How long is too long to grieve? One year? Five years? A decade? A lifetime?
Does it matter who you are grieving for? A child? A friend? A sibling?
What about how they died? Was it fast and unexpected? An illness that was a long time coming? Or horribly traumatic and violent?
Each person is different. That is what I know about grief. And each person will work through it the way they feel necessary. There is no wrong way to grieve. No set amount of time. There is not a proper way to grieve. Everyone has their story.
This is mine.
I grew up in a middle income family. There were points where we had more money than others. Specifically the point where I attended a private Catholic school. And other points where we had holes in our floors. I grew up mostly normal. Mom, Dad, myself and a brother. He was three years younger. And the root of my first memory. One where I remember driving really far from home. Walking into a strange building and sitting on an old 70's style rounded leather sectional. Waiting until someone came and got our little trio and beckoned us to look through a round window on a swinging door. My mom held me up and allowed me to peek into a room filled from wall to wall with those weird see through sided bassinets. Babies. For what seemed like miles to a recently turned three year old. I remember my mom saying, "Your brother is here. Right there." Pointing to a little round baby that they gingerly and lovingly picked up and took to a counter that lined the back wall. There were rows of diapers and bottles. Many things I did not at that age recognize. I, in expected three year old fashion, specifically pointed out a different baby I wanted. I did not want that little walrus sized boy. I wanted the screaming little girl in the bassinet in front of him. The one raising her hand. As if to tell me "I am yours!" I did not get my wish. We were at the stork's house. To pick up our baby. The one my parents had been waiting on for over six months. Just as they had waited for me three years earlier.
My mother was barren. A horrible case of endometriosis had robbed her of the only thing she had ever wanted in her life. A baby. But thanks to a bit of money, and knocked up teenagers, she got her wish. Two babies three years apart with totally different biologicals. But we were hers. And she loved us. With all of her being. I eventually came to understand that my brother and I were adopted. It took me a few years to figure out we were different. Blonde haired and blue eyed brought into a huge family of coonass'. We stuck out as much as you could imagine. There were hurdles with being adopted. My father's father thought less of him. Convinced he was 'less of a man' for not being able to produce a child. It just had to be his fault. He hated us. We were not of the right blood. My father was the man. And all of his brothers and sisters older than him to that point had managed to have at least one child. My mother's family never once batted an eye. To them, we were special. Meant to be there. There was only one other adopted person in our family, but he was biologically related to the father of that couple. And I did not know of it until well into my adulthood. That great aunt was my mother's angel. She understood what it was like to want a child with every cell in your body. Her sister, my grandmother, had produced eight children. She, like my mother, was barren.
I remember my mother having a hysterectomy when I was three. Not very long after bringing my brother home from babyville. That was the start of her problems. You see, she was a smoker. And back in the stone ages, they made women get on hormone replacement. Something that we know now is not a good idea for women over the age of 35 who smoke. I remember the mood swings and hot flashes. I remember my father jokingly poking fun saying "Woman! Take your pill!" when she would get fussy. What I did not remember were the blood clots that were caused. The blood clots that eventually led to her death.
You see, twenty years ago today...my mother died. She had a blood clot in her arm. She did not want to bother going to the doctor. She would just 'rub it out'. Horrible advice for someone with a blood clot. Had she gone to the doctor that time and survived, just a few years later she would have been diagnosed with something long and complex and put on blood thinners. Meds that would have saved her life. But that was not what was in the charts. She had a massive heart attack. On our living room couch. While the whole family was home just five days shy of my first day of school Sophomore year of high school. Great way to start the year huh? Yeah. I thought it blew too. I remember that whole agonizing hour. From my brother running outside asking "What does it mean when your left arm hurts and it is hard to breathe?" to the point of her being taken away.
