Many stories have been shared of the psychological effects of facing one’s mortality. A woman is diagnosed with lupus and reevaluates her commitment to work-life balance. A man survives prostate cancer and is inspired to become a better father. Less is told of those left behind – the children, cousins, siblings, and friends who are left face to face with their greatest fears and inadequacies when someone they loves is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Gorgeous in Grey’s Ty Alexander recounts her experiences worrying about, caring for, and ultimately mourning her late mother with beautiful honesty in “Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mother Died”. Part memoir, part self-help book, this first effort from Alexander is the perfect gift for yourself or a loved one dealing with grief this holiday season.
While the stories of her mother supporting her during her journey into motherhood and championing her writing career are inspiring, what struck me the most were the interactions with her family members. What Alexander captured so well wasn’t just a breakdown in communication, but anger and then acceptance. Her description of the frustration she felt with family members attempting to force feed her mother as if that would cure her terminal cancer was so real. She details conflicts with her relatives, demonstrating the importance of transparency on the healing process. Sometimes the best way to tend to a wound is to let it breathe and she does that with dignity. Her knack for truth-telling made me want to take a look at myself and ask “what am I hiding?”
The encouragement it provides is clear and unsentimental. There are no commands leading to cure-all solutions. She emphasizes the importance of reaching out, and letting others reach out to you but not at the expense of self-care. She instructs the reader to ignore what they think they should be doing and do what’s best for them. The biggest bit of wisdom the book provided for me was about forgiveness – of others and of yourself.
As someone who was a particularly awful teenager when I lost the generous and god-fearing grandmother who gave up her golden years to raise me I, like Alexander, harbored guilt at her passing. I immediately regretted all of the Sunday afternoons I spent swimming at the shore or sipping cheap wine at South Mountain Reservation instead of being at her beside the same way the author regretted that last argument over baked ziti. Death is final. There are no more disagreements. You can’t make any changes. Acknowledging that you’ve done the best you can is a major part of moving forward to live a life that honors your loved one’s legacy. This book isn’t just about what is left behind it’s about the graduations, promotions, and in Alexander’s case weddings, that come next.
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of meeting Ty Alexander knows that she is an entertaining and powerful woman who doesn’t tolerate nonsense but always has room for positive energy.
Interested in learning more about Ty? Join us for BrownGirlsLove Power Day where she will be speaking about her experience writing her acclaimed book on our “Your Influence, Your Way” panel.