What It’s Like Losing A Toxic Parent To An Untimely Death

Some of us have to learn a hard lesson in life: nothing’s guaranteed. We only have one life to live, so it’s easy for us to reflect on a life that’s lost. We wonder how much more they would’ve done if they had the time to do so. For some of us, we wonder if our relationship would’ve been different if we had more time. 

Seven years ago, when most 17-year-olds would be trying to make it through their senior year of high school, I was sitting in a hospital room with my mom as doctors told me she had a 5% chance to live. Everything was unexpected. She dropped me off at choir rehearsal and she had an aneurysm in the middle of a Burger King while waiting for the rehearsal to end. I haven’t been able to listen to a “Jersey Boys” song or eat a whopper since.

Throughout the next few days, I stayed in a hospital 45 minutes away from home while my mom was in a coma. I don’t remember much about that experience, as I tried to block it out, but I remember the constant beeping noise that played in the background. It was repetition in a world that was always uncertain for me. My dad told me if my mom passes away, we would be moving to Wisconsin to be closer to family. 

I felt conflicting emotions because I craved a life where I didn’t have to live for another person.

I’d found myself constantly taking care of my mom in the last few years of her life. Whether it would be making dinner, running to the grocery store, or picking up her beer cans on the floor. My mom constantly relied on drinking, weed, and men to make her happy. She neglected anything else, including her own health. 

This behavior resulted in many decisions that didn’t benefit my well-being. I wore the same clothes for three years even though I was clearly growing out of them. She told me to sit in my bedroom for hours one time while she and her friends sat in the living room engaging in some sort of substance. I wasn’t even allowed to pee or grab something to drink without my mom screaming at me. 

We were constantly moving to different places with random strangers that my mom only knew from parties she went to. This would lead me into dangerous situations, such as living with someone who had a lab in their basement, witnessing a domestic violence incident, or not being able to take showers because we had no warm water.

I felt like my life was a puppet that my mom was stringing around.

I tried to develop friendships, but watched them slowly fade because I didn’t feel comfortable inviting them over.  When I finally brought home a guy I was dating, my mom pulled out a blunt right in front of him without asking if it was okay. 

From this point on, I tried to go out of the house to develop a life, but nothing ever lasted. I remember I would get cast in music and theater productions and have to drop out because my mom no longer had the energy or the financial means to take me. 

I felt like every choice I made had to be convenient to her, which led to my needs being an inconvenience.

A few months before she passed, I ended up moving in with my dad. It was the first self-centered decision I made. I knew I was not able to live with my mom and her lifestyle. I got to a point where I knew it wasn’t the best thing for me. 

We continued to argue, which led to me becoming the worst version of myself. Despite moving out, my mom still tried to have control over me, including blaming me for her suicide attempt that she made two weeks after I moved out. 

Once my mom passed away, I constantly felt like I had to grieve a certain way because I didn’t want to offend those who were close to her. For the first few years after her death, I wouldn’t mention the bad parts of my upbringing except to close friends and family who I knew I could trust. I would try to talk about the best parts of my mom because it was the side I wanted to remember. It was also the side that was the easiest for people to understand.

However, I couldn’t always shelter myself from the bad parts of grieving.

I remember the first time I visited the town I grew up in after she passed away. This was four months after moving to Wisconsin. One of my childhood best friends had an open house that I wanted to attend. We reconnected after my mom passed away and I finally had so much hope that we would be able to have the same friendship we had when we were younger.  

However, it hit me during the open house that we did grow apart and she had a whole other life. I ended up not staying at her open house for long before I went back to my hotel room, crying about the life and friends I could’ve had if I wasn’t abused.

As life continued on, I tried to pretend that my mom didn’t exist.

I started to develop new connections with people in my new town. This was when things started to hit me. I was so isolated from healthy friendships and relationships that I didn’t really have any boundaries for myself. 

No one taught me how to healthily cope with my jealousy, anger, and sadness. This led to me not only becoming easily attached to people in my life, but also made me learn that I was coping with my emotions in an unhealthy way that affected both my and their mental health..

I had to go back and revisit the past so I could learn where these behaviors came from. This led me to becoming more empathetic toward my mom. I started to see that my mom also dealt with a lot of trauma that led her to thinking her behaviors toward me were acceptable. Although this is not an excuse, it gives me an understanding, as I’m still learning ways to reconstruct my thought process and to set boundaries. 

Since her untimely death, I started to appreciate my life more. I’ve become more independent and have learned to stop relying on other people to make me happy. Each day, I’m the better version of myself because I’m not letting what happened stop me from learning how to become a better person. 

You can’t change the situations that broke you. But you can fix yourself to where you don’t let those situations control how you handle life.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-young-woman-standing-beside-a-brown-wooden-coffin-7317909/



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