As much as I’d like to say it gets better, it’s on days like these that I’m fearful that they don’t. I’ve been planning my wedding since December of 2016, after getting engaged six months earlier at my favorite cafe where my soon-to-be-husband and I shared our first caffeinated first date. Fast forward six months later to booking our venue, fawning over ideas and color schemes only to greet my mother’s death two months later.
Her death hit me like a ton of bricks, even though I was suspicious of it. You can only watch your parent deteriorate so dramatically in seven years that ultimately, you begin to fear what the cancer’s been doing all along: smothering her, destroying every once healthy molecule in her body, pulverizing them to be nothing more than the empty carcass you’ll shove six feet under in the coming months. We had just spoken the night before. We were happy, familiar, normal. And then, just like that, she’s gone and the only sense you can make out of her death is about as much common sense that goes into your car breaking down on the side of the road in a rush to get to your parents’ house because all you know is something happened- something horrible.
The months after my mother’s passing were the most prolific, angst-filled days of my young life. In twenty-six years, I experienced hands gripping my throat in a fit of rage. I was torn apart like a rag doll, emotionally tattered at every end. I was teased, brutalized to the point of switching schools. I was born with spinal injuries, tethered cords that almost paralyzed me, endured the crippling pain that until today, permeates my flesh like a hot coil. And yet, with all of that, I’d wish for them every moment if it could somehow eliminate the pain I endured while grieving my mom.
Add wedding planning on top of that. Like some twisted, demented cherry on top of a salty sundae. It just doesn’t work.
I’m Not Okay
Grief entails the following three lines over and over again until you die.
- She’s there with you
- It gets easier with time
- Let me know if you need anything
In reality, though, there’s a thin line between helpful and utter bullshit. See, we say things because we don’t know what else TO say. For those of us grieving, ironically enough, we’re perfectly fine with that omission.
When it came to my wedding, loving advice was passed on to me like I was fragile. In the fits of rage and disappointment that my mother wouldn’t be there to share in these moments with, I conceded, comforted by the traditional sentence: “your mother would want you to enjoy this time.”
Indeed, my mother would want me to enjoy this time. But my mother also would understand that the emotional toll that this type of grief requires is substantially incapable of getting through without appeasing some of my more – ahem, negative, moments.
For a very long time, I’ve gotten used to carrying the weight of this burden – my grief – on my shoulders because I didn’t know how to talk to anyone else. It was kind of like my writing. What used to be helpful only mirrored my pain. If I couldn’t write, how could I simultaneously talk? The words were black and white regardless; a fact, mind you, not many people fully understood.
It’s Okay That I Hate My Wedding
In these moments of gut-wrenching agony, the last thing on my mind is my wedding. In the year and a half since I lost her, I’ve asked to elope several times. Each time was met with apprehension – and understandably so. Why would my groom want to sacrifice the traditional experience? Why would I want to sneak behind my father’s back when his grief is just as extreme as mine? I toy around with the idea before sliding it in my back pocket, only to be flung back out in a fitful vengeance when I’m choking back tears at my work desk.
People’s biggest fear is that I’m not living up to this traditional “bride” experience? But, what really is the traditional “bride” experience? Is it traditional when a bride has lost her father and has to face walking down the aisle alone? Is it traditional when the bride or groom has children from a previous marriage? Is it traditional when the bride wears unconventional colors? Is it traditional to wear Chuck Taylors in a tailored-made ballgown? Or are these examples of adaptations? Are these constructs of people’s minds, their interests, their roles, and customizing them to fit into their ideal mold – not society’s?
When I’m told to enjoy this experience, it comes out of this mindset that I have qualms about marriage, about my groom, about trying to become a parent on the day after we say “I do.” Marriages and weddings are different species and being sad over one does not diminish the other.
It’s Okay That I’m Sad
On days like these, I fight off my tears in an effort to convince myself that I’m alright – that I’m doing okay when the truth of the matter is that I already am. Grieving is a natural process and I’m tired, frankly, of hiding that. Mental health awareness begins with being able to identify what triggers you and allowing yourself to feel those vulnerabilities. I know that my wound-up emotions today won’t reflect my calmed-down state of mind tomorrow. I’m forgiving myself for days like these when all I want to do is run away and elope, feeling angry that I’m having a bridal shower, angry that I’ll be the center of attention because at the moment, what I really want more than anything is just to hide, to find an escape from these emotions, to free myself from their strings and finally be untethered. I’m discovering my affirmation: it’s okay that I’m sad. It’s okay, it’s okay.