Grieving and guilt are intermingled. I really believe that’s true. When you are grieving a loss you go through a gamut of emotions. Most of which are not necessarily pleasant to experience but they exist regardless. I’m finding that what accompanies my grief at this point is a sense of guilt for what was not. Things that perhaps I could have changed…many that I couldn’t have. The thing about feelings – emotions … is that you can’t assign them. You can’t tell yourself how to feel, what to feel…when to feel. You just feel. You’re a captive to those feelings in many ways, but then a day comes that you realize you really do have a choice about that part – being a captive. That’s when you know you’re healing…that you’re getting better. I feel like I’m in a good place with Mom and Maddie. I’ve gotten past the first year for both of them and it’s good. I’ve been mostly at peace these last few weeks. Of course I miss them and of course there are times it hurts but it’s ok and I can say I think I’ve gotten through the worst. Yay me 🙂
But now what I’m just realizing is that my system is ready to start dealing with the loss of my mother-in-law that we experienced a couple of months ago and the loss of an ex-husband that died two months before my Mom got sick. This isn’t something that I was prepared for and it isn’t something I want. I don’t want to be in “this place”. I feel I’ve been here too often and it’s lonely, it’s scary and it’s unpredictable. But at the same time – I’m ready. I have to face these things no matter how painful because if I don’t I won’t be a whole person. And inevitably these feelings have to be dealt with. That’s how we love and that’s how we grow. When I say this “place” is unpredictable, what I mean for myself is that I get emotional at times I normally wouldn’t. I read into things that don’t exist, I act on them emotionally and I turn back into a character I mentioned when I first started blogging… “Whacko Woman”. She is not someone I necessarily care for – at all. But, I have to embrace her and what “she” is going through. I know that “she” is not really a separate entity than me (I haven’t whacked out that much!), but when I am first starting to deal with things…this part of me emerges. It’s a very insecure part of me and it’s not one that I relish – nor do most people around me.
I had an incident yesterday that made me stop and say ok…what’s going on here? This is NOT you. This is not who you are and this does not reflect what you are about…emotionally driven and illogical… (Ok – I hear some of you snickering and saying “that’s just part of being a woman!” – not funny!) This is where the scary part comes in and the unpredictable. They go hand in hand. Scary is a result of the unpredictable. The unpredictable is a result of the subconscious bringing forward the grief that it’s now prepared to deal with. Been there, did it, done it. I know at this point what I’m talking about. So why now? Why deal now? As I said earlier…I’m at a good point with Mom and Maddie. I always miss them and the pain resurfaces often, but I feel like I have a good handle on it. So my guess is that my psyche now recognizes that and says okay… “Next in line??”
I really thought – and I guess that also is part of the denial segment of the grief process…(Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross in her book “On Death and Dying” which I mentioned about a year ago in one of my blogs) that I wouldn’t have to go through grieving for my mother-in-law or my ex-husband. (I hate that term… “ex” so I will refer to him as Bob since that was his name.) After all…she was not my mother so it’s different right? Well…yes…it is different. But you still loved her and you still miss her and you still feel for her real children who miss her terribly. And no matter how much you can intellectualize something, the bottom line is you are still human and therefore not immune to the grieving or the imperfections that it brings out in you.
So back to my question of why am I going through this now…
I had a couple of triggers this past weekend. And true to form for me…triggers when they come…set things in motion and it typically hits me like a rock within a couple of days. So what happened? A wedding…and a funeral. (Well…not exactly. But it sounded good….like a good movie title…; Ok…that was Four Weddings and a Funeral but who’s counting right? But I’m going to work it anyway…you’ll see 🙂 ) As much as I’m trying to joke around right now…I don’t feel that way. I feel sick at heart over things and just typing this up is very difficult for me right now. But I need to get it out.
The wedding. The wedding was this past weekend and was lovely. But it was the first real gathering of the family after my mother-in-law’s death. And with that came all sorts of things. And all sorts of emotions were pulled out of me and I now have to deal with them or bury them and the latter isn’t healthy. I have a picture. It was taken a few months ago. It’s a picture of my mother-in-law and me laying in bed sleeping. My mother-in-law hadn’t been feeling well one afternoon and was resting in her bed. I stopped by to visit with her for a bit. She was sleeping. So I Iaid on the bed next to her and just talked to her while she slept. You see…after my mom died I stopped going over to visit. For a long time. For months. I couldn’t bring myself to and I suppose it was a combination of reasons. It was just too hard and it would cause me to face my pain even more. I know it hurt my mother-in-law and my father-in-law…but they understood. And they still loved me. So, when I laid in the bed with her…even though she slept…I talked to her. I apologized for not being there….I apologized for hurting her and I apologized for hurting myself. I told her how grateful I was for all she’s been and done for me over the years. I cried…and then I fell asleep too. A family member came in later and saw us and took the picture. I’m glad because now I will remember that day. We had a rocky start…maybe a lot of “in-law” situations do, but over the years she was my mom too in many ways. Where my mom was timid….she was outspoken and strong willed. She was sure of herself…she was the quintessential stereotypical Italian mama….even though she was German and French only. She learned well! I drew on that strength and support a lot over the years and we became very close. In the last few years I felt very grateful that she was able to find some comfort in me too. When she was sick, she always wanted reassurance that she was okay. She accepted that from me. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer several years ago and undergoing radiation, I made a journal for her to use. I wrote a poem for each day of her radiation treatments. Sometimes they were poignant…mostly I tried to keep them silly so that she could laugh. I don’t think she ever wrote in the journal but I know she enjoyed the poems. The poems went from one joking about her enjoying showing the male radiation therapist her breasts during treatments to one outlining her emotional journey through cancer. I miss her a lot. And I’m just starting to feel that. So feel I must even though I don’t want to feel any more.
