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Sunday 5 July 2020

A Complicated Grief

On Sunday, my mother died. I have spent a while staring at that sentence. My mother is dead. It is hard to say and even harder to process. I want to say that I am devastated, gutted, and shaken, but those are the things that people say when they are devastated to lose a loved one, gutted that they will never see that person again, and their world is shaken that person is no longer in it.  That is not how I feel. I am devastated by the tsunami of emotions that have encompassed me, gutted by the pain that I have kept contained behind the breakers, and shaken because the amount of emotion is too overwhelming to handle.  In short, it’s complicated.

Complicated is the overly simplistic word that I have at my disposable to describe my relationship with my mother.  The last time I saw or spoke to her was December 9, 2018.  Our relationship was strained since 2010, with very minimal contact.  I still have a hard time saying she was abusive to her children, but it is true.  My struggle comes from the fact that she didn’t hit or moleste us, and so often in our society, that is what we define as abuse.  She did other things though.  She was mentally ill and would have “rages.”  In these rages, she would beat herself black and blue, lock herself in the washroom with knives saying that she would kill herself, smash anything that could break including all the ceramic figurines that our grandfather had made us, grab a garbage bag and throw away our clothes and toys by the armful, and yell and scream and rant for hours.  That is a different form of abuse.  It’s harder to spot, but abuse all the same.

A friend from my group therapy recently offered to talk because he lost his step-father years ago and knew that the death of your abuser, especially when they are a parent, is different from the loss of a non-abusive parent. There are many unexpected emotions that come up that can be hard to explain and even harder for loved ones to understand.  In short, it’s complicated.

Now, reading this far, you may be thinking, “wow, you must be relieved that your abuser is dead.” And in that respect, you are right… to a point. Relief is one of the emotions I feel, but at the same time, my mommy is also dead. She was the only one I had and now she is gone.  She was still my mommy and I love her.  She consistently hurt me, so I couldn’t have her as part of my life, but that didn’t change the fact that I loved her.  I loved her and now she is dead.  See, it’s complicated.

My mother was not a horrible monster who mistreated her children all the time.  She was sometimes, but that is not all of who she was.  No one is all good or all evil.  People are complex and so are the relationships that intertwine them.

After a lifetime of feeling like I was drowning, I had finally done the work to process my childhood traumas and had built a life raft.  Actually, no, I had built a ship and I had learned how to sail the stormy seas of life, enjoying the calm waters when they came and navigating the rough seas with ease.  When I was informed of my mother’s death, it was like lightning hit my ship and I watched it burn and sink while I scrambled to keep afloat among the debris.

All the emotions hit me at once like a tidal wave. My body went numb and I wanted to rip my insides out through my chest because it was all just too much.  Since then, wave after wave comes crashing over my head while I try to stay above the tide of each new emotion.

