As I reflect on the summer it is hard to believe that I have survived. It has been overwhelming, sad, emotional, stressful, devastating, and heartbreaking, though it has also been a summer of empowerment, growth and change.
My summer began with the death of my brother and my BSW graduation. Both of these events happened one week apart. I was filled with such joy as I was about to complete a goal that I had set for myself, I was going to walk across that stage and receive my diploma that I worked so very hard for. Then on April 25th my brother Peter died and shook my world. This was the first death in my family since the death of Mckenna. I was full of so many emotions that I found myself questioning my grief. Why I was feeling such sadness, because after all I have lost a child so why does this hurt so much? It was an eye opening moment that started my summer. It opened my eyes to the living world again; a world that I thought wasn’t possible since the death of Mckenna. I didn’t want to lose any more time with the ones that I love, as tomorrow is never guaranteed. I walked across that stage filled with such joy and accomplishment ready to start the next chapter of my education.
After a short break from school I started my MSW program. I was ready to be done and get this started because there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I would be done with my ultimate goal of becoming a social worker. I started my internship at PCH and was going strong and felt that I was learning so much and growing as a social worker. Then on June 18th I found my mom dead. This shattered my world in a way that I am not even sure I can explain. My fear for months leading up to her death was that I was going to go check on her and find her dead. Each time I would play in my head the worst case scenario to try and prepare for this outcome. What I would do, how I would react, terrible images of her would cross my mind trying to be “prepared”. This is something you cannot prepare for. It is something that is not supposed to happen. The moment I realized she was gone, I went into a state of shock and disbelief. Is this really happening? Is she really dead? Oh my God she’s really dead…..My head was spinning, my body was trembling, my hands were shaking, and my heart was breaking. This could not be happening. I have had my struggles with my mom over the years, and the few months leading up to her death were some of the most challenging. Back in November of last year I made the decision to start to detach myself from her because I could no longer handle the drinking. This was a difficult decision for me because I loved her so deeply. I did not get the chance to fully process this decision as I was feeling the guilt because she would say things like, “please don’t give up on me Ashley.” Just typing those words break my heart. The broken look on her face each time I would see her is haunting me. I did not realize what her death was doing to me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I did not realize how much this was affecting my internship, because I was trying to just push through like I have always done. I did not realize I could not just push through this grief.
Long story short, I did not pass my internship. I will keep most of the details of why private, but this was devastating to me. Everything I had worked so hard for felt as if it was slipping through my fingers. The day I found out I was blindsided and had no idea that I had failed. I cried on and off all day long because I felt so defeated. As I contacted my field liason to find out what happens next, I discovered that this was a big deal. I could very well be kicked out of the program. I had to go up against the standards committee and kind of “defend” myself and explain my side of what happened, explain what I have learned from this and what I will do to help myself. I had some time to reflect from the time I found out to the time of the meeting. I walked into that meeting feeling empowered and ready to face this head on, I left that meeting feeling completely deflated and overwhelmed. My education was in their hands and out of my control. Since the time of the meeting I have decided to take the semester off of school. I need the break to try and fully get on my feet and to have some fun. This was not an easy decision, but I feel like Mckenna and my mom joined forces to get me to slow down because it was time to take some time for me.
In the time I had to reflect I came to realize that I need to deal with everything that has happened this summer, especially my mom’s death. I could not let this life devour my existence like I feel it did to my mom. I realize that I have to really start living, having fun, getting out of my room and be the person I know I can be. This summer has kicked my ass, knocked me down, and brought me to my knees, but in reflecting I have kicked back, gotten back up and stood stronger. I am taking the steps to better myself and become healthier mentally and physically. I have some beautiful souls in my corner and some beautiful friends and without them this summer, I am not sure what I would have done.
Here’s to a better me one step at a time, one day at a time and moment by moment……