What My Mother’s Death Taught Me About Life & Love
I remember coming back from school that day and seeing terror and massive worry in everyone’s eyes. I remember everyone crying. They took me to the neighbor’s apartment downstairs and were trying to distract me. But I knew something terrible had happened. I could feel it.
I can’t remember who told me the news. They simply said that my mom was gone. Like gone forever. I was old enough to understand what death meant but not old enough to realize what it meant for me. And how everything would change drastically from then on.
I don’t really remember the first eight years of my life. It seems like life started from that one single moment. November 18, 1997. When my mother passed away. That specific moment had defined who I am for a very long time.
I remember vividly her body laying in the living room of our two-bedroom apartment in Chisinau for three days. It’s a Moldovan tradition to keep the body in the house for three days so that everyone has a chance to say goodbye. They say that only after three days the soul leaves the body. They also say that all mirrors have to be covered in case the soul decides to show itself in the mirror. Funeral processions in Eastern Europe are some of the most depressing and darkest ones. For about a month after, I was still scared to enter in that living room.
My mother passed away when she was 41 years old. I was eight, my sister was 12. My father was 43. She was hit by a train in Suceava, Romania on a business trip while carrying bags from one train track to another and didn’t hear the train coming. It was snowing heavily that night with lots of wind and temperatures were below zero degrees. It felt like we were all hit hard by that same train.
I remember the pity and extreme sadness in everyone’s eyes when they were looking at us. It suddenly felt like there was a stain that we couldn’t erase now… It felt like we would have to carry this burden forever. It was like a scarlet letter “M” that stands for “motherless” that I had to now wear well into my adulthood…
“My god, what a tragedy… how will they survive… That poor man, so young, so handsome… Those poor girls, so young and without a mother…”
I still remember the funeral. The earth was wet and there were flowers everywhere. Her favourite ones. Carnations.
It felt like the end of the world. The unidentified object was my mother’s coffin. I understood that I was at my mother’s funeral but didn’t fully realize what it meant. I was too young to really comprehend it. I just knew it was all extremely sad and terrible. People were in horror and my mother was not here standing with me but over there laying lifeless. I think I didn’t realize she was actually gone forever. The person laying there looked like her but I knew it was not her.
I always thought she would come back and it was all a big heavy misunderstanding. I’ve had many dreams even into my adulthood where she would come back to tell me that it was all a necessary setup. That she needed to fake her death to disappear for a while. I fully believed it. It was my coping mechanism. I’m still using it sometimes.
Most of my childhood and teenage years I felt like I had some sort of a physical disability. Like my right arm had been cut off. Like I was different. Like I was special. Special treatment, special looks of pity and special conditions.
Everyone knew that we had lost our mother and the world looked at us like we were somehow damaged. And we were damaged indeed. I had carried this trauma with me all the way through adulthood. I still carry it, only the weight of it is different.
Things have changed when I became a student in college because it didn’t really matter whether I had one, two or no parents at all. We were all equal, we were adults. What mattered is how well you did at your studies and how involved you were in the community. The little motherless Anna disappeared and I felt normal again.
At least I thought I did.
My past had still defined me and who I was. My mother’s death had written out my story. I got my right arm back but it was just hanging there, it wasn’t actually part of my body. Not yet. I used her death as an excuse for my emotional outrages. I was aggressive, blunt, rebellious. All qualities you can expect from a girl who grew up without a mother.
The plot had an additional twist when my father decided to marry my stepmother. I was 14. My sister and I were always very welcoming of any woman my father was dating. Both of us wanted a new mom. We didn’t want to be different and receive special treatment. We wanted to be like all the other children.
With the new stepmother, and for about three years, my life turned into hell. It really is a Moldovan Cinderella story. Me going through puberty mixed with a controlling and manipulating woman in the house didn’t go very well. We were constantly fighting, she took control over everything in the house, read my personal diaries, actively participated in my upbringing, locked doors and expensive possessions from me and had threatened to take me to the orphanage if I didn’t behave.
My father had tried to make peace between us. It didn’t work. I was too rebellious and freedom loving. The little Wanderova was brewing up then. There were days when I was so emotionally and mentally unstable that my father had to call an ambulance to calm me down. I remember how they tied my arms and legs and were about to inject me with a dose of weird transparent liquid until I calmed myself down.
I started smoking cigarettes when I was 16, going out with boys and came home drunk when I was in 7th grade. I was in a bad neighbourhood mingling with some bad friends. I was getting into gang fights, constant arguments and crazy stories. They told me I would either end up in jail or become a millionaire. I didn’t care. I felt lonely and alone. I had suicidal thoughts. I felt like the world doesn’t love me and the universe had betrayed me big time. I was skipping entire school days, working at summer jobs since I was 14 and all I could think of was making my own money and getting out of this misery.
Luckily, I was very smart and although I didn’t care much about studying or homework, I was one of the top students at school and knew English perfectly. At 17 I won an international FLEX competition and I was one of the 40 students to be sent to the USA to study for a year in high school and live in an American family.
That year changed my life. I came back a new Anna, full of hope, plans for the future and ready to mend my relationship with dad and my stepmother. I was already 18 and finishing my last year of high school. I knew that if I would pack my bags and leave I would be free to live on my own terms. I knew that I didn’t need them to tell me how to live my life.
