It was less the trauma of watching my father die, or even his absence in my life afterward that made life so vastly different, and more the fact that my mother simply couldn’t function without him. She became as absent as he was.
My mother tried, she really did. In the beginning she, my brother and I all went into group counseling (separate children’s group for me and my brother), and my brother and I went to a camp designed to help children grieve. I loved that camp. The counselors were nice and the other kids had lost someone just like I had.
That camp is also where I developed my first crush. She had dark olive skin and long, silky brown hair with eyes to match. I couldn’t even bring myself to talk to her, even though she was in my group. Totally off-topic, though!
The counseling and camp helped a lot, but it also made going home more miserable. No one was there to talk to at home. Naturally my mother was physically there, but she was completely absent mentally and emotionally. She spent all of her time in her bedroom either hiding or sobbing. When we would go out anywhere, she either dropped us kids off or she sat alone with her face in her hands. Again, she did try. Whether her effort was for herself or for us, she did still try to get us kids out of the house and around other people. She continued taking us to Scouts, dance and sports. I know she tried to keep things as normal as possible for us. She failed quite miserably, but it wasn’t entirely her fault.
When my mother finally started functioning beyond the constant crying and hiding, she became angry and vicious. She would lash out over anything. All the gentleness and patience that she had once had was gone. She was abusive, mental, and just an entirely different person.
When she met my stepfather, she started finding some happiness again, but by that point she just couldn’t ever be the mother I’d once known. I was thrilled and supportive when she told me that she was going to marry her “friend” because I thought my old mother would come back. She didn’t, though.
I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with my mother, but I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager and we’ve both suspected that she may also be bipolar.
Because of the loss, abuse and neglect in my life, as well as having bipolar disorder, I became an incredibly angry and unstable person. I spent a lot of my childhood, teen years and some adult years balancing on a thin line between trying to get the most out of life and self-destructing.