A Warrior’s Story

silhouette of asian woman behind tree branch near endless ocean

By: Laurie Jarvis

May 13th 2019 will be a date that will remain with me forever. I can vividly remember my husband waking me up from my sleep after my phone displayed missed calls from several family members. I glared at my phone and pushed the voicemail button, and listened to a frantic man on the phone that screamed, “Laurie, you need to get back to me!”

The man on the other end of that voicemail was my mom’s boyfriend. I quickly dialed his number back and heard the cracking of his voice…

“She’s gone, Laurie.”

My mind was in shock and I couldn’t quite match the words to the reality. The last thing I could recall was my husband ushering me out of the door, as my sweet sons slept peacefully in the next room. I have heard stories of people having out-of-body experiences, but this was my first. As I entered into the driveway, I was met with a scene made-for-movies with cop cars and flashing lights everywhere.

I jumped out of my car, and was met with multiple people waiting for me. I collapsed when I finally got to the scene and my mom’s boyfriend’s words met with the heavy breath of reality that I would no longer see my mom alive ever again.

Later, it was discovered that she died of an overdose. This final discovery took my breath away, crushing my spirit.

But, let me tell you about my mom.

She was breathtaking. She was ambitious. She was the life of the party. She never meet a stranger. She was authentic. She was my best friend.

She loved me well.

I would share my deep, dark secrets and, in return, she would never judge. She was a sounding board of brilliant wisdom, compassion, and empathy. We would laugh so hard at times, I could not catch my breath. My friends would run to her and ask for advice, even visiting her while I was at work. Yep, she was the cool mom!

Although, my mom truly was a beacon of light for others, she concealed the heaviness of a mental battle that left her feeling isolated and grasping for silence inside her head. She felt like death was knocking at her door, every step of the way.

The sacred space that she held so close to her heart began to shatter and was exposed during my 20’s. I was becoming more independent and she felt like her anchor was leaving her. Our relationship drastically changed and her behavior followed suit.

My mom became erratic.

She would have moments where she felt like she was on cloud nine and then there’d be days she would withdraw to her room, swallowed up for weeks at a time. I began to notice little alcohol bottles in closets, in her purse, and other random places. She would chalk this up to being stressed or disappointed with my life choices (I was living with my boyfriend outside of marriage at the time). I knew the days without sleep, the volatile behavior, and drinking habits were a HUGE red flag for something more than stress.

My family, close friends, and I were forced to ride this roller coaster for a decade — only to discover the diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

My Mom had always been authentic. But, when she discovered her diagnosis, she took everyone on the journey with her. This was no easy task because, along with mental health issues, she suffered from Graves’ disease (an immune disorder that affects the thyroid) and was losing her eye sight. As I type this, a deep compassion for her struggle rises up within me.

My mom fought for her life every step of the way. She called on the name of Jesus, and quoted this scripture fervently: “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise ” (Jeremiah 17:14).

Even in her darkest hours, my mom spoke the word of God over her life and others. You see, I wholeheartedly believe that God answered my mom’s prayer by giving her healing on the other side. While my mom experienced spiritual healing, I was still left broken.

When I lost my mom I shook my fist at God.

Anger consumed me and I felt numb. One day, while I was arguing with God again, He gently reminded me of this scripture: “The lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

This scripture brought on warm, salty tears as I received His comfort.

I will not put a pretty bow on grief and hand it over to you in nice package. Instead, I’ll shed light on my grief. Grief impacts us all differently. For me, grief didn’t come and go in an orderly, confined timeframe. Just when I thought the pangs of anguish had stolen their last breath, another wave would sweep over me and force me to revisit the memories, the pain, and the fear. Sometimes, I tried to resist the demands of grieving, desperately avoiding its fierce, yet holy pilgrimage. I would fight against its current, terrified of being overwhelmed or becoming lost in the brokenness.

But God would not let me go.

The scripture, “He will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6) had never seemed as true as I wrestled through the different stages of my grief. You see, my reality did not change, but the Lord softened my heart and lifted my burden, allowing me to make room to surrender the pain.

I had to be broken to be built back up.

Regardless of our life journey, our Heavenly Father has felt every pain, circumstance, and challenge. I have learned that my story has created the opportunity to see God as my healer, provider, comforter, and friend. I miss my mom dearly, but I’m so thankful that she has left me with the gift of authenticity.

My hope and prayer is that my story —her story — will allow others to NEVER feel alone in their struggles with mental illness, addiction, and even grief…while pointing to the intimacy of a God who promises to stick with you through it all.

God is good… even when the story is messy.

Meet Laurie Jarvis:

Laurie is a wife and mother to two beautiful boys. She and her husband own Cool Moose Cafe in Jacksonville, Florida.

A former Jacksonville Jaguar cheerleader turned MOPS International Coordinator and Executive Leadership Coach — Laurie is influencing the world through her story of hope and restoration.

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