Joseline Gomez: A Long Journey

“It’s been a long journey.”


Joseline Gomez


Hometown: Des Plaines, a northwest suburb of Chicago. “Right by O’Hare airport.”


Major: At the University of Chicago, 4th year, with a double major in Psychology and Spanish Literature. 


Profession: Part-time researcher at Thirty Million Words—a nationwide initiative aimed towards closing the language gap between kids from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds. She has currently been focusing on the Newborn Initiative, which includes conducting interviews with new mothers in the Mother Baby Unit at University of Chicago Medicine. 


Q: What are your proudest accomplishments?


JG: I would say getting into college. Especially coming from a high school where most people went straight into the workforce or didn’t even graduate, I would say I was pretty proud! Also, I’m the first person in my family to go to college, to a real four-year institution.


Q: Did you lose a mother or a father? How did it happen?


JG: My dad died when I was sixteen, only a month before my 17th birthday. Even today, my family isn’t sure how he died. He was living in Guatemala at the time when my brother, my mom and me were all in the Chicago. My father had a major addiction to alcohol, and it was probably due to some complication with alcohol.


Q: How do you feel the loss affected you as a child?


JG: My dad was the one who inspired me to go to college. He was a pusher, which really contrasted to my mom’s “I’ll be proud of you no matter what” approach. Whenever I got a good test grade, he was always the one who told me I could do better. He really believed in me. When I was younger I always wanted to be a nurse, and he constantly reminded me not to let anything or anyone hold me back. I guess it made me find inner strength I didn’t know I had.


Q: How is your family now? Can you tell us a little bit about them?


JG: They’re good! My mom is not remarried and enjoys checking up on my brother and my lives a lot. My brother is 25 and now has both a job and a girlfriend. He has really has begun to encompass the role of my father as the “man” of our family.


Q. Do you discuss your loss with your family? How did you explain the loss to your friends?


JG: My family has become more and more comfortable talking about the loss. I think it’s really because of my mom—she was always telling us memories of our father while my brother and I were growing up. She even talked about some of his mistakes and how we could use them as learning experiences. My brother is a little bit more quiet, I think it’s really because he tries to stay strong for our family…


Q: How often do you think about your parent?


JG: There will be times when I think about him every day, and there will be times when he doesn’t cross my mind. It becomes more and more positive when I think of him as time goes on. It really depends. 


Q: Can you tell me your favorite memory with your dad?


JG: It was in September of 2001; I was nine and my family had taken a trip up to Florida. I remember being on the beach and wearing a two piece pink bathing suit. My dad kept on trying to coax me into the water but I didn’t want to because I hate swimming. Come to think of it, I still hate water! I remember the waves being so high and holding onto him so tight. He just kept laughing because I was so tired of being carried away. I remember him carrying me out because I was so small at the time.


Q: Do you feel that you’re still seeking your father’s approval? Do you feel conscious of his opinion?


JG: I definitely try my best to make my dad proud. In fact, it’s probably one of my biggest goals in life. It’s not that I think he would be angry with me when I fail, just because everyone fails at one point or another. But I know both my parents sacrificed a lot to give me the things they never had growing up. That’s why I try to make sure everything I do is with integrity.


Q: If you could go back in time what would you tell your past self?


JG: If I had to tell myself anything after my father passed away, I would probably tell myself that it was okay to feel what I was feeling. I think I felt a lot of frustration, hurt, anger immediately following his passing, and I think I felt guilty about feeling that way. However, I’ve come to realize that feelings like this, or negative feelings in general, are part of the grieving and healing process.

Q: Now that you’re a little older, what do you have to say for all those kids out there grieving, who have lost a parent, too?


JG: Talk about how you’re feeling with someone. There would be days when I would be reminded of my father’s passing and it would hit me like a ton of bricks and I just felt completely unmotivated. For me, it was really useful to go to my guidance counselor and talk about them—it would help to get someone else’s thoughts and opinions. It was cathartic for me and would let me focus on what I needed to do. Even now I find myself talking with my friends on those days I find myself thinking about my father—it doesn’t have to be a big drawn out conversation, but just saying something like, ‘Oh I’ve been thinking about my dad today,’ always helps. I guess maybe realizing that I don’t always have to be ‘strong’ or put on this front, you know?


I think I also used academics as a way to channel a lot of my feelings during that time. My father was always the one that motivated me in school, and so I felt like it connected me to him in some way whenever I focused on my studies. It was a way of bonding with someone that wasn’t here anymore—if that makes any sense haha!






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