The Most Painful Experience of My Life

How do you tell an eight year old that her mother died last night? – Five months after her father has died? I can tell you that it leads to the most excruciatingly painful half hour of my life. I will never forget her uncontrolled (and uncontrollable) sobbing, coupled with her plaintive cries of “Mommy!”, “Mommy!”. I could not help but break down in tears, partially in sympathy with her, and partially from the feeling of utter helplessness at not being able to do anything whatsoever to ease the pain. Even with eight other people to lend support, it was still the most difficult thing that I have ever been involved with.

For months, she has been angry with her mother over her drug use, especially after she had found her passed out in the bathroom at her grandmother’s house where she has been living for the past year or two. As anyone knows who has dealt with a user knows, there is a sort of love-hate relationship that develops, even in someone so young. And what made this situation so bad was that her mother was still a big part of her life. On Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Eve, the family (it is a large extended family) had all been together, cooking, baking, and getting ready for and sharing the holiday. And like every other holiday, it culminated with everyone winding up at our house – aka Holiday Central. Being Thanksgiving, it was for pie and cheesecake and coffee and singing and just having a familial good time.

So she and her older brother stayed over at our house to bake cookies, with the intention of taking them home on Saturday. But Saturday morning, her grandmother was taken to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. Since they didn’t go back to school until Tuesday, it was decided to keep the kids through Monday. Sunday evening, at 12:15, we got the phone call.

For months, the little one has tried to distance herself from her mother, perhaps being aware of the most likely eventuality facing a user. Even on Sunday, her mother had texted her and she wouldn’t respond to the text, culminating with her mother calling her on our landline to talk to her. But even with the distancing, it still was a crushing blow, because for all the problems, she still loved her mother and her mother loved her.

Yeah, it is painful for me, as well, since her mother was like a daughter to me. But nothing like it has to be for her. And yes, I’ve learned a lot about dealing with users, and I’ve reflected on how I could have done a better job with her mother’s upbringing. But the most memorable part of this whole experience has been, for me, the primal wail of that sweet eight-year-old, and the pain so vivid in her voice. I will never, ever, forget that.

Sorry for the off-topic post. I just had to let it out.


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2 Responses to The Most Painful Experience of My Life

  1. John says:

    My thoughts go out to the child, to her family, and to you, Bill.

    It is my hope that the gradual healing of the bereaved’s emotional states will soon begin.

    Ellwood City

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