The Weight of Grief
I’ve been MIA for 2+weeks, and I’m sorry about that. This post may be all over the map, and mostly I’m just going to tell you what’s up. It won’t be informational. It won’t be helpful. I can’t guarantee it will even be coherent, I’m just checking in so you know what happened to me. I don’t usually do blog posts like journal entries, because the details of my life are too numerous and variable for me to keep up with in writing even if I wanted to. But, here is where I’ve been…. I have borrowed some of this from emails, because I get tired of typing it over and over (lazy, much?) and some emails were written from a mentally or emotionally clearer place than others.
The current state of affairs: my life has somewhat been blown apart recently, so I’ve been dealing with the fall out.
My birth family (I’m not adopted, I just don’t know how else to say it – I’m not married, so I’m referring to my parents and sibling) had been acting like jerks to me, as per usual, and with the help of my prayer ministers I finally realized just how toxic and narcissistic and manipulative they really are.
In the past, I had no one to bear witness to the fact that I felt awful and smothered and confused and guilty around my family and to bear witness to the fact that it’s because of all of the above. And to bear witness to the fact that it is NOT because I’m crazy, or wrong, or defective, which is what my family would prefer me to keep believing as I always have. They just are what they are.
And on that note, I kicked them out of my life.
I probably sound braver than I feel, but this was really important, albeit difficult. Just the act of doing this solidified the knowledge I’ve been gaining – that I have the power to choose who I allow in my life and who I don’t, and how I allow people to treat me. I’m not saying people can’t make mistakes and that we don’t accidentally hurt each other sometimes, but my family was different. They were hurting on purpose, and they didn’t want to change anything, and they wanted me to stay blinded to it. That is not okay.
And I’ve even felt a little bit embarrassed, or maybe ashamed, that I held on so long, which is part of the denial that goes hand in hand with trauma and D.I.D. This is partially why I don’t **necessarily** agree that DID can occur “naturally” with no trauma; one of the cornerstones in developing and sustaining DID is denial. This is not a fault or a slam or a character flaw; it’s survival. It is necessary, in the beginning. It was necessary or I wouldn’t have lived. But later, which is now, it is maladaptive and no longer helpful. But what it looks like in this situation is me hoping, for years and years, the way codependents (or whatever?) always do, that maybe my family would just wake up one day and start listening to me. Now I can see that they won’t. I always made excuses for them, believed they were sincere but just misguided, hoped they’d realize how much their behavior was hurting me and have an epiphany and just stop. I believed if I just kept trying to explain my position, kept having mercy, kept believing the best, it would change them. They would get it. My friends, who are amazing and wonderful and completely out of my league, very gently sat with me in all of this and said, “Sweetie, they’re never going to get it. They’re never going to change. We can pray that a miracle/disaster/whatever will occur in their life, and that they will be struck by sudden sorrow and repentance and change. But outside of those things…they are not going to change. They don’t want to.”
This, I already knew, deep down, I think. I just needed permission to know.
And somewhere in the middle of this (my re-telling is out of order but my friends who read will have to just forgive me for that), I remembered a conversation I had with my mother about 2 years ago. Maybe a little more. I’d gone to visit them at their home, as they typically required that I do – rather than coming to visit me in my own environment – and my mom took me out to lunch, just me and her. This is potentially dangerous, as we all act like buffers between each other. I’m a buffer between my mom and dad, he’s a buffer between me and her, she’s a buffer between me and him, my sibling is a buffer between them and me, and everyone changes sides and switches teams randomly and unpredictably and this is just how it’s always been that I can remember. My parents always seemed to enjoy pitting whichever of us they could against whichever other of us they could, including their spouse, including anyone who’d fall for it. So without my dad, without anyone else there, I was nervous and on edge. My mom seemed pleasant enough in the beginning. But knowing I had no witnesses to anything about to be said or done kept me on guard. At any rate, it was in the course of conversation during this time out with my mom that she basically told me, flat-out, to my face, that I hadn’t been what she’d wanted. In a daughter. That when she’d had me, when I was born, I wasn’t what she wanted. She’d had some completely different expectation of who and how I would be as a person and as a daughter, and she proceeded to tell me how hard it had been (on her) to love me as I grew up. How hard it had been to have someone in her life like me, who hadn’t been what she’d wanted, and yet she was still supposed to attend to and “love,” anyway.
Sub-text: I never wanted you.
Sub-text: I never loved you.
Sub-text: If I could have traded you for something/someone else, I would have.
