Friday, December 18, 2009

Pots of Loss

Sam confided yesterday that the reason he pushed for us to move so quickly was well meaning. He thought it would be easier for me to deal with all the recent losses (selling the house, moving to the apt., etc.) if he threw the relocation in there along with them. His reasoning was that I'd be able to deal with all the losses at the same time and get "over" them more quickly.

Although I understand his intention, from my personal experience and what I have read about multiple losses, I'm not sure this is how it works. I think you have to deal with each loss on its own. You can't combine a bunch of losses and deal with them all together. Each one is its own entity.

I know from my situation as well, that there is a limit to how much grief I can handle. When it exceeds that limit I shut down and simply can't take on any more. When my Mom was dying two years ago and I was supposed to be packing up and selling my home and moving out of state, the only issue I could focus on was my Mom. I also realized I absolutely did not possess the strength to deal with my Mom's death and then handle the issues relating to the relocation. It was too much for me. I know Husband #2 did not understand this and it was part of what led to the divorce.

This current situation seems so much a repeat of what happened two years ago. I have just "lost" my home and moved into an apartment. The place isn't even unpacked. We never had a moment to settle in or process this life changing event. And then overnight I was forced to make decisions relating to another out-of-state relocation. I feel there wasn't adequate time for me to even gain some clarity or perspective before being thrust into this new whilwind.

One of my girlfriends commented the other day that people have to move all the time for jobs and family issues. She made it sound so matter-of-fact. But timing and circumstances do figure in there too. In the recent past I have had to face a very painful divorce, the sale and move from our home, finding and moving into a small apartment, fitting all the overflow of household goods and possessions into storage units and then taking a time intensive Nursing Assistant Program because of job necessity. Maybe for other people this wouldn't be too much, but it is for me. And it is also partly because I've had to face those issues on my own while trying to figure out what is best for my sons.

Sam described me as falling apart at the seams and being a wreck. I found the description very painful to hear. He said he wants to make life easier for me but it seems as though since the move I am more despondent and unhappy. That's grief for you. You are despondent. He thinks the boys have fed off my grief which can very well be true but the reality is that my depression has been so linked into their grief. Kind of like which came first - my grief over them having to move or theirs. But it doesn't really matter which came first anyway - it is all so interconnected. All of us are having difficulty with this. Sam thinks I should buck up and demonstrate strength for the boys - no more sleeping in during the day or crying. I don't relate this to bash him - it is how he feels. I've tried to explain that grief is very powerful and cannot be so easily batted away. I see his point about trying to be there more for the boys but that doesn't mean I can will my own grief away.

I have certainly learned through all of this that we can't push grief away and expect to heal. It is walking through it, crying, hurting and even vomiting from the grief that gets us out of the basement level of pain. So for those of us with more on our plates that also means having a longer go at the process. We'll be taking those steps out of the basement at a slower pace. Or maybe we'll stop a moment to sit on the steps awhile before making the effort to go back up.

I don't believe you can lump all your losses together to make the load easier or faster to get through. Multi-tasking may work in real life but not with grief. Each loss has to be grieved on its own. I think you have to concentrate on one to experience it fully. If you try to grieve everything all at once it just becomes muddled and unclear as to what you're exactly grieving. About grief overload - too much is too much. Being a wreck and appearing as though we're falling apart at the seams is an indication that it has all become too much. It would be nice to have the ability to take a break from life's current problems to have the time to devote to the past. It would be ideal if that could be the case. As for the times when life keeps piling up the challenges, I'm not sure what the solution is. What is the strategy for grieving at the same time you are living and facing difficult circumstances?

