Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Christmas Wish

Someday, my Christmas toasts will once again end in smiles rather than sobs.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Tears Overcome

Every year, on my birthday, I write an e-mail to myself and set it up to be delivered on my birthday the following year. I tell my future self about my present self, ask about what my future self is up to, and give my future self advice and words of encouragement. I have absolutely no memory of the e-mail that I wrote shortly following my family's death (or of much of anything in those subsequent months; I was in one hell of a state of shock). So the following year, when the e-mail arrived, it came to me as a preternatural, almost celestial voice. The words were foreign to me. And there was one little paragraph in it that profoundly affected me:

Listen to me, listen to the me of your past: your life will be wonderful, truly, truly wonderful! I say this and I know I'm right because I'm in more pain than you are right now. I am still salty with the tears that have not stopped since January 14th. You have cried more than me. But I am crying those tears you have already overcome. Do you understand that? Is that sinking in? You have overcome what I am going through. You have made it through so many of me's, and now you are you.

I love that idea, and it has been a great help to me. When I fall back into the depths of grief, I feel like I've gone back to day one and my healing has been completely negated. But a more accurate description is that the grief I experience now is accessible to me because I've already grieved and overcome precursory sorrow. And in that frame of mind, I truly do feel farther down a path of healing.

For the first time, over this past week, I've been re-reading my journal entries since the day my family died. Some of the words that I have read scare me to my very core. It hurts me that I was, at any point, that pained and hopeless.

But it's powerfully inspiring to see just how far I've come and how much I've healed, and it is such a comfort to know that my very worst grief attacks today are so much more hopeful than they have ever been.

Journal Entry from Aug 5, 2009

        I used to take all of my self hardships out on everyone else.
        On all of the people who loved me.
        I have all of these vast and incredible conflicts in my mind and heart - ones in which me being me is the greatest barrier to overcome. And all of those struggles I had with myself I took out on those surrounding me as some sort of rebellious catharsis.
        And now those seem to be the only memories that are flooding me.

        I hope so, so, so much that they've forgiven me. I forgive them for everything, everything. I just really hope they forgive me.

        Otherwise, how else can I go on?

Journal Entry from Aug 9, 2009

        I'm not a woman.
        I don't even think that's the direction I'm headed.
        I'm going backwards. I'm more of a child each day. I'm always seeking approval. I'm afraid to be left alone. I don't know how to handle my emotions. People think they see something in me, but it's not there. Not anymore. I'm losing it.
        How the fuck can I be a child with no mother?
        All of my friends who have lost's always the father. M*******, P**, M*****... All of these people I surrounded myself with to feel understood, they still have that great maternal comfort in their lives. All I have are all of these women feeling like they'd like to take over that role in my life somehow, and I truly resent it. They were never there before. I don't need them now. And whatever they have to offer, they can never compare to my wonderful mother.
        I think I need to cry. I haven't in so long.

Journal Entry from Sep 12, 2009

        I'm at that point where there seems to be no up. I keep spiraling downwards and my efforts to reverse it only make it worse. I think this is a part of what Daddy felt. Complete hopelessness. It's at that point when you just can't keep trying.

        I need someone to listen to me, and not be afraid of what I tell them. I think that was what was so comforting about A*** and C********. They never treated me with fear. They never tried to rush my words so they could escape from the discomfort.

        And they made eye contact.
        That's one of the worst: when I bring out a very vulnerable part of myself and people drop their gaze. It makes me feel so rejected. Like when R**** rejected me and avoided eye contact for months. I feel that now with everyone.

Journal Entry from Apr 13, 2010

        Remember that time that I dreamt Daddy left us? I told Mommy about it for some reason, probably because the rest of the dream was interesting, or because it was a nightmare of sorts. In any case the fact that Daddy left us in the dream wasn't of any importance to me.
        Yet, the next thing I know is that my mom is consulting with my father and he's coming to me to ASSURE me that he'd never leave.