The funeral. (Okay…I told you to watch how I tie this one in 😉 ) The funeral happened Saturday night. I was at the above mentioned wedding. A photo was taken of myself and my daughter-in-law sitting together. I uploaded it onto my Facebook page with the caption “My beautiful daughter-in-law.” The photo got the usual “likes” and a couple of comments. Well, I have to digress for a moment. Bob. He had a brother. A brother I was always close to during the marriage. When Bob and I divorced…contact was lost with the whole family after a while. It’s just the way things went and I really can’t go into details. My daughter and son, as adults, met and became close with this uncle and his family. A wonderful family. But I couldn’t bring myself to revisit the past. There was just too much pain that I wasn’t able to sift through again. Then, after Bob died almost two years ago…I brought myself to “friend” his brother on Facebook. After I did that I panicked. Not ready. Not even remotely. But it went unanswered and I was relieved. I wasn’t ready. Then this past Saturday evening…after posting the picture of my daughter-in-law and me….there were a couple of comments. One from a woman I know (a real sweetheart) that said “Is anyone in your family not gorgeous?” It was a really sweet and fun comment. Then a little later there was another comment…my former brother-in-law. Out of the blue. No contact for thirty years. And it read “All of these beautiful people pale when compared to Angie. She brings the beauty out in all of them.” I was dumbfounded when I read it. All of these years…and the first thing he said was the sweetest most beautiful thing he could have said. And I know him. And I know he meant it. I just sent him a heart symbol back and that was it. I didn’t have words and I still don’t. I’m still not ready. Maybe I will be soon. I hope so. It was just a small thing from both of us but I feel like it put a band-aid on a gaping hole I had in my heart. That’s the funeral. The burial of years of quiet giving of needed space. Maybe that space isn’t so needed right now. But I don’t know. It also opened up a lot of wounds that I have had a tourniquet on for years…and now it feels like I’m bleeding out. So much being stirred up. And this stirring up is causing all sorts of havoc on me emotionally right now. And I hate it. And I don’t want to be here again.
So where do I go from here? All of these things are present in me and now surfacing. I can ignore them but they won’t go away. I have a lot of flaws. A lot. And my friends experience them with me mostly at times like this. I have no excuses and I take responsibility for my actions that hurt them. And now I have to go forward. And I’ll be honest with you. I’m so very afraid of what’s inside sometimes. But the only way I know to get rid of it is to let it out. You’ll probably see more blogs again…feel free to ignore them if you need to. They may get fairly repetitive and I won’t be giving away any deep dark secrets. 😉
But back to “Whacko Woman”. I think I’ve learned this past year a better way of dealing with her. She mortifies me. It’s like Whacko Woman is all of my imperfections personified and on illegal steroids. I mean…does anyone else go through this? So what do I do? I’ve learned over this past year and a half that when this part of me surfaces there is a reason and it’s never what I originally thought I was upset about. I am seeing that those “reasons” – things I reacted to…that I overanalyzed and blew out of proportions – are my system deflecting/projecting the pain that’s inside – onto something that seems tangible. I know it sounds complex but it really isn’t. When you have horrible inside…you don’t want to let it come forward to your conscious level. It’s too painful. You have to own it then. You have to feel it again. But instead what I do…when triggers come out like they did this weekend…my subconscious starts to react, swirling around 100 mph screaming that something has to be dealt with but my conscious level doesn’t know yet what it is. So it latches onto anything that is tangible that could be the cause of these feelings that are starting to bubble over. And I won’t get it right because I can’t. My subconscious hasn’t let go yet. So after I have hurt someone else because of my reactions and made a complete fool of myself – then is when I realize my subconscious is ready to let go. It has to because I can’t bear where I go when it doesn’t and what I do to other people’s feelings. We all have something that forces us to look inside. This happens to be my path. Not my choice of how to get there, but I’m learning. It doesn’t excuse my actions in the least. I have to take ownership of them and make amends where needed.
So what do I do with this now? It’s easier after the initial blow up. I know now that I’m in “this place” again for a little while and that makes it so much easier to recognize when I get in those modes, that I’m projecting again. That’s half the battle. The other half is this: I have to look inside and figure out where the pain is actually coming from. I don’t like this part. Most of us don’t. A lot of people won’t go there. I rarely do this, but I am going to give myself kudos – because I will go there. I never used to but I have learned that it’s ok to go there. I just have to tread lightly and gently. Remind myself that nothing new is happening…the pain is from something that already happened and is just looking for an expression so that it can go away for good. And I have to hold myself and love myself because maybe nobody else can. And it’s ok. I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be and I’m braver than I ever thought I could be. And if I have to go forward alone I can and I will. I’m going to be okay.