December 4th Reflections
I could feel December coming for weeks like a dark cloud. As each week/day brought me closer to December my chest felt heavier, the pain in my hips more intense. I reminded myself to take deep breaths as I continually noticed my shallow breathing patterns. I touch my hand to my heart daily to connect to myself and be present for my rising emotions, allowing the tears to flow freely anytime I am alone. Feeling emotions rising and acknowledging them – giving them room to breathe has become a mantra. I recognize the feelings of wanting to isolate and be alone while reminding myself to connect in some small way every day to be present in the here and now.
I found/find myself reminiscing of years gone by and remembering our time together. Each time I enter a store attempting to shop for Christmas I am reminded of the very things she loved. The books, clothing, music, the sweet treats. You see my mind still has trouble comprehending that Rehtaeh is no longer here. I still reach to buy her the items she loved. A few days ago I was daydreaming of our time together. I saw her beautiful face appear in my mind. She spoke to me and said “I see your pain and I see your strength and I am with you always”. I felt her with me for that moment in time. I feel that she is aware of this difficult month. The fourth is always significant to me as it was the last day we hugged and chatted about her future. A future she was starting to feel optimistic about. Unfortunately, the feelings just under the surface would not allow her to move forward. She needed more time and more positive experiences to put time and distance between her and her trauma.
People say things happen for a reason and some say that’s “bullshit”! I vacillate between the two. I do feel Rehtaeh’s life and what she represents now has had and continues to have a huge impact on many lives. I have never wanted/nor dreamed of being a public speaker in face I despised being front and center. However, at various times in my life I have had brief flashes of speaking to youth but I dismissed them. Interesting to think back to those flashes now as this point in my life. When I present to people I bring Rehtaeh’s energy and message with me. The words are her words. I’m the vessel but she is the messenger.
I have begun a new journey since she left this earthly world. It’s a journey that I feel is necessary and in line with my intuitive self. Some would say that this is the “reason”. The reason is to spread awareness of sexualized violence, cyber harassment and youth mental health. Some might say it’s to give others hope in times of crisis on how to survive in times of great tragedy. However, wouldn’t it be accurate to say I could have been propelled onto this path in many ways? I didn’t need to lose my child to arrive here. Do things happen for a reason? Is our life’s journey and path a coincidence?
These days ( 2yrs, 8months later) people no longer give advice on how I “should be” moving forward and I am grateful for that. I have recently had a professional and a friend ask me “what is it your still struggling with? What area are you stuck in? Do you feel like you failed her in some way? Is that your pain?” While well intentioned I shudder when I hear these questions. As a bereaved parent we have this conundrum because we really want people to understand how we feel yet that can never happen. Why do we want people to “get it?”- the complexity of this daily grief. Maybe so we don’t feel hurt when someone asks “What part are you struggling with?” Hmmmmm, the part where my child is not here! The part where MY CHILD MISSES OUT ON HER LIFE. The part where MY CHILD DOES NOT GET TO LIVE HER DREAMS. The part where I DO NOT GET TO SHARE MY LIFE WITH MY CHILD! The part where “I MISS HER WITH EVERY CELL IN MY BODY. I can’t even address the “failed as a parent” to people. If LOVING my child with all my heart equals failing as a parent then Yes, I guess I failed.
I just left the girl’s elementary school after being there for their monthly assembly and I am reminded once again of their strength and resilience. People often think that children can “move on” faster from grief than adults. I’m not sure about that but I do know that children are often overlooked when it comes to their grief. Losing a sibling changes the entire family dynamic and it’s not easy emotionally for anyone. Today, I was blessed to see both my girls receive ribbons for their outstanding achievements at the school assembly. I felt very proud and it was a perfect day for this to occur. This is what I refer to as “the moments in between the pain”. No one would have noticed the puffy eyes of my 11yr old daughter who cried herself to sleep last night. She misses her big sister who she adored and admired in so many ways. She smiled today as she took her award but she too is a warrior every single day as we struggle together as a family to create a new life. A life that both includes Rehtaeh and excludes Rehtaeh.
I will continue to honour ALL my feelings today and look for the “moments in between” because they too exist. I hope you do the same.