        You lied to me, you bastard.
        You bastard.
        You DID leave.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nature's Preference

"...she wished she could have gone before [her father], though she knew in her heart that nature has a preference for a particular order: parents die, then children die. But it was a harsh design, offering little relief from pain, for being in accord with it means that the fortunate find themselves orphaned."

- Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Big Brother

When I talk about who I've lost, I often say things like 'when my parents died,' or I refer to myself as an 'orphan' - terms that, by their nature, tend to disregard the fact that I've lost a brother as well. A couple of months ago I was talking to a friend who has lost three family members to suicide. She mentioned that while she's been able to come to terms with the loss of two of them, the loss of the third is something that she just cannot face.

I'm honestly not sure if I had had this explicit thought process before I heard those words from her, but I told her that it was easier for me to face the fact that my mother and father are dead than my brother. It is absolutely more painful to me to have lost my parents than my brother (I love you, but I have to be honest), but it is absolutely more unreal that my brother is dead than my parents. I knew that at some point in my life my parents would die, and as they had children late in their lives I even knew that it would probably be earlier in my life than for most of my peers.

But my brother died at 23. That's my surviving brother's age, now. It'll be my age in just over a year. My parents had stories; they had lifetimes. They, unlike certain unnamed teen stars, had plenty from which to write autobiographies. But my big brother? He had nothing but the future. His story was cut off before he had written anything more than his introduction. The significance and consequences of that I am not ready to face.

So I grieve my parents.

I said to my friend about my brother:

That's the nice thing: he's dead. His story has ended. Nothing more will be added on. So whether I manage to begin mourning him tomorrow or in ten years, I won't have missed anything. He's frozen in time, waiting for me to gather the strength to face his death.

I will, eventually. For the time being, though, I do ignore him. Because I have to - the instances in which I do try to face his absence sting far, far too much still. But one day, oniichan, I promise I will mourn you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dead or Alive

It's rare that I dream about my parents or my brother. They used to feature prominently in my dreams, but now that they're dead it seems to translate into the dream world as well.

When I do dream of them, it's typically my parents and almost always in the form of a very particular type of dream. In it, one or both of my parents are dead (if it's one, it's my mother) but they remain, visibly and tangibly, a part of my life. I can see them, talk to them, touch them - but the grief of knowing they're gone is nevertheless present.

In these dreams, the primary thing that occupies my mind is the thought that nobody will believe me when I tell them they're dead. That all of the people I've told - the people who've supported me, helped me, sympathized with me - will think I lied to them and took advantage of a situation that did not exist.

Isn't that funny? In dreams where I get everything that I wish for - to talk to and touch them one last time - I'm absolutely preoccupied with what other people think.

I suppose there's some sort of subconscious, omnipresent guilt about my inability to be emotionally self-sufficient that manifests in these dreams. Or maybe the dreams are representations of my current social network's inability to provide me with the emotional support that I need, requiring me to bring in the 'big guns' to compensate - some form of my parents. (Because, in every one of these dreams, the primary thing my parents are there for is to help me in grieving them.) Whatever the case, they're certainly not the comforting 'I'm happy and at peace now' dreams that everyone I know seems to have about their lost ones.

There's a second little horror that exists upon waking. In the process of waking up, when dream and reality merge completely and I wouldn't be able to distinguish the two, there's a confusion about whether or not my parents really are alive. Either their presence was the dream or the idea that they were dead was the dream, and the instant before I'm awake I always believe that the more probable truth is that they're actually completely alive.

And then I wake up, and they're completely gone.

And if nothing else, there's a little satisfaction that yeah, you bastards, like I told you, they really are dead.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Effect of PDD, NOS on Pussycats

PDD, NOS: Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified

I.e. my brother: the last surviving member of my immediate family. What it means as a diagnosis: as we always knew, he is undefinable, but he shows symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. What it means to me: the last surviving member of my immediate family speaks a different emotional language from me.

