Without Rashid

It has been six years ago that Rashid died in my arms and I do not know how I passed all these years. On the one hand these years seemed like six days, on the other they seemed like twenty years. Rashid moves further and further away from me. 

That first year after Rashid's death  I counted the days, weeks and months that he was no longer with me. After a year I stopped doing so. Then I started couting in "the time before Rashid passed away" and "after he passed away".

In the beginning I wanted to tell his story as much as possible, everything that had happened to Rashid and what we had been through together, how much he enjoyed life and also how much he suffered. But my story became shorter and shorter until only one sentence remained: "He is dead". That is what tore my life apart. Everything else was not important, not the how, not the why. Not even his age: he was much too young! 

The first year after Rashid died I could not do or feel anything else than my grief and pain. If anybody would ask me now: "How are you? What have you been doing all that time?", what should I tell him now? Because there is nothing to tell. I missed Rashid so much that it hurt. I was desperate, I wondered why he died. I waited for Rashid to return until the day came that I realised he was never coming back to me. Every day I cried and was not able to do anything but crying. Every night I slept and woke up the next morning, my body all stiff from anger and pain. I was never rested. The hurt was there 24 hours in a day and it paralized me, choked me and prevented me from functioning "normally".

Often I wondered why I did not die, because I always thought that the death of one of my children would be the worst thing happening to me; if that were to happen I would not be able to live, I did not want to live. Although a big part of me died at that moment, I myself did not die when Rashid died. And although for the outside world I am still alive, I myself feel that the joy of living has left my life. So I think I am not really living. I try to survive. Often I had the feeling that life had no meaning for me anymore, but to actually end my life I had to cross I line I could not cross. 

Now I know there is something worse than losing a child: losing both your children! Often I am so afraid that my elder son will die too. I've had nightmares and in my thoughts and dreams I saw myself arranging another funeral. 

There is a time before Rashid fell ill and after he fell ill. There is a time before he died and after he had died. And the time after will never be the same as before. I was obliged to learn how to live my life without Rashid in a different way, with lots of grief and pain. Often I stood still, took one step forward and two steps backward to take three steps forward all of a sudden. 

Everything I did, I did for my dead child: I wrote many diaries, I looked at his pictures time and again, I digitalized my  home videotapes and at the same time I said goodbye to him. I desperately tried to hold on to my child, but I noticed that he slipped through my fingers. And yet I found him in another way: in my memories. More and more memories came back to me and I cherished them all. At first I wrote everything down I could remember, I was so afraid to forget even the smallest detail. Nights and nights I wrote everything down in my diaries. For now I have 8 of them, all full. Everything that was normal in the past, became so dear to me now.

And the moment came I had to say goodbye to my other child, because he did not want to live with me anymore. The grief, the despair, the anger and the parting were the same. From a single mother with two children I became "single" for the law. There is no word for a mother whose children are no longer living with her. Also there is no word for a mother whose child died. And every form I had to fill in hurt me a lot. Everything in me resisted not to be able to put down Rashid's name anywhere on any form. For the law he did no longer belong to my household.  

And I became very afraid to be alone again. Karim wanted to stay with his father and Rashid had died. And I, who had been a mother for 200% for all my life, who wanted to do anything possible for her children, who wanted to do anything but taking care of her children, I would be alone. Caring for my children was taken away from me. In my home that had been such a safe place I saw the walls closing in on me. From that day on staying at home day after day would not be fun anymore, because Karim would not come home from school at the end of the day. I would have to take care of myself only, which I had never done before. I had always taken care of someone and I myself always came last.  So, hestitantly I thought of looking for a job to fill my days with. Back to teaching, which I had done with so much pleasure in the past, was no possibility anymore: I was too much damaged by life and did not feel strong enough to "master" classes full of teenagers. So I discovered the course for civil servant. What started as a joke became more and more serieus. I applied for the job (which included training and coaching), feeling, knowing, they did not want to take me (I was nearly 40 years old), but to my surprise I was hired. I set out for the training institute, in the meanwhile thinking: " I need not go through with this, I can stop at any time." This thought in my mind gave me the strength to go on. And every new step I took, I took consciously: on my bike to the railway station, in the train to Rotterdam, in the bus to school and eventually into the building. Every time I thought: "You can still go back." But I went through with it feeling that Rashid was guiding me and protecting me with every step I took. The course confronted me with my feelings a lot, but I did not quit. 

