Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday's Woe - The Family Get Together that Included More than Just Family

"There is a feeling of disbelief that comes over you, that takes over, and you kind of go through the motions. You do what you're supposed to do, but in fact you're not there at all."

~Frederick Barthelme 

Wednesday's Woe

The Family Get Together that Included 

More than Just Family

"The loss of a future eroded the present. The long shadow of the past haunted the moment. I lived in fear – fear of no future, fear of the past and afraid the shrapnel of the present tense was going to be my demise. I was left fragmented, holding on and holding it all in."
~Benjamin Allen


Let me give you some background first… We have managed over the course of the last several months, to sequester ourselves fairly well from festive activities like holiday events, etc. We made sure we were alone at Christmas, New Years, Tommy's birthday, Easter, Merry Katherine's birthday, and Mother's Day; holidays and grief, for us, just do not mix well. They typically are the worst days of the year for us, and it is all we can do just to muddle our way through them in the sanctuary of our own home. Nathan had come home for his birthday, and we had had a sweet time with him, but there could be no large get together with all of us together because we knew we weren't up for that, so he celebrated in small gatherings instead.

So here it was, the first outing in quite awhile with all our little family gathered around. We were delighted Nathan was coming close by and wanted to introduce us to his new girlfriend he had met while living down in Georgia, but we had fear and trepidation about the family get together without our lively Merry Katherine in the thick of the action… We tried to be sure we were well-rested, well-grieved, and as prepared as we could be for the occasion. But we knew it probably would be difficult and have its painful moments anyway...

This is how I felt, sitting in a family gathering around the table at Cracker Barrel, (As I said, it was a rare event for all of us to get together, because as always, the Absence of her Presence would loom too large, and the shadow would overwhelm the entire event). Here we were, one son celebrating a new love, a beautiful bright moment in his life, and thus in our life, and the other son celebrating and sharing with us for the first time their discovery of new life in his wife's womb, with the hopes of a newborn to come into our presence in about seven months from now, and thus more great elation was there for the celebration in our family's hearts… !

But, where was I? O, I was there to celebrate alright; I wouldn't miss such a special time together, in their lives and mine, and yet somehow I was far far away at the same time… 

I could feel the tension in my insides. Here it was, a truly beautiful culmination of events in our family's lives all at one time, and yet why was my heart sitting in my chest still feeling crushed, pulverized, and dangerous, as if it could splat out on the table and ruin everyone's happiness all at once? 

I felt fear; I felt danger; I felt "un-me," and frightened, even while I too felt sparks of the joy my children were feeling, to some degree. My usual confidence was shaken, and what seemed to replace it was a gross insecurity that clouded my ability to relax and "be" in the moment. I felt on guard against potential disaster, and some of that disaster that might originate from within, from my own darkness that was overwhelming the lightness of the occasion, despite being now engulfed in my children's light-hearted banter. What was wrong with me? I love people; I love my children; I enjoy their quick, spontaneous humor; I love family time, and the sweetness that surrounds it!

Still, it was as if I knew Life and Death were sitting at the same table with me at one time. How can one singly celebrate Life when Death is sitting there tightly coiled, just waiting for its moment to lash out onto the table to totally spew the rest of  its poisons out, and take out all that was left of my family at one time?  Or, at the very least, spew out some of the poisons that seemed to have crept down into my own heart and soul, and thus potentially ruin a perfectly beautiful evening for my family.

How can one truly enjoy a shared meal with loved ones when we know Danger is lurking at our side all the while? Like Benjamin Allen says, "I was left fragmented, holding on and holding it all in." I was using what little energy I had available to try to hide that desperate negativity that was clawing at me, threatening to engulf my soul. In actuality, it was already ripping at my insides even as I knew it was threatening to swamp me, and take me down at any moment…). How do you smile and try to be festive with all that fear and turmoil going on in your heart and soul?


After the first thirty minutes to an hour of the meal, I was able to feel more and more of the love from my sons' hugs, and the laughter regarding their, and my grand baby girl's, shenanigans. I was beginning to be able to feel the joy in response to their joy as the night progressed. It morphed more and more into a sweet and peaceful time around people who are each full of grace. 

If I was not altogether present, I was mostly present during the remainder of the evening as opposed to the very rough start at first. 

Perhaps this is what it is like to grieve your child now after 7-and- 3/4 years; the grief-and-trauma does not leave (rather, it goes with us everywhere we go!) so we must make room for it, and over time and much grief work, our systems learn to make room for joy at the same time. 

There are times worse than others; I have not quite sorted out what all happened this time ~ I think I have been exhausted from a great deal of grief lately,  which leaves an aggravated adrenal system and its concomitant disrupted sleep, all of which culminates in a steady low-level state of exhaustion, leaving me just enough energy to function, but barely. And thus, I am left more vulnerable for the darkness of my grief to surface at all the wrong times…  

I am very grateful for what was mostly, ultimately, a sweet time with my family. 

I am also aware that we indeed walk in this world now ever accompanied not only by Life… but also Death. Yes, it was a family get-together than included more than just family; it also included my grief and my fear….

Towards the end of the evening, Tommy came up to me, saying, "We need to go now!" Evidently, the evening had been relatively good for him, until towards the end of the evening when the boys were showing off their antics, and the absence of Merry Katherine began to overtake Tommy as she would have been right alongside, in the thick of the playful action with them… He said he had felt tears threatening to come to the surface, so he had left abruptly to go "get gas for the car," and then returned to get me so that we could leave as soon as possible.

Yes, our Traumatic Grief goes along with us wherever we might go, and it often demands to make its presence known.

Those close to me could detect there was something wrong. "He's grieving... he's sad... he can't get over it..."

But they didn't know it was more than that. I was in freefall in every moment. I was in the dark every day.

I was in fear - fear that the unbearable pain could get worse.

~Benjamin Allen

Graphics, thanks to
The Afterloss / Facebook:


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