One of the most painful things about my current lot in life is that the only family I have left neither understands nor shares in my process of grief. My surviving brother concluded his grieving process within the time span of a couple of weeks. All three of my loved ones who died understood different aspects of me - the weaker, emotional aspects - and appreciated them, and even loved me for them. It's not that my surviving brother doesn't "get" me (as it often is with family), but rather he does not comprehend how grief and sadness can be pervasive and intrusive, as he possesses the uncanny (and enviable) ability to 'switch off' such irrational emotions. He doesn't understand what it's like to fall victim to loneliness, or the feeling of abandonment or rejection. He stares blankly at me when I cry - sympathetic, perhaps, but to me it appears almost angry, as though I've inconvenienced him by forcing him to bow to the social convention of having to try to comfort me. (Incidentally, he has told me he uses this blog as a tool to try and find some logical, underlying process to my emotions.)

I write poetry, every day of my life. Most of it is implicit, unconventional, and utilizes techniques that I know he would never appreciate - like the new sentence. Every poem I write is a little piece of my soul that I release from my protective body out into the world. I never show him my poetry, because I know that his inability to appreciate it (should he not approve of my choice of technique) would feel to me a manifestation of how alien I am to him.

Today I wrote a poem about pussycats. It rhymed, as my poetry rarely does, and it followed a traditional iambic structure. I wrote it as something cute, perhaps for kids - something explicit; more prosaic than my typical style. The poem was, at its core, an expression of the hope that I have struggled so long to find, and that I now embrace with all the energy I have within me. If anything, I thought, this is the piece of my soul he might be able to understand; the piece of my soul with which he may be able to connect. I took a risk, and I sent it to him. He said to me:

I don't really like it. I don't like the story, and I find the wording awkward to read.

I shouldn't have expected anything more from him, but I did. Even if he had hated it, I was still expecting something - I'm not really sure - perhaps like "aw, how cute, you wrote a rhyming poem about pussycats," or "well, it's no Emerson or Shakespeare, but that's cute, Tee." Such a phrase (while certainly not a rave review) would at least express a recognition and acknowledgement of the significance that I'm writing about pussycats instead of about death - as I have been doing for a very long time.

I instantly burst into tears. Not because he didn't like my poem (I write poetry for myself, and appreciate that many or maybe most will dislike it). I started crying because he, unknowingly, spat into my face a reminder that every family member who could understand the language of my soul has been taken from me.

So when people say to me: "thank God you still have your brother" -- yes! Thank God I still have my brother! But no -- even with my dear big brother here to love and protect me (as he's been socialised to do), I don't feel any less an orphan.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What ifs II

What if, somewhere, they're still alive? (I'm not the only one.):

After my mom killed herself, I would imagine it was only a robot version of herself that died, and that the real version would walk in the door any day now...(I was 7)

I started having dreams that she staged the whole thing and wasn't actually dead. And I still hold out a secret hope that one day she will come out of hiding. I'm 25.

from PostSecret

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pursuing Drama

I'm afraid that something may be the case for me, and for a long time I've been afraid to confront it or admit it to myself:

I have spent a good year or so in constant, powerful emotional turmoil. As glad as I am to have climbed out of that abyss, I think I had habituated to it - and, in contrast, a life of normalcy seems extraordinarily dull. What I've noticed in this subsequent year is that I've changed my behaviour to pursue stronger emotions. I take spontaneous trips, leave projects until the last minute, engage in confrontation where I would typically mediate, place myself in situations where I will interact with people I'd rather that I can feel the excitement, the stress, the thrill, the terror, the heartbreak, the anger, the exhilaration. And whatever it is, even in my moments of absolute misery, I come out the other end thinking is that it? Have my emotions stabilized already? Am I to go back to being 'normal'?

