Jah, my friend of 15 years, asked me to discuss how my life has been impacted because of the losses I’ve experienced. When asked, I felt my heart stop. I understood how therapeutic this adventure could be but honestly, I’ve tried to avoid writing this entire thing because the idea of putting my feelings into words is harrowing.
Nevertheless, here I go.
This year, I was at my aunt’s 55th birthday party with my sister. I love my aunt and it was a beautiful event. I found myself doing nothing but trying to manage the lump in my chest the entire time; so much that I couldn’t bare simply being present at the party. My sister and I ran outside and cried uncontrollably. We were both feeling the same way. We were upset and saddened that our mom hadn’t received the milestone birthday celebration she always talked about wanting and the realization that she would never get that opportunity set in.
Imagine being in a room full of people who love and support you. Perhaps you’ve gathered in celebration of a joyous occasion, and all you can manage to feel is loneliness and sadness. It’s the elephant in the room, holding a sign that says: “You’ll never get to experience this moment with your parents”. Everything is a constant reminder that they’re not here. EVERYTHING! Holidays, birthdays, good news, bad news, good days, bad days, advice. Simply seeking refuge to a place to just cry or vent, who do I call? The type of love and support your parents give cannot be duplicated by anyone else despite their presence and good intention.
Loss of life in general changes a person, but the loss of BOTH of your parents before you’re really “grown” inevitably shapes the type of woman you grow to be. I had to grow up overnight, literally. When I lost my dad at 16, the end of my teenage years was stolen. Although my mom passed when I was 26, I really lost her at 21 when she ensued brain damage and never recovered. So, my young adult years were stolen from me. It felt like I spent six years waiting before she died.
Heart on hold for 5 years.
Waiting for… I don’t know what.
I am now 29 years old and until this day I live with constant anxiety, and that makes me pessimistic at times; not by choice. It’s as if the worst has already happened to me, therefore it’s hard not to anticipate the worst in other areas of my life.
Before my mom fell ill, she had been preparing for a cruise. It was all she could talk about for weeks! This was a wondrous year for my mother. She felt proud that I was a senior in college, preparing to graduate and my older sister had given her a first grandchild. Not only were her daughters beautifully stepping into womanhood, but she had realized that it was her time to explore life after having spent the past twenty-something years providing for and nurturing us. She had retired early and was ready to conquer the world…
Well, she never made it on her cruise.
Despite navigating womanhood in a way that proves my resilience, confidence and strength I find myself frozen, by fear, when it comes to different aspects of adulthood. Because my mom’s anticipation and excitement for her ‘commencement of middle-adulthood’ was high jacked by illness and death, I find myself not planning for anything too far in advance. I can’t sit through the waiting without worrying “what if this happens…”
The smallest moments, decisions, reactions, responses, perspectives are inevitably made by my trauma. Writing this piece has made that extremely clear.
Loss & Friendships:
I never had the opportunity to say, “Goodbye” to either of my parents before I lost them. I live with guilt that they never knew how much I loved or appreciated them for being real parents. My life changed with no warning. Because of this, I try my best to ensure my friends know how much I love and appreciate them as much as I can. On the flip side, my friendships trigger me, almost daily. Normal conversation between friends or even cousins can lead to sadness for me. They can mention that they got together and did something with their mom, spoke to their parents about something, or just spent time with them, and it’s a reminder of all the things I can no longer do. It also triggers those feelings of guilt and regret that I didn’t do those simple things with my parents when I had the chance. We always think we have tomorrow. I try to combat those feelings and thoughts because I’ve observed how easily the desire to have those relationships could ignite resentment toward my friends.
Loss, Romantic Relationships & the Idea of Parenthood:
I just don’t have the patience for either at this point! I feel like when you’ve gone through such trauma, TWICE, patience for dating and dealing with people who are unsure of their permanency in your life goes out the window. Dating frustrates me. It seems like people beg for your time, only to waste it and emotionally it’s too much. Too much to play mind games and too much to deal with hurt should it not work out. ‘Not working out’ is ‘loss’ and I don’t have the strength to take that risk. I only want to deal with someone who is loyal & ready for a commitment.
When it comes to parenthood, at this point in my life, I don’t think I want children. All the exciting things that people get to experience: The magic of pregnancies and discussing struggles and cravings with your mom, similarities in you guy’s pregnancies, the birthing process, planning gender reveals and baby showers. Lord. I want all those things and I want them with my mother. There is tons of guilt surrounding my children not having their maternal grandparents as well. The same for marriage. Who’s going to walk me down the aisle? Who’s going to help me pick out my dress? And get ready the day of?
Loss festers this weird continuum of needing closeness but pushing closeness away—all in the name of protecting yourself by trying to secure closeness.
The most confusing defense mechanism in the world!
I’d be insane to say marriage is completely out the window for me, but I am navigating [DAILY] how to realign my life in a way that doesn’t serve as a Life Long Twilight Marathon of pain and PTSD for me. The loss of my parents has really changed me. It affects me always… in all ways. I think about my parents every. single. day. For the most part it’s in memory of the good times and of the lessons I was taught in the brief time I shared with them. I thank my parents for the woman I am, and the woman I’m becoming. It’s always a full circle moment when the universe manifests childhood moments into lessons for today. I say “Ahh, this is why they did that. It wasn’t to hurt me, it was to help me later in life”.