I started as a trainee in Haarlem, me, who had always said I did not want to leave my own safe hometown. I wanted to stay as close to my home as possible, in Amsterdam. But still I did not quit. 

And Karim stayed with me. He decided not to leave. But it was never easy between us. I had changed too much. I was no longer the mother who I had always been. I did not lay the table for Easter or Christmas anymore with bunnies, candles and beautiful napkins. I did not feel like painting eggs anymore or making Christmas flower arrangements. I did not buy Christmas presents anymore. But I did go to the movies with Karim in December. With Rashid's death I did not only lose my child and a part of myself, but I also lost many of my family members, friends and relations. And also Karim was influenced a lot by Rashid's death: he stopped being a "child" and became a grown-up overnight. 

I realise I have changed a lot. I am more assertive, more rebelliant. I cannot take anything for granted anymore, because I realised how quickly life can be over. I cannot enjoy things without feeling my grief deep down inside of me. I carry my grief as a shadow: sometimes it is besides me, sometimes behind me, but many times it is there in front of me, larger than ever. What happens in the world does not affect me as much as it did before: the things happening in my own living-room are a difficult burden to carry. In a room filled with people I feel lost and lonely. I think many people worry over the smallest things, over nothing really. 

I cannot participate in life in general, although I try desperately. I feel most at ease in the midst of people who listen to me, who do not give me so called "good advise" all the time. Because their advise does not comfort me. Everything they say I can think of by myself, but it does not feel the same. My mind and my feelings have not been giving me the same messages for years now. 

Many people say: " It is so good of you to work again, so you have a diversion and you need not think about it".What do they know? So many times I sat in the train to my work crying, so many times I had to stop typing because I was blinded by my tears, so many times one remark by a collegue at work was enough to disturb my balance. Remarks like: "Small children grow up fast." And I knew it wasn't true, that it needed a miracle to let children be born healthy and let them grow up safely. But who thought of that? Only the people who experienced the death of a child themselves? Many remarks that were not made to hurt my feelings, did so anyway, like the terrible expression: "Everybody gets what he deserves," or "he hates it so much like a dead brother (dutch expression)." Saying names with the word "cancer" also hurts so much. At such a moment I would like to scream: " Don't you know what you want somebody to have and how terrible this disease is?"

Three years ago I met a sweet man, whom I married. He tought me how to take part in life again, to enjoy a dinner or to have a drink in a pub without feeling so lost and lonely. Unfortunately my elder son Karim, 16 years old now, decided to go and live with his father anyway. It was as difficult for him to leave as it was for me to let him go. 

Although my grief is not so evident and I am not so desperate as before and I do not cry all day long anymore, part of my heart always cries. Nobody can see that. They think I am tough and brave. Maybe I am when I do my daily shopping like everybody else, when I walk my dog and clean my house, when I make jokes at my work and listen to everybody in trouble. 

But I do miss both my children intensely: with Rashid the happiness disappeared from my life, my sunshine, the uncomplicated way of life. I miss the jokes he used to make, the games we played together, the long fancy stories he used to tell me, the comfort he gave me. Fortunately Karim and I stayed in touch and I can call him on the phone now and then, chat with him. I wish there would be a telephone cable to heaven. so I could also talk to Rashid now and then. I am convinced there is a heaven and that Rashid is waiting there for me. 

In the beginning I could hardly remember Rashid and it scared me. I wrote everything down to hold on to him, but also to find my way through my grief and all my thoughts and to stay in touch with Rashid. I could not talk to him out loud, I could not dream of him (and I wanted to dream of him so much), but I could write. And I wrote for hours and hours. Until I realised after a year that I kept writing down the same things: the grief and the pain did not go away and he did not come back. So I decided to stop writing. 

It is still important to me to take care of Rashid. Once a week I go to the graveyard and I make sure his grave is allright: I put down fresh flowers, take away the autumn leaves and wipe the borders. When I go on a holiday I always look for something to put down on Rashid's grave: a small windmill, a little stone figurine.

The making of this homepage was important to me because I wanted to give Rashid a statue, a monument. Also I think of making a book of all my diaries. I just need the courage to bring all my deepest thoughts, sentiments, feelings out into the open. Maybe one day...........