As my world turned black around me, grief stayed at bay for months, or at least that is what I thought (you can read Cancer’s Prey and CANCER bITES) . Tears didn’t come easily, neither did sleep. Since I had suffered from insomnia for years, I didn’t think any differently, I didn’t recognize my slow decline.
I went back to University 6 weeks after my Father took his final breath on this earth. I thought in many ways, grief was a strict process, phases that you check off and move on from. I left my Mother at home, a complete mess. My siblings who live far away went back to their homes and to their own families. I went back to University, to a bleak apartment I shared with another friend.
My friends sat me down and said “We give you a year of crazy grief, and then you have to be normal.” I looked at them in shock, not even understanding the conversation.
Grief comes in unexpected waves, you drown in sorrow slowly, and sometimes you can come up for air, and other times, you just can’t get up at all.
I don’t remember much in a 3 year period, much of it is blank. I would only learn years later that my PTSD had returned, and this time, it almost took my life.
My Father wasn’t the only thing that died that day, my only way of life did. I didn’t just lose my Father, I lost a life and an identity. The only life I knew was my life as a Diplomatic Kid. I only understood politics at the dinner table, traveling, moving every 3 years, and having a Father that challenged me intellectually. I still had dreams of working for the UN, and having my Father come to visit me at my first posting.
As our Diplomatic life got stripped away from us instantly. So did every last friend and contact with the Foreign Service. My Mother was left with no support, and neither was I. The people who we thought of as friends, no longer called, came by, or talked politics at the dinner table. Our life changed instantly.
It was one bleak morning I woke up, grabbed a pack of cigarettes, and began to chain smoke, I couldn’t get out of bed, my body felt like lead. I couldn’t remember what I did the week before, what day it was, or what time of year it was. I just sat on the bed smoking cigarettes.
I simply didn’t want to live.
I knew I was failing out of school, my brain didn’t function well. My memory was gone, and I was drowning in pain that was inexplicable. Somehow, I managed to call my Mother, and asked if I could come home.
I packed everything I could in 2 big suitcases, and headed out the door without a word to my roommate or any friends. I got on a bus and headed home.
For the first time, my Mother became a mother. She needed someone to focus on, and that was me. I went home, having gained 40 pounds, taken up smoking and lost memory. My life needed to be slowly put back together.
Those friends who said they gave me a “year”, had no idea that after more that 10 years, I still have waves of grief, and their “talk” was heartless.
It took many years, but I did finish University, and I did work at the UN. I also found gratitude for living through my Father’s cancer, and giving him the one thing I could when he was sick, me and his trust in me.