More than anything, I do not want to say I miss what I felt last year. And I certainly do not want to go back there. But, as nervous as I am to admit it, there really was something thrilling about living a life that was out of the ordinary. My days were filled with police, lawyers, social workers, journalists and photographers, funeral directors. They were filled with tears, screams, fights, collapses, mistakes. And more than anything, they were filled with decisions I would never have otherwise had the cajones to make. I was in shock, and in misery, but somehow it made me feel surprisingly alive.

I ache to feel quite so alive again. Does that make me an addict? Is it dysfunctional? Does getting the most out of life mean exploring the extents of human experience and emotion, or am I playing with fire by not appreciating calm waters?

Most importantly: am I ultimately sabotaging myself?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What ifs

A friend of mine lost his dad when he was around 14. His way of dealing with it was to pretend that it had never happened. He locked the event away in a mental box and continued to live his life as though the rug had never been pulled out from under his feet. He was the friend I called to come be with me the day I lost my family, after the homicide detectives had left. One of the very first things he said to me was "face this. Do not lock it away like I did, that is the stupidest thing you can do." I had never had any intentions of doing anything other than facing it, but I held his advice close to heart.

Meeting suicide survivors, one of the things I often hear is 'you can't think like that.' That is - life goes on, and you can't dwell on the experience, and you especially can't dwell on not knowing. I've tried my very best not to dwell. I obtained all of the information I could - police reports, autopsy photos, my dad's web search history - and then focused my efforts on accepting the event as the event and as something I will never understand.

But every once in a while, the 'what ifs' rise up. What if it wasn't really a murder-suicide, but there was foul play? What if my father's suicide was an accident, and he meant to stay living? What if I hadn't gone away to university? What if I had taken her seriously and called the police when my mother joked about having a mass suicide? What if I hadn't told my father, the week before, about how hard it was visiting home?

What if this is all a dream?

It seems like it would be so much easier believing that something other than what the evidence points to happened, or that the event never happened at all. And it seems like it would be so much more fulfilling if I could finally find answers to the questions that no one on this earth can answer.

The what ifs are so tantalizing - they offer the promise of a solution that does not exist. And, like Tantalus in his hell, they offer nothing but an unquenchable thirst. But sometimes I just get so, so thirsty on my own that, as much as I know the pool will recede when I do, I have to bend down to try and take a sip.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A poem from Mar 11, 2010

Love, Mommy.

For months after I died,
You wrote to me. As often
As I used to call you,
To keep me updated, to keep
Our bond.

You would seal each letter
Carefully (like I taught you)
Into a sketchbook that you bought
Just for me,
And write the date in the bottom right corner.

You haven’t written to me in months, sweetheart.
You’re afraid to. I know you need to,
I know you need to talk to me
To imagine my face as I read your words
But your courage and resilience have turned to fear.

I know you changed your desktop background
To the last picture we took together
But you keep windows open
So you never have to look at it.

You blew up an old picture of J*** and I
And postered it onto your living room wall
But I see you when you look at it
You look at your father,
And not me.

I’m gone, sweetie.
I know you don’t want it to be true,
But it is.

But you need to remember something:
You may not feel me anymore
My arms
My voice
My hands
My hugs
But that does not mean I am not with you.

I made a promise to you:
I will be there for
you at every turn in your
life – good, bad and everything
in between. Don’t be afraid.
I will be there for you
through all of this.

Do not think that
Because my breath was stolen from me
Because my body failed me
Because my heart is unbeating ash
That I lied to you.

I will be there for you
through all of this.

I am here for you.
Through all of this.

I know it’s easy to say
Don’t be afraid,
So I will let you. You don’t
Need to look at my picture,
Sweet Tee.

And I can survive for as long as necessary,
Not receiving another letter from you.
Take your time. I don’t resent it,
I don’t blame you,
And I have all the patience you need from me.

Just please remember:
I am there for you
through all of this.

You have your brother, and your Auntie
To give you hugs, to give you voice
And to hold your hand. But you are
My Daughter.
I am there for you.

