grief & road trips

by Kaylah Stroup

Before I lost my mom, I didn’t realize how messy grief was. I knew people were sad after they lost a loved one but I didn’t understand the extent of it. I honestly feel really guilty about that. I think as a culture we could do better about talking about death and helping the grieving BUT that’s a whole different subject. I didn’t realize that grief would take all of the things I loved in life and tie them to my mom. Namely, road trips.

So, this hasn’t been a conclusive thing. Perhaps further down the grieving process, I’ll feel differently but sitting here editing photos tonight, I just wanna talk about my last road trip…

My mother, the vandal.
Couldn’t help but feel like this was from her. She knew how much Jeff and I loved to find money on the ground. She even gave any money she found on the ground to us. Finding money now feels like tiny gifts from her.

It’s an annual thing for Jeff and I to go to the desert. Sometimes we even go more than once a year. We fell in love out there. We got engaged out there, and gosh darn it, we even got married out there. Its undoubtedly OUR THING.

But, oooof, I’ll tell you what, this last trip was rough. When we hit the road it had been two months since I last saw my mom. I felt… okay? Ya know, okay considering the fact my mom had died two months prior. I was back in the habit of eating, showering, and working regularly. Bouts of sadness still struck but I was generally ‘fine’.

A view I wanted so badly to text her.

We left late on a Friday night after Jeff got off work. We thought it’d be a good idea to drive through the night, get the boring states (the ones we’re already familiar with) out of the way that way we wouldn’t be missing any new scenery in the darkness. With three of us taking turns, we all felt confident it’d be no big deal driving all night. I knew how my mom would have felt about that though. She’d have been so worried. I know she would have been texting me until the minute she fell asleep and again the moment she woke up, just checking to make sure we were okay.

I slept a lot of the first half of the drive. I woke up somewhere in Iowa and my first thought was “I should let mom know where we are!” Then, of course, came the sinking feeling. That feeling? It never left the rest of the trip.

Everywhere we went I thought of the pictures I should be sending her. Every morning I felt the urge to let her know we were up and what our plans were for the day. Each night I wanted to let her know we were safe in a hotel. The places we went were our own but somehow already haunted by her. She was absolutely everywhere but at the same time nowhere. I had never even gotten a chance to tell her we’d be going on this trip.

comment from instagram she left me in March on a photo of Ohio’s giant whale that I posted.
My first thought after getting here, to the whale in OK, was that comment.

I don’t want to say it ruined the trip for me. Obviously, I had tons of fun. The trip was a massive success. We saw so much and made tons of awesome memories. I guess I just thought it would be more healing for me than it was. I thought that because it was MY thing it’d be totally refreshing, that I could come home with a clear mind. I spent so much time on the verge of tears thinking about my mom though. I wept silently from time to time but tried my best to keep it bottled up. ...Ya know, until I saw her name on that pole at the abandoned motel. Then all bets were off, I did some true ugly crying there.

Maybe it’s no surprise at all the trip reminded me of my mom so much. I mean, as ‘okay’ as I try to be, I did just lose one of the absolute most important people in my life. It’s gonna be a little messy for a long while.

I took a photo of her and my dad in front of these arrows last summer.
I got married on top of that building but all I could picture was my mom sitting on the rock second to right the morning of my wedding.

I don’t want to be that girl that writes about grief. It ain’t pretty, and it’s certainly not fun. It’s raw, it’s real and right now it’s my reality. I’m doing my best but also feel like it’s a necessity that I share things like this from time to time.

Until I lost my mom, I didn’t realize the gravity of loss. It’s so heavy. I can’t offer to be a listening ear right now, I’m too fragile but please, know that if you’re going through some shit, you’re not alone. ❤️

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Sam July 11, 2019 - 1:01 pm

all I can say is I’m sorry and I’m sending you a million hugs!

Sydney July 11, 2019 - 2:00 pm

I’m right there with ya, but in a slightly different way. This past Sunday I miscarried my 9-week pregnancy, Feeling very down in the dumps about it. My husband and I went to the zoo today and I completely underestimated how hard it would be seeing hundreds of parents with babies. Most of the time I’m ok and I think I’m “over it” but…then suddenly I’m not. It sucks.

Kristina B July 11, 2019 - 4:07 pm

Dude there’s no such thing as “that girl who writes about grief”. More people SHOULD. That title would be an accolade, not a scarlet letter. You are brave and strong and absolutely allowed to take as much time as you need to grieve; here or otherwise. You’re a writer and if writing is how you deal, we’re here to read and support you. <3

Kaylah Stroup July 11, 2019 - 8:34 pm

I appreciate the hell out of you, Kristina.

Christine July 17, 2019 - 10:40 pm

Totally agree with Kristina. Life is real and raw. It only makes it harder if you can’t share it. I’m glad you feel you can share here. ❤️

Tasha July 11, 2019 - 5:40 pm

When my grandmother died, there were a lot of those gut-drop moments. Every time I’d walk into her house, where my dad now lives, I’d get this feeling like I’d see her at the kitchen table or in her recliner as soon as I turned the corner. Suddenly remembering that she wouldn’t be there sucked so much. It does get easier. In a weird way, I’m grateful for grief. It tells me how much I’ve loved.

