There are bits hitting me sort of all together. Bits of thoughts. They seem to me to be important—I have a stretch of time now and actually loads of work to do, but the immediate work of making sure I am clear-headed and mentally organized and emotionally regulated always seems to push its way to the front of the line because the consequences for not having those things is so very immediate. It ruins the rest of the day when those things are not in place, and then I have more stress to try to manage, and then it all becomes more difficult and tends to snowball.

So I’m trying to string it together instead of do a lot of other tasks that might be more beneficial in other ways in the long-term.

The first bit is again that thought that Natalya and I were different people with somewhat different values, although we shared others. And I can’t quite understand her choice to risk her life for my future just because I am not her and I don’t think that way. We both, I think, had a sense of a partnership, but it worked out differently somehow.

And there is a piece of it that is just it was her life. I may have said that before, but it takes a long time to link all these things up, and I’m having another go at it. It was her life, her values, and she had a right to make choices based on those values and to decide what to do with her own life. It hurts me what she chose to do, but that’s my bit to deal with.

I don’t believe she didn’t value her own life or that she chose to sacrifice it because it meant nothing anyway. Our lives fell outside society in important ways, but I think she understood her life meant a great deal at least to me. But she had an idea that lives can be sacrificed for other lives or for ideals. And I just don’t have that. I have the idea of life being sacred, especially human life, and the decision to end a life or to put a life in jeopardy should be made only very carefully and only under a few circumstances.

I have no idea if I would have used the same logic if I were thinking of sacrificing my life for hers—we tend to apply different standards for ourselves as compared to other people—but I think that’s at the core of it.

But one bit of what’s hitting me is just that: she had different ideas than I did and it was her right to have those ideas and to act on them. We are all trying to make the best decisions we can and to live the best way we can and she did that. I wish it had been different, but it wasn’t different. It was the way it was. Yuri was who he was and he created the life for us that he did, and Natalya was who she was. Yuri did not have the right to do what he did—his choices damaged other lives. But Natalya did. It was her life to make choices about.

I think part of what is hard for me is feeling she did not understand or maybe did not care how much her death hurt me or how hard it was to pick up the pieces of my life after she died. Did she understand? I don’t know. We rarely completely understand how important we are to the people who love us until something happens which places that knowledge very forcibly in front of us.

But it means there is a piece of this that is a betrayal for me: In that way, it feels to me she behaved as everyone else did. She didn’t know how much I hurt or she didn’t care and she hurt me anyway. Of course, it wasn’t really like that.

Of course, she did see, and that’s a part of why her death is so hard for me to come to grips with. I can’t make sense of it properly. I can’t figure out how to see it.

I know she saw a suffering I kept trying not to see. I remember the trafficking now, but not actually very clearly. I still shunt aside most of that pain, because that on top of the other pain is more than I can manage at the moment. But she saw it every time she saw me. She hurt from that pain. She had it clearly in her mind that I was being hurt in this unimaginable way from the time I could walk and talk. She saw it from the time I was five onwards. She saw the wrongness of that very clearly in a way I tried not to see. The wrongness of it hurt her.

I keep thinking the worst thing I have to deal with is really her death, but the truth is more complex: her death involves so many different strands of pain altogether. It involves the pain of watching her suffering at other times. It involves our ongoing separation—which was tremendously traumatizing in itself. It recalls other losses, including the loss of Veroushka and my loss of my foster parents.

It’s not really that her death is the worst trauma as that grieving pulls so many other experiences together. And the other traumas would have still been there. I still would have been separated from her. I still would have had to watch her suffer. I would still have to cope with all those things.

I think she does bear some responsibility for my pain now in the present: I’m not saying that to blame her, but just to say it. Just to be accurate. If she had lived, the trauma would have been different in some ways for me. That’s unavoidable.

But I’m holding her responsible for things she had no control over at all.