Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (Part Two)

Picture from a google plus page about coping with grief and loss
Picture from a google plus page about coping with grief and loss

Friendship, Deconstructed or The Final Nail In The Coffin

At the end of November, 2014, a couple that we thought we had a significant friendship told us, after I’d asked them about their recent lack of communication with us, how they really felt. The husband, (hereinafter referred to as “A”) said rather condescendingly: “We want the best for you” and “I can’t be around sad people because of my job” [Translation: we want the best for you, but please fuck off]. The wife (hereinafter referred to as “B”) said to me: “You’re like my sister—fragile, lack self-confidence, and need therapy. I have more in common with (your husband) because he’s a professional.”
“I hope this was helpful” “A” said as they went out the door. Helpful? Hmm, not so much. Illuminating, yes. Painful? ABSOLUTELY.
I was devastated. Analysis, and grieving, ensued.
Two days later, at church, “A” acted like nothing had happened and, a week later, they sat with us at a church lunch. [Are you fucking kidding me?????] I could hardly look at them, much less talk to them.
In December I tried to “win them back” and “fit in” by hustling for worthiness as Brene Brown puts it. This “hustling” consisted of gratitude Facebook posts. You know, something like: “Today’s gratitude: the sky is blue.” Once I realized what I was doing, I stopped.*
For months, I would even dream about these friends. A professional said it was both an attempt by my unconscious to make sense of what happened and a form of grieving.
Please understand: We had done numerous things with this couple: gone to each other’s homes, we’d spent weekends with them, been part of the same church group, we’d looked after their dog whilst they were away, etc. There was literally no area of our life where their fingerprints weren’t on it. Now, it even hurts to look at our kitchen backsplash as I painfully remember how “A” helped my husband tile it, and I wonder if painful memories such as those are enough to justify moving.
Gradually, a review showed how little of a friendship it actually was except perhaps in my own mind. Eventually self-esteem returned: why would I want to be friends with people who thought so little of me?
Early in 2015, this couple requested a meeting. Thinking okay, God wants reconciliation here, we agreed. After initial chit-chat, “A” stated he’d noticed how unresponsive I’d been and how much pain I was in. They asked how I was doing. I decided to be as blunt with them as “B” had been with me. Among other things, I told them I rejected “B’s” characterization of me and if they knew me better, and all I’d gone through, they’d think differently too. I went on to say I’m friends with people from all walks of life. I also stated I’m not a person to be fixed with books and pamphlets [they like to lend people books and pamphlets when said people share their heart about a struggle they are dealing with] but a friend to be loved. (I stopped just short of saying I’m not a project to be managed—one of them is in management).
Virtually all communication between us ceased after that, with the exception of occasional encounters at church. It seems apparent God didn’t want reconciliation after all, and that meeting was just an opportunity for me to share what I’d been feeling since that awful day in November.

The latest brief encounter a few days ago made me very sad for what used to be.
The demise of this friendship played a definite role in our decision to leave the church. Awkward encounters for the rest of our life? I don’t think so.
*Hustling for worthiness means, according to Ms. Brown,

When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness – that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging – lives inside of our story. ~From her book The Gifts of Imperfection

The wise Brene Brown on fitting in vs. belonging:

Fitting in is about becoming who you need to be to gain acceptance. Belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.

Dream Fulfillment

At the Chicago "Bean" 2012
At the Chicago “Bean” 2012

With the uploading of the final assignment for the final course in my University Certificate Program (Professional Writing in Public Relations and Marketing) I have realized the life-long dream – a dream at times I didn’t even know I had – of attending University.  This is a moment worth savoring.  This is an accomplishment worth celebrating. My heart is full.  This dream fulfillment has been two years of hard work towards this moment, utilizing, enhancing, improving upon and fully embracing a passion (writing) I have had for years.  Not for nothing, I accomplished this while doing/dealing with:  chronic pain; migraines; sleep apnea; arthritis; anxiety; the death of my father and the death of our beloved pets in 2013 (and the byproduct of loss – grief); keeping our home running; writing articles for magazines; developing inventory for two photography shows, etc.

I will actually receive my formal Certificate in the fall due to missing the deadline this spring because of course timings.  The University also has certificate graduation ceremonies however I will not be eligible to participate in this year’s ceremony due to the application deadline. I’ve submitted my name for next year’s graduation ceremony. I was eligible, based on academic standing and the program I was taking, an endowment award of $500 and applied for the same. I will know at the end of May whether I was selected.

Obtaining this Certificate would not have been possible, on so many levels, without the love and support of my husband. Honey, you rock! Thank you so much. “I’m not a parasite, I’m a tax deduction!”

I was asked for my thoughts on what comes next.  I’m curious about our culture that creates this. This seemingly pushing along of life.   It occurs in various forms: once one is engaged, one is asked “when’s the wedding”, as if the engagement itself was not  a moment to cherish, celebrate, savor.  When one is married, the question changes to “when are you having kids?”  Same thing: Is the stage one is at not a stage to enjoy for it’s own sake? And, when one graduates, it is “what will you do now?”  Well, now I am savoring my accomplishment.  I am patting myself on the back, tooting my own horn, and making merry over what I have achieved. This is a big deal to me; huge!  I’m also going to catch up on my sleep. As to the future? In the words of Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll “worry about that tomorrow.”

