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Addressing Grief, Betrayal, Anger and Forgiveness

25 Nov

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!

Sandy

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.

Belleruth