I suppose one answer would be to deal with what is most pressing at hand and having the strength and sense to put aside the other matters for a short while. Then returning to them when life has been restored to a more even level. What I have learned is that trying to handle too much grief all at once is futile. In doing that you run the risk of tuning out and avoidance, as well as feeling insane. Losses are very profound and each has such an individual meaning and significance for us. There is a certain level of honoring our losses that I have come to recognize as necessary. They can't be lumped together like a blob of clay. Each loss has to be formed and then put into the kiln and fired. For now, I will concentrate on this new move and put some of the other losses on the shelf to fire in the kiln later. They'll still be there, safe and sound. Let me tell you, they aren't going anywhere! But right now all my focus, strength and energy is needed to mold the pot determining where the boys will end up at school.


  1. Oh how I wish I had something fabulous to suggest which would make your life easier. I've just been reading through your recent posts, and can feel the many layers of loss that complicate your healing.

    I too am trying to sort out my daily emotions, and trying to be aware of which emotion goes with which sense of loss. Friends often ask me if my grieving process is more difficult because of the kids, or more comforting because of the kids. I say, how the hell should I know? This is what I got.

    There doesn't appear to be any easy answers in life. We just do the best with what he have in the moment. The end results of each decision will be revealed in time. Unfortunately for me, and sounds like for you, it just gets more complicated.

    So take my words as a gift basket of sorts. Individually they don't offer too much, but all wrapped up together and tied up with a bow, you can look at them as a gift, and know someone is thinking about you.

    Also, it would appear that you and I share a favorite movie, Love Actually. Michael didn't understand my obsession with this movie, and would whine and roll his eyes when I would take it out for my annual Christmas viewing. I'm thinking that this weekend will be the perfect opportunity for me to enjoy it. I'll be thinking of you when I do.


  2. You have had so much major upheaval for you that there hasn't been time to recover from one and begin the process of the next one. It is the same for your boys. They too are sharing in the same level of upheaval, except theirs is from the expectation and life experiences of teenagers. I don't think anyone can just "buckle up" and stuff down grief and loss. It is only bound to explode that way in some very unpleasant ways. I know that there are no easy ways to go, but for all that you've been through you must know you are so close to coming out the other side. I can only hope that with some time and reassurances this will happen sooner rather than later...

  3. Dan, I am for sure accepting your kind basket of words as a greatly needed and appreciated gift!

    Love Actually is on the agenda for my viewing this weekend too. I think it will do me some good.

    When my husband died, someone told me how lucky I was to have the boys since I would be able to focus on them, plus not be so lonely. I am grateful for my sons - that is a given. But bearing responsibility for them while having to grieve has been a challenge. It is what it is. Kind of what you said - "This is what I got." But to be sure, the kids factor into all of us because they are in our lives and as parents we still have to parent as best we can.

    Thank you for your observations and reflections. One of my main hopes in posting is to demonstrate how multi-layered and complicated loss can be. You realize this too.

  4. Debra - I think you phrased it better than I did in the post. It is not being able to recover or get my bearings after one loss before being thrown into the next that has resulted in so much torment. The word upheaval is perfect. Thank you for passing on your clarifiaction - it is helpful and hopeful. Sometimes just being able to understand something better makes a huge difference.

  5. This is your journey, your loss, your grief and there is no right or wrong way of dealing with it. Please don't push yourself too hard because of anyone else's advice ... or you could go downhill and fast (it's happened to me). One baby step at a time. It sounds as though your first step is to focus on your children's schooling. Great. Then focus on the next step, and the next after that. You have the foundation to do this from ... but it won't magically make it all better, as you well know. Take good care of YOU xx

  6. Thank you Boo. Putting one foot in front of the other and sweeping up one challenge before moving ahead to the next. You are so observant about the need for us to do what is right on our own terms - it just frustrates me to no end that so many people don't want us to have that - they want us to grieve according to what they think is right or to act in ways that are suitable for them. I just want the world and people to ease up on us and give us a break.

  7. at the breaking point, major depression will hit and an antidepressant will really help to give you some energy and clarity to do the next step. widow, disabled, with a disabled son. in debt. no family support. few friends who are burnt out in their lives and a neighbor from hello to deal with. if it weren't for an antidepressant, it's unlikely I would be writing this to you. hope this helps.