Today I got a Viber message from one of the parent reps of my Grade 9 brother in school. It was an invitation for an event called “A Date with Mom”, a mother/son ball. It reminded me of the time when my brother had a father/son camping trip for school, just months after our Papa passed away. One of my mom’s good friend’s husband was happy to take my dad’s place for that overnight excursion. My brother had fun, but I can only imagine the anguish he must be facing that time — or to this day even.
After all, grief for a loved one never truly goes away.
While I’m excited to take on the role of a mom and be my brother’s date for the evening, I couldn’t help but feel devastated that my parents never had the chance to hear his voice croak as he goes through his awkward teenage years, or witness him growing taller than my sister and me. While I had around 21 years with my parents, my brother only had about 12 years with them.
Life is simply unfair.
Earlier I had an insightful conversation with my boss as she was saying farewell for a new job abroad. She told me to take care of myself. After which I was surprised to hear the following words pouring straight out of my mouth: that I’ve been reading up on adversity, and how this can actually be beneficial to individuals who have faced a major hurdle in their lives. This is not exactly something I would say considering I haven’t come to terms with my grief for my parents, and yet there I was, saying it as if I actually believed in it. And I did.
As the years pass by, I’ve come to learn that what you get from the hard times are two things: resilience and gratitude.
While I admittedly lived a somewhat privileged life, it seemed like our parents prepared me and my sister for a challenging future ahead. We were taught to be independent at such a young age, from doing household chores while the folks were working overseas, solving our own homeworks and problems in school, to being sent to a European adventure as unaccompanied minors.
Months before my mom deteriorated mentally from dementia caused by the tumor in her brain, she even prepared a budget for us for the next five years in an Excel sheet. It was a morbid way to say goodbye.
Even though I may have had two suicide attempts in the past year, I must admit that I’ve become more grateful for the little things: a sunny day, a relaxing massage, a soft bed to come home to, weekends with the family, and yes, even a good hair day — things I would normally take for granted in my younger years.
Life after losing your parents is never easy. You will have days when you’re driving to work and you’ll break down after hearing your mom’s favorite Katy Perry song, and nights when you’d wish you can just talk to your dad and ask for career advice, but realize that you’ll never have the chance to hear his voice again.
There will also be times when you’ll cry yourself to sleep, waiting for them to visit you in your dreams, for fear that you’ll forget the way they smell, their quirks and mannerisms, and the way they laugh.
Grief is a messy, vicious monster. But it’s necessary.
When you lose a loved one, embrace the sadness. Let it fill you up inside. Allow it to enter your soul. There is nothing worse than escaping from reality. I know this firsthand, with my excessive partying and traveling, just to get away from it all. At the end of the day, melancholy will always haunt you back. The best thing you can do is to take the empty void for what it is.
To grieve is to be human. To be human is to love.