I don’t recognise the person I see in the mirror anymore.
Each day I look at myself in the mirror and I see someone different.
Physically, it’s a slight change here and there but internally, I’m not the same person I used to be a few months ago.
Early August, I lost my father and it was very sudden. I received the phone call at 7:30 on a Saturday morning and I rushed over to be by his side but it was too late.
I didn’t get a chance to say Goodbye.
I don’t even remember the last conversation we had—and that’s probably the most distressing thing about this—that I cannot remember the last words he spoke to me or I to him.
There weren’t any signs that he was suffering in the lead-up to that day. But ever since that day, I have been suffering inside. Sometimes, in silence.
A lot of people in my life have offered me their words, their hugs, a drink, a shoulder to cry on and so on, but the truth of the matter is, there really isn’t anything they can do or say that could make me feel better.
I don’t even know what would make me feel better. I don’t have the answers and I don’t know if I ever will.
I have been sleeping in my father’s place, in the bed that he and my Mum shared, ever since the day that he passed, and some mornings I don’t want to get out of bed.
Mum doesn’t share too much with me about how she’s managing.
In the Vietnamese Buddhist culture, you’re not meant to cry as they believe that you’re holding on to their spirit and they can’t leave. Something like that. Which in my opinion is so fucked up. And because of that, I’ve had to learn to suppress my feelings, my emotions, my tears.
It’s been so frustrating over the past few months to not only have to deal with my Father’s death, but to also have to grieve within rules and restrictions of the Buddhist traditions.
I have had a couple of breakdowns during this time. The first, I was surrounded by family at the temple after a prayer session for my Father during the first 49 days. Imagine letting out all your emotions whilst praying and having your whole body just want to let go of everything that you’re going through, only to be told by your Aunties that you need to ‘stop crying and be strong’.
These words will always be said to you when you’re going through a tough time, but they don’t exactly offer any solace. How can I be strong when I feel like I am fighting demons inside?
The second breakdown was immediately after a phone call with my Aunty. She was worried about my mother’s character and behavior after what happened and wanted to see if I had noticed the changes too. She said she didn’t want to put any more stress on me, but that’s exactly how it was received.
Everything that was said during that conversation just felt like a bigger weight had been put on my shoulders and I was slumping so much to the point that it caused me to break down in tears. At that point, I realised I just couldn’t take it anymore.
The most recent breakdown happened to me in the office, at work. It had been an emotional 24-hours having just provided comfort to a colleague who had lost both her parents in the span of 3 months (true story). Partially, that time together made me think of Dad, but I also believe that the other part of it was because of my insensitive Team Leader who presented a scenario to us at work. He wanted each team member to put ourselves into the shoes of a client who was calling our company, asking questions and seeking advice, as she just lost her parent.
Hypothetical or not, I had just been in those shoes and I did not want to step into those shoes again. He could have chosen any other scenario and yet, he chose that one.
Needless to say, I wasn’t an active participant in that session but I hated that I broke down at work, where my vulnerability was on display for everyone to see.
Since that day, I’ve withdrawn myself from my colleagues and even my friends outside the office. I respond to text messages so they know that I’m alive but I’m resorting to my introvert ways of staying inside and keeping to myself.
It’s been a difficult journey trying to grieve on my own and at my own pace, but I hope to one day see a familiar face in that mirror again.
Chau Tran is a 30-something writer, residing in Australia who only wants to write what she knows and is currently seeking to find her own truths.