I feel...
Grief because I lost my mom.
Sadness because she died alone in a nursing home she hated.
Anger because she threw away all the pictures.
Anger because she spent all the money my Grandmother had left for her funeral so her kids wouldn’t be burdened with the cost.
Anger because of course she burdened her kids with the cost of her death because she never did anything that was in the best interest of her children.
Anger at her selfishness.
Relief that she is no longer in pain.
Relief that she can no longer hurt us.
Guilt because I wanted to be with my mommy in her final moments.
Guilt because I didn’t want her to die alone.
Sadness because I wanted a mommy.
Sadness because despite how mean and angry she used to get when we were little, at least she had a fire in her belly that disappeared years ago.
Joy that she is no longer suffering.
Anger that even after death, she was able to find a way to stab each of her children one last time.
Anger that even though she is gone she has still found a way to make our lives more difficult.
Anger that she was never a parent and never came through when we needed her.
Anger that she saddled her children with thousands of dollars worth of bills.
Anger that I was finally doing okay and she just smashed that to bits, like she always did.
Happy that her death brought my sisters and I closer together.
Sadness because she needed help that wasn’t there in time to make a difference in her life.
Sadness that I will never have the mommy I deserved.
Anger that she just gave up on life, now and years ago.
Relief that it’s all over.
Rage at a world that doesn’t take care of its people.
Rage at seeing my mother’s dead body laying in a cardboard box because that’s what happens to the poor.
Frustration at the slippery slope of poverty and how it takes a lifetime to crawl out of it and in a flash, you end up right back where you started.
Anger at a system that shames people for not having children, but then abandons them when they are here.
Rage at the world.
Rage at my mom.
Rage at the heavens and earth and everything under the sun.
Rage at the injustice of it all.
Grief for the hope that has ended.
Grief for the mom I will never have.
Grief for the little girl who lost her mommy.
Grief for the teenager who knew better but was powerless to make change.
Grief for the adult who had to cut her mother out of her life because she decided to put an end to the cycle of abuse.
Grief for the woman who just wanted to be able to call her mom and share some good news, but couldn’t - because her mom wouldn’t listen - because her mom would start calling obsessively and leave nasty messages on her phone - because her mom would report her missing to the police and she would wake up to at knock on the door at 7am on Easter morning and have to explain to the police officer that she was fine, that she was never missing, that her mother is mentally ill, and get the response, “you should call you mom,” then sigh because people just didn’t understand.
Elation at never having to hear another person say, “but she’s your mother,” as a response ever again.
Relief at never having to explain why “it’s complicated” when someone asks about your mom ever again.
Joy at just being able to say “she’s dead” and get a sympathetic response.
Sadness at people never really understanding the full story.
Grief at letting go of all that old pain that protected and shaped me my entire life.
Fear of what is left of me without all that grief and pain.
Fear for what lies ahead.
Excitement for what lies ahead.
Relief for the fear that is being lifted from my shoulders.
Exhaustion from the weight of it all for all those years.
Gratitude for the support systems I have built over the years.

And at the end of each day, I just feel numb. Numb from fighting to stay above the water.  Numb from the torrent of emotions washing over me. Numb because a person can only handle so much at once.  I can’t sleep for fear of drowning.  I am buoyed by the support from my loved ones, but the storm still rages and it will be a long time before the seas are calm again.  I am comforted by the knowledge that “this too shall pass.”

Often I had been known to say, “it would just be easier if she were dead.”  That’s true.  It will be.  Just not yet. I have all the tools to survive this storm, but I still have to rebuild the ship before I can sail again. This is a storm that has been on the horizon for a long time and just because it has finally hit, it doesn’t make it any less devastating to experience.  I know I will eventually sail again, but right now, I am lost at sea, trying to keep my head above water and barely succeeding. My mom is dead and it’s complicated.

Thank you for reading and witnessing me.

Friday 4 January 2019


It has been a while since I last posted. I even missed my anniversary post this year; the first time since starting this blog in 2013. I thought about it, watched the date come and go, yet still wrote nothing. I didn't write in 2018, period.  For quite some time, I was worried about my lack or writing and spent many evenings beating myself up over it.  Not noticably, but quietly, in the back of my mind: I was failing myself.

Over the last two years, along with my writing, my self-care routines have disappeared. I watched all those things that gave me grounding during my therapy process fall away. I got angry with myself. In November, at breakfast with a dear friend, I finally put words to my feelings and soothed those voices in my head.

What was causing this great scism in my life so soon after putting all the pieces back together? 
A relationship. 

Wednesday 31 January 2018


Growing up, my mother would often tell me the story of her pregnancy.   She would say that every time she went to the doctor, he would tell her it wasn't too late to get an abortion, but she would tell him that she desperately wanted this baby (even though she was newly divorced and going to be a single parent of three).  She wanted to keep this baby.  This was a sign of my mother's love. Even though other people were encouraging her to get rid of me, she wouldn't listen.  Thinking about that story today, my response is very clear: You should have listened.

This response may come as a shock to many.  I currently have an amazing life; a good education, thriving career, nice home in the city, with a man and cat whom I adore.  Why would I say that my mother should have aborted me?