Sitting there on that couch she knew what was happening. She gave lots of good advice. Go to prom. Get married. Have kids. Take care of your brother. Almost 20 minutes of advice. Most of which I have forgotten and would give anything to remember. All the while I was on the phone trying to get my uncle to come with the ambulance. He was head of our volunteer fire department. But it was not in the cards. The man who had been on duty the night before had gone home with the ambulance barn keys in his pocket and was nowhere to be found. I remember running outside to the front yard. Frantically praying and looking down the road for someone, anyone, coming. A gentleman on his tractor with his young son in the cab passed. I ran to the road begging him to come in. My mom was dying. She was having a heart attack. Could he help? Please? He was scared. As I could imagine I would have been. He just shook his head and drove on. I found out years later he still carried the burden of driving away. I fell to my knees in the yard shouting at the heavens "Why? Why? I am too young for this. I do not deserve this!! She loves us!" I did not understand. I was only 15. I remember my father not letting me do CPR even though I knew how. Making me read how to perform it out of the encyclopedia. He did not want me to carry the burden of not being able to save her. Instead I carried the burden of him not letting me do what I knew how to do. Later finding out that the clot was so large, she could have been on the operating room table and there would have still been no saving her. I remember my dad driving my brother and I, followed by countless aunts and uncles that had showed up at the house to my Grandmothers. Begging him to slow down. Let me drive. He was going to have a heart attack too. This was the beginning of numb.
The numb that lasted through the arrangements. The 15 year old daughter that had to pick out the casket because the father had collapsed to his knees at the opening to the room and could not go further. The daughter that had to call people, because the father could not bear to utter the words after hearing the howl coming from his own mothers lips after being told that 'Sweet Marie' had died. The 15 year old daughter that did not shed a tear. Not. One. Single. Tear. through the whole ordeal. The 15 year old daughter that overnight became mother to her 12 year old brother, and caretaker of a house. The cook. The washer. The one that hated Big G for taking her mother. But would not cry.
That 15 year old girl got lost somewhere. She grew up too fast. She drank too much. She had sex too early. She lost her way. Her father got married less than six months later and would not, could not, talk about her. The love of his life. His wife for 23 years. He put his kids through hell that first marriage. And would put his kids through hell with a second. But he was in his own hell. One they did not understand. One that the 15 year old daughter, when grown, would experience when her own daughter was three. It is a hell. But a different hell experienced as a child and a parent. Those feelings would get shoved down. Talking about her mother would only bring heartache. Those feelings would eat at her. Until she was no longer herself. But she would get over it. And rise up. And ten years and one day after her mother's death anniversary, her daughter's father would die. And those feelings would rage back in with an ugly vengeance. And turn the now 24 year old mother into someone completely different. That woman would not get off the couch for almost six months. She would neglect her daughter. Her work. Her house. Her life. She would get over it. And rise again. But a bit slower. And changed.
She would realize her mistakes. And that her daughter was different. She would see the Asperger's, and the OCD and the stress disorder that ate at her child. But she would overcome it. She would meet her soulmate and bestest of bestest friends. And that friend would help her. Help her to overcome the grief. And the hate. She would help her become a great mother. Help her emotionally heal. She would become me again. And I was so glad to have her back. I was so glad to be me again. To feel and laugh. I wanted another child. Found someone I loved. That child was so loved. But hurt me. Caused nine months of hell. That child's father would walk out. That child's birth would open up a black hole. Postpartum depression. It consumed that mother. Turned the numbness back on. And turned her into a stranger. Locked deep inside was the 15 year old. She would be lost. Forever.
I struggle everyday. Every. Single. Day. I hate that I cannot mother my children the way they deserve to be mothered. I hate that I scream and yell. I hate that I cry uncontrollably. I hate...her. She is not me. And slowly, more and more everyday, I am leaving. I want to be normal. I want to be happy. I want to come home and hold my children and love them. It is this grief!! This fucking grief that has gripped me for twenty years.
Five nights ago that monster raged again. As it does every August. It led to a drunken night. Laying in the cemetery over a grave that holds my heart. Falling asleep praying. Asking that wonderful woman to forgive me. To give me the strength to fix myself. To become myself again. To live again. To make it long enough...to be over.
Today I decided that twenty years is long enough. Long enough to grieve. Long enough to let that monster live and take control. Long enough for the rage to consume a person. Today I decided that I would return. So tomorrow I will wake up and start fighting. Hope that the damage I have done to my children will be forgotten with time. Hope that they will see that I do love them. More than the moon and through and through. I decided that the grief has made me bitter. Incapable of love. Incapable of having a relationship. That grief has ruled me. I hate that grief. I will own it. I will take it. Turn it into love.
And find me. Cause she is fucking awesome! And I sure miss her crazy ass.