There is a trade-off between mourning and freedom. The more I mourn, the more I am aware that the past is past and that I am free now. On the other hand, the more I am aware I am free, the more I am confronted by grief.

Not grieving keeps Natalya alive. It keeps my sister salvageable and my father still someone with hope for redemption. It keeps everything frozen in a sense, not past, but present. And the advantage of remaining frozen is that you don’t have to give up on anything or let anything go. Everyone can still be saved. I can be saved.

But everyone cannot be saved. Natalya really is dead. My father really is a man without conscience or empathy who is and always will be a danger to society. My mother really is mad and my sister really is damaged. The house really was on fire and it really did burn down. There is no longer any chance of a more favourable outcome.

I have tried to stay in the burning house, but that hasn’t helped anyone, let alone me. It just kept the prison in my head.

The last few weeks, I have been very focused on grieving and on acceptance. The result is that I feel both light with freedom and overwhelmed by horror and sadness.

It’s one of those things I had not expected it when it happened, even though I worked hard to get here. But I find myself going about daily life and having the usual feelings crop up and then being able to tell myself, “I don’t need to do that anymore.”

I don’t need to be afraid of tile bathrooms.

I don’t need to be afraid to make a mistake.

I don’t need to feel ashamed of who I am.

I don’t need to conceal my feelings or my personality or anything special about me that might give someone an idea of how to better manipulate or exploit me.

I don’t need to constantly hold all of the horror in mind so that it isn’t forgotten. I do know and I haven’t forgotten. And whether I forget or remember will not bring anyone back.