Okay. Let’s talk about your feelings, Mary Rose. Let’s discuss it for your sanity’s sake.
I honestly don’t know where to start. But I’m going to put this one out here because I’m better at writing about my thoughts, rather than talk about them with someone else – yup, not even with my dad, brothers, boyfriend nor best friends.
I’m a great pretender. You could say that. Since my mom passed away, we got waves of messages from concerned loved ones and friends asking us every so often how we are. Honestly, I do not know how to answer the question. But my default answer would always be “we’re okay”. Even though I know we are not. I could even flash a smile, despite being so broken inside. I guess it is way easier and simpler to say that we are okay, because there are no follow-ups, and I am so not ready to discuss my thoughts or deal with my feelings.
My family and I are coping differently, and sometimes it gets much harder to deal with my own struggles, because I cannot be selfish, and I have to consider them. We all have our own ways of “escaping” or “facing” the reality. There are times we would just find ourselves losing our cool, but at the end of the day, we’d still realize we only have each other. And as we promised to Mommy, we will always look after each other.
I do not know if I will make sense, because I’m truly clueless on how I should process my feelings. To help contextualize my thoughts, let me borrow a framework, which is DABDA, or the Five Stages of Grief, by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. I do not know if the process is supposed to be linear, but there are times when I feel like I’m already past a stage, but then again I will just find myself being stuck at the early stages.
My denial stage set in when my mom was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Everyone was saying that the cancer has spread to her lungs, but I let myself believe that it was not really a case of metastasis, that there were just nodules found in her lungs, and the confirmation that it was indeed metastasis was still vague. She started her oral chemotherapy (I was still in denial), and every check-up was a make or break for the family.
Even though my family said that stage IV or metastatic cancer is incurable, and my own researches yield the same readings, I still believed that my mom will be cured. Nothing is impossible when you keep your faith, right? I always researched the best natural treatments for my mom’s case. I joined groups that tackle natural methods of curing cancer. Heck, I purchased whatever I can that claims it is good for the type of cancer my mom had. I knew in my heart that we can fight and finish strong.
Up until her last moments, when everyone was saying we should surrender her to the Lord so she would finally be free from any pain and sufferings, it took me quite a while before my prayers turned to openly surrendering her to our Creator. My prayers then were all prayers of granting us miracle, and were full of bargaining.
Up until now, I’m not sure if I ever felt this stage, because I do not know to whom should I get angry to, or to where should I displace my anger. But I got to be honest that what we went through was a real test of faith. There were moments (I’m not a saint, I got to be honest that sometimes it still crosses my mind) that I would ask why it happened, and why it had to be my mother. I could ask and ask, stay up late to get answers, but I guess it will remain a mystery. We just have to trust the Lord, and keep the faith. Because no matter how much I question why it happened, I still find myself crying to the Lord like a little child asking to help me ease the pain, and to ensure that Mommy is now in heaven happy, healthy and full of life.
My prayers then were all asking for miracle to get my mom cured. I always pray to the Lord to land me to an article or a person or a page that would give a testimony of being healed because of an effective cure. I offered to the Lord whatever I could offer. Akala mo naman mas rich ako kay Lord. Baka nga sobrang nakulitan na rin sa akin si Lord sa dami ng bargain na ino-offer ko mapagaling lang si Mommy. But I guess that’s when you will know how much you love the person – you are willing to give up everything.
When the side effects, and when the pain started manifesting, I always pray to save my mom from feeling any. That if I could be the one to feel it for her, I would definitely embrace all the pain wholeheartedly. But it does not work that way. But the Lord is still good and merciful. When everything was getting worse, we still felt that He made it a point to spare us and Mommy from experiencing too much pain.
I may still be stuck in this stage, no matter how much I claim that I have somehow accepted the situation. With or without trigger, I would just burst into tears, be it alone or with somebody, before going to bed, upon waking up, during mass, at work, while commuting, while having dinner – it strikes anywhere and anytime.
I remember during my mom’s wake, one brother from our church talked to me. He asked me about my feelings, and then followed by my plans for the future. I was not able to say any plans. And when we processed what I said, I knew it was because when Mommy was still alive I was very fixed in finding what can cure her. I really did not have the time to think about myself, because for me the only thing that matters is for Mommy to be healed.
There is a hole in my heart, and a feeling of emptiness every time I think of Mommy. The longing keeps on rubbing itself to us like it really demands to be felt. They always say to us to just feel and go through the pain, and before you know it you are getting better at dealing with it. But I am far from that. Maybe because I always shut down myself from feeling the pain – a defense mechanism I developed.
I think I developed that when we were on the last weeks of Mommy. I said to myself I should always keep my act together, and show Mommy she has nothing to worry about. That we are strong, and we can surpass this. While this defense mechanism had helped me during those times, I know it is not healthy for my sanity, because it is getting harder and harder for me to deal with our loss as time goes by.
I always find myself crying whenever I think I should have been given more time to make Mommy happier. I should have more opportunities to give her the things she deserve, to explore the world together, to witness our milestones. But now, I just have to think that she will always be in our hearts, and she will always watch over and guide us from above.
It may still be a very long way before I can finally say I fully accepted the situation. I think I am really far from accepting it completely. But I will work on it, and I promise to let myself feel again. It may not always be a good day, but I will embrace my emotions, and I will just feel whatever myself wants to feel.
I should start being kind to myself again, be brave to let go, and accept what happened. I know that will make Mommy at peace and happy.