I was 19 years old when my mom got the fatal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. She passed away when I was 20. I’m 26 now and the grief is still unfolding.
It’s a tough existence to live when a parent dies young. Your sense of stability in the world is disturbed in so many ways that cannot be understated. I am still trying to understand them on a day-to-day basis.
The trauma of the loss was extremely disturbing and disruptive to my identity. In some ways, we depend upon our parents to reflect back to us who we are, especially when we are young and our identity is still developing. This dynamic isn’t one that is necessarily recognizable until you have lost them, and you realize, parts of yourself went away with them.
When you lose a parent young, you lose parts of your personality that you can never get back. You lose memories that come back at the most random times. You lose the people around you who also loved them to the same affliction that you are suffering from: grief, loss, and pain.
You lose any sense of normalcy that might have caused you to take a certain direction with your life.
However, I think the most heart-breaking part for me almost 6 years later has been the fact that I never got to know her as an adult.
The lens through which you view your parents during childhood is one in which you depend upon them for support. You don’t totally start to see them as a real person until you mature into adulthood. This was only just starting to happen for me when my mom received that diagnosis. I was finally starting to see her as a human.
As time goes by and I have to make more of my own decisions, I begin to wonder what her motives were in the way she chose to live her life. How did she become the person she did? What was her life like as a little girl? She lost her father at a young age… how did that mold her into the person she was? There are all sorts of questions I have that will remain unanswered. I am starting to see her in a much more complex manner than I did when I was younger, when she was alive. But she is no longer around for me to ask her questions, or to appreciate that person she became.