Dear Dad

handmixer

Well, I used the only thing you ever bought me the other day.  The hand mixer I purchased with the gift card you sent me for Christmas a few years ago. That mixer’s my inheritance, your legacy to me, and pretty much the only good thing you ever gave me.

Oh wait – when you gave me up to the government, you “gave” me a lot of things, but none of them were beneficial.

You got out of a lot in your life – supporting your daughter financially, emotionally, and otherwise – when you surrendered me.   What’s interesting is, shortly thereafter, you traded me in for two new models when you adopted two children with your second wife.  Like a do-over? I never truly realized the significance of that until after your death. I also did not realize you had separated from Mom, perhaps because her illness became too much for you to handle.  I only realized that after re-reading the synopsis of my life I’d received from social services.  Mom and I were living with her mother until my mother went into the hospital because of  colitis.  My aunt told me she was in there for a year.  During that year, you screwed around on her.  What a winner you were Dad. Cut and run when it gets to be too much.  Sometimes I wonder if I inherited that urge from you – I, too, want to run when life gets to be too much. But I don’t.

Too bad you couldn’t have manned up and done the same.

Your daughter

Grief is Inconvenient

A bit of preamble: My husband and I have started grief counselling. Our first appointment was last month.

neverargue

People never cease to amaze me, and not necessarily in good ways. We are scheduled for grief counselling Thursday afternoon. A co-worker of hubby’s who wanted to have a meeting with him at that same time was being a real jerk about this yesterday, and got all huffy: “you should go to that in the evenings.”

I’m sorry our grief is so fucking inconvenient for your schedule.

Insensitive asshole.

Seriously.

Who acts like that when told someone’s going for grief counselling? Grief counselling in the evenings are difficult to do; they don’t have many evening appointments.

Since I just got diagnosed last night with pink eye we are re-scheduling anyways.

Of course this co-worker will think the re-scheduling is because of him and that he won.

Not that I’d wish this on anyone, but God forbid this co-worker would ever need to have time off during work hours for dealing with tragedy and grief.

Of course the real tragedy is his lack of sensitivity.   And that is grievous.

 

A Grace Disguised

The accident set off a silent scream of pain inside my soul.  That scream was so loud that I could hardly hear another sound, not for a long time, and I could not imagine that I would hear any sound but that scream of pain for the rest of my life.  ~ Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss

Sittser wrote this book three years after his wife, young daughter and mother were killed in a car accident by a drunk driver.  The book was recommended to me by our pastor after our friends lost their son suddenly last July to help me understand a fraction of what they were going through.  I was sorrowfully adrift at that time, not knowing how to help them.  Little did I know how much this book would also help me with my own losses.

Sittser’s passages are at times raw, honest, dark and bleak, and, at others, hopeful, quiet, and even joyful.  He tries several things to escape dealing with the pain of his loss – anger, bargaining, indulging, and denial. As he would soon learn, however

 … the pain of loss is unrelenting. It stalks and chases until it catches us. It is as persistent as wind on the prairies, as constant as cold in the Antarctic, as erosive as a spring flood. It will not be denied and there is no escape from it. … Pain will have its day because loss is undeniably, devastatingly real.

He speaks of living in the tension of ambivalence

in those of us who believe in the resurrection. We doubt, yet we try to believe; we suffer, yet long for real healing; we inch hesitantly toward death, yet see death as the door to the resurrection.

This illustrates, he says, the duality of life.

Or, as one Puritan put it:

Now life will be a little less sweet, death a little less bitter.

Sittser says that love and loss are inexorably linked; that one cannot exist without the other.  This reminds me of a passage by CS Lewis:

 To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable . . . The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers . . . of love is Hell. C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Sittser chronicles his journey from raw suffering, dark depression, grief and pain to a life that was transformed by grace.

If you let it, your sorrow will increase your capacity to live life, and to experience joy, not after the darkness, but even in the midst of it.

More than a memoir, this is a beautiful handbook for both those who have both suffered loss and those who walk alongside them.

Lessons From the Bereaved

As our friends grieve, it strikes me that there are parallels between looking after yourself while grief-stricken and self-care for someone newly diagnosed with an illness, or other live-changing events.

 

  1. Initially, after you are diagnosed, take a break from “life.”   Get out of as many commitments as possible.
  2. Gather your family close. You won’t be up to dealing with too many other people but having family support is critical.
  3. If able to financially, and your employer offers short term disability, take a leave from work.
  4. Do only what’s essential.
  5. Decide how much of your story you want to tell, and whom to tell it to.  You may choose to tell some people all of the narrative, and others a scaled down version.
  6. Don’t stuff your emotions; allow the tears to flow and the anger to rage.
  7. Seek professional help with number #6 if necessary.
  8. Pace yourself.
  9. Look after your sleep – medicate if necessary.
  10. Don’t over commit, even once the initial stages of the gong show of actually getting a diagnosis, and the reactions within post-diagnosis, have settled a bit, watch your obligation levels.
  11. Later, as you are feeling more up to rejoining “life” again, play it by ear when considering what you want to do.  See how you feel in the moments before considering an activity so as not to put too much pressure on yourself.
  12. Don’t isolate; hang out with “safe” people who know and love all those parts of yourself.
  13. Cut yourself some slack.  I remind our friends “grief has no timetable.”