46: Against All Odds

46: Against All Odds

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Against All Odds

Turn your wounds into wisdom.

~Oprah Winfrey

I faced the struggle of conquering the difficult preteen years of my life without a mother to guide me. My mom died very suddenly when I was eight years old, leaving me, my dad, and my twelve-year-old sister without the glue that had held our lives together. Although this tragedy was very difficult for me because I was so young, I can’t imagine what my sister must have felt, losing her mother at such a crucial time in her life. And, a few years later, it was my turn to experience the pain of crossing the threshold into my teenage years without the invaluable guidance of my mom.

Many days, I would listen to my friends at school complain about what, to me, seemed to be such petty problems. It was different for me. Often, I would lend an ear as they vented about various issues, including how much they hated their parents or their mothers. Deep down, I wished I could shake them and tell them how lucky they were to have a mom, even if they didn’t always get along. I would have given anything to have my mom there to give me advice about “girl things” during that time — I would even have gladly welcomed the occasional argument or disagreement, just to have her around. Sometimes, I wanted to tell my friends that their problems were nothing — try getting your first period or going shopping for your first bra without your mom there to help you. I felt lost, to say the least.

Don’t get me wrong — my dad did a wonderful job of raising my sister and me on his own, and I was lucky to have an older sister to turn to who could give me advice. But it just wasn’t the same. Everyone knows that nothing can replace the presence of a girl’s mother in her life — and the loss leaves a void that can never truly be filled, by anyone or anything.

I remember one particularly difficult day at school, when a peer in my Spanish class made a joke having to do with my mom, apparently not knowing that she had passed away. I ran to the bathroom, locked myself in one of the stalls and cried. On another occasion, I was online and received a message from someone with a very hurtful user name having to do with my mom. It even had my name in it, so I knew this was an intentional attack on me by somebody who knew me — not an innocent joke made by someone who didn’t know better — and I was heartbroken at how hurtful people could be. I didn’t want to go to school the next day because I was so upset and had no way of knowing who had played this cruel joke on me. I was afraid I might end up having a conversation with this person and not even know it, or that people might be making fun of me behind my back.

I always felt that having lost my mom made me different from everyone else — that it would always brand me as being an outsider, the girl without a mom. I often wondered if it occurred to my schoolmates when I passed by — “There goes the motherless girl....” Some days, I would have given anything to just wake up with a pimple or have worn an ugly outfit — those seemed like such simpler problems. Most days, I felt very much alone.

Despite the challenges of navigating the trials of life as a preteen girl without a mother, I learned a lot about myself from this experience. I realized at a fairly young age just how strong and independent I was, and how much I was really capable of. While I knew that nothing could ever ease the hurt of being forced to live these years of my life without my mom by my side, I realized eventually that I would be okay one way or another. My dad always told us that we had already been through the hardest thing two young girls could ever be faced with, and if we could get through that, we could do anything. At some point, I finally began to realize that he was right and adopted this attitude myself.

Life makes no guarantees — not to any of us. The only thing within our control is how we choose to handle the obstacles life places before us, whatever they may be. The thing to remember is, with the right attitude, you will never meet an obstacle that is insurmountable. No matter what happens today, there will still be tomorrow — and you will make it through. I’m living proof.

~Julia K. Agresto

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