I Was Only Fourteen

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The warm air of spring blows through my hair, reminding me that summer is drawing nearer. I feel the branch beneath my feet begin to sway in the breeze. I toss my pen and paper to the ground below and lay back against the sturdy trunk. I am suspended, hanging high above the ground, held up only by a natural wooden support. Here, the world is mine to take control. I have no cares, no stress, and no worries. In my tree, I am free to think and feel without fear of ever being judged. Here, I think about life, loss, and love. Mostly, though, I think about the loss of my mom.
I was only fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, when my mom passed away. There was no warning, no time to “prepare,” and shock was my only emotion. I have plenty of family and friends, but at this moment, I felt completely alone.

I went through all of the so-called stages of grief, in no particular order and some more than others. I met with a personal counselor for two sessions, spent many days in the school counselor’s office, and held many late-night crying sessions via phone with my close friends. Though there was no one who completely understood, I did have people who were willing to listen.

Various people informed me that I should find my own way to cope with this sudden loss. So I did just that. I read books about death, dying, and grief; this was known as “biblio-therapy.” I talked to friends, teacher, and anyone else who was willing to listen. I even spoke to my Sociology class and managed to inspire a few classmates to share their own experiences.

Though being with other people helped greatly, my best method of “dealing” was simply being alone. I needed a sanctuary, and I found it right in my own front yard. My tree, which until recently I had been unable to climb, turned into a haven. Within its branches, I became shielded from not only the weather, but also the troubles of life. I was not simply hiding from life, but letting my problems sift through the leaves like beams of sunlight. I dealt with them one at a time, at my own pace, and with no fear of ridicule.

Over the next three years, I started to become far more comfortable with my “unique” situation. I talked less and started listening more. I became a counselor for my friends, helping them with their problems and offering a shoulder to cry on. As much as I helped them, they helped me even more. They helped me realize that I could turn my negative experience into something positive. It was during this time that I decided to become a social worker or counselor, so that I could help others as they had helped me.

As I watch the sunset through the branches, the sky looks even more brilliant from here, more vivid somehow. As the air becomes chilled by the darkening sky, I know it is time to leave for the night. I climb down slowly, savoring the feel of the rough bark against my palms. I make my way inside and settle into my bed, staring out the window. There, I see my tree, standing tall, proud, and ready for anything. I guess you could say the same about me.





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