Cousin Ida, dad and me
You've been gone 7 years now. What happened to you happened to me. I lost half of myself and have to build a new life from the rubble left behind.
I think often of what it would be like to be you. Not only did you have to watch mom deteriorate and suffer and then die, but you had to grieve while trying to raise me.
I'd like to say that you did things to help me grieve and I'm sure you did, I just can't remember a lot of day-to-day evidence. You did not find me counseling. You did not let me keep any of mom's things. You did not let me ask questions or talk about mom without feeling terrible for asking. You weren't present for me because you were working or drinking heavily or both.
That doesn't mean you didn't try. That doesn't mean you didn't do your best to survive while helping me. I know you were trying to make it through each day the best way you could. I know now how the grief can give you tunnel vision. No energy left for anything but making it through the day most of the time.
You did do one wonderful thing for my grieving process. You brought my older cousin to live with us and she was a buffer between you and me. She loved me like a daughter and let me be me, let me feel my pain. But she couldn't stay forever.
And once she left, and it was just you and me again, the darkness and pain took over our household again.
How strangely amazing, though, that I now see things from the perspective of a widowed person AND the perspective of a little girl who lost her mom.
Now that I am a part of the widowed community, I hear from widowed parents who are somehow managing to help their kids grieve while grieving themselves and I'm in awe of the self-sacrifice that must take. I don't believe surviving this undamaged is even a possibility, for the kids or the spouse, but putting energy into getting the family help and living despite the pain, is heroic. It takes strength I doubt any of us think we're capable of.
I know now that the strength it took you to care for mom while she was dying and to care for yourself and me after she died, was super-human. I am grateful that you stuck around as long as you did and I'm pretty sure it's a waste of time to think of the ways I wish you'd done it differently. You did what you could do. You were damaged.
You were in pain AND raising a sad little kid who lost her mom.
I never would have known the depth of your pain if this hadn't happened to me. It's impossible to imagine unless you don't have to imagine.
I'm glad you've been released from your pain and I'm glad I can use your struggle as a gauge for my fight. I will not avoid getting help or isolate myself and I will not let this turn me into someone who will spend the next 30 years killing myself with alcohol.
I will burn my pain as fuel and come out on the other side with more strength, empathy and capacity for joy.
I know you'd say that you didn't expect any less from me.