Death does not stop a mother’s love.
You know how stubborn I am.
And you know how much
Your Daddy and I
Will always fight for you.

I love you, Tee.
(and I love you too)
I am here for you. Through all of this.
So, please:
Don’t be afraid.

A poem from Jan 12, 2010

I wish I could have told you

I wish I could have told you:
You were the greatest father
The best daddy
The most wonderful papa

And it didn’t matter
How much money you made
How many orders you got
How often you could strike up the will to make calls

It didn’t matter
What mommy thought of you
What D***** thought you felt
Whether or not you had the snow shoveled before we woke up

I never cared if you messed up the pancake recipe
Only that you made them
And let me put on as much syrup as I wanted
(You always did)

I never cared if you bought the wrong brand of whatever
Only that you’d go out and buy it for me
Just ‘cause I asked
(You always did)

I never cared if you could get your book published
Only that you didn’t give up writing
And kept telling us stories
(You always did)

I never cared if you couldn’t take us all on a trip
Only that you wanted to
And that you’d spend time with us even just at home
(You always did)

I never cared if you couldn’t teach me math the way I needed to learn it
Only that you tried
And that you cherished the chance to try
(You always did)

I never cared if you could give me a ride or not
Only that you had my back
And would help me in a pinch
(You always did)

I never cared if we had the biggest house on the street
Or the most elegant one in the best neighbourhood
Or if we could pay our mortgage
I only cared that you were there living with us.

I wish I could have told you:
You did everything right.
Everyone was jealous that I had you as a dad.
If I were them: I would’ve been too.

I love you,
And I know you love me.
I just wish I’d had the chance
To tell you all of these things.

Monday, October 25, 2010


My brother graduated yesterday. The convocation was really beautiful. The chancellor made a very touching speech about how, as much as we were there to honour the students' efforts, we were also there to honour the dedication of their families in getting them to where they are now. He made a special effort to mention the parents of international students who had flown in simply for that occasion (there was a mother sitting next to me who didn't speak a word of English, but insisted on pointing out all of her son's accomplishments to me).

I was in tears. I was so overwhelmed with pride and joy for my brother, but I was also made so painfully aware of the fact that his and my parents were absent. It did not feel right. My parents were the only ones in their respective families to obtain university degrees, and it was the only expectation they had for our futures. Though I never imagined my brothers' graduations, I have often imagined my own. We are allowed only two guest tickets for convocation at my university, and there was never any question for me who would be watching me in that pivotal moment of my life. The fact that they weren't there at my brother's convocation was so painful to me - what will happen at my own?

I've been told that after the loss of loved ones, you will never return to normalcy, but rather to a "new" normal. That is another term I hate - I prefer the idea of a new equilibrium. I think I am at that point; I've returned to some form of homeostasis, and that's a very good thing. But this new equilibrium is so, so poignant. Joyous occasions are bittersweet - birthdays, Christmases, will I keep from crying at my wedding without my Daddy to give me away? I hate that about this "new" life. I hate that, the more wonderful something is meant to be, the more inevitable pain and longing will be wrapped up in it.

I miss being a child. Christmases were nothing but magic.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oct 15

Happy Birthday Mommy xxoo
Rest in peace.

Friday, September 17, 2010


About a week and a half ago I was with my brother, crying and explaining to him that he can never understand the way our family's loss has affected me because he doesn't feel the same fear that I do.

Everything in life scares me now, no matter how insignificant. But it's not the event itself that scares me - it's the subsequent, irrational train of thought. Whenever something goes wrong (whether it's tripping over my own shoe, or the government randomly selecting my taxes for a review, or even my phone malfunctioning), I imagine that it's a direct reflection of a flaw in my character. It's not a conscious thought, but rather an emotion that I can't quite identify at the time. I know I've always been that way, and perhaps a lot of, or even most, people are.

