Updated: Jul 10, 2019
My memory of the first year or two following my mother’s death is very spotty. I know now that this is how trauma works. I didn’t know at the age of seven. These are the things I remember:
Being put in charge of bath time for my two-year-old sister (who was given the nickname “rattlesnake” by an aunt).
Being put in charge of the family laundry. And then promptly hiding an entire load in my cedar hop chest because I didn’t do it correctly (funny that I thought my father wouldn’t wonder where his clothes had gone).
Having a stepmother four months later who “allowed me” to invite my friends over and jump on their bed, and then telling my father that I was a horrible child.
Reading a book about Mt. St. Helen’s.
Trying to walk to school (down a busy highway) because I missed the bus. And getting picked up by a bus driver closer to the school who made me get on her bus.
Having my second-grade teacher tell me I needed to go take off my makeup.
Lying awake at night and being woken by screaming matches between my father and stepmother.
Being known as the girl whose mother died, and not being invited places with other girls my age.
Submitting questions to our school newspaper’s “Dear Abby” type column like, “How are tears made?” “Can you ever run out of tears?” I also didn’t know you were supposed to have a pseudonym when you wrote these, so I put my whole name. Not one adult came to me to talk about what I was so sad about.
A constant feeling of anxiety, of heaviness in the air, of not belonging or being loved by anyone.
I have a good memory (although with age, it isn’t quite a sharp sometimes). I can still help my daughter study for her anatomy and physiology class, because I remember high school biology. But, I lost a few years of my childhood. And I had no one I could talk to about any of it.