And so after yet another physical fight with my stepmother, I packed my shit in two suitcases and was out. My father slammed the door behind me and I carried my two suitcases by myself down to the first floor. Ironically, one of the rollers broke on the smaller suitcase and I had to drag it behind me. I knew I was on my own. A man approached me and asked if he could help. I let him carry my suitcase all the way to my aunt’s apartment thinking from time to time whether we wants to steal my money or rape me. But he was a good man. The Universe had my back.
I ended up living with my aunt for about five months until a serious physical fight happened there as well. I packed my shit yet again and was out on the streets trying to figure out my next home to sleep in while finishing my last year of high school. I left lonely and alone again.
I grew up very fast. But I knew I had to go forward. I had an intense strength and hope that I will push through. That I would not give up.
I ended up living with my boyfriend for another two months and then moved into my mother and father’s apartment where I grew up. I had started talking to my father again and he let me stay there until I finished high school helping me financially from time to time.
Freedom and happiness finally arrived when I got accepted into the American University in Bulgaria and was on my way to my new life in September of 2008 to start college.
University years were great but difficult. But I loved it. Mostly I loved the freedom to make my own decisions and manage my own money. I always knew what I wanted.
In the hard times when working three summer jobs and 14-hour days in Nantucket, USA I was asking God what did I do wrong… Why me? Why had it happened to me? Why couldn’t I be like the normal kids and have a nice family that could take care of me? Why did I have to suffer so much?
My true transformation started when I got a job at Mindvalley after college and moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Being away from home and all the stereotypes of what life is, what relationships are and who I am, helped me realize that I can have a different life. That I can rebuild myself. That I can start a new life. That I don’t have to be defined by my past and instead use it as a catalyst for transformation. That “better” life that I always hoped existed — had become real. Working in a company that sells personal growth programs helped me discover myself and understand parts of me that I had never seen. I started reading about personal development, going to energetic healers and working through my limiting beliefs.
Slowly I started releasing of my past and not seeing myself as damaged anymore. I knew that I had a broken model of relationships and I was ready to learn how to fix it. I never had a healthy relationship with my father. I think at one point I really hated him. I was visiting home once a year, meeting my father at a cafe in Chisinau over tea and our talk would be over in an hour. Sometimes we would fight, he would stand up and walk away leaving me there. I had never spoken to my stepmother since I left home when I was 18. That was ten years ago.
I started a podcast about men where I studied the subject of men and relationships for about two years. I understood that the path to loving a man and being loved back was in reconnecting with myself and giving myself all the love that I’ve missed on during all those years.
I simply didn’t know what love was. I hadn’t really felt or seen it much. I believed that love is suffering and pain. One of the worst punishments from my father, besides the physical abuse, was not speaking to us for three days in a row. Other times it was taking away a winter jacket or a pair of shoes he had just bought me as punishment for skipping school or not getting good grades. Locking up the phone so I couldn’t reach my girlfriends, having a strict curfew and letting me eat only strict portions of food. That’s what I thought love was.
I have never heard “I love you” or “I am proud of you” when I was growing up. Eastern Europe is harsh that way. I feel like people don’t really understand love or don’t really know what it is over there.
I always felt like I wasn’t enough. That something was wrong with me. That I have to be tamed. We think that we have to earn love. With good grades and good behaviour. With obedience. Our sense of unworthiness and not being enough for our parents roots from these broken models of love.
I missed being embraced and being held. I missed having an older woman in my life whom I could ask for advice. I missed being accepted and understood. I still feel this way sometimes when I’m around my family. I have changed. They haven’t. But it is what it is.
I believed that the world is a dark, lonely place where everyone was trying to get you. I believed that life is unfair and in order to get anywhere in life one had to work hard for many years and suffer. I believed that men were evil and were only trying to get into my pants.
And so it’s easy to see why I was constantly attracting shit situations, shit men and shit people while having those beliefs. Until I had awakened.
My awakening was painful and slow. I have managed to understand that everything I needed to heal is already inside me. I have all the tools needed to lick my own wounds, pick myself up and build a new Anna and a new life.
Fast forward to Anna at 28. I am Wanderova and I am in Brazil with my future husband and my father having a great time.
Two years ago we flew my dad to Thailand for three weeks. This was such a healing experience for both of us. I don’t like to say that I have forgiven my dad because there is nothing to forgive for. I know he did the best he could with the resources available at the time. I accept that because it doesn’t define me anymore. It has become a great story of transformation to tell.
I am now traveling the world full time with my partner and living a life of freedom, love and contribution. I am building a business online, having a great support of friends and am teaching others how to transform their lives.
Most importantly, I know what love is. Because I have given it to myself and I have given to the world. I trust that the Universe has my back and no matter what happens I will be okay. I believe in the good of the world and in its abundance of opportunities.
Looking back at my experience I sometimes think of how things would have turned out if my mother was still be alive. Maybe better, maybe worse. But I can’t know that. And I don’t want to. It is what it is. Life has given me this experience for a reason.
My only regret today is that I didn’t have a chance to get to know my mother as a person. Who was she? What did she believe in? How am I like her? What do we have in common? I wish I could have a couple of hours over tea to chat with her and ask her questions.
I am using the opportunity of my father’s visit to Brazil and bombarding him with questions about who Tatiana Ceachirova was. I hear that she was one of the most positive and uplifting people. She was the heart and soul of a company. She was very creative. She had graduated University of Arts with a degree in Creative Production (surprise surprise!) She was resilient, ambitious and always seeing the glass half full.
I am my mother’s daughter.
The “Whole” Wanderova
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