I survived childhood domestic abuse. My mom did not. She may not have died directly from the abuse, but I believe that her spirit and body were so broken over the years, that when the cancer came, there was just not enough fight left. I had a few years before she passed to say what I needed to say, and at least 100 times I had it all planned out. I would tell her everything, and not hold anything back this time. I had decided I would accept the guilt that would come after dumping such tremendous weights on a dying woman. I waited for the “right” time which in reality, never happens, and before I knew it, she was gone. It was too late and these burdens I carry would be left unsaid and unheard….until now.
It is often quite difficult to say anything bad about the dead, almost as if we feel it an unfair fight, as they have no voice to defend themselves. This ideology can often lead to the deceased person being put “on a pedestal”, and their positive qualities being highlighted, which is alright, however it usually involves us either minimizing or completely disregarding the negative. I did this when my mom passed, spending years trying to erase the negative, and remember only the positive, however, the mind does not work like that. We have to embrace the bad as well, in order to heal and move on, and although my Mom was an involved, loving and caring parent, she failed to protect me.
The arguing and fighting was the normalcy I knew and a constant around my house when I was growing up. The beatings were a little less frequent, a lot more intense and the images are seared in my head like grill marks on a steak. When the violence finally stopped I was told to get over it, to be like my mom and “just move on”. After all, most of the time it wasn’t me being beat directly so why was I still stewing over it? The topic was closed, a part of the past and it was time to grow up and live in the present….words that played over and over in my head for years to come.
I did what I was told, and pretended to move past the first 13 years of my life. I repressed as much as I could, trying to convince myself and everyone else that I had been unaffected, that there were no long term effects on my life.
I lied…to myself and everyone around me, especially my Mom.
It didn’t just affect me; it traumatized me, scarred me and destroyed a great portion of my childhood. I should not have had to become an adult at age five. I should have been playing and exploring the wonders of childhood, not getting ice packs and Kleenex, making coffees and listening to and consoling my Mom. I should not have had to sleep unsoundly, and be on high alert at night with her in my bed, holding on to me tightly, out of pure fear, and the hope that he wouldn’t start the beating in front of me. I became a safety net for her and tried to step up as the protector. It was me moving the furniture in front of the door and sitting outside her bedroom door crying, pretending to be sick as a distraction. It was me who walked in the room in the middle of a rape and it was me always begging not to move back home again.
These are not things children forget. These are not things that children can just “move on” from; in fact I don’t believe adults can either. My mom certainly did a good job acting like it never happened which may have been easier given most of her thoughts were understandably consumed with her cancer, but she never truly moved on either.
I should have told her how much it hurt me, how much it took from me. I should have told her I turned my lamp back on every night in case I had to get up quickly to help. I should have let her know that I became hyper vigilant and didn’t (and still don’t) sleep soundly through any night because I was too afraid I would miss her cries and screams. I wish she had known that showing me the bruises and telling me the details was the wrong thing to do, that I was a child, not a confidante. I could have told her how angry I was inside every time we left home and returned shortly thereafter because it would be better this time and that he was sorry and it wouldn’t happen again. I wish she had known how much it added to my fear and distrust of adults, and my “unnecessary and dramatic” outbursts of anger, and that how I was reacting was learned, and not me being a bad kid. I should have let her know how badly I just wanted to be a kid and experience life with some semblance of innocence and joy.
I should have, I could have, but I did not.