Robin, Camila's mom

Being Broken

During my walk with my dog today, we came upon someone else who was walking a dog, as we often do. I made polite conversation as we rounded the corner, but when the young man said, “We do what we can,” it took me a moment to realize he was making reference to his dog. “It’s permanent,” he said, as I noticed the brace on the back leg.

“He’s broken,” he went on to say.

I was struck by his diction. Such a simple explanation, such a common term. Broken.

Maybe that’s the best way to describe me in the months immediately following Camila’s death. I came to understand that being in a state of mourning is akin to losing your fine motor skills. You still have the muscle but your body doesn’t always obey the subtle commands. And the change is in the details.

I remember the first thing that deteriorated was my handwriting. I simply could not hold a pen the same way. My grip weakened. My cadence was also off: I couldn’t move the pen across the page in a smooth uninterrupted sequence. I kept stopping and having to re-start. My pen would zag. Sometimes even walking was awkward, difficult. My feet would drag. I remember leaning on my sister’s arm as we walked toward a store. I didn’t think I could take an unassisted step.

I was broken.

After such a loss, none of the other losses mattered. In those first months, I lost other things, much less important things. I lost a sense of the date, quickly lost the days of the week. I couldn’t tell you if it were Monday or Thursday, and I couldn’t have cared less. In this way, months passed untold. I could not connect to time or season. (I remember realizing that it was spring and blinking, surprised.) It wasn’t only the calendar I lost. I also lost my sense of direction, my ability to track conversations – or remember them. So many things were suddenly and absolutely rendered inconsequential. And they fell away like chaff.

While my brain turned itself around this one piece of reality it had to fathom, the rest of my mind graciously took a holiday, asked nothing of me, not even the day of the week.

The man on the corner continued. “But we’ve been together for 13 years, and I’m used to having him around. I don’t mind slowing down,” he said.

I thought back to my body’s slow unwind, my mind’s diminished speed, my reluctant will.

I had slowed down. S l o w e d   d o w n . I can hardly remember anything I did in those blurred months of hard mourning. I woke, I walked, but I doubt I was fully conscious of the world around me. I couldn’t be. My inability to connect was directly correlated with my inability to care about connecting. It was a non-starter, like me: a non-issue.

Slowing down is one of the ways my body gave me time to catch up – catch up to my mind, to my truth, to the terrible bad reality I had to accept.

And just how much time does it take to accept your child’s death? No time at all and all the rest of the time you have. They are gone: there’s the difference: irrefutable. A matter of fact. But how can you accept such a thing, such a bastard truth? How do you stop looking for your child? How long does it take for your heart to stop waiting for them to come home? Well, here is another matter of fact: you don’t.

You just don’t. You don’t stop waiting. Some part of your mind keeps waiting because you cannot stop waiting.

Now, suddenly recognizing I am alert again to days, suddenly seemingly back in the calendar loop, I am also alert to other empirical knowledge.

Camila is not going to come home. I know this, have known this since June 9, 2013.

But I also know this, and I want you to know that it brings me comfort: Some part of me will always expect her. Some part of me will always assume reunion will occur. I will always look for her, wait for her, want her.

Like that young man’s dear pet, I too am permanently broken. My sense of loss will not heal. But I can walk now. And I can write. And I can finally understand what I need to know: my girl died – and I didn’t. Somehow, for some reason, I am aware of the date and time again.

It is June, the warm start of summer, and I am here.

 

 

 

13 Responses to “Being Broken”

  1. cbsissy

    It’s very comforting reading your posts. You have a beautiful way with words.

    Reply
  2. Linda

    I’ve said it to you before – your words could be my own. Thank you for saying them. They give me comfort. Michael 12/19/10 age 30 </3

    Reply
  3. pathfinder

    I honor your journey. “No time at all and the rest of the time you have. ” I cannot stop waiting either.

    Reply
    • Robin, Camila's mom

      I’m sorry you lost your boy. I think all who have suffered and are enduring such a loss benefit from sharing. I hope you’ve found a good group to support you as you keep going, keep celebrating your son and keep embracing life. I’m glad you find my posts helpful.

      Reply
  4. deeincollingo

    Robin, thank you writing this post which moved me to tears as I read it because it describes me, my life, my pain since I lost my daughter, Amy, on August 4, 2013. I am broken. As we approach Devastation Day, I am falling apart as the shock wears off and the reality sinks in more with each day. I am so very sorry for your loss. Is it okay if I reblog this post? Wishing you peace.

    Reply
    • Robin, Camila's mom

      Yes, of course. Re-blog. Do whatever helps.
      I am sorry for your loss. I know just what you mean about your sense of consciousness shifting, sometimes day to day. For me, facing that Camila’s death day was coming seemed to help. I wasn’t a total breakdown. It was a hard day – and it had its tears – but I knew it was just another day, really just another day without her.
      That was the day I got my tattoo. I wanted to acknowledge the day – mark the day and myself – but I wanted to be able to see an image that had brought Camila comfort. And so I chose her swallow. And seeing it makes me think of her and makes me happy.
      I hope this helps.
      Take care of yourself. Survive for Amy. Figure out how to live.
      Peace.

      Reply
  5. deeincollingo

    Reblogged this on MourningAmyMarie and commented:
    Stumbled across this blog this morning. I could relate so well to the way Robin, Camila’s Mom, described being broken by grief after the loss of her daughter.

    Reply
  6. DW

    Robin, I awoke from a nap and was thinking about our family’s upcoming vacation and how our grown daughter would sometimes join us, but not always. I started to let myself imagine that our daughter, who died March 2013, might or might not come with us this year. It felt easier to be in that place of uncertainty, of expectation and waiting for her to let me know that she might join us, a comfort that we will be together again.

    I picked up my iPad and in my email was your post, reposted. It is so beautifully written and so full of truth. It touched me deeply. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Robin, Camila's mom

      I’m glad it comforted you in that moment. I keep reminding myself that, in an important sense, we choose what we think. I like your idea of suspending yourself in uncertainty – for a moment or for a day. My hope is that you can give yourself what you need and that your choice will comfort you and lead you back to love – and survival.

      Reply
  7. miragreen

    Robin, please accept my deepest condolences on your loss. I too lost a daughter almost 14 months ago. Broken is how I have described myself for most of that time. I know I don’t have to tell you that what is visible on the outside has nothing to do with the turmoil that exists inside us. What’s inside shattered into pieces. Your words are much like the ones I write in my blog as well. Though each experience is very personal , the similarities are shocking at times. I which you peaceful days ahead as you find a way to find yourself again.

    Reply
    • Robin, Camila's mom

      Thank you, Mira. It is good to know that what I feel is similar to what you and others feel. That in itself brings me comfort. I am so sorry that you also lost your girl. It is as if we are a society of shadow people working to survive without language – because there is no language for this kind of loss. But maybe together, we create community, and in that community, we help each other find our words.

      Reply
  8. grahamforeverinmyheart

    Shadow people is an interesting description. It’s true, unfortunately.

    Reply

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