Coming Out of Survival Mode

Jun 11, 2023

This memory pops into my mind often: ⁣

I’m sitting at my mother-in-law’s kitchen table, newborn D nursing at my breast. Brian is beside me, healthy, happy - we are so, so happy. ⁣⁣

I turn to my mother-in-law and I ask her, “What was the best decade of your life?” ⁣⁣

“My 20s,” she answers without missing a beat.

“It’s when my kids were young. Those were the best days of my life.” ⁣⁣

I smile, beaming forward into the beauty that I see stretching out in front of me. It’s so close that I can taste it. ⁣

And then, with the certainty that only someone who has yet to be through profound loss can hold, I say:

“For me, that will be my 30s!”

I was 31 and had just had the first - of what I imagined would be multiple - babies. I was starting the best decade of my life! ⁣

Except that this was not what life had in store for me. ⁣

My love died when I was 34-years-old. What I had “known” would be the best years of my life, quickly unravelled into the worst. ⁣

And my baby - my only baby - she kept growing up.

The months and then years fell like sand through my fingertips. ⁣

Part of me wanted them to. I begged time to pass, so that I could feel just a little bit better. And yet I also hated the way time took the sharpness of memories, the intimacy of our life together. ⁣

And all the while, my daughter continued to grow. ⁣

Many days, I couldn’t really be present. The pain was too great. Keeping us both alive felt like a struggle. ⁣

Trauma will do so many strange things to you, I’ve learned. Now I look back and there are huge chunks of time that are completely missing from my memories. ⁣

Some days, I wake up and look at her and I don’t remember how we got here. ⁣

It’s heartbreaking. I hold so much extra grief for the years of her childhood that were meant to be filled with so much happiness, and instead were the darkest of my life. ⁣

I wish more people talked about how disorienting coming out of survival mode can feel.

Because four years after my little girl's dad’s death and sometimes I barely remember when she was three or four-years-old.

I carry so much sorrow for the parts of her childhood I missed because I was surviving.

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