Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis.

Since my father’s death, it’s just my mother and my siblings and me. We try to move forward, but it’s difficult. We feel weak, somehow lacking. Maybe it’s because we have lost our loved ones, or because life around us has changed drastically, leaving us with new burdens to carry.

I miss my mother, even though she is right here with me. Life’s hardships have turned her into a machine whose only purpose is work. In the morning, she sends us off to school before heading to the market. When she gets home, she starts preparing a fire to make us dinner. This routine takes up her whole day. She no longer asks me about my day or my studies. She forgets to say good morning or goodnight. Her life is burdened with new responsibilities that keep her away from me.

I yearn for her love and tenderness, but she forgets that my need for her warmth is greater than my need for food or books. Perhaps my father’s death left her numb, or maybe her responsibilities as the sole provider of our household are now so great that she has decided to bury her emotions altogether.

Two years ago, she used to play with us. She was the one who taught me how to play badminton, cards, and chess. Once she was our playful guide and our companion; her spirit was vivacious, her laughter contagious. Now she is unable to teach us anything other than patience and steadfastness. On her one day off, she tries to spend time with us, but underneath the happy façade she puts on for us, I can feel the terrible pain and sadness she keeps hidden inside. Her first wrinkles have appeared below her eyes.

I often slip into her bed at night. She puts her arm around me and rests her palm on my cheek, and I feel her warmth seeping into my veins and reaching my yearning heart.

Sometimes, I feel for her. I see her withering away as she tirelessly works to support us. Other times, I resent her for neglecting us emotionally. But she is the only one I have left. I am drowning, helplessly trying to hold on to her. When you look at her, you see a body without a soul. I miss her warmth and her gentleness, her sincere laughter, and the sparkle in her eyes.

Words can’t express the feelings I have when a neighbor or a friend talks to her about getting remarried. I lie, telling her it’s her right to remarry, but my mind and my heart can’t accept what my tongue says. She quickly reassures me that she will never let her children down by remarrying, as long as she’s alive. ♦