Friday, November 9, 2012
Death vs. Loss
My mother passed away this summer. She was one month shy of her 83rd birthday. Her demise began two years prior after breaking her hip in a fall. During her lengthy recovery, she began kidney dialysis three times a week. The downward spiral had started. A few months later, she had another fall and another fracture. With each incident, she grew more and more frail. Her insistence on remaining in her home exacerbated the inevitable, as the independence she craved was not conducive to her healing, rather a detriment to her safety. Her third fall was her final fall, as the amount of damage was irreparable and a week later she was gone. It was a loss many experience when they lose a parent or grandparent as death is the culmination of the natural cycle of life.
My cousin’s son passed away shortly after his third birthday from undetectable influenza complications. His death was sudden, tragic and unfair. It’s been four years and the sharp agony of that pain has faded. My cousin keeps memories of him in her new house. She keeps his spirit alive with stories and pictures shared with the sister he left behind. She gave birth to another son. She is traveling the road toward healing, which only has one direction.
My 16 year old daughter attended that funeral with me. Our relationship at that time had been strained after she meekly accepted her father’s demands not to invite me to her Sweet Sixteen party in his unending quest for vengeance after divorcing him over 10 years ago. As we drove to the grave site of this little boy, my daughter asked me, “How would you feel it I died?” Reflecting on my daughter’s question, I answered her candidly. “I feel as if I've already experienced the death of you and your brothers every time your father takes you away from me.”
Obviously, losing a child is the worse thing someone can experience. I lost three children when their father waged a horrific and fraudulent custody battle, utilizing his money and his connections. He utilized the help of a woman willing to do anything to have him in her life. I remembered this woman from high school as a strange, friendless, and volatile person. I later learned she was fraught with psychological instabilities that carried into her adulthood. Her behavior lent credibility to my fears as she was indeed the worse person to step parent to my children. Her presence intensified the loss, and amplified the painful unfairness.
Gradually the pain faded as I was still able to parent. My children and I found a way to accept the situation, still maintaining loving parental bonds. However, my ex-husband resented any positivity in my personal life. Each joyful event was met with retaliatory punishment in the form of withholding my children, hostile aggressive parenting and increasing their alienation. Time and time again, I experienced the keen, unmerited pain of loss. It felt like a death, yet it was surreal as they were alive. The cycle of life and death seemed endless. The possibility of their return was always on the horizon. There was always that agonizing hope contrasting with the inability to move forward and heal.
The loss of my mother is less acute than it was last summer. The loss of my cousin’s little boy leaves an ache, but there is closure. I am ready for that ending as well. I don’t want to hope anymore. The scab has been ripped from the wound so many times, I don’t know if it can completely heal. I find happiness in my youngest child, from my second (now deceased) husband. She knows how much she is loved and she is fortunate to experience a strong maternal bond. I will never do anything to compromise that, including bringing three angry young adults into her life.
I feel that a physical death of my three oldest children would have been easier. At least there would have been the journey of healing, and the pain would have faded instead of remaining almost as fresh as the first day there were lost. I don’t want that elation of having them return to me, until they can severe the ties with their father and stepmother. They have made a pact with the grim reaper. And the two they now call "parents", are leading them to the death of their souls.