I’ve been living with terror & anxiety since September 5, 1974, the day my dad died. Helpless, I was 8 & had long watched him shrink, suffer & die from cancer. My #1 & he didn’t even warn me, or say goodbye?! I was in complete shock, sidled with the dread of when my mom would leave me too; as well as the opposite fear & responsibility of being left alone to tend to her & myself. (She no doubt felt the same way). Mom had sleep apnea although there was no term for it back then. I just remember running downstairs to her bedroom in a panic to see if she was still alive, almost every night. When I did sleep, solitary on the second floor, I had nightmares of walking home from school to a boarded-up house. Once a ‘normal’ kid, my health & well-being were never the same.
At the time of loss, it’s all about survival (mental, emotional & physical). You know, when well-meaning adults say, “The children are so adaptable; I’m amazed at how resilient they are!” That makes me upset. Duh. When we are a dependent child, what other choice do we have but to be resilient (at least temporarily)?! A lot of times the adults fall apart (openly or not, but kids are sponges, taking it all in) & there is a role reversal that occurs. Adults acting stoic doesn’t help. Strong (including tears), yes. Cold & stoic (denial), no. I felt I was such, for almost 40 years. Coping skills can usually only last so long & take us so far before something starts to unravel.
Some are lucky enough to have remarkable built-in resources &/or outward support of some kind, enabling them to press on, & on, rising up, & up, with remarkable success. Some are likely to become dependent & addicted on other sources in order to slog through. For most of us, our system protects us by allowing us to dissociate from certain traumas. Some are forced to confront deep healing, going through the gunk enough to come out on the other side. Some are not, or do not. The conditions of life are extreme & every soul acts/reacts/copes/thrives in a way as unique as their very fingerprints. Therefore it is best not to judge, under any circumstance. None of us is EVER privy to ALL the information (in regards to our own selves, let alone another)!
I’m glad I didn’t know what lay ahead. For us, a family of six in one house was quickly reduced down to just the two of us, my mom & I. As it is with life, a variety of things ensued for all. Most recently, dementia came for my mom & has been holding us hostage ever since. As much as humans tend to worry about the future & want to know how it’s going to go, I don’t think any of us would really benefit by knowing ahead of time what we will be required to face (even if it were a beautiful dream coming to fruition). In just a few short years life can change dramatically, for better or for worse.
It wasn’t until I got divorced at age 39, did I seek counseling for all the unbearable distress that seemed to surface out of nowhere. The therapist even went so far as to call it, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (I didn’t believe her at first. After all, I’m not a war veteran, at least not externally speaking. Surprisingly I hadn’t read anything about it till just now, that short link above. Hmm, it fits). After ten years of re-associating, I have no doubt of her diagnosis.
From this experience, compassion, empathy & understanding have become my default mode; an automatic state of being which I can offer to myself, loved ones & clients. Though dealing with others & the world at large can still be overwhelming, I’m finally painfully aware & at least know what I’m dealing with. I’m supremely grateful to Dr. Metz for supporting me through this healing journey with his gift of insight & special brand of energy medicine.
I know my momma isn’t long for this world now. She has yearned to reside beside the heavenly hosts (which now includes, siblings, friends, & offspring). I am getting older by the minute, too! …We shall see…We shall see…How will things transpire for she & me? I can’t help wanting & needing to know… After all, I’ve been waiting with terror & anxiety for 40 years…Who, what, when, where, why & how?!
As I often do, I humbly bow my head & calm my heart with prayer to let go & have faith. “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom his love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light & guard, to rule & to guide. Amen.”
And, it never hurts to have a Teddy Bear to hug:
Betty Bear & Maggie Bear, courtesy of my dear friend, Sunshine. She lovingly knits bears which she donates to the Mother Bear Project, serving AIDS orphans in Africa. She made these in homage to my mom & I, using yarn that we had donated to her from clearing out my mom’s sewing room (in that ‘scary’ upstairs of my childhood!).
(Photo by Sunshine Psota)