There is a basic assumption that grieving and loss is only problematic when it comes to loosing people…
The truth is, loss is loss. When we lose something we value, we grieve. The root of the problem is most of us don’t know how to grieve. As a result, often times we find unhealthy ways of coping. Unhealthy ways of coping ranging from drugs and alcohol to self destructive behaviors cause us to “stuff” our grief instead of process it. This can leave us stuck.
At this point in my personal revelation I had pulled over to the side of the road…really hard to drive without windshield wipers for my eyes. I started thinking about what it really meant to me that the last time I saw my grandfather I was with my abuser. I was so exhausted by the 10hr drive to see him that all I could do was sleep on his sofa, while grandpa slept in his chair.
My abuser and I had been on a 3 day marathon of California to see my family. From my perspective I saw this as a time of connection. In my previous relationships there had been little to no interest in meeting my family let alone interacting with them. This time, I was with someone who was taking a pro-active interest in them. I had finally picked a winner. In retrospect, I understand that yes, he was interested, but not for the reasons I believed him to be interested. It was not to be connected at all. Quite the opposite actually. He was sizing up the people in my life that I cared about the most. His goal was to “learn” them and figure out how to factor them out of my life. Motivation is everything.
As a consequence, I lost all of the potential memories between the time I saw my grandfather last until the time that he died. Giving my children the opportunity to get to know this wonderful man, who had a lifetime of stories to impart, was no longer an option. So it wasn’t just his death I was mourning…it was the death of an opportunity, of time I will never get back, and memories that won’t be made. It hit me over the head like an anvil.
When the ringing in my ears stopped my brain was off and running recalling everything I had missed out on during the time I was with my abuser. I had missed out on both of my sisters giving birth to my only nephews. In fact, one was 5 by the time I saw him for the first time. I missed out on my 17yr old daughters life marker moments. She is still so devastated by it that she can’t talk to me yet…so there will be more missed. I missed out on my 19yr old son’s entire high school experience. That includes graduation. My youngest three have missed out on 6yrs of bonding with their siblings. It is a struggle for them to reconnect.
My point in all of this is, I thought I had grieved all of this while I was in my rehabilitation program. For the most part I did. I went through all of those fun stages of anger, bargaining, anger, more grief, and finally acceptance. However, an event like my grandfather passing, a more tangible form of death, really brought it home for me, how far I have come, and how far I have to go…