This blog is not FDA approved
My mother left behind 5 children and a husband when she died of lung cancer. All she ever wanted growing up was to have a family. She set herself a goal of having 4 kids before 30 which she did – my little sister coming soon after the milestone I am fast approaching childless myself. She happily gave up work as a nurse when she had her first child and spent the next 25 years secure in her identity as a wife and mother.
Her death was unexpected and expected all at the same time. As a family we knew she had lung cancer but we didn’t expect that within 6 months of diagnosis she would be admitted to hospital due to a stroke because the cancer was now riddling her brain. After her stroke we spent 2 weeks in the hospital essentially watching her die in front of us. We watched her being wheeled out in to the sunshine to have a cigarette even though she was completely paralysed from the stroke. Knowing it was the cigarettes that she loved so much that killed her and not wanting to deprive her of them when it was far too late. Every day we would visit her I would hope for it to be the last time, not wanting to remember her like that and wanting it to be over for all of us. Feeling guilt wrapped up in grief for a mother that had not yet died.
I was 24 when my mother died, the eldest girl in our tight knit group of siblings. I have an older brother (who was 26), 2 younger brothers (22 and 20) and a little sister who was 15 years old. My mother and father had been together for 30 years and had a tumultuous but passionate relationship. The one comment my father made after losing my mother that will stick with me forever was when he simply said, “I didn’t ask for this.” It was my mother that wanted lots of children; he just wanted to keep my mother happy. He didn’t ask for this regardless of the part he played in bringing us in to this world. He wasn’t a bad father; he just wasn’t much of a father. And he had lost the love of his life.
For my father to find himself the one left behind with 5 children who were grieving, with the youngest still in school, he struggled to come to terms with his new life. He had 3 sons who were all creative and quite sensitive and 2 daughters who were struggling to cope with the loss of their mother. His solution if we were feeling sad? Just don’t be sad anymore. You have to continue with life and being sad is not going to help anyone. I missed my mother terribly and didn’t know what to do with those feelings. I wanted to be sad and I wanted it to be ok to be sad. My heart broke for my 15 year old sister who was now looking to me as a mother figure. I tried to push my feelings inside to help keep the family together and to continue to function myself.
I had a wonderful relationship with Mum and have fond memories of the two of us drinking wine by the family pool while smoking cigarettes and sharing stories. She loved hearing about my job and how successful I was becoming as well as laughing with me about my latest dating disaster or comforting me after another broken heart. After her death I found myself picking up the phone to dial her number only to have to put my phone away again when I remembered she was gone.
My life after my mother died was full of distractions. I went back to work, tried to see friends and even met a boy. I was ‘strong’ and getting on with life. I was smitten with my boyfriend and planning to follow him to live in Japan for 12 months. I was making progress at work and doing well professionally. My father was talking about moving to Bali and giving me legal guardianship of my sister so he could sit on a beach and do drugs and forget that he had 5 children. I wanted to do what I could for my family – but the pressure was suffocating.
I was ‘strong’ for my sister and for myself. But inside my heart hurt. It was so heavy with pain I couldn’t concentrate. I was withdrawn and spent my days going through the motions. Doing the things I thought I had to do to get on with life. I was hurt that my mother had died; I was hurt that my father didn’t care and I was hurt that no one seemed to understand. My friends stopped calling because I stopped answering. They didn’t know that I appreciated the calls even if I wasn’t going to respond. I told my boyfriend I couldn’t go to Japan with him because I couldn’t leave my family, they needed me. He told me our relationship was a result of convenience and that he wasn’t sure if he would return from Japan and want to be with me in the same way again. The relationship ended because I needed to feel love from someone and that wasn’t it.
I felt so alone. I felt abandoned. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt like I just couldn’t handle being me. Not only did I not want the life I had, I couldn’t even cope with going through the motions of living the life I had. I spent every night on my balcony alone drinking a bottle or two of wine and smoking a packet of cigarettes. And hating myself when I woke up hungover and having to cope again with my unravelling life. I was so numb that I couldn’t even cry.
Was my depression a result of my mother’s death? Or my failed relationship? My loneliness? My disappointment in my father? Feeling like I had lost both parents and not just one? Or simply my inability to cope. With life, with death, with me.
One night I knew what my solution would be. The point of no return had arrived. My mind couldn’t deal with being me anymore. Thoughts of my life ‘getting better’ were unfathomable. For life to ‘get better’ I had to be interested in living it. I finished my second bottle of wine, turned the shower on and grabbed the razor. I cried the whole time. Not because of the pain of the blade, but because of the release. I cried for myself, I cried for my mother and I cried for my sister. I didn’t cry because I would miss them. I did not feel like I would miss anyone. And I didn’t think about anyone missing me.
The death of a parent is never easy, and I know that, for my family and loved ones, the death of a daughter, sister and friend would not have been easy either. My depression was so consuming that I didn’t see myself as any of those things. I was completely empty and didn’t know what to do to feel whole again. Or how to feel anything.
Something happened – the reality of the choices I was making set in. I still wanted to escape from my life but maybe this wasn’t the only option. Maybe there was another way to escape. Maybe it didn’t have to be like this. Maybe I didn’t have to feel like this. It was the maybes that made me pick up the phone and call my best friend. It was the maybes that had me screaming down the phone in hysterics at her that she needed to come home. I was ready to be rescued. And my journey was about to begin.