I hide when I cry. I don’t want to people think I’m weak. I feel like I’m putting on a show because everyone is watching. If I fall apart if even for a moment will people shake their head, feel sorry for me and talk about me in whispered conversations? And if I admit that I’m hurting, will I make them uncomfortable? But I don’t always want to pretend that my world isn’t shattered. It is exhausting.
I don’t even feel like me sometimes. The me I’d known for 37 years died that day too. And now I’m trying to figure out who I am again. A mom without my daughter. A broken-hearted passenger on the hot mess express. Maybe the difference doesn’t seem obvious to the outside world, but there are moments I feel like I’m completely losing it. I don’t think my memory is the same. My thoughts are often disjointed. My tolerance for bullshit is lower. Groups of people and parties give me anxiety. Meeting new people makes me uncomfortable—because I know “the” question is going to come up. “Do you have children?” My views on life changed. My views on death changed. I’d like to say that the changes have all been positive, but I’d be lying.
I’m jealous. Jealous of the ones that still have their kids. Jealous of the mom walking with her daughter in the park. Of other women’s pregnancies and everyone else’s happy little families. I wonder why it seems like everyone else has what I dreamed about. And then I beat myself up for thinking about myself instead of focusing on the memory of my daughter. And worry that she’ll think I regret the time I had with her.
And I feel guilty. Guilty for the jealousy. Guilty for not being able to keep her alive. Guilty for failing her. Guilty for failing my husband. My family. Guilty for not wanting to go to holiday celebrations with our families because they are just so damn hard. Guilty for feeling like I don’t do enough for her now. Or for not being able to remember if I told her (picture) that I loved her before leaving the house. Guilty for not taking flowers to the cemetery more often. And for feeling like the arrangements I put together aren’t good enough.
I think about death often. I imagine getting the next phone call. The next one that changes my life again. I tell myself that if I imagine every scenario, then it won’t actually happen. Because I never imagined I’d lose my daughter, but I did. So surely the opposite is true.
And I notice myself laughing at inappropriate times. Making dark jokes with the other moms who do the same. And then worry that I’ve become calloused and angry. That one day you’ll find me alone on the front porch, wearing a bathrobe with a coffee cup of vodka in my hand screaming at the neighborhood kids to get off my lawn (might as well throw in about 20 cats while we’re at it).
And I often wonder as I write these and put them out there for the world to see, if you’ll look at me differently. And wonder why I never learned just to shut up and leave some of it unspoken.