Addressing Grief, Betrayal, Anger and Forgiveness | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 25 November 2013

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Dear Belleruth,

I suffered two big traumatic experiences at a very young age.  My father died when I was two, my mother when I was eight.  

My brother & I went to live with my mom's sister, my aunt & my uncle.  For the most part, it was a good experience, although she was young & having children of her own.  I quickly became the babysitter, maid, nanny, as she worked part time.  

Jealousy set in as I was in high school and was more involved in sports & school events and a boyfriend.   I married early and have a wonderful marriage and 3 great boys of my own now - the twins are seniors.

My aunt & uncle divorced about 4 years ago and my aunt wanted me to take her side.  During that time she blew up at me and one of the many harsh things she said to me was that she only raised me because "My mom didn't have enough guts to stick around & raise me herself". 

You can imagine the wound that left in my heart.  I haven't talked to her since.  I hurt so badly for the way she's treated me.   She's really never been a big part of my life after I got married & had my own kids, but that really hurt, what she said.  My mom died in a car accident... not anything she could have helped.  

Now, two of my boys are seniors (twins) and I'm having a very hard time dealing with that.  I'm struggling, feeling emptiness, loneliness and great sadness.  Knowing that come next year they will go off to college and all these "last" things we are doing now in high school is it.   

I feel as if I'm dealing with another huge "loss" in my life... first my parents, then my aunt and now my own kids.  Any suggestions on how I can overcome this sadness and actually enjoy this last year with my boys, instead of crying at the last football game, last concert, last basketball game, etc.   I feel so full of loss, I don't want to feel as if I'm losing my boys too.   Thanks for your help!


Dear Sandy,

Well, for starters, let me heap major congratulations & kudos on your head, for being able to create a wonderful life for yourself, in spite of a rough start and some serious bumps along the way.
Second, I commend you for your self-awareness, in understanding that your trauma- and grief-filled history is impeding your ability to enjoy your kids' last year in the house - and understandably so.  You write, "I feel as if I'm dealing with another huge 'loss' in my life... first my parents, then my aunt and now my own kids..." , but I would say that you're actually dealing with all those losses all over again - because the one big loss of the kids recapitulates all the others, so you suffer an extraordinary amount, reacting to all of them at once. And that's why you're such a weepy, gooey mess these days.  

Successful resolution of grief always entails taking the 'lost' loved one into your heart, incorporating the image of that person inside yourself letting it fill you up - that's the only way any of us can stand to lose anyone and keep on walking and talking - by keeping them within us, in whatever ways we can.  

It might be some sweet images that remain in our memory; or stories that have been told to us, if we were too young to actually remember ourselves; or nourishing words or moments we keep with us on the inside; or just a feeling, a felt sense of their approval, admiration or love for us, that we carry with us.

With your kids, it's true that a phase of their life is over and that is to be grieved; but the good news is, they're not dead, just moving on (in a positive, age-appropriate, successful way, too).

And in this day of emailing, cell phones, texting, Skype-ing and digital photos, your connection can be maintained in rich, wondrous ways without interfering with their separateness, independence and growth.  And almost always - I can't tell you how many times people tell me this - the anticipation of the loss during that Senior year is harder than the loss itself, after they're actually gone!  Time will tell, but you could be going through the hardest part right now.   Especially because you actually like your husband!

I would recommend the Ease Grief imagery to help with the sadness and loss, plus our imagery for Heartbreak, Abandonment & Betrayal  to help with your reaction to your aunt’s cruel remarks.  

I also want to make a few educated guesses about those remarks, in hopes it might be useful to you.  Reading between the lines, I would bet that she had unfinished business with your mother.  She was probably talking about herself when she said your Mom didn't have enough guts to stick around - for her.  So at a fairly young age, newly married perhaps, and certainly not of her own choosing, her sister, about whom she has conflicted feelings, of both love and hate and competitiveness, abandons her by dying, and, to boot, leaves her with her kid to take care of and bring up. That had to be hard on her (although for the most part, it sounds like it was a good relationship - you would not be so hurt if that relationship had just been unpleasant, so clearly both of you surmounted a lot and made a go of it for quite a while. And it was she, not just your mother, who probably showed you a lot about being a good parent yourself.)
You say she became jealous of you when you became a successful high school kid. Again, reading between the lines, I wonder if she hadn't been jealous of her sister - your Mom - growing up, and basically handed the 'bill' for that to you - unknowingly, of course.
When her marriage came apart, that had to be an all time low for her, given what she’s put out over the years.  So maybe her thinking went something like this: “So this is what I get for years of sacrifice and picking up everybody else’s pieces?? My husband dumps me??”

