Seven years and ten days after my gram died, her daughter followed.
She left behind the Earthly prison of her body and mind to travel to joy and belonging. Within minutes of exiting her body, she was basking in the beauty of the sunshine–this was something that she had not been able to do for many years.
For years before her death, her wish was to sit out in the sun and feel it beat down on her skin. She rarely left the house due to her mobility, and as each day passed her by, she wished for better days.
Depression and guilt haunted her, and stole many pieces of her. She was barely able to exist some days. She had many dreams, many wishes, and the heart of a child.
One of her wishes, the one that I remember the longest, was to be a published author. She passed her love of writing to me; it was the one thing that we shared. Maybe my dream of being an author came from her–it was also the one thing I always hoped for.
When my book became a reality, I had a hard time feeling the joy it should have brought. I was sad. Sad that I was able to fulfill a dream we both had shared. Sad that I was able to find strength within myself to fight the depression and the blocks. Guilty that I lived to tell the story.
When I think back to the life my mom lived, a sadness comes over me. Her life was much like mine. We shared many of the same kinds of abuse, but we were never close enough to talk about it. There was a distance between us. I was unable to reach her in the places that I longed for.
I tried my best to save her, but I couldn’t. No one could. So I had to save myself. Through my healing, I think of my mom often. I struggle with knowing she was unable to find her own strength. Guilt overwhelms me when I think about all of her suffering. Shame shadows me as I think about the secrets I exposed.
I struggle with the reality of what was. I wish things could have been different. I long for her love, for her to see who I was. I dream of having a childhood, where I could have been a child. And then I feel guilty all over again. My insides cringe when I think back to how much my mom suffered.
But I suffered too.
Then, the cycle circles back to thoughts of why was I able to have a different outcome? Why was I able to travel on my healing journey when she wasn’t. These thoughts alone can take me to a place I don’t want to be. They interfere with my healing. I didn’t know what this was called, until I talked with my counselor. Survivor’s Guilt.
I felt guilty because I could crawl out of the trenches. I felt guilty because I could fight the demons. I felt guilty that I succeeded. I felt guilty that I am alive, living and thriving when she never did.
Giving these feelings a name helped ease some of the guilt. Understanding what I was feeling made me see that it was normal. It did not mean I was throwing away my healing, but that my heart held love for my mother.
I wish my mom’s life had of been different. I wish our life together could have been different. The past cannot be changed, but it can be learned from. I consider the lessons a gift.
Enjoy your freedom Mom. Until we meet again.