a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
[Content warning: death & grief]
She doesn’t want to believe it.
All the air is pressed out of her lungs; the world sinks in a blur, but not enough to make the devastating sight unintelligible. Sirens blare furiously in a monstrous cacophony as she collapses on her knees; hands shaking as she tenderly strokes her son’s hair. Upon contact she recoils her fingers as quickly as a child from a hot stove. But instead of heat it is the coldness that terrifies her; in the brief touch enough heat is stolen to turn her lips blue. She holds his hand in a cold caress.
His eyes are glassy, and he lies still like a cold kiss of death. It can’t be real. It doesn’t feel real.
He lies lifeless, utterly still; his eyes are vacant and stoic. The blood that cakes his hair and the sidewalk matches the wild roses that grow on the riverbank. In life he had a nearly permanent smile and knowing eyes. In death he is ghostly pale - lips already turning bluish.
Someone drags her away from the body, and she is too weak to resist. She watches in disbelief and genuine horror as her son’s lifeless body is carried away by the paramedics, and as her world is destroyed a little more. She wishes it was all happening in her head - her son as the star of her nightmares.
Passersby stop and stare at the gruesome scene, open-mouthed with pity and horror. They offer sympathetic glances, but she scarcely spares them a glance.
It’s the blonde girl walking towards her she pays attention to.
Her son’s girlfriend Jasmine stands in front of her, trembling, tears cascading down her face. She notices the small cut next to Jasmine’s left eye and several bruises she has on her arms from the accident.
Her son is dead. She will never see him again.
The traumatic look of despair in Jasmine’s eyes is haunting.
“We were coming home from his football game and I was driving, but we weren’t even drunk, I promise.” she explained, “The car just came out of nowhere.”
She remembers hearing once: in a car crash, the driver usually survives.
All of a sudden, her body goes ice cold.
Sound becomes colours and words becomes knives. All blurring together in a horrific rage that boils within her. Hot under the surface, the tenacious feelings she suppressed are ready to erupt. And she’s never been good at controlling her emotions.
“You killed my son.”
The spiteful words she blurted out of vexation seem to affect Jasmine immensely. She feels shameful and regrets her words but she is too prideful to apologize.
And she walks away without looking back. Doing the one thing she is best at.
It’s so unfair. She can almost feel the blood boiling in her veins. The cruel world has wronged her many times before, but the loss of her only child is indisputably the worst thing that has happened to her.
Everyone and everything is her enemy. She is dark, lonely, and toxic. The amount of sadness and anger she holds in her lungs is nearly unbearable.
Screaming, she picks up and throws a vase and it shatters into a thousand glittering pieces.
Her son was perfect in her eyes; popular, well-liked, and smart. Will was his school’s star linebacker, colleges already desperate to recruit him in his sophomore year.
She liked to think that Will was the only positive outcome of her miserable marriage.
She knows Will’s father must have received the news of his death by now; yet she isn’t surprised that he hasn’t even contacted her or visited. He doesn’t care about his son, or herself. She knows that already. Yet that doesn’t make it hurt any less.
It’s been a week since her child’s life was stolen. As painful as it is, she likes to look at old pictures of him from old family albums.
It’s almost as if she’s a sadist.
If only the ambulance had gotten there sooner, she thinks bitterly as she flips through the album. If only she was there at the football game to pick him up.
If only the driver of the other car had been paying attention. If only. If only. If only. Maybe Will would still be alive.
She's lost in a maze of “If onlys…” and “What ifs…”
She hasn’t felt grief like this in a long time.
It is the worst kind of pain for a parent, the loss of a child. There is nothing that could have prepared her for the pain of this bittersweet goodbye.
The trauma haunts her in her dreams, causing her endless nights of restless sleep. Friends visit her during the day, offering pitying looks and their condolences. She responds with half-hearted reassurances. But the pain is still there every day, like a blunt knife cutting her. The awful hollowness, the waves of abject misery threaten to engulf her mind, body and soul. It gives her this heavy feeling that makes her feel as if the weight of the world is resting on her shoulders and there is nothing she can do to get out from under it. It’s like being stuck in the depths of the ocean, thrashing around, trying to keep from drowning all the time. She is convinced that feeling will be there indefinitely.
A knock on her door interrupts her thoughts, and she quickly shoves the albums under the bed, trudging wearily to the door.
Jasmine stands outside, with a nervous half-smile on her face. She remembers how in the heat of the moment, she blamed her for her son’s death; and the guilt comes rushing back.
“I’m so -” she’s cut off by Jasmine shaking her head furiously.
“I would have reacted the same way. I really am sorry. I guess it is partly my fault,” Jasmine reassures her, “I just wish this wasn’t real. I wish we could bring him back.”
She replies with a shaky voice, “I wish that too. It feels unnatural, knowing you’ve outlived your son.”
With newfound understanding for each other, she invites her dead son’s girlfriend inside her home. “We can go look inside Will’s room, you can go through and see if you want to keep any of his things.” The younger girl thanks her profusely, and in that moment, she feels a little happier, knowing her son would be happy that she’s made up with his girlfriend.
When the death of a loved one affects somebody, nobody else can really believe it. Like they think death only happens to people you’ve never met.
But as it hits you clearly, and you fully grasp that what’s happening to you is real - like a hand emerging from the mist surrounding your life - you feel so empty inside. Life starts to feel meaningless and insignificant.
And there’s no single emotion that can fully compensate for how incomplete you feel.
Death does that to you.
But every day is a little easier. And you move on, accepting your loss - but that’s not the same as forgetting. You move on, still keeping the memory of someone you lost as an important part of you. The memories become integral to defining who you are. You mourn, but never forget.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.