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Moving Forward...Not Moving On: By Carly Campbell

I'm humbled and honored to share this post today from my God daughter, Carly Campbell. Losing a parent is one of the most personal and heart wrenching experiences a person can go through and I am truly in awe of her strength to share with all of us today. Thank you, Carly for your beautiful words.


It was a personal decision to not share and post information regarding my mom’s death. I had many reasons for that, mostly because it was too soon for me to have to explain what happened and I felt like I could not do her justice with what I had to say. As it has now been a little over seven months since her passing, I have a few things to share. I do not write this to invoke any kind of sympathy or response. I share this in hopes to provide a light for someone who may be walking this path too.

Grief is one of the most horrific emotions a person has to face. It is not welcomed, it is not something that you can prepare for (trust me, I tried), but instead it is something that you are forced to deal with. Whether you are ready or not. There are many highs and many lows, which makes it hard to know what the next hour will look like, let alone the next day. Grief can consume you (and it’s highly likely that it will at some point), but you cannot let it debilitate you. The duration and magnitude of grief will differ based on each individual and each situation. If I can stress one thing, it is to not compare your grieving process to anyone else's. My brother (Will), dad (Chad) and I all grieve differently and in our own ways. The person that you lost meant something different to every person that they met, give them the grace to feel and respond how they need to, even if it is very different from your process.

Carly and Mom (Tera) dying Easter eggs.
Carly and Mom (Tera) dying Easter eggs.

Everyday looks a little bit different for me. I can go through an entire day without being reminded of anything and the next day it seems like everything I look at triggers some kind of memory or flashback. Through multiple counseling sessions, I have learned how to cope with those triggers and how to continue on with my day without getting stuck in that moment. I have absolutely no shame admitting that I went to counseling, because I think it was a big factor in my healing process. I am a big advocate for acknowledging when you need help and taking the time to take care of yourself. Whether that is utilizing counseling, exercising, yoga & meditation, reading, spending time with your people, etc., self-care is incredibly important in the grieving process. With that being said, forgiving yourself and showing yourself grace is incredibly crucial too.

Mom (Tera) and Will at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

For the longest time, I had a tremendous amount of guilt for being happy or moving forward with my life. I felt like if I did those things that I was leaving her behind. It took me a while to figure out that I can move forward with my life without leaving her and our memories behind. I will never forget what happened, I will never forget our memories, and I will never forget my mom. The situation will never be “okay”, but every day coping with the pain of the loss becomes a little bit easier. I will never move on, but I will keep moving forward.

I have learned a lot during this time, as well. I have learned how to be more understanding and empathetic with people. It is impossible to know what a person’s story is or what they are going through,which is why it is important to show them kindness and respect (even if that is not necessarily reciprocated). I know there were (and still are) many times that I needed people to show me grace and love when I was having a bad day, so I think it is very important that I do the same for others. Another thing I have learned is how crucial it is to let your people know how much you love them as often as you can. I think it is such a beautiful feeling to love a person, whether they’re your sibling, cousin, significant other, parent, or friend. Loving and being loved is one of the greatest feelings. My mom taught me how important relationships are and how to treat people, regardless of how they treat you. I think this imperative in all aspects of life. It’s very true that one smile or one kind gesture can truly make someone else’s day. I’ve been that someone else and let me tell you there have been so many people that have made an impact on my day by doing the smallest acts of kindness, whether they know it or not.

Mom (Tera), Carly, Will, and Dad (Chad) at Carly's high school graduation in Brandon, SD.
Mom (Tera), Carly, Will, and Dad (Chad) at Carly's high school graduation in Brandon, SD.

The final thought I would like to add is that through this entire situation, I watched my parents live out their wedding vows to each other quite literally “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health”. For a majority of the 14 months my mom was ill, I was away at college. Even though it was only 45 minutes away, it still meant that I did not see her every day, I did not see every decline, and I was not there for every appointment and scan, but my dad was. For that, I think he deserves the utmost respect because he did exactly what he vowed to do for my mom 22 years ago. I will forever appreciate being able to witness that, as it has set a foundation and expectation for my future. When I think about my grief, I try to focus on these aspects and not the sadness it provokes. Thinking about these lessons helps me to keep moving forward.

Carly, Dad (Chad), and Mom (Tera) at Grandma and Grandpa's house.
Carly, Dad (Chad), and Mom (Tera) at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

I chose to share this today, September 6, because today is her first Heavenly Birthday. I’ve been thinking about this day for quite a while. I don’t have all of the words to explain what my mom meant to me, but for many years I have always had a post ready for her and this year will be no different:

My mom was truly one of the greatest people I have ever met. Her beautiful smile and laugh were simply contagious. Her eyes sparkled in every picture, matching the light in her heart. She had the most beautiful heart and I think anyone who had the opportunity to meet her could agree. She loved life, she loved her people, and you could tell. Even during all of her chemotherapy appointments, she still kept smiling. That’s just who she was. There wasn’t a thing my mom wouldn’t do to help someone or make their day a little bit better. Even if that meant a gesture as small as getting you your favorite coffee or snack; she just knew. She was kind, intentional, and loving. There is no way to describe what it felt like to be loved by her. All I can say is that it was a true gift to be her daughter. I am forever grateful to have learned some of her mannerisms, listened to all of her stories, and have a piece of her in my heart. I love and miss you every single day, Happy First Heavenly Birthday Mom.

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