Reflecting on Parents Leaving Home

Posted: 27th December 2013 by Rachel Staab in Uncategorized

The first time I realized that something was wrong with me, that I was really having a hard time–somehow … with something–was during my sophomore year at university. One of the professors had an affair and left his family, divorced his wife. Another professor died suddenly. These two events happened fairly close together. And I was heartbroken for their families. They weren’t even my professors. I had never heard of them. I thought it was odd that I was so heartbroken for these two families, but I didn’t know why, didn’t know that it was because I was mourning for my own loss. I remember sitting on the nice warm dryer in my dorm in freezing Ohio telling my parents on the phone about these two families and how sad it was. But that I didn’t know why it so sad to me. I wanted them to tell me why but they of course didn’t know that I was grieving my own grief.

Backing up to my freshman year, whenever I met people, they of course would ask where I was from because that’s what you do in America. I didn’t want to be disloyal to Bangladesh so I would always say, “I’m an MK from Bangladesh.” And I said it with pride. But, invariably, they would then say, “Oh! So, are your parents still there?” And invariably their question would be like a knife through my heart.

The thing that confused me so much was that I always knew that I would leave Bangladesh. It was always the plan for me to come back to the States for college. But I had some nebulous, subconscious dreams of coming back to Bangladesh every year during Christmas or during the summer. I always thought my parents would be there. I will always remember May 13, 2001: the day my parents told my brother and I that they were thinking about leaving … maybe in a year. We left for good a month later. I had walked around in a daze for that month. It was like a death or a divorce. When that happened for the families of professors at my college, the families’ grief resonated with me.

Finally when I was a senior in college I think I started to realize that what the true source of my grief was. I remember telling my parents the summer after I graduated how sad I was and how much I grieved when we left and the succeeding four years. They had no idea. I thought that I had told them, but it’s hard to get something like that. It’s hard to understand myself. It took me four years to comprehend it.

I have a something up on my bathroom mirror that says, “You cannot genuinely forgive until you acknowledge the full scope and impact of the offense.” I think that is also true of grieving. You have to feel the full extent and impact of your loss, to grieve and recover. But what do you do when you have no idea where the grief came from? Any ideas?