“You say you’re fine, but you’re not fine.”
Those words have echoed in my mind for over a week now, uttered in regards to my emotional trauma and grief that I’ve been dealing with for the past few months… couple of years… few years…
I refuse to believe it.
As I get nearer to the nine-month mark of living with my friend, things are changing drastically. I’ve started a new job that seems to be more than temporary, and at the same time I’ve received a notice to vacate from my friend. I have a negative bank balance, and a cell phone bill that’s been unpaid for a couple of months. With all of this on my plate, somehow it all seems easy to deal with.
She mentioned to me that I’ve been dealing with trauma. I couldn’t believe that, as my idea of trauma is associated with having to be rushed to the hospital while in the back of an ambulance, it’s bloodshed and adrenaline at the same time, but it isn’t all the things that got me where I am now.
But, not one to just take anyone’s words at face value these days, I searched online for “emotional trauma,” and found there was such a thing. And when I was looking at the signs of emotional trauma, I noticed I had many of them. So it was true, I was dealing with emotional trauma. For how long? Well, I noticed the signs were more present after returning to New York State than before I left the state or even when I was in New Jersey. My worst anxiety came while I was running out of money up here, because I still had some money before but I managed to stretch it. I lost more around the time that my fiancé ended our relationship and all, compared to losing Mom but having the financial and emotional freedom to go and do whatever I wanted.
“No, you’ve had emotional trauma since your Mom passed away… no, since your Dad passed.”
No, I didn’t. I had grief.
When Dad passed, I still had Mom, I still had a roof over my head regardless of how much I failed in life. I still had food in my stomach, a bed to rest at night, and just enough clothes to wear no matter what the occasion. But I was awakened to the fact that, hey, my parents aren’t actually immortal, they can be taken from me no matter how young I am. I was 23 when I lost Dad, the ink on my driver’s license and associates degree just barely being dried by that time. But I told myself, I had reached my adult years and maybe I didn’t need a fatherly figure anymore.
I told Mom that if she remarried, I’d never call her new husband “Dad.” She replied that women don’t usually need to be with someone, that they can do fine on their own, that it’s the men who need to find someone to replace the lost love of their life. Within a year of her passing, she kinda dated again, if you want to call it that. She met some old male friends down in North Carolina, and stayed in the same house as one of them while she was down there. When she came back, she had war stories to tell about her time spent with this guy, and I feel like she appreciated her marriage to Dad even more after that experience.
Then after Mom passed, I grieved her passing as well. But I had dreams about each of my parents soon after their respective passings, with at least one dream having both parents together after Mom’s passing. They were packing the minivan for a road trip to some unknown destination, and I remember saying to them, “I can’t go with you.” I really feel like I saw them in my dream, not some mental projection based on my memories but rather their spirits. I feel like they were crossing over together, and I knew it wasn’t my time to go. Not that I’d want to go with them, even though I would have joined them, but they needed to catch up on lost time together.
And I’m fine with that.
I’m still fine with that.
But if you haven’t lost a parent, especially if you’ve had a good relationship with that parent, then you don’t know what it’s like. And my friend neither has the relationship I had with my parents, nor has she lost either of them.
Once you reach the acceptance stage of grief, once you’ve accepted that your parent has passed, you’ve managed to make peace with your new reality. However, I feel that you’re still allowed to react when Mother’s Day and Father’s Day come around, because it’s hard to ignore. As for people, I feel like people expect that you’re going to start crying on the inside when they accidentally mention your lost parent, or they will think you didn’t care for your lost parent if you don’t even talk about them anymore. I’d rather not let people tell you how you should feel. I mean, you should be able to talk about your parents after they’ve passed, end of sentence. If something you said or thought of makes you cry, you’re allowed to cry. If you remember something funny, you’re allowed to laugh. Talk about your parents, just do it, remember and embrace the good times as well as the not-so-good times.
In my opinion, you are always allowed to miss your parents after they’ve passed.
And you can still be fine about it, just the same.
What is “being fine?” You know what? That’s up to you. If you’re fine with not talking about your parents, you’re allowed. If you’re fine with not thinking of them, if possible, that’s on you. I will say, if you start hoarding your parent’s possessions, or you become agoraphobic because the outside world is going to trigger your memories, or you do something else that’s obviously not healthy, then you’re not fine by any means.
I didn’t keep everything from the house after moving out; I couldn’t. I did keep some of Mom’s clothes, as I could wear them and I thought I might. But I’ve been able to part with a few things that she held onto, even in the time since so many things went into dumpsters.
And I can talk about my parents. I don’t shy away from thinking about them. I usually don’t cry as I talk about them. That doesn’t mean that I won’t cry, and it’s not like I’m forbidding myself from doing so, it’s just that I don’t have a reason to cry.
But am I “not fine” at all? I guess, but not to the point where I need a safe space and coping mechanisms to deal with my thoughts. It’s not fine that I don’t have my best friend, my Mom, in my life anymore. It’s not fine that the two most important people to me won’t be at my wedding, if and when I get married, and I somehow have to adjust for their absence. But, I can adjust to the changes. Like, I don’t need a big wedding, I just need to marry someone who makes me happy, and I truly believe that’s what my parents would have preferred overall (especially if it’s tradition for them to foot the bill). And I need to find someone who wants me to call or send a text message to let them know I’m on my way back or that I’ve reached my destination safely, someone who cares that much about making sure I’m… that I’m fine.
So, I’m fine with the loss of my parents. I’m not fine with my current financial situation. But if I hadn’t lost either of my parents, I wouldn’t be having my current financial situation. That’s not to say I wish they weren’t gone, but instead, their absence forces me to try harder to keep what’s important to me, like having a roof over my head and all of those other basic needs.
But, I’m not fine that you’re not fine with the fact that I’m fine. I’m fine, and you should be fine with that, but if it’s not fine to you then you should be fine with doing something about it.