I really wish I could say there’s a day you finally wake up and don’t miss your mom. Where you don’t feel like you’re stuck in some “Twilight Zone” existence where the landscape of your family no longer looks like a crooked trail leading to a dead end. Where you don’t look at your life and see it staring back at you through a funhouse mirror.
Instead there seems to only be that baseline level of pain you wake up to each morning and must learn to live with. On good days it doesn’t feel as unbearable as the others. And then there are times when I close my eyes and remember the complete feeling my life had with two parents, and it burns. The simplicity that will no longer return replaced by the never-ending familial dramas that continue to unfold in unnatural ways without her.
“If mom were here, that never would have happened,” my sister says. The phrase becomes like a mantra. We call each other outraged with our new reality and repeat it when we feel injustice, a lack of support, a lack of empathy emanating from our living relatives. “If mom were here…” But she’s not. All we have is the bond we’ve formed through that recycled thought.
But we want so badly that slice of happiness we feel we deserve. The redemptive, phoenix moment that comes in movies. Instead, we find ourselves battling bitterness and frustration with peers who have no idea what we’re going through but consider us “glass half empty.” If they could wake up to that pain, they would be surprised there’s anything in that glass at all.
My mom wouldn’t want us still to feel so empty. She’d want us to have hope. To go out and find love and success and stability. To blossom into the brilliant young (well, almost young) women she knew we were. And everyday I fight becoming that dark, angry person who’s waiting in the wings because I know I cannot change the course of history. I know I have a responsibility to my mother, to my remaining family and to myself not to let this one negative experience sap me of all of my hope.
But I also know that I listened to my maternal grandmother mourn her own mother’s premature death of an aneurysm in her early 50s until the day she died. I never knew her before the loss, but given how frequently she talked about it, it was clear that she was never recovered. I watched my own mother burst into tears over and over again because she had to face terminal cancer without her mother there to console her as she had during her past cancer diagnoses. I never saw these women with my same D.N.A. recover from the exact same loss that’s beleaguered me. But I have to be different. I have accept this new landscape, this new baseline level of pain and get on with it. Despite how much time passes. Despite how many people forget. Despite how much I’m expected to seem normal. I have to move on. Somehow.