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What the Fuck?
Complicated Grief Through Bloodshot Eyes
By Rose Rutkowski Posted in Uncategorized on July 19, 2020 4 Comments
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“I don’t know man.”

“This sucks.”

“What the fuck.”

“I just don’t get it.”

“I don’t know.”

I have repeated each of these about a billion times since Friday afternoon. For a period it felt like all I was capable of saying. It’s Monday. My husband had to go back to work, and I have to go back to my regularly-scheduled programming. I have to mom; I have to trudge onward. I need more words. But right now none of them feel adequate.   

I lost my mom on Friday.

Maybe.

I don’t know if that’s accurate. I think I lost her a long time ago.

I’ve been in therapy for years because I lost her. I’ve been cleaved in half as a person for most of my life because I lost her. I’ve been searching for a mother in every adult woman I’ve ever met because I lost her. I’ve never felt like a real woman because I lost her.

And yet.

I never really lost her.

Until I lost her.

This is hard to talk about. To write about. It’s hard to think about. But if I’m honest, it’s all I’m currently able to think about.

I am the youngest of three girls. And I’m the only one who was still talking to her by the end. I now have the most knowledge of her as a person, probably. And that is the most unbelievable part of all of this. Because for so long, all I wanted was to know her. To know her more, to know if I was like her, to know what her personality was. I thought: if I can just connect with her, if I can just learn who she is, maybe I’ll understand who I am.

Funny. Now I feel like the expert in all thing Nita.

My therapist says I’m experiencing something called Complicated Grief. If Grief by definition is the process of accepting the death of something/someone loved and adapting to a future life without, Complicated Grief is when the natural adaptation process is hindered by a stronger-than-normal relationship with the deceased. Most people who experience Complicated Grief had an overwhelmingly positive relationship with the deceased. Some, like me, experience it when the opposite is true.

It goes back to what I said earlier, I’ve been broken for a long time because I lost my mother at a very young age. I lost her to addiction and other mental illnesses before I was ever born.  

There were periods throughout my life that can be broken down into two groups. When mom was doing well and when she wasn’t. The continuity and security provided to me by my dad, and to my sisters by their dad, is really the only thing that kept us out of the system. Thank God for good men.

When mom was doing well, we got to stay with her. She mothered us, for better or worse. When mom was doing well, all of us tried very hard to cling as hard as we could to that version of her. When mom was doing well, we had a glimpse.

When mom was not doing well, we would often go long stretches of time without knowing where she was, what she was doing, or even if she was still alive. She liked to disappear, to vanish into the seediest parts of our coast. When mom wasn’t doing well, we all worried. We all cried.

This led to a lifetime of struggles, obviously. There’s a host of issues I’ve been dealing with since a young teenager, and more that I’ve only started working with and through for about three years, in therapy. PTSD, Anxiety, Bipolar-2, ADD, and OCD. After years we’re still not certain to what extent I have each of these comorbid diseases. Those are just the diagnosable things, there are underlying issues that won’t be classified as mental illness. Abandonment, lack of identity, low-self-esteem, health issues directly related to childhood trauma. Most, if not all of these things stem from my relationship (and the lack thereof) with my mom.

Currently, we were coming off a few years of mom “not doing well,”. And I mean—it was bad. There were nights I thought she was dead long before this. I tried to mentally prepare for that phone call as best as I could. I thought I was ready.

I was not ready.

My mom had four and a half months clean and sober before she died. Finally, after years of chasing her demons all over Chinatown, she was sober. She seemed ready to come back. And at the very time that she seemed likely to make a change, she left again. Only this time for good.

So, knowing all of these things, you might think: why would you mourn harder, or grieve more complicatedly for someone who caused you so much pain?

I know I did.

Three weeks ago, a very good friend lost someone with whom she had a very complicated relationship. My response? “Why would you mourn that hard or grieve so much for someone who caused you so much pain?”

The answer is as simple as it is gut-wrenching. It’s complicated.

It’s complicated because we’re not just grieving a person. We’re grieving the loss of so much more. For my friend, it was the chance to see her friend as a friend and not an enemy once again. For me and my sisters, it’s the loss of possibility.

One of my sisters said: “I always had the ability to pick up the phone and call her if I chose to. Now that’s gone and I don’t have a choice anymore.”

We’re grieving the loss of choice, the loss of control in a situation. We’re grieving a relationship that we never had, yet maybe hoped that someday could appear—no matter how childish that hope was. We’re grieving a person who we realize wasn’t all bad, even though that’s what the world is going to focus on. We’re grieving for our children who will never know the woman who birthed us. And we’re grieving for the child inside of each of us who never found what they lost, and now never will.

So yeah, it’s fresh. And it sucks. And I just don’t know. And that’s okay. It’s complicated.

P.S. It has been a week since I wrote this, but I couldn’t read it to edit it for posting. This has been the most challenging thing I have ever faced, but I feel like I need to share my experiences with it. I need to let it out, so I’m going to. One blog post at a time.

If you or someone you love is experiencing complicated grief, general grief, depression, or suicidal thoughts/ideation, I implore you to seek help. Know that to every season under heaven there is a purpose.

SAMHSA helpline homepage: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

ADAA’s find a therapist directory: https://members.adaa.org/page/FATMain?

Addiction Complicated Grief Coping Death Family Grief Healing Help Loss Mental Health Mental Illness Mourning Parent Death Therapy


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  1. Very powerful. Grief is already complicated – it seems yours is very complicated. You’re never ready for that call no matter what.

    Sending positive vibes of healing and restoration your way.

    It will get better.

  2. I think you are brave for posting this. Laying it out might help in a way and I hope that it has. Even though your relationship with her was not the ordinary she was still your mother. Its the idea of that she is really gone. The grieving process is never easy and we all do it in our own way. You will get through this and know you have people around you that love you and a little one who looks up to you. You my friend are loved and supported. I’m forever and always sending my good healing vibes your way my friend.

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