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If there’s one thing I’ve been putting off for the longest time, it’s this. People who know me would attest that I do not like delaying tasks, but then again, this is nothing like a chore. I’d always think, “Hey, you’re a writer. You do this for a living, why is this one essay different than the others?”

It took me more than eight months to make sense that my mom isn’t here anymore — let’s start with that. It took that much time for me to type all of these words, to articulate all the phases I’ve been through since she’s been away, and to pour all the feelings my heavy heart is trying so hard to secure all these times.

***

To say that 2018 has been rough for both my dad and I would be a gross understatement.

How do you go from being part of a well-oiled routine to being stripped off of that reality in a snap? Our worlds revolved around my mom in every aspect, and then she was just… gone. How do you deal with that?

It’s been almost a year since we’ve bid goodbye to her, but not a day goes by that my mom doesn’t cross my mind. It’s still as painful as it was last May, especially when we live through holidays, achievements, and life developments without her. These, among many other things, are more agonizing when people try to instill their beliefs in me.

I don’t want to sound all sorts of ungrateful but as someone grieving the loss of her parent, I’d rather not hear your comments about how I should be grief-stricken. In all fairness, no one has told me directly to “just get over it,” but I’ve heard different versions of that statement over and over for the past year.

If you haven’t been through the same experience, you won’t understand how hard it is to make a life after everything that has happened.

Please don’t tell me that I look “happy” for someone in my situation just because I’ve talked to my friends and laughed genuinely even for a short while; please don’t tell me that I am not “sad enough” because you do not see me bawling my eyes out when people are present; and please, by God, do not ever imply that I am doing all of these to show off because even if my mom and I didn’t have a lovey-dovey relationship, we loved each other in ways we only know how.

My pain isn’t performative and it sure as hell isn’t your business.

***

On the flip side, my grief has taught me to look more into what meets the eye. I learned to listen better, observe better, and speak better. Whether they’ve lost a loved one or not, I know how to spot those silently carrying themselves through life, those who look like they struggle to get out of bed every morning, or those who just look like they need a hand or two.

I go through the effort of never invalidating anyone’s struggle just because I have it differently. Because pain, no matter how it varies for people, will shatter your core — and the tussle to recovery is universal.

***

It’s only been almost a year and a lot has changed, I look around our house trying to imagine how things have managed to improve, stay, and comfort us during our darkest days. It still takes a lot to not stay in bed all day, to not confine myself in my room, or to not take super long showers with overwhelming sadness, but I know now that what I feel is valid and how I cope is effective. I acknowledge that grief isn’t a process, because it’ll always be a part of me. I now understand that I am allowed off days and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself for taking some downtime.

Other people’s words aren’t above my feelings, and I am now in the business of doing what’s good for me. There’s just one thing I hope I know, though: Is my mom proud of me?

Illustration by Madel Crudo

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