The problem now is, instead of being quickly dismissed, that odd little emotion is immediately followed by the persistent knowledge that those who loved me unconditionally are gone. If whatever has gone wrong is due to a character flaw, maybe nobody can love me for it. There's no one left to defend me, so maybe I will be judged, shunned, and outcast for it. I'm always conscious that this derailment of my thoughts is irrational, and when I do happen to talk or write my feelings out, I'm always shocked at how ridiculous and delusional the words sound. My brother has told me that it sounds like OCD, with which our now-deceased brother was plagued. I don't know if that is the case and that it's hereditary for me, or if the obsession a more common consequence of loss and grief.

It is, though, the reason why I feel like such a small, weak child - I'm constantly wondering if people will love me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Oh, what now?!

However difficult a grief attack is, it's always nice to know what is hurting you. When I do break a plate, I understand the reasons as to why it's so painful - and by acknowledging that, facing it, and crying it out, even in the depths of despair I know I am making progress.

What is really, truly unbearable are the times of grief for which you can identify no trigger, no reason and, consequently, no way to acknowledge it. I wrote an exam once, and had to leave early because I was about to break down. Tears started streaking lines down my cheeks as I shut the door behind me, and I had to rush to the women's washrooms to compose myself before I could go home. At the time, I was clueless as to why I was in pain. It was my last exam of the term, all of my stresses were ended for the summer, and I was fully expecting to feel relief. I was miserable for a week.

Only much later did I realize that I found the professor reminiscent of my dad, and so ending the course was a little bit like losing him all over again.

Once I spent a few days in absolute misery, and took time off of work to lay in bed all day. Only later in the week did I realize Father's Day was approaching.

So, what is it now? I was making myself breakfast and - because I currently have the place to myself - singing. I'd had my coffee and a nice shower and I was in good spirits. In the middle of song, I burst into tears. Why?

I let a few tears out (there's no use stifling such emotions) and then when I felt like they had stopped, I cleaned myself up and left for work. All day at work, I felt as though I was a child on a playground with a crowd of big kids circling around me, pointing, laughing, mocking. In reality: I was having pleasant conversations with my colleagues. I ended up leaving early. If I had stayed, I'm sure I would have broken into tears, or started punching people, or had a seizure. I'm sure of it.

I need to cry. Knowing the triggers lets me explore what grieves me, and that exploration always brings me to tears. Right now: I'm totally oblivious, and I have this painful need for release. Maybe I'll get lucky and be able to cry, but more often than not, I can't find anything that will bring myself to tears. Maybe this will be another one of those weeks where I suffer in the dark, and, perhaps, three months later I'll understand just what was wrong.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Other "survivors" (that is, 'suicide survivors,' or people who have lost loved ones to suicide -- I despise the term!) that I have met have talked about how comforting it is to wear the sweater or smell the pillow or sit in the room of their lost one. Because a fire destroyed my house, I'm in the unique position of having no belongings and no rooms to comfort me. The 'stuff' that we did manage to salvage from our home's remains smell (as I like to say) like BBQ.

I long, all the time, to be able to sit in my brother's or parents' rooms and just...remember them. I would have loved to go through their belongings and touch them, and smell them - without having to later wash my hands of the soot. Because all of that tangible memorabilia is in a state reminiscent only of post-tragedy, the few belongings I have that are connected to my family are absolutely priceless. The dishes my mother bought me, the dress she and I bought together, the dollhouse furniture my dad made for me, the gifts my brother bought me. They've reached such an important status that they mean more to me than I ever thought mere 'stuff' could.

Every roommate I've had since, I've forbidden from using those dishes. As much as I understand that accidents happen, I would never be able to forgive them for shattering one of the few connections I have left to the family I've lost. But one can only take so many preventative steps - I broke a dish, a number of months ago. It was all a blur, and I don't remember exactly how it could have happened, but all of a sudden my mother's gift was in shards on the floor. Her voice was echoing in my ears: "Cheap or plastic plates may be better for residence, but you need a nice set of dishes to start out your life with. And with a set of four you can have people over for nice dinners." --- Now, I can't have more than three.