Kaylah Stroup July 11, 2019 - 8:33 pm

Yuuup, I know the feeling. I constantly think I’m going to spot my mom around every corner when I go in the house. It always just feels like I should be able to find her in the next room. Its like a bad game of hide and seek.

sophikita July 12, 2019 - 4:17 am

I really think it’s important that we talk about grief and how it affects us, and I really applaud you for writing about it when things are so rough. It’s so important to make space for not feeling great and up all the time and work through the process. Sending love and hugs

Kate Zy July 12, 2019 - 10:12 am

Girl, you should write about grief! Many of us are quietly dealing with our own and it’s refreshing and liberating when someone gives us the permission to freely wear our pain – especially the further we get from the moment of loss. It can be a very isolating process. I’ve been amazed at how regular and upbeat you have managed to keep your blog space, through great effort, I’m sure!! When my mom passed a year and a half ago, my family walked around like zombies for more than a year… and sometimes we still do. Like you mentioned in your post, those times when I realize I’ll never see her or hear her again hit me like it’s the night she died all over again. To me, grief is a million small deaths until the end of time. Thank you so much for this post and I hope your grieving process brings you peace and growth. Much love –

SHauna July 12, 2019 - 11:40 am

Keep writing, we’ll keep listening, and you’ll keep healing. <3 I wonder if texting your dad in those moments you want to message your mom would help the both of you?

Sorry this isn't fun. But if sharing helps…always share.

Susan July 12, 2019 - 2:56 pm

Kaylah,. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your mom. I lost mine in May…my dad in 2017, my husband 2016. I am so numb with grief it felt good to weep about yours. This article is so real. Leaving on a 20 hour each way road trip Tuesday with my autistic son (the physics of flying don’t make sense to him). I will be the only driver for the first time in my life. Going to a friend’s daughter’s wedding traveling through places I’ve never been…Reading this, my hopes were too high. Thank you for the refreshing reality. Mom & Dad & Dan would love to go on this trip…and they would love it that we’re going…New life, new memories to add to the wallpaper. I may have to change my hair color to yours before I leave. I’ve cut 6-12 inches every time someone dies…the next step is shaving it…but red!!! Joy!!! Comfort, love, peace & hugs if you want them. God bless you & your family!!!

Maureen Owens July 12, 2019 - 10:53 pm

Thank you ever so much for writing. My husband died suddenly recently and the hurt is so real and raw. Your writing helped! You’re amazing. My mom died when I was a child and I remember looking for her around the corners as you talked about..
Please keep writing.

Imani July 13, 2019 - 7:11 am

Loved this. Very relatable, thank you <3

Erin July 13, 2019 - 8:43 am

I can’t pretend to know the feeling yet- I’ve lost people, but not a parent, and I think that’s a much bigger thing to deal with. I think it’s probably really helpful for you to be able to write about these emotions and know that people are hearing you, though. And in turn, you’re teaching us a little about what we might come to expect with grief, so please don’t feel bad about writing about it here. Your mum sounds like such a magical person, her name written on the post made me cry a little xxx

ocean capewell July 14, 2019 - 2:25 am

death and grief are a huge part of life. i appreciate your honesty and wish you healing and strength.

Natalie July 14, 2019 - 11:27 am

Grief is a roller-coaster and a half and the journey is different for everyone. I lost my partner 5 months ago and my world fell from underneath me. I still have moments where I desperately wish I could tell him something. I think grief needs to be talked about, don’t apologise for sharing what you’re going through. Sending much love and strength.

Jessu July 14, 2019 - 11:38 am

Please don’t feel like you have to be a certain way on your blog, like not being the girl who writes about grief. Be whoever you are. That’s why we keep reading 😊

Erin July 15, 2019 - 8:18 pm

When you lose a parent, especially if it’s sudden, you become part of a club that no one really wants to be a part of. But members are happy to show you through the initiation rites. Reaching out and finding those club members can be so helpful. Even if it’s just for sanity checks (“it’s ok that I’m crying because of a bowl of lemons, right?” -yes, I did this. It was because I’d bought the lemons before my mother died. It was ok-).

Grief is a strange, sneaky thing. It weaves itself into the fabric of your life and pokes out every now and then. It makes perfect sense why you would want to write about it. Please consider this to be a vote in favor of sharing more about grief. As Mister Rogers said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that’s mentionable is manageable. When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”

Pekoe July 19, 2019 - 5:12 am

Hey doll. It sucks doesn’t it? Lost my dad, 10 years ago now, and there is still stuff that happens that I wish I could tell him about and then remember.

It gets easier, I do promised that. I heard that grief never leaves, it just becomes something you live your life around, it ends up fitting into who you are. That weirdly helped me and I hope it helps you.


Anon August 14, 2019 - 8:09 pm

I highly recommend the podcast “Griefcast” – the presenter, a comedian & writer, interviews various people in the public eye about their experience with grief.
I’ve lost a lot of people recently- my dad, my best friend, my cousin, my dog. This podcast has made me feel a bit less crazy riding the grief rollercoaster.

Kaylah Stroup August 17, 2019 - 9:03 am

Thanks! I’ll look into that.

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