“I’ve never been really loved by a hand that’s touched me.” – Matchbox 20, Push

This blog entry is going to be quite different than my others. As personal as all my others are . . . this one is intimate in a dissimilar way. I’m going to share my first experience in intentionally widening my world. 

A few blogs ago I touched upon wanting to be happy. About the realization I wanted my life to be less controlled. I don’t think most will understand how monumentous a decision this can be for a bereaved mother who is living in a way that keeps her world safe. It’s miraculous, really.

The strength it takes to open one’s eyes each morning and take in a world that does not contain our deceased child. The courage we must possess to look at the world with trusting eyes. Trust that is requisite to engage fully in life. This also includes the people around us. Our trust extends to them as well. Otherwise, what is the point?

So recently, as some of you may know, I made the well thought through decision to let someone in. My advice: don’t expect to receive what you are willing to give.

My choice came after a decade of keeping people away. I overturned my decision to remain removed from others of the opposite sex. Previously, I’d felt that I had nothing to offer. I had no emotion to give another person. Then someone came along who made me feel as if I was ready.

In truth, I think I was. Am. I just wasn’t prepared for the cruelty that lay in wait for me. 

As you may have figured out by now I am very transparent with my feelings and motives. The why’s that cause people to do what they do. Especially my own. The problem is, this time, I let my guard down. I was open, communicative, and honest. About everything. I have to be.

Too many of the choices I made after Becca died were not good for me. The people I allowed to remain around me. The amount of red wine I drank in order to keep the anguish away was unhealthy. I couldn’t see a joyful future no matter what horizon I turned toward. It was hell. 

Now, in the after those first years, I make double and triple sure that my motivation is wholesome. And, I thought I could be certain the other person’s was, too. Fuck was I wrong.

I remember waiting, nervously, to get a copy of Becca’s autopsy report. I know many won’t understand why I had to read it, but I did. From the first page to the last, in one sitting. Then, I read it over again. I had to know everything. Every detail that was contained within the in depth descriptions. 

I know how much my dead daughter’s brain weighs. I imagine that fact makes you recoil. Grotesque, isn’t it? I wish I didn’t know. It might be one of the worst things a parent can know about a child. The weight of one of their organs. But when one can see the very bottom then one knows the worst. That is an important truth. Sadly, at times, the bottom is in someone else’s keeping and can not be seen by another person. When this is the case then we must base our moves in faith. And, hope.

I thought I’d made a decision that was sound. I didn’t rush in. I took my time. I trusted.

I won’t say that what has transpired is all the other person’s fault. I know I struggle with being able to convey my emotions at times. They tumble out in a jumbled mess and fall splat on the floor between the other and myself. Then, I shut down. It’s a defense mechanism I learned as a child. I get that this makes me difficult to deal with at times. I’m honest about how much of a pain in the ass I can be, too. Figuring out who you are . . . where you fit, after your child dies, is almost impossible. You don’t want to fit anywhere but back when your child was alive. Instead, you’re forced to make yourself find a suitable place now. Cultivate some kind of life here.

So, that’s what I did when I decided to open myself up to another person. Cultivate some kind of larger life here. As I said, it did honestly, and clumsily. What matters the most is that I did it with integrity. I can not say the same for the other person involved. 

What have I learned about myself in the past six weeks? 

I have more courage than most. I am not afraid to step into the dark. I am valiant enough to engage in a world that has shown me deep sorrow. Honesty doesn’t scare me. Being open doesn’t make me anxious. I welcome transparency in all interactions. I have a lion’s heart and though I have felt the greatest pain a mother can feel, I am still kind. Considerate. Empathetic. Respectful. 

I would ask what can make a person so cruel? Let me explain cruelty, first. Knowing a person has laid themselves bare in front of you yet having no intention of honoring such nudity. So, back to the original question: what makes a person so cruel?

I know what SHOULD make a person cruel. Pain. Unfairness. A childhood of abuse. The death of a child. Yet, do you know what those things tend to do to a person? They make them kinder. More loving. Deeply empathetic. The most giving people I have ever met are those who have felt the same depth of sorrow and horror that I have. Because we understand what it takes to interact with others in a respectfully intimate manner. 

In short, I would never treat another person as I have been recently treated. I’m not cruel.

The second thing I have learned about myself: I am forgiving. Often, people tell me that they are astounded that I have forgiven the drunk driver that took Becca’s life. While forgiving the driver was by no means easy . . . he wasn’t someone who had intentionally caused me pain.  And, I am hurting deeply right now due to this other person’s actions. I’ve already forgiven him because something must be broken deep inside of him to treat another person with the dismissiveness he showed me. 

Please, when someone opens up to you  . . . honor the space. Don’t exploit it. Treat others as you would your mother, sister. Daughter. Be a worthwhile person. Face the hard things. Be honest. Imagine what the world would be like if we all treated each other as sacred.

Author: Diane Neas

I'm a mother, artist, and writer. A decade ago I lost my daughter. I find writing, and painting, heal me. Sharing my story of loss and healing lightens what I carry. And, hopefully, my words help another along the way.

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