Monday, June 15, 2009

Ghosts of the Past

My closest girlfriend and I went out to eat Friday night, her treat because her father had just sent her a check for $10,000.00! There was no reason he sent it - just because. My friend was divorced at the same time my husband was ill. Her dad also gave her a new van, and I also have another girlfriend, just divorced, whose dad gave her a car as well as some money. One of these friends is a teacher, the other a nurse - both work full-time and have ex-husbands in the picture (to share the carpooling with, childcare, etc.). Although I am truly happy for the good fortune of my friends, there is still a big part of me that struggles with the unfairness of it when I compare their family situations with mine.

My sister, two brothers and I are not close. My sister and one brother live in the area, the other brother lives in Hawaii. All are successful and have homes and children ALONG WITH SPOUSES! We do get together a few times a year for holiday celebrations where everyone pretends to be closer than we are. I struggled this Easter (actually agonized) about whether to go to my brother's home or not. I feel a great deal of despair and sadness over my siblings not really caring about our foreclosure or my recent divorce. In the end I went to my brother's home and did bring up our current situation with the foreclosure. News of our affairs is taken on a very matter-of-fact level. My three closest friends have all extended offers that we can stay in their homes if the need arises. No such offer has come from my family. During the nine-month period of my divorce my sister only talked to me once. If she were going through any type of hardship with her husband I would have been at her door with a chocolate cake and two forks, taken her out for a drink, gone window shopping to distract her and LISTENED!

The biggest issue that haunts me is that I am not after any type of handout or financial assistance. I'll deal with this situation as well as I can. What I crave and expect even to a certain extent is a moderate amount of verbal sympathy, encouragement and support which doesn't cost a dime! Since Easter I have not heard from any of my family. My sister is upset with me for some reason I am guessing has to do with my dad (perhaps that I do not see him as regularly as she does) but I am projecting because she has refused to discuss the matter with me despite my pleas to her to tell me what is wrong.

When you are grieving losses, unresolved losses from the past come back to haunt you. I know in my family's case, we have had to deal with the ghosts of the past brought on by my father's Alzheimer's disease and my mom's death two years ago. The two years they were both very sick were difficult for all of us. Then we were involved in clearing out our large childhood home and having it sold. The ghosts that returned involved the pain of having been raised in an abusive (physical and emotional) home by neglectful parents, one of whom was an alcoholic and suffered from mental illness. It is terribly painful for me to write these words but over the past months as I've dealt with the grief of my husband's death and then my divorce, I've also been battling deeply ingrained feelings of self-worth, abandonment and rejection with roots in my childhood.

My therapist tells me that my siblings are reacting in response to the way we are all raised. No one in my family ever acknowledged the truth (it always had to be hidden). I try to keep this all in perspective as I deal with my current housing and financial situation. But there are days when it is harder than others. Hearing about how more "normal" families interact with, help and support one another is tough. It seems to me that it is a pretty small request to have a sibling make contact with me to wish me well or say they are thinking of me. And there is additional hurt that my family hasn't been involved with my sons. Some days I actually feel that if the three of us fell off the face of the earth no one would really care (and in my family no one would even notice for months!).

It is not easy to turn these terribly sad but true words around and come up with my gratitude list next but I'll so my best and try to keep it simple so I don't have to think too much.

Today I am grateful:

1. That there were a few hanging flower baskets on clearance left at the hardware store because I can only afford the really marked down flowers - but I did get some.
2. That my my sons are healthy, active and happy despite the financial hardships that surround us.
3. That the boys improved their academic grades this year despite the stress going on in our home because of the divorce.
4. For my male friend who came and cut down some dead tress in the yard and watched the boys at their baseball game while I was at work.
5. For the friends who have become like family in the wake of my misfortune.

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