Nearly a year ago, I stepped on and broke a pair of earrings my mom bought me, when my room was a mess. Her voice again - berating me for leaving things on the floor - and then my own voice, chastising me for destroying a precious and near-holy belonging.

Today: I wore a pair of earrings that my mother made for me. I was showing them off to my roommate and her family, and bragging at how talented my mom was. They were earrings that jingled, and I remember what a kick my mom and I got out of the sound. It was a sound like Christmas.

When we got home today, I noticed that at some point a piece had fallen off one of my earrings - the piece that jingled. In any other circumstance - any other pair of earrings - it is so, so insignificant. But for this pair? I've lost another part of a relationship that has reached its end. It is so terrifying. The memories and pictures fade, the stories are forgotten, the belongings break - and nothing new is created to replenish.

The stuff in my life is tantamount to my survival. So every little, jingling piece that falls off an earring is a piece of my heart that withers and dies. And how on earth do I express that without coming across as revoltingly materialistic?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When do I tell?

I can't not talk about my family. I love them as much now as I ever did, and the fact that they're gone doesn't mean I lose the right to brag about them.

People were complimenting me on my belt today, and asking me where I got it. Like about half my wardrobe, it was a gift from my mom. At some point, this led into a conversation about the incredible fashionista she was, and how proud she was of me when I started becoming more interested in fashion.

I feel like I lie to people - when they refer to her (or my dad, or my brother) using the present tense, and I don't correct them. I feel as though I'm consciously and intentionally deceiving them. But do I have a right to - in the middle of a friend's birthday party - say "oh, well, she passed away"? Of course I do, it has nothing to do with rights. But somehow it's my responsibility to protect people from the same style of emotions I experience. The shock, the not knowing how to react, the fears of one's own current situation. It's my responsibility because if I don't take that responsibility, I end up an outcast. I made that mistake once. I ended up having to extricate myself from a community because I was no longer viewed as 'normal.'

But at what point is it appropriate for me to tell the truth? Or, at least, to put an end to the assumptions? I never have lied about the situation, though I have on occasion told partial truths.

At the end of the night, a friend and I were walking in the same direction toward our homes. It came to a point where he was calling me a girly-girl, and then he started to say that when I was 30 my mom and I would go shopping and go out on the town and have a blast. For me -- immediate grief. I went dead silent. What do I say? I've gotten to know him over the past few weeks, but do I know him well enough to cut into his merry disposition to tell him she's dead?

I was lucky enough that we hit my street, and we parted ways before it could progress. (I think he may have assumed my silence was a hesitation to believe that my mom and I could hit the town as friends. He countered it with, "Oh yeah, you will!"). I walked home trying my best not to start crying. I could so easily have stopped his conjecture (which, in my world, is now pure fantasy) and ended my pain, but instead for 'his' sake - or the sake of my newly-found friendship with him - I suffered and let him prattle on.

I don't think I would've even had the heart to let him know that the words he considered kind were like hollow-point bullets --- right through the armour.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It's said that in order to escape chronic worrying and find consistent happiness, one must be able to accept that there is an amount of uncertainty in everything.


That's fine if you still have a feeling of immortality. I remember that feeling. Nothing bad had ever happened to you or the ones you love, so you feel as though (in a solipsistic way) you're immune to life's inevitable pitfalls. At that point, I was able to accept uncertainty. Embrace it, in fact, for it usually meant that something surprisingly wonderful might come along.

Chronic anxiety and worry stems from the idea that your 'worst case scenario' will occur. It is so highly unlikely that it is never, in any case, worth the amount of worrying put in. My problem is: my worst case scenario (the only scenario I could imagine that would truly pull the rug out from beneath my feet) did occur -- and it was when I least suspected it.