It is simple: I am the exception, not the statistic.  Most of the kids who grew up in my situation got caught in oppressive cycle of poverty, addiction, and mental illness.  I was never supposed to make out.  I still don't know how I did.  My therapist says it was hard work and will, on my part.  I say there was also a lot of luck.  I grew up dreaming of being rich enough to see the poverty line in a home with a mentally unsound mother who was abusive and negligent.  This is not a recipe for success.  By some twist of fate, I beat the odds.  I have a life that makes me happy.  So extremely happy, that it is terrifying.  After years of therapy, I am not crippled by this happiness, but that too has been a lot of work.

It is from this happy place, that I can look back objectively and say, despite being able to create an incredible life for myself, I don't think my mother should have given birth to me.  The suffering I had to endure to get here was more than any child should experience.  And remember, I am one of the rare cases that has a happy ending.  Objectively, I am statistical anomaly.  An outlier.  This is why I feel it is important to look back and say: no, given the circumstances, I should not have been born. As the unaborted fetus, I say, it was not in the best interest of the child to give it life.  And I am one of the lucky ones...

My intention is not for this to be a pro-abortion piece.  It is merely to give you perspective.  My purpose is to address another taboo subject matter: parental debt.  The idea that we owe our parents for our lives and therefore are indebted to them when they age and need our support.  This introduction is to shed light on my question: what do you owe a person who gave you a life you didn't want?

Saturday 29 July 2017


I’m losing track of time.  My Facebook reminded me today that it was time to celebrate the anniversary of My Year Without Sex.  I can hardly remember when it started.  My life is as polar opposite as it possibly could be… in all the best ways.  It has now been four years since I started this whole journey.  Back then, I felt as broken and lost as any person could.  Now, I’m whole, confident and happy.  I have a sense of where I’m sailing, but more than anything, I’m just happy to be on the water at the helm of my own ship.  I’m at peace.

Two pretty big events have occurred recently.  Firstly, I finished the initial draft of my first novel.  The biggest struggle was overcoming the voices in my head that told me I can’t.  It took me nearly six months to tackle the final fifteen thousand words and three months to do the first eighty-five thousand.  There was a block.  I couldn’t do it.  Finally, I gave myself a drop dead date of the July 31st.  If I didn’t finish by then, I was never going to do it.  That set the stage for the final battle with myself.  Did I give up on myself?  Did I give in to the voice saying it was just a pipe dream?  Fortunately, I wasn’t ready to lay down and die just yet and I pumped out the last fifteen thousand in four days, like I was possessed.  I came through for me.  That was the lesson that became really clear this week – I can always count on me.  That’s nice to know.  It’s hard to know.

The second major event, is that I have a boyfriend.  For real!!  For purposes of this blog, I will call him Angus.  He is wonderful.  And everything happened at the right time and everything has been really simple… for the most part – battling personal demons aside, but I will get into those in another post.  I’m so unbelievably happy that it is almost too much to bear… almost…

Which brings me to last night, when I had the strangest dream…

Tuesday 2 May 2017


It is my day off and I find myself sitting in the window of a cafe on Yonge St in Toronto feeling very contemplative.  Maybe it's the rain.  Maybe it is the paino lesson that was frustrating but good.  Maybe it's the young couple that ducked into the bus stop to make out right in front of me.  Maybe it's the rain.

It has been quite some time since I last posted here.  It has been a busy and fulfilling time, full of excitement and adventure, but less about quiet reflection.  It is nice to steal a few minutes away from the world to check in.

On December 12, 2016, I had my last session with my therapist.  It has been nearly six months since I last had any contact with her.  It is strange.  Therapy was so much of my life for the last four years, and now... well, it's a new world.  Our last session was a beautiful trip down memory lane.  We laughed, we cried, we exchanged gifts.  We held a little ceremony where we smudged with sage and I went on my way into the world at large, ready to take my place in it.  That first step out her door was surreal.  After four very intense years, I was captain of my own ship, as I never had been before.

I went out on New Year's Eve for the first time since 2012.  I wanted to celebrate, despite the fatigue I felt from working two contracts.  It marked the end of one journey and the start of another.

