I put on a pair of black pants this morning. It’s the first time I wore black since you’ve been gone, which is ironic, because I had a black outfit planned out for months, anticipating the day we’d receive that call.

But when we did, I didn’t feel the need to stand over your grave and say any final words. I said everything I had to say to you while you were still here. And I wasn’t going to stand there and wish you well, either. I couldn’t wish you harm though – that would make me a monster too. Instead, every time I think of you, I wish you what you deserve, and I remind myself that I’m not the one who gets to decide that.

My daughter asked me if I was sad that you were gone. She was wondering if she should be sad too, I guess. At that moment I hated you. I hated you because I was scared. And when you’re scared, it’s so easy to blame others. I realized that I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to stop the cycle. I felt like in that moment, the words I said to my daughter would determine whether I passed on the toxicity and dysfunction another generation, because hiding the truth in order to protect the ones you love ends up doing that too. So I told her, this vulnerable and confused 9 year old, that I wasn’t sad to have lost the person you had become. I had been sad years ago, when I mourned the person I thought you were. The one who adored me, who found such joy in my children’s presence, and seemed to love them genuinely. I was sad to have lost the person who I shared so many happy childhood memories with, and who was admired by so many. I mourned that person a long time ago, even while looking straight at you and not recognizing the person looking back at me.

For the first time in my life, you looked at me with a piercing hatred. Your eyes were black as you spoke to me with a disdain I had never experienced before. It took me so long to reconcile how that could be, and the only answer I had is that you were not the same person. It was this “other” you that spewed venom all over me, and threatened to set me and my children on fire while we were sleeping. So no, I was not sad when I found out that this “other you” had crossed. I didn’t feel guilt either. My conscience is clear, and now you will face judgment for yours.

I stared at myself in the mirror in my black pants for a few minutes and proceeded to dress in black from head to toe, which is out of character for me. I didn’t do it out of mourning, but rather to prove to myself that I am also not running away from mourning you. Every time I cross a mirror today I will be reminded that I did in fact break the cycle of hiding truths for appearances, and I will hold my head high, with the integrity of knowing that I made hard choices. I can look at myself and be proud of my reflection. I don’t know if you were able to do that, but I realize it is not my burden to figure it out.

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