[Note: I wrote and posted this a couple weeks ago. Then I woke up in the middle of the night and decided to pull it off. Not sure why but it just didn't feel right. Well, since them, I've done a little more digging and reading and have totally embraced the whole wounded inner child philosophy. I'm sure every one who's ever read it thinks John Bradshaw's "Homecoming" was written just for him/her. As a way to get past the sadness that seems to have settled on my shoulders, I've embraced this work with the goal of reconnecting with and reparenting my inner child who, for whatever reason, was wounded and neglected somewhere along the way. ME/me]
"So like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us."
To say I've had an epiphany might be a bit of an exaggeration. But I think I may have a new understanding of some different aspects of grief I've been experiencing. I'm not sure if this is the right place to work through it. Is it appropriate? Is it private? Does anyone need to know but me?
Many of you have been with me on my journey through caregiving and death. You've laughed with me, cried with me, comforted and encouraged me. It does feel safe to ask you to continue to tag along as I continue my search for inner peace and serenity. But I also understand if you've gotten rather bored with my trials. Believe me there are many days I feel the same way.
About a month ago I got so sad that I knew I needed some help. Remember the trips to the physician and cardiologist? Well the help I really needed was to get back into therapy with someone I can trust and try, once again, to get to the bottom of my sadness. If you are scratching your head and saying something like, "her father just died, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out she's going to be sad" I agree with you. But I also know that this deep, deep sad feeling that overcomes me at times like a shroud, is caused by more than just the loss of my father. Add to that the loss of my mother, my job, my identity and you've got a roiling stew of compound grief. So I've hooked back up with a woman who has helped me in the past.
Today was my 2nd visit. What's going on, she asked, and so it began. As it sometimes happens in therapy sessions it was an hour of twists and turns that somehow in the end began to make sense.
Ginny gave me a great example of how the grief journey might look if the object is to get from point A (the loss) to point whatever -B, D, E, R, T, or Z (a place of acceptance). She spoke directly to my level of understanding. She said grief is like the children's book, Going On A Bear Hunt (by Michael Rosen). Are you familiar with the story? I knew the title but not the story, so after my session I went straight to B&N and bought it. [In my book, emotional therapy should always be followed by retail therapy or a chocolate ice cream cone. If it's a particularly rough session, both would be appropriate.]
A brief synopsis of the story is that a dad and his kids decide it is a beautiful day for a bear hunt. Along the way they encounter obstacles - tall grass, a river, mud, a big dark forest, a snowstorm and a cave - which they cannot go over or under. They must go through them. Each trouble spot has a full page of sound effects - squish, splash, stumble trip, etc. I won't tell you the end, but you can probably guess that somewhere along the way they have an encounter with a bear. Grief, says my beloved, trusted therapist, is like the bear hunt. I can't go over it or under it, I have to go through it to get to the other side.
As I began my search this afternoon, with the big bag of losses slung over my shoulder Ginny gently pointed out that I am also grieving the loss of hope. The hope that if I'm good enough, quiet enough, happy enough, smart enough, fill-in-the-blank enough my parents will love me the way I need to be loved. AHA!
Now that they are gone, I have to examine that "please love me more" way thinking and find a way to block out the critical-not-enough voice I still hear that sounds very much like my father. My dead father. The one I lived to please right up to his last breath. The one I gently cleaned and dressed before he was wheeled away on a cart. The one whose "I love you" usually came with a rather large "BUT" attached to it. The one who died and left me stranded physically, spiritually and emotionally.
So now what? Well it seems I have to quit looking for love in all the wrong places and learn to be the parent(s) my inner child has longed for. You see my adult persona is perfectly aware that my parents loved me the best way they knew how, that they provided my sisters and I the things we needed to have a better life than they had, and that playing a blame game now is not only useless, it's pointless. My job is to love and care for myself, i.e. my inner child. And I can't go over it or under it. I have to march right through that scary place. Because I'm the parent now. I'm the one I have to look to to say to Little ME, "there, there, sweet girl, it's gonna be okay. "
Let's throw in a little woo woo to spice up the story a little more. For the last six weeks I've been taking a women's workshop from my favorite Queen Dani. How does a woman grow into her sovereignty? One of the steps is to look at a picture of herself when she was just a little girl, when life was good and she still believed in happy endings, and say, "what is it you need now?" And then be quiet and listen for the response. The picture above contains the letter I wrote to Little Me (Carolyn) promising her I'd take care of her. That was three weeks ago, before I even had today's revelation.
And there was last week's meltdown over the silver tea set when I realized on a gut level, my parents are gone. Gone. GONE. There are no more hoops to jump through for love which leaves me asking, does that mean no more chance for love?
It's also interesting to me, in the way of timing, that a few opportunities have been placed in front of me to dig into things on a spiritual level. Is it a coincidence that it is all happening at the same time? Or is it just that for the first time in my life I have the opportunity to learn how to take care of me. Mother Mary, caregiver extraordinare, doesn't have a clue how to care and nurture herself. Ironic isn't it. And sad.
Today I'm grateful for safe rooms, Aha moments, picture books and a big box of Kleenex. I'm thankful the guy swinging 100 feet in the air tied to a rotten tree limb hanging over the pool in my back yard didn't come crashing down. (A story for another day.) And I'm grateful for children at church.
My wish for you today is that you give yourself the gifts of love and attention that you would give others.