It’s been 14 months since my mom and uncle Rob died. So many people have asked me to try to describe what it feels like to have a loss like mine. I have many times tried to articulate it, and I have failed as many times as I’ve tried. But, I keep trying, and I’ll keep trying, because silence doesn’t serve me. Writing helps me. It helps me to clarify my own feelings. It helps me to find my voice, and it helps me to find those around me who are here for the long run.
Fourteen months have passed. Too quickly. Too slowly. I still miss them. I miss them so deeply that it is just a part of me. I don’t want to not miss them. They are so intertwined in who I am, that without missing them, I would not be me.
Significant loss fourteen months out still hurts. That shouldn’t be surprising. Twelve months is not a magical number that fixes things. Christmas two was harder than Christmas one. I was less numb this year. I could really feel this year. The permanence was stronger; the forever-ness.
After a year has passed, what does it feel like?
It is days where I feel mostly okay, and yet that mostly okay is also different and unsure. It’s knowing that a word, a song, a picture, a smell, can turn that mostly okay into pretty awful. And, for the most part, those words, songs, pictures, smells, catch me by surprise. I don’t realize how much they’ll get me until they’ve got me.
Days of mostly okay always have a tug at the heart. Every smile, laugh, joy, has a tugging at the heart. The tugging is just how it is now. I can’t make the tug go away, even if I wanted it to.
Loneliness of not having the one person I want to call to talk something through. It doesn’t matter how many people I talk it through with, it’s still incomplete, because the one person I want to tell I can’t. It’s lonely not having the one person I want and need to ask, “what should I do?” Even if I know mama’s answer would be, “I don’t know.”
Loneliness because even the people who desperately want to understand don’t… and can’t. And, thank goodness for that.
Anxiety that catches me off guard, making it hard to breath. It’s my heart beating fast, my tears just below the surface. It’s busy hands to still my mind, then still hands when I’m ready to let the wave crash over me. It’s finding my way to the other side of the wave still intact.
It’s hearing your 4-year-old from the back of the van, “Mommy, I don’t want to worry you, but there’s a bad thing I have to tell you. I’m sorry to tell you this, but at the end of this movie Captain Hook will have to go to heaven. Is it okay for you to watch still?”
Desperate longing that can never be fulfilled. Wanting to feel the soft skin on the back of my mom’s hands, or to pull the clasp of her necklace to the back of her neck. Longing to feel another of my uncle’s bear hugs. Craving to see them embrace my kids; heck, to even know Ella.
Moments or days of resisting change, or not wanting to accept the ripple effects of losing the nucleus to our family. It’s moments of the opposite, of wanting everything to change all at once. Wanting to avoid the differences. It’s feeling confused.
It’s finding my people. The people who get and support me. The people who I can trust. It’s getting to be someone else’s person too.
Questioning life: Why do things happen the way they do? What does it all mean? Reading all kinds of theories and pulling the parts that are comforting into my toolbox. Consuming book after book and article after article and being no further ahead… actually, being further behind than before I started.
It’s thinking about the accident, the sequence of it, and asking myself the same questions for the millionth time. It’s thinking about the bystanders who stopped at the scene of the accident, who jeopardized their own mental wellbeing to help two strangers. It’s wondering how they’re doing after 14 months. It’s being so grateful that my mom and uncle weren’t alone.
Wondering what it must be like, to get in your car one day not knowing that it is the last thing you’ll ever do. It’s so simple, and yet I still can’t wrap my mind around it. One day you’re alive and well, and you do everything for the last time…. and that’s it… and everything you leave behind is forever changed.
Two people have left, and my whole world has changed. Nothing can ever be the same again. I can wake up and face each day, but I am not the same, and I wouldn’t want to be.