…By my count, that makes two of us.
Now bear with me here: I’m not stupid. None of this was actual news to me. I might never have heard her say it before then, but kids aren’t stupid. I’d always known these things. Kids know. Kids know when you’re faking and when you’re lying and when you don’t love them. They know when you see them as a burden, that is, when you even see them at all. I just never expected her to be so bold as to say it. Out loud. To my face.
Yet I allowed her – allowed them – to stay in my life for another two years. Until last week. Last week, I woke up. I woke up in probably one of the best ways I could have awakened.
So I cut my family out of my life. Completely. Which is easier said than done, and I’m still in the process and they are probably going to fight me every step of the way and it might be, get, or stay ugly for awhile. But I already feel more free. Grieving, for what I’m not, for what they’re not, for what we all are but cannot be, together, for the pain I endured from them and for the pain they’re in which creates this perpetual cycle. And there have been practical things to take care of which has kept me just as busy, or possibly busier than usual.
On a different note, I’ve also been dealing with someone that I REALLY care about suddenly being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, possibly too advanced to operate on. So me and my little people have been extremely devastated and heartbroken over that. I don’t have any father figures, but if I were going to have one, he would be it. He is the first man to show me what a dad looks like, and even though I don’t see him a lot now I still love him. I used to pray with him years ago, and he was, and is, 100% completely safe and dependable and has such a papa heart. Sometimes the people who are in your life at the beginning of figuring yourself out (for me, it was realizing I was D.I.D. and SRA) are and remain important to you no matter what their overall role in it is, and even if you and they eventually move on. He knew what was going on with me, and he stuck by me and loved me like a dad, and that matters. We worked with him for about 2 years, and even though the actual progress that happened during that time was very slow or possibly minimal, he was faithful to help me keep peeling the layers of the onion, so to speak. (I personally feel that progress might have been minimal with anyone we worked with in the beginning – there’s just so much ground work to cover and establish.) He was in it with me, without expecting me to respond or progress in any certain way. He was just willing to be there, willing to slog through the denial, the confusion, the destruction I was discovering for the first time. Willing to bear the brunt of the tailspin I had entered, and not bail out on me. To me, this is invaluable and I will never, ever forget it. Even if I’m the only one he did that for, it would be enough to be crushed by this diagnosis. But I’m not the only one. He did this for myriads of others.
Everyone who knows him is devastated. So I kind of cycle through the grieving process over and over for the time being. I cried nonstop all day yesterday. Today I feel numb and in shock. Tomorrow I might cry again, who knows. He’s still with us for now. We are ALL praying for a miracle. He has created such a legacy of healing and restoration and freedom in so many people’s lives. If anyone could trade places with him, he’d have a LINE of people volunteering to do it.
The weight of grief is enormous, and confusing, and encumbering, and suffocating. The panic, the “please don’t leave me here” kind of hurting, the fear of hoping for a different outcome and being disappointed…all these things are weighty. I’ve been staggering under it, functioning when I can, falling to my knees when I can’t, and curling up, and burrowing into myself like a porcupine with all its quills armed and ready. Attachment wounds stand up and shout again, and say: “I need you, but I’m terrified of you; come close, and/but stay away from me.” My brain can’t organize itself. I’ve picked up my computer, with the ambition to write, maybe twice in the last two weeks. Both times I felt too much and too little to say anything. It’s like the emotional equivalent of being so empty you feel like you’ll throw up. My friends – those who are not in the same boat, or who are just dealing with it better, or differently than I am – are tracking with me in the best way that they can. You have to have a lot of guts, a lot of security, a lot of grit and faith and hope, to be in relationship with someone like me, and I credit them for that. They truly are amazing.
So, loss of natural family, and then possible impending loss of a spiritual father (of which I don’t have any others), prayers for a miracle notwithstanding, and just a lot of transition. It’s a very transitional time, I feel like.
Those are the main things I’m dealing with. Oh, and also, if you didn’t hear, I wrote a children’s book a couple weeks ago (right before all of the above played out) about D.I.D. for littles. It’s written for little parts, for young alters. I haven’t nailed down the exact title yet, and it is now in second draft. It may be called Dear Little Ones, but I’m not sure (that title feels rather uninspired). Anyway, I’m hoping for a mid-March release date but I don’t want to push my illustrator too hard. More details on that coming up. Please keep me in your prayers and/or good thoughts, if you will. I will write a “normal” post again soon…whatever that is. 😉 Cheers. ~J8