During autumn of 2016, I came to a realization that my life was barely half over.  I had spent so much time lamenting all the things I had missed out on doing because I hadn't done them when I was younger.  Then, in October, I did the math.  If I relived every single day of my life I would be nearly sixty-nine years old - four years after normal retirement age.  Barely a senior.  After that, barring any calamity, I could still reasonably expect to live another fifteen to twenty years.  I wasn't even half way through life and already mourning the things that would never be.  I still had time to redo everything I had done up until that day, and then some.

I look back over the past ten years and am dumbfounded at the number of things that have happened.  I don't even feel like the same person.  I can hardly fathom what the next thirty-five will hold.  Though time does seem to fly by these days, seventy has always felt closer to thrity-five than twenty.  It wasn't until I actually counted it out, that I was able to realize I have a lot of years left and that nothing had been missed.  I was, as I typically do, just following my own path.  That was when I decided to fill the time I spent in therapy with piano lessons.  In ten years, I want to be a pianist.

On my first day, my teacher asked if I could find middle C on the piano.  I couldn't.  Turns out, it is the key in the middle of the keyboard.  Aptly named.  A few weeks ago, I was playing Ode to Joy, quite proficiently, may I add.  I had come a long way in a matter of months.  Today, I was back to feeling like everything I played sounded similar to a cat walking across a keyboard, but my teacher was encouraging and wouldn't let me sit in my defeat.  She urged me on and sure enough, things began to sound like some form of music again.  I just need to practice.

This has become my motivational motto these days: It just takes practice.  I apply it to everything I do.  Dealing with conflict: practice.  Playing the piano: practice.  Writing: practice.  I'm writing my practice novel.  I've never written a novel, so I decided to try.  Just to go through the motions.  The first draft is almost complete.  I'm not sure what will happen with it, but at least I know how to go about doing it.  That's what this motto is about.  It is not about the success or failure of an endeavour, it is about the learning that comes with trying something.  Sometimes things work, but, as I've learned from playing the piano, when you first get started, most often they fail, but each time, it gets a little easier.  And you often see pay off in places you wouldn't expect.  I was shocked how much the three months of piano lessons were already paying off at work.

When you're starting a journey up a mountain, you can walk for hours and feel like you have not made any progress towards the summit.  It's not until you look back and see how far the ground seems that you really see how far you've come.  I think I've been spending too much time looking up the mountiain and not enough looking back on where I was, just a short time ago.  It feels especially disheartening when you've just summited one mountain and now find yourself at the bottom of a new peak.  I guess life is just a series of mountains.  We can choose to climb or we can be content circling the base.  I've always been a climber.

Monday 24 April 2017

1000 DAYS

So, I've been away writing a novel for the past few months and have not checked in here with updates about how I'm doing.  After chatting with a friend I recently reconnected with this evening, I decided to check out where I last left reader on this blog.  I read "Get Over It" and then noticed my counter along the side that said today is 1000 days since the end of My Year Without Sex.  I just wanted to say in the three minutes before midnight, that life grand and all is well.  Updates to come soon! xoxoxo

Tuesday 11 October 2016


My ex got engaged.  This is the last axe that needed to fall to sever all attachment.  It’s strange, because he has been in my dreams lately, which I know signifies a release or letting go of attachment.  I must have felt this coming, so I was already in a state of release when this news hit.

Some people might say, “It’s been six years, how are you still not over this.”  But that is the thing with emotions and relationships, you don’t just “get over them.”  Sometimes emotions coming flooding back unexpectedly, and you need to process them, otherwise there is no release and they will lie in the shadows waiting to strike at any time.  There is no statute of limitations on how long it take to process emotion.  You just have to let it run its course.

I read the news on Facebook last night and it struck me.  It took a while to process what I was feeling.  I went into shock.  I felt numb and electric all at the same time.  My first response was to email my therapist.  I needed to be witnessed in this.  It was late and I knew she wouldn’t receive it until the morning, but I needed to send out a white flag – I need extra support and my therapist tends to be my first responder.