I’m betting she’s in a lot of pain, self-doubt, humiliation and embarrassment – and yes, perhaps envious of your own solid marriage.
Who knows? Some day you may even feel enough compassion for her to forgive her. I'm certainly not pushing that agenda, but perhaps, for your own sake, you'll remember the good times, when she was able to give you some loving support and come through for you.

And if you ever do get to a place where you want to work on forgiving her, the Anger & Forgiveness imagery could be a good meditation for you.  But again, these things have their own timing and you can't push them. And sometimes it's just not meant to be.

This too shall pass, I promise.  I wish you the very best.


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Comments (5)Add Comment
written by Erin, November 26, 2013
Belleruth...what an incredible response. I have found in my own grief work and helping people with theirs, there is a lot of hurt and anger wrapped up in unresolved grief. And a completely different event, like a divorce, can trigger old feelings. I'd say your assessment is pretty spot on. I hope she can make her way back to a relayionship with her aunt. They have a lot left to discover.
written by Barb, November 26, 2013
All 3 of these imageries have meant so much to me and know they will touch Sandy as well. Am working with the Heartbreak, Abandonment and Betrayal imagery just now and also reading Life After Loss by Volkan & Zintl. BR's comments echoed a passage I just read this am: "We tend to think of mourning only in response to such massive losses as death or divorce. But mourning is simply the psychological response to any loss or change, the negotiations we make to adjust our inner world to reality. Grief is the emotion that accompanies mourning and we grieve on a recurring basis as we face the commonplace losses that line our lives--be it the loss of an heirloom earring, a hope, an ideal, a friendship, a homeland, a loved one, or even a former self. Loss, as writer Annie Dillard noted in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is the price we incur by being alive: 'the extraordinary rent you have to pay as long as you stay'".
written by belleruth, November 27, 2013
Many thanks to Barb for the awesome quote.
written by "Ann Marie", December 11, 2013
Wow, did a lot of this conversation touch deep inside me. First, my sympathy AND Kudos to Sandy, and thanks to BR for such a thought filled response. May I change the subject a bit with a question of my own? Having been incestuously abused from birth to age 58 (yes, with the complete disociation, I had not enough awareness to make my father stop, even when he continued the nighttime visits to me on my visits home as an adult.) My father's death just before Thanksgiving has caused an inner storm. Yes, unfortunately, I do carry his memories and person inside me still. But I don't want to!! The only regrettable loss his death caused is the chance that he would ever be sorry in any way for the wreck he made of my heart. To his dying day, he justified all he had done. An upstanding churchman, no one knew his secret, so I continue to get cards of condolence advising to keep the memories of his love in my heart! In the last two years, I have really started to claim my own identity, thanks in large measure to the at least dozen BR cds I listen to constantly. His death has upset this progression of growth far deeper than I expected. What a conundrum of emotions! Advice?? And, my mom, now a widow, who knew all along, yet to this day, still cocks her head and says, "But I never knew..." How to be compassionate, yet protect my own heart and identity, too?
Thank-you again for all your work. I would listen to "Weight Loss" with its amazing images of being at home in your own body, and "General Wellness" with its wonderful image of the Light all through my darkest nights when I honestly knew that if I moved, it would be to grab a knife, go sit outside against the back of my house, and end it all. I owe you my life, Bellaruth. Thank-you. (PS: and your never failing ending of being "safe in the hands of God" gradually, slowly brought me to a sense that God is not made in the image of my father. Thank-you!! I am, indeed, safe in the hands of God. I just never knew it. Your "Panic Attacks" greatly aided me in that awareness.)
"Ann Marie"
written by Sharon, January 10, 2014
Ann Marie, I am sorry that your father's death has caused so much more tumult for you and am touched by your compassion and bravery. If you have an awareness that God was not created in the image of your father, you might enjoy the book, "We were the Least of These" by Elaine A. Heath. It is a set if scriptural readings from the Bible from the point of view of a survivor of sexual abuse. As a survivor myself, I found much healing and growth in its pages. I found it gentle, insightful and reassuring of God's deep love for me, God's refusal to separate from me even in the worst moments, and God's judgment against these kind of actions. I wish you healing, blessings, peace and support. ~Sharon

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