Let's just eliminate all the bullshit, shall we?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Another variety of Grief, part 2

I left a large portion of loss out of the first part of this because it tends to alienate so many. But I'd be remiss if I pretended that the loss of my animal companions through the years has not been especially difficult. They are devoted, loving, and spend more time with us (typically) than the average human. I don't call them pets; they're my babies. That pretty much says all there is. think of it what you will.

So there I was, dealing with this horrible sense of loss and emptiness, and most everyone I know killed or dead (or gone because my constant depression was too much to handle.) I had often felt like I would not live to be older than 25. I had what I would later come to know as Survivor's Guilt, and I didn't know how to proceed.

I gave up on life. I went through the motions, but I didn't care about anything. The only thing that kept me even halfway pulled together at this time were my 12 step support groups, and my grief support group (The Life Center of Tampa Bay.) I was in counseling too, and was in relationships that came and went (including an ongoing that continuously came and went!) I was a veracious reader and read all the death and dying manuals and self-help and grief books I could to see how others had coped. The words got in, even if it took a long time to register.

But only through dealing with other people who could relate to what the hell was going on--or at least allow me my craziness to express it regardless--was I able to cope with the mess my life had become.

I felt empty and alone, and my abandonment and security issues were full throttle (or 'wide open' as they say up here.) The things I was using to 'help' were doing anything but, and I really had no interest in my own well being. I was just sleepwalking.

I couldn't make sense in my head how 5 year olds and 20 year olds and 16 year olds could just be gone. I didn't know why I had been given a miracle of 'making it through' situations and people and illness that should have killed me a dozen times over.

I gave up on life. I couldn't even deal with the memories of the dead and gone anymore; I was too easily overwhelmed by the loss. It made me want to be here 'alone' even less. I took down pictures. I boxed up personal gifts and cards and letters. I didn't want any reminders that I had been open and vulnerable and hurt. I lived like a refugee, much to Tom Petty's distress.

The week before my 25th birthday, my adoptive father died in front of me in his home, where I was living at the time. I watched with a mix of detachment and satisfaction and horror as his body twitched and turned blue. My Mother was on the phone with 911, and when they arrived and started working on him (for her benefit) I knew he was gone. His abdomen was so puffed up from all the air they were pumping into him, and you could read their expressions. The ride to and from the hospital that night was the longest I have ever had. I gave his eulogy, too, although I'm sure many were stunned by the fact.

(The day after the funeral, I was in a bad car accident which re-injured all my knee and hip problems from the first. I really thought it was going to be the 'One,' but once again...)

I continued to see loss around me all the time, and my sense of it being a disproportionate part of my life remained a painful assumption, rather than a learning opportunity.

After making contact with my birth family, I became close to several members and we have remained so. I have lost several of them in a relatively short period of time, including a great aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a second cousin and more. But I gained a lot of strength from my one Aunt, who is adept at living life 'on life's terms.' She grieves, she questions, she hurts, and then, at the end of the day, she moves on with life. It takes strength, courage, work, a positive outlook and chutzpah, but you do what has to be done. And you don't forget the dead.

Several of the older women that I looked in on and cared for passed in the time after I moved up to Southwest Georgia. Just a part of things, but sometimes seeing someone so regularly at the end of their journey, knowing it's coming, can be a strange sensation.

Two years ago, I experienced a loss which turned me upside down. I felt pain and heartache like I have never known. And it started me on a (further) downward spiral that lasted nearly all of those two years, leading to the point where I truly believed the only answer was to take my own life. This time, not in an emotional fit or a half-witted stab, but as a legitimate, well planned decision that would be carefully executed every step of the way.

But the Universe intervened, and at that critical moment, I asked for one last chance. Just a little hope. And I received it. Now don't do this and expect some damned 'Touched By An Angel' tree to come crashing into your trailer and knock a gun out of your hand. You still have to take action. My spirit told me to make a call. I made four for good measure. What I found on the other end of the line gave me what i needed for just one more day. And slowly, with just the effort to take a chance, things got a little better.

My fervent belief that I had no chance transformed. Slowly, but surely. Tiny things happened. Despair lessened. I kept trying new things, changing thoughts, meeting with people, improving diet. The more work I did, the better things seemed. Even a minute of relief was welcome. The crazy thinking got a little better. I had new voices to listen to instead of the same old negative, condemning, pessimistic ones. Just leaving the 'comfort' of my home was a monumental challenge at first, but I continued.

It took me a long time to realize that stuff just plain happens; it isn't 'happening to me.'

I have slowly become better at keeping alive the memories of those important to me. I have learned to reopen myself to people, life, love, relationships, and the future. I have learned to let go of pain as an excuse to keep from risking. I have let go of behaviors that were continuing my
cycle of distrust and self abuse. I have let go of guilt and shame that have been regular parts of my world for 4 decades. It isn't easy; but Just Do It.

I have come to know that nothing is promised, and that's part of the randomness and chaos of life. I can't exert control into a place it doesn't exist; trying to manufacture a pattern or reason for things happening. Expecting a life extinguished to make sense. The only sense it holds for me is that a life is a precious thing. Our lives are precious in spite of what we do to pretend otherwise. Life has value when you value it.

As I have been able to get outside my own dark thoughts and explore new and more relaxed ways of thinking, I have become more able to enjoy things. To see good that exists; to simply be content with having a life and believing that there is a future for me. For a long time, there was no desire or faith or hope. Now, I have seen and experienced first hand that I can make a difference in my own life. I am not relegated to being depressed, despairing, or worthless. Those were labels I was given and that I manufactured to make sense of my interpretation of the world. But it's not 'who I am.'

I have choice in every area of life.

Whether or not I live it.

Whether I live it well or not.

Whether I excel or just am content to get by.

Whether or not I experience the miracles that are around us, big and small.

Whether or not I reach out to others, or constantly await them to seek me.

Every person I have ever known has given me some gift. Whether a blessing that lifted my heart, or a curse that made me stronger. I know that I can do what needs to be done. I am not an accident, a mistake, or a problem. I have had accidents, made mistakes, and suffered problems, but those things to not make up who I am.

I am a survivor of many cruelties, and still I stand strong. I have been blessed to know many beautiful people in this lifetime, and now I see what a treasure that is. I am able to accept and appreciate even a slight joy in a world of misery, rather than wasting time bemoaning the misery. I have experienced much of what all people experience, and I may be able to help another cope with part of the normal ebb and flow of life.

Whereas once I saw loss and abandonment....now I am grateful for the time shared, and the lessons learned. I look forward to the possibilities of what new people I may meet, and the current relationships I hope grow stronger still.

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