I know (consciously) that grief is an ongoing process. You can get to a place where you feel better about a loss, and things are going fine, and then one day – the anniversary of the loss, a similar experience to the loss, a totally random moment – it all comes down, all over again, and you feel like you have to start at Square One.
Losing Toby was hard. Really hard. At first, I thought I could handle it because I’d “been there before”. I gave my first daughter up for adoption eleven and a half years ago (January of 1994), and losing her was hard. Making the decision and being comfortable and proud of the decision wasn’t difficult – I knew it was the right one – but living with the emptiness and loss after that… it took me six years to even begin to feel close to whole again, even after two more kids (Lili and Miles). When we found out that Toby had gone, I figured, hey, I’ve been there, I know how to get through this, I should be back to “normal” relatively quickly…
I was wrong.
Although there are similarities, the loss of a child through choice and the loss of a child through unexpected death are simply not going to be the same things. I wish they were… just so things would be a little easier. The loneliness, the emptiness from a stillbirth… they are more profound, