment be background noise.

Yet, The Support You Receive Will Be A Direct Reflection Of You And Your Parent

In life, you know that people love you. But in death, you see that people love you. My goodness guys, my mom was really loved. My circle from home and college and my adult life were unbelievably encouraging and it is amazing to see and feel. I learned, and cannot stress enough, how important it is to let people be there for you and be open to whatever support that they offer. We come from a small town so the whole town immediately thought of my sister and I and made sure to step in to protect us. And when I sat down to think about the bare component as to why that is, I discovered it's all a direct reflection of who my mother was to them and who my sister and I are to people who have been along our life's journey.

You Will Unintentionally Become Depressed in Secret

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They say the following weeks after the funeral is the hardest part—and that couldn't be more true. The dust has settled, you're buried with your parent's financials and expenses and belongings and you're closing out affairs and you're left with your own thoughts, all while simultaneously having to discuss the death over and over again in order to do so. You have to mention the death—by force—way too often and you're met with "aww I'm sorry to hear that" at every turn.

And as a cherry on top, you have to carry on with life: go to work, be a good spouse and maintain the lifestyle you've created. It's overwhelming for the average psyche and you will find yourself an emotional wreck. Everyone will tell you they are here for you and if you need anything to call, but it falls on deaf ears and before you know it, you find yourself depressed.

Sure you'll find yourself laughing again and smiling but it's all forged. People you see day-to-day will convince themselves you're back to your old self, and you've probably tricked yourself into thinking that you are too.

You're not.

There will be good days and there will be bad days—and eventually the good days will add up. But suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement will all become a part of the journey. Taking care of your mental health is the priority and you will have to figure out how to navigate its management (which I am still trying to do).

Time Is the ONLY Healer

When your parent dies, you become a part of a situation where so many just hope to say the right things. And most will. You'll receive so many gifts and beautiful flowers and many many people will stay in contact constantly. But in the end, none of that will help you. On the upswing, you will find yourself having more meaningful conversations and looking towards your future on a clearer path. But unfortunately, none of that will help you either.

Listen.

The only way you will be able to move forward is with time. All the niceties are great. All the hugs are comforting. All the calls will strengthen you. But time, and only time, will be your healer.

Charmin Michelle is a southern native and creative spirit who works as a content marketer and events manager in Chicago. She travels throughout the midwest as a Market Director for some of the top competitive events in the country. Connect with her on Instagram @charminmichelle.

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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