As I scrolled through my feed Sunday morning, I saw all of these responses to a blog post that a friend of mine (Gorgeous in Grey) had written about a fellow blogger, Karyn Washington who died ( http://gorgeousingrey.com/founder-of-for-brown-girls-karyn-washington-commits-suicide/ ). When I read that she’d committed suicide…I felt an immediate sadness for her, when I saw that she’d killed herself after after the death of her mother, I froze. My heart sank…SHE could have been ME. I rushed to message Ty…my friend who wrote the article. She talked about her conversations with Karyn about the loss of her Mom. It reminded me of the conversations I’ve had with Ty… she lost her Mom too. It reminded me of the conversations I’ve had with so many young women my age who found themselves a part of this “sorority” that we never wanted to be in. The lost mother’s club… I have a circle of these “sisters” who know the pain of losing their mother, mentor and best friend. I jumped to call, email, message them. I felt an instant panic to let them know that we are in this together…and no matter how low you feel, you’re not alone. I prayed for Karyn’s soul.
After my Mom died… I seemed to be okay. Heck, I still seem to be okay. Those that really know me know that I’m forever changed. My friends see a different Brandi who is still sweet, but is quick to lash out and at times is mad at the world…simply for having the nerve to exist without MY mother. How could everyone else’s life go on when mine stopped? My heart lives in the past and in my dreams, because that’s where she is…My boyfriend knows that the tears come easily, often without warning and can be triggered by almost anything. A woman with a fedora…a leopard print scarf, Ron Isley….a favorite phrase, randomly looking at the clock at 9:14, her birthday. My brother sees me down, especially at holidays. I feel the change in myself. I see it in pictures, I can usually tell by my smile if it was “before” or “after”… My grief counselor told me that’s fine because nothing will ever be the same; stop trying to get back to the “old” Brandi…the old Brandi is gone. So is her innocence. The once happy go lucky girl who thought that life was grand has dark times that only prayer can stop. Don’t get me wrong…I saw a miracle in my mother…no doubt, she was a miracle. Period. I am forever grateful that God gave her 18 years longer than the doctors said. I am a believer! As God fearing and faithful as I am, her absence is sometimes too much to bear. I understand how Karyn felt.
I felt a whole lot of emotions when I read about Karyn…sadness, fear, guilt. My God, how terribly alone she must’ve felt…I wonder what her last moments were like. How heart-wrenching it was for her to end her own life because the pain of living without her mother was too much to handle. Fear, that that could have been me…it could be me. What if it was me, what if one of those nights that I cried so hard while driving and I couldn’t breathe or see, I’d crashed? What would people say? Would they understand that our bond was so close that to see me without her was unnatural and I was fine? Or would they label me, like they labeled Karyn, “depressed.”
The pain that you go through while watching your loved one deteriorate is inexplicable. You can only know if you’ve been there. To watch your idol lose weight, hair, fingernails, etc is not something you can imagine. I think talking about the rest is too graphic and painful, but it gets worse. Much worse. The images play back in your head at the most random times, in a meeting, in church, at the movies, etc. It’s a post traumatic stress response to the most painful thing in your life. Even when you think you’re functioning “normally” your brain reminds you of what you’ve endured. You couldn’t forget it if you wanted to… That is not depression, it’s not a mental illness, that is grief. I wish I could’ve spoken to Karyn to tell her that.
Ty talked in her post about how she posts one side of her life on instagram, but behind that, she is hurting. That is totally the story of my life. If I posted how sad I was and how much I missed my mother, I think people would think I was crazy…or “depressed.” So just like Ty said, I too put on a front for the world. We all do…
After my Mom passed, I was one of those people that everybody was doing so “well”… I laughed, smiled, vacationed and even hung out! Really, I was trying to escape. I never wanted to sit still, I talked on the phone to friends every waking moment to keep my mind off of the fact that my bestie, my partner in crime, my lunch date and shopping sidekick wasn’t on the other end. And quite frankly, she never will be. I STILL will not ride in the car for more than 5 minutes alone without calling someone, when I do it ends the same way, every time, in tears. Over time it’s gotten better, I will blast the radio, turn on Heaven 600 or go to my usual rap-along cd’s Illmatic (well anything Nas) or Los (Zero Gravity). But just riding and thinking is never good for me. I want other people who feel that kind of sadness and think that it’s not normal, to know that it is.
I was having heart palpitations and migraines. I had gone to the ER but the cause was obvious, they called it stress… I called it grief. My liver function was off…my whole body was reacting. I went to a doctor, a new doctor who had never met me (and clearly didn’t know how close she came to being slapped )… she was like all of this because you’re sad? She asked how long it had been since my Mom passed, I said 4 months… she said, “Okay, well you have 6. Six months to get it together if not you’ll need to be medicated.” WHAT??? Who tf was she talking to? Medicated??? B^$%#!!! She went on to say that in “her religion” it is a sin to cry and mourn that long, it is a disrespect to “her” God because it means that you don’t trust him. I ran out of that office so fast… how dare she? Clearly HER mother wasn’t nearly as awesome as mine if she thought that after six months I should just “get over it”. Of course I trusted God! MY God brought me through the rough times. MY God helps me come out of the “shadow” when I feel it… MY God is the only reason I see the light when I feel like there’s a dark cloud raining on me… and most of all MY God gave her to me, well I guess gave me to her… he spared her life when doctors said give up and MY God understands that my yearning for my mother has nothing to do with not trusting his will.
There has been a lot of talk about the lack of discussion of mental illness, there is a real lack of discussion about grief and what happens when the flowers die and the family disappears. How do you go on when everyone around you is normal, and you have to pray for the strength to get out of bed knowing that this is yet another day you have to face without the support of your Mom? Grief is normal, sadness is normal and yes, like that doctor said if you feel like you cannot function normally at all, then medication may be an OPTION…for SOME to help them feel like themselves again. But it is NOT a blanket remedy, it’s NOT a requirement after 180 days and it for damn sure is not a cure for grief which is a result of love….
I have seen Karyn’s friends come out now saying she did not “suffer” from mental illness…she was just having a hard time after her mother died. I am happy that they are coming to her defense and that people may realize that grief is sometimes too difficult to bear. Grief needs discussion too. Grief is the ultimate suffering. There’s no solution for it. Grief does not fade as easily as memories do…
I wish I could’ve spoken to Karyn and told her to hold on just a little longer. The grief is always there but the sting of it subsides. As much as it hurts, as much as you don’t think you can, and don’t even want to, eventually, you will learn to live without her. It sucks, but you can do it… People love you and sometimes they just need to know how much pain you’re in. Unless they’ve been in your shoes, they don’t know that the smile is forced and you may need a little support. They don’t know that people reminding you that they love and miss her too makes you feel like you’re not alone… I wish I could’ve told Karyn that when you least expect it you will feel her…. when you’re doing something you did together, you may smell her. I wish Karyn knew that sometimes seeing her in your dreams will make you smile for a week and most of all that the feeling that you have because you know that she’s with you now more than ever is comforting.
Because of Karyn, I know that my urge to share my grief stories is not for no reason. The “support group” that I felt inclined to do cannot dissolve because our schedules are hectic…we need each other. Karyn needed us too.
I pray for her, I pray for all of us girls who are trying to navigate without their moms. I pray that Karyn is happy and with her mother, the person she couldn’t bear to be in this world without. May they both rest in peace…