It happens to all of us. Death is a part of life. Even if you know it’s coming, nothing prepares you for the death of your parent, or any loved one.
When I was 11 years old, my father died in a sudden and tragic way. He committed suicide. The circumstances around his death were just as horrible as the death itself.
It was 1982. Nobody talked about depression. Suicide was taboo. You heard rumors about it but it was shameful, embarrassing. So when my dad died, nobody talked to me about it.
My mom, who had divorced him, never talked to me. In those days, therapy for kids was very rare. So I received no counseling. I mourned in silence. I was not allowed to attend the funeral.
I hate the term “closure” but it applies here. Since I never had closure, I continued to mourn for years and years. It traumatized me. And I believe it contributed to my mental illness.
Today as I write this, I am sitting in a chair beside my mother’s hospital bed. She has been living with a rare form of leukemia for almost 2 years. We’ve known all along it was terminal.
After the initial shock wore off, I tried to make the most of my time with her. My mother and I have never been close. So in my mind, I was hoping to gain that closeness now. It didn’t happen.
She was an inconsistent and neglectful mother. But when I really needed her, she was there for me. I do have some resentment towards her. For example, she has never accepted my son. He was either too disruptive, or later, too fat. She hated fat people.
When your parent is dying, you may decide to forgive and forget. You may decide to hell with them. I understand both. My sister has been a saint throughout my mother’s illness, and she was much more mistreated as a child than I was.
Personally, I just don’t have it in me to watch someone slowly die. I’m not that strong. I do forgive her. I love her dearly. But sitting here, watching her withering away, all I want to do is leave.
I don’t know which is worse. A loved one who dies suddenly or one who goes through a long illness. And I have no consoling words for someone who loses a child. I imagine that would be the very worst kind of grief.
What makes me the most anxious right now is the thought that I will be an orphan. I don’t have a big family, hardly any. I will be alone and that scares me.