I suppose I've been classically conditioned now to believe that the worst will occur. I'm absolutely aware of where that belief comes from, and I try my best to think rationally - but that does not stop the fear. My next worst case scenario would be to be diagnosed with a fatal and incurable illness, and it doesn't help that grief produces some pretty frightening symptoms.

I've had nausea, diarrhea, extreme and chronic fatigue, infections, a weakened immune system, increased hunger, decreased hunger, increased thirst, headaches -- even heart palpitations (in the middle of class, too; that was scary as hell). For the last 5 months I've had a consistent pain and tingling in my arms, legs, hands and the back of my neck. I'd like to believe that it's also due to the grief, but as my luck has been going, it's more likely to be a brain tumour. So I've seen doctor after doctor after nurse after specialist, I've had a CT and a ton of neurological tests, and an MRI booked for next month. One by one, each test comes back with perfectly normal results. I should be happy. This should spell relief to me - it must be, in the end, psychosomatic stress. All I can think, though, is that it just means it's a rare, obscure, and fatal ailment that only the MRI will be robust enough to pick up.

And you know what? If I could call my mom and tell her how scary this has all been, her reassuring words would probably be all that I'd need to feel normal again. I even tried that once. Some woman who had been assigned my mom's old cell number picked up. "Hello? Hello? ...Hello?" And I just sat there, silent, and absolutely bewildered that it wasn't in fact my mom who picked up, though she'd been dead for months.

So, instead, I guess I'm going to keep thinking every ache or twitch will be the one that will kill me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I, Orphan

I am 21 years old. A year and a half ago, I lost my mom, my dad, and my eldest brother - all of the people in my life who acted as mentors, role models, and reliable confidants.

In a moment of grief, I confided in one of my dearest friends that I hated being an orphan. He said to me:

"Orphans are children who can't fend for themselves. You are a strong woman, not a child."

It was a beautiful sentiment, and it gave me the courage I needed to overcome what I was feeling in the moment. But his words did nothing to dispel the feeling that sustains.

It depends on your definition, I suppose. Perhaps being well beyond the age of majority prevents me from being labeled as an 'orphan.' (Then again, as 'compensation' for having no parents, the government gives me "Orphan's Benefits" from their CPPs.) At times I certainly feel guilty for having that feeling, because for essentially my entire development I had the love and nurturing of both of my parents under the same roof. That is a lot more than many people can say.

But I promise you: the feeling is there, and it is more painful than can be described. There is nothing more important in this world than having someone who will love you unconditionally and for always. That is what we seek in a significant other, and that is what many very lonely people seek in having a child. It provides a comfort that you take for granted. However much you worry that one day you'll lose your job and end up living in a ditch, you at least know (if even in the very depths of your unconscious) that someone's love for you will remain consistent. You could kill a stranger in cold blood just for a laugh, and when all of society thinks you a monster, you would have someone to visit you in prison, write you letters, and try their very best to help you get well.

I had that. And my God, did I take it for granted.

I won't be so foolish as to say the family that I still have doesn't love me, or that no one would visit me if I ended up in prison. But that feeling of safety no longer exists. The knowledge that I can always call my Mommy if I'm scared is now a lie. If a boyfriend doesn't treat me well, my Daddy has no way of avenging me by tracking him down and scaring the shit out of him. (Though, I suppose - and here's hoping! - my Dad could haunt him). The brother who always defended me, always took my side against our parents, and was always my first resource when I needed something - from him, now I get nothing but radio silence.

It feels like:
- I'm on a boat in the middle of the ocean, and my paddles suddenly floated far away.
- I was walking down a plank when it suddenly became a tightrope.
- I'm walking in an alley at night and my phone has just died.

Sure, I'm still going. Yeah, I'll probably make it to safety just fine. But it's become a hell of a lot scarier.

Having that feeling pervade every moment, waking or otherwise, of my makes me feel nothing like a strong woman and everything like a scared, orphan child.