I had just turned 16 when my mother died. Most people seem to think that’s probably one of the worst periods in your life to lose one’s mother. Because you’re just getting the hang of things. Because you’re still figuring out what you want your life to look like. Because you still don’t know how to define yourself and independence is a foreign concept.
For some reason, people I’ve met seem to think that it’s that time of your life when you most need guidance, advice and a safety net. It took me years to realize (7, to be precise) that that’s not the case. At least not for me.
As far as I’m concerned, it wouldn’t have made any difference if she would have passed away 10 years ago or yesterday. She was still my mother, the person I came out from and the one human being that loved me the most in this world. But because I was young, confused and naive, I actually started to believe, back then, that not only I was an orphan, but that somehow my mother had chosen the worst possible time to make me one.
Aaand so it began: years of anger, frustration and denial. (Not particularly in that order)
Somehow I had made myself believe that I was double crippled emotionally: not only did I lose the person I loved the most, but I was bound to lack a huge amount of social skills or personality traits that, according to people, you can only receive from your mother whilst in your teenage years.
I remember the first New Year’s Eve without her. I was looking out the window with my father, watching the fireworks, thinking about her and only her, with one single thought to comfort me: that in 7 years time it will all get better. I was to be in my last year in Law School, hopefully in a fulfilling relationship, making plans for the future, with my shit together and maybe, just maybe…happy.
Fast forward and there I was: 7 years later, in Law School, everything as I had imagined. Besides being happy, of course. Even tough I had done everything that I was expected to do with my life, I still had the same monsters in my head. I felt just as lonely, neglected and lost as I did when I was 16.
I was far from actually getting my shit together, not to mention planning for the future. And to top it all off, a couple of days in the new year I get a call that my grandmother had died, of the same disease that had taken her daughter 7 years ago.
As I was starting to go through the motions again, it suddenly hit me: people die.
That’s it, it’s as simple as that, and as painful as it sounds. Death is the most natural thing in the world. And I was no longer scared of it, in the same way that I’m no longer ashamed of the way I chose to mourn or to remember them, two of the women I loved most.
I will talk about them when I want, without being concerned that I’m making people uncomfortable. I will talk about what I miss about them, what reminds me of them or how sad I get sometimes because they’re not here. If you don’t want to listen, then don’t.
I will not let other people make me feel disabled just because I spent most of my teenage years without a mother.
I am a strong, capable, driven 23-year-old and I became so without mom holding my hand. And that makes her twice as valuable, and instrumental, because she managed to mold me as a person long before society thinks it’s time to teach your kids the real values of life.
I don’t have “issues” or at least mine are not different than any other woman at my age. I don’t lack social skills, I have a family and friends who love and respect me for who I am.
I will not turn my mother, nor my grandmother into saints just because it’s frowned upon to “talk ill of the dead”. They have made mistakes. They were people just like you and me and they lived normal, beautiful lives that I will remember the way I choose.
I will no longer try to fill the gap they left in my heart with all the wrong people. What they gave me is in no way replaceable… and that’s ok. It’s one of those things that make me cry from time to time, but I will no longer hide in my room under the covers when that happens.
I have my mother’s eyes and my grandmother’s nose, but that’s the least important traits I inherited from them.
I will always keep them with me and, although it took me 7 years to figure it out, it’s one of the few things in my life that makes me happy.