There’s a great piece over at Godless in Dixie that deals with grief, both of losing a problem parent and with the loss of faith. To say it’s a good read is putting it mildly; if you have the time, go ahead and peruse it at your leisure. For me, it really resonated for many reasons.
As most everyone knows, mourning is not an easy process; it’s less of a process and more of a journey. Most people think of grief as a process due in no small part to the Kubler-Ross model of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most everyone has seen this model and it’s quite well-known. I can remember it being drilled into my head in a psychology class in college and it was in every brochure that my father picked up during my grandfather’s year-long battle with multiple myeloma. It’s a nice, neat, straight little line that people are supposed to follow; you go from one emotion to another while shedding the previous along the way.
It’s also dead wrong.
Grief is never a neat process. It is difficult and you don’t simply hop from one feeling to another as you grieve. You can accept what is going on but still be angry and depressed. You can bargain all you like and still feel depressed. You can be depressed and accept your current situation. On top of that, you can also feel a lot more than five emotions: you can feel fear, nostalgia and wistfulness along with the more common negative feelings. The Kubler-Ross model is a good base but it isn’t a be-all, end-all when it comes to a person’s private journey of grief.
However, the general populace doesn’t see it that way. To most people, grieving should be brief and private; don’t you dare speak ill of the dead or dying because those people–especially if they happen to be a family member–are related to you and are perfect! But if you’ve been in an abusive home or one of your parents, like the author’s own father, happens to be an ass you know that your family members aren’t perfect, that there is in fact pain mixed with the nostalgia.
Bringing that up in public makes a lot of people uncomfortable. In fact, some of your friends will point out that you’re grieving wrong. You’re being too negative, you’re too bitter, you’re too angry or worse, you’re making a big deal out of nothing. It’s especially difficult in the beginning stages of grief, when your loss and emotions are at their worst. You can help but be angry, especially in that beginning stage; like it or not, you feel a since of betrayal which smarts on a primal level. I know this on a very personal level.
When I first started blogging about my childhood, I came across as angry. And I was: I had just learned that I had a half-brother that I had no idea existed. What I knew about my place in my family unit had been completely and utterly altered. I had discovered that not only had my mother lied to me but my father–who I happen to love very deeply–had been lying by omission, which hurt. I had done a bit of soul-searching and realized that I had thought was simply strict discipline by my mother wasn’t actually discipline; it was abuse. Yes, I was angry. I couldn’t help but be angry and a good number of my posts on my old blog were pretty damned angry. But I had reason to be angry and bottling it up wasn’t going to help; I had been quiet about this for three and a half decades plus. It was about time to break the silence.
I caught hell for it. It was only from one particular person but still, I caught hell.
I did the one thing I often do when someone tells me to shut up: I shut up. I all but quit blogging and continued to suffer in silence, as I had done since I was a child. It wasn’t healthy but this was my coping mechanism; I was used to retreating into myself and burying what I felt.
After a long silence, I began to speak again, which is why this blog exists. I’d had enough. Only now, I’ve noticed my posts have taken a different turn.
I’m not as angry as I was when I first started this journey. I’ve become more philosophical in nature; I can understand that my mother suffered in her past and I can let that go. She was dealt a terrible hand in her own right, as she was born to an abused mother and an angry alcoholic father. She got pregnant at a young age and had her child ripped from her arms without her consent. When she tried to better herself by seeing a therapist, the therapist simply told her to get used to her lot in life, as she would repeat the same mistakes of her own mother. She was behind the eight ball from the start and that was not her fault.
However, she was in control of her actions when she was disciplining me. For that, I will hold her accountable. For that, I will criticize her. That is my right. Why? Because she was an adult and she can be held accountable for the actions she made as an adult. Because they were her choices; no one forced her into hitting me or treating me as she did. Granted, I am not quite as vitriolic when I hold her accountable for that behavior but I will hold her accountable nonetheless. It is part of the grieving process, of mourning my past and what I did not have.
It’s a journey, often marked by taking steps forward, backwards and in-between. But it is a journey and not a process.