It’s hard to think – accept - that absolutely everything I had hoped for the future is different now.
They say that when a parent is told that their child has a disability, illness, is a sexual minority, etc., the parent grieves for the ‘loss’ of a future they had envisioned for their child. They say when an adopted child begins to understand the concept of adoption they grief for the ‘loss’ of their birth parents and the life they could have had. But this is a different type of grief, a grief that is not etched in attachment, a grief that is usually less traumatic.
It cannot compare to the physical and emotional loss of a loved one someone was deeply attached to. It cannot compare to when a child loses their parent(s). My mother passed away nearly two years ago by accidentally driving on the wrong side of a highway, killing herself and two other people. I have been working towards healing from and accepting this. A process which is nowhere near linear, but progressive none the less (- although admittedly most days it never feels like much progress has been made). A part of this process has been realizing and recognizing that by losing my mother I have also lost a part of myself. That I have lost the future I always envisioned and hoped for, not only for myself but for my family.
We are told that we have to work towards accepting the loss of our loved one, towards accepting they are gone. But rarely does anyone ever mention that we have to also accept that we have lost a part of ourselves, that we must accept that those parts of us are forever gone.
My story has completely been re-written.
I am left with so many unanswered questions.
It’s like when someone asks me why the chicken crossed the road, except the chicken is my mother, and the punchline is, I’ll never know. And that punch is the hardest to take.
I often wonder what my life would be like if life had not forced upon me this traumatic disaster. I wonder what I would have decorated my graduation cap like, instead of with pictures of you. I wonder what it would have been like to share a drink with you on my 21st birthday. I wonder what it would have been like to be like all of the ‘normal’ kids all around me with parents.
Accepting that these unanswered questions will never be resolved is only part of the battle.
I have to accept that my past regrets and guilts are no longer the same. My regrets used to be like most people my age, I regretted not taking more risks, not telling the person I had a crush on how I felt, not studying more for an exam. Typical things that now seem so insignificant. Now, I regret not spending more time with you. Guilty of all the times I chose to hang out with my friends instead of going to see you, because they’re still here and you are not. I regret not buying you the perfect present I had been saving for your 40th birthday sooner so you could have experienced it. I regret not telling you ‘I love you’ more, and not taking more pictures with you because the pictures are all I have left. I regret not recording the sound of your voice and your laughter, because although it replays in my head almost every day, I fear that one day I will forget what it sounds like.
When someone asks me what I regret most, the answer is always: you. And I sit here and wonder if this will always be the case, but I can’t imagine never feeling this way. In the end the absence and loss of you has changed and marked my existence.
I will never be the same. I will never be the same person I used to be. I can’t be. No one can experience such a tragedy and walk away untouched and unscorched. I have lost a part of my innocence. The part of me that had no idea what loss felt like. What that kind of immeasurable pain felt like. I am no longer as naïve and ignorant to the pain of the world. I have lost that part of me. My smile is not as free, my time is given even more selfishly. I know what it’s like to lose someone so quickly, I now know how precious my time is, how much life is worth, because I truly understand the value of it, and how quickly it can all disappear. I have been awoken more towards reality. You can’t be the same person after learning that. No matter how hard you try, or how much you want to, you just can’t. Some days I envy how naïve my peers are able to float through life, untouched by grief. But I know that it is no one’s fault, not even mine, that life has cursed me with this experience. I am just different now.
Most people will not understand why I am different, or even the complex ways in which I have changed. Grief is a pain that no one will ever understand until they are forced to experience it themselves.
The pain has forever changed me.
It’s even the simple things that now mark me as different. I was at a school event once, where they were doing a typical ice breaker activity, and we were asked, ‘if you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be’? And as all the people around me remarked on different celebrities and inspirational people, all I could think of was you. But how do you tell that to a room full of strangers that haven’t a clue the impact of that answer. They’d probably giggle if someone answered “my mom”, unknowing to how significant and important that answer is to me, and anyone like me. What would my answer have been if my family had never been ‘blessed’ by the kiss of death? I’ll never know.
Even in the hardest moments my thoughts still drift to you. When someone is experiencing a difficult time, people often tell them to think of better days and remember that you’ll have days like that again. When I am asked to relive a happy moment, they’re almost always about you. Because my life was so incredibly simple and happier with you here, than compared to dealing and coping with the loss of you. I felt more like my peers, more like a regular student, child, daughter. I never felt this alone and abandoned by the world. But the difference is, I can’t hope for a future with these better days. I am not naïve and self-deprecating enough to believe that my future won’t be filled with better, happy days. What I mean to say is that my future will never involve you. You will never be a part of that. Or at least not in the same way that was expected.
Never in my life would I have imagined that I would lose you so soon. That my entire hope for the future would be ripped from me. I won’t have you at my college graduation, my (potential) wedding, my (potential) divorce, the birth of my (potential) child. You know, the moments when you want – and need - your parents the most. My (potential) children will never have grandparents because I lost the only parent I had ever had. I know that I will still be surrounded by people that love me, but a person that was one of my biggest role models and support systems, my own mother, won’t be there. It will never be the same.
You are a part of my past, and never will be a part of my future in the same way I had always hoped for. My future will involve wondering what it would be like to have you here, and how my life would be different. My future will involve looking back on the past and regretting the things I could have done differently with you before it was too late. My future will involve reliving the precious moments and memories we shared together before you were stolen from me.
My future will involve a different version of myself. I will never be the same after losing you because it completely shattered me, broke me open to my core, and forced me to rebuild myself. I am pieces of my past self; but that person is forever gone.
I wish I had the answers on how to accept the loss of parts of myself, but I do not.
I wasn’t prepared for this. Nothing could have prepared me for this.
Some days I am angry that part of my life, parts of myself, were robbed from me. I did not deserve this, no one deserves this. I never asked for this. I am mad at myself for not being the same, for losing parts of myself. I am bitter that I will never be the same, no matter how hard I try. I am angry at myself for not smiling as much, or taking more risks, and for having a more cynical perspective on life. I am sad that I can't just be a normal kid with normal parents. I am jealous that I will never have the same things as my peers. I am angry and bitter that life has forced me to change, forced my future to be different. Other days I don't want to be mad, bitter, angry, or sad at all. I just want to feel whole again. I want to be free of the decay in my heart and the knots in my stomach that eat at me and tear me apart. I want to be happy and free, maybe even innocent and naive; I want to be healed.
I am still grieving the loss of you, never mind the loss of myself. And I can’t tell you which is worse or better. Which is easier or which is quicker.
The grief is still thick in my lungs and in the pit of my stomach.
But I am learning to let the pieces of me go. I am learning to take breathes between the feelings of swallowed shattered glass.
I am healing.