The sharp edges of grief
I had to think long and hard about this, I spent most of my morning befuddled and confused since so much of grief to me has felt like a shadow. A dark covering over all the moments that are good.
There is a sharpness though, and I know it exists in the pain but today I want to talk about sharp edges as self-preservation. The moments when someone’s comments about how I deal with the loss of My Parents, and by extension the only close living relatives I’ve ever had, cut me deeply and I go into an awful and defensive place.
When my mothers body was found on July 23rd of 2020 we were not on speaking terms. I had gone no-contact with her in August of 2019 after she threatened my life, on multiple occasions, because I had called crisis on her for a wellness check. She’d shacked up with some guy she met in a halfway house and was acting erratically. She wasn’t sleeping, and her closest friends said they didn’t feel safe having her in their homes.
Naturally I was concerned, and being her daughter I knew she wouldn’t listen to what I had to say so I did what I thought was right. I called in the professionals.
They did nothing. She went into ‘therapy’ eventually, and claimed she was working the program and getting help, but over the next year I could see the mania behind her eyes and kept my distance. I told her we could ‘open the lines of communication’ soon, but with my father withering away from the cancer I as a bit…preoccupied.
Today I made a comment on a family’s post, something about how we shouldn’t worry about what’s expected, the marriage and family and kids and all that. I made a reply:
This is all quite lovely. And it’s how I’ve spent most of my adult life.
I never worried about being married, having kids, buying a house etc etc.
Yet here I am, 33 years old with no job and no family.
What’s my point? Words are lovely, but it’s the actions we take in each moment that truly matter.
Now I didn’t mean anything mean or callous by this, just that taking those initiatives and really choosing how we use our moments is what matters.
And that’s when my Aunt decided to text me
“I”m so sorry you lost your job!! But you don’t have a family?!?!? THat’s news to me.” I tried to explain that wasn’t meant as a job towards her, but she wouldn’t accept it. Then she brought out her favorite saying, “The door swings both ways” (insinuating I could’ve reached out to her)
And well… that’s when I got sharp. The anger that grief can bring is something I have to fight back, frequently, lest I alienate every last person on earth.
It surely doesn’t swing out this way very often though.
I’m sorry, but where were you when I watched my father die? Where was the input from me when you held a memorial for my mother the day before I went back to work?
That comment I made, on your daughter’s facebook post, was meant more in the vein that I don’t have the immediate blood family I can turn to. You’ve taken it in an entirely different direction, and I can go there if that’s what you want.
So please, go ahead and disown me just like your sister did. It’s old hat at this point.”
That is the sharpness. That is a bitter tongue speaking acrid words from a place so dark I hate to know it’s there.
Sprouts of Sanity
So when exchanges like the previous post occur I’m left in this horrible lurch, this place where I can’t quite tell if the monster is me or if I’m just being buffeted by the storms and the anger around me.
After that exchange I called an uncle, my father’s brother, to talk and catch up a bit.
“Well, if I’m being honest I kinda stepped in it this time” I told him, referring to the exchange with my mothers’ sister.
“Well, family is hard” he said in no uncertain terms. “It’s unfortunate the people were born into are usually the most difficult to get along with.” We talked some more, he’s heading to colorado for a job and we talked about road trips and travels.
I then talked with boyfriends mother, who has been more family to me than my blood kin for a long while and most especially since all of this happened.
“Well, she could’ve just said ‘we love you and we’re here for you’”.
That right there stopped me cold in my tracks. No more of the sharp, burning anger but a softening. A realization that her words were said intentionally to get a rise out of me. To make me angry and cause some form of chaos. Had she taken a moment maybe she wouldn’t have brought out that jagged bit of me.
That isn’t to say I couldn’t have bit my tongue, tried to take a more civil route in all this myself, but it does give me pause.
I may have those briars and bristle against others, against critiques and criticisms, but I know they exist. It is in that knowing, in that self-knowledge that I take refuge that I can rise above it. That I need not add kindle to the fire when I feel it beginning to grow inside.
So while I may find myself full of jagged bits and sticking briars, I can also let time and space soothe those wounds. I can nurture the briar until the seed sprouts and something new and green comes through.
I am but a seed, hard shelled and covered with prickers, but filled with the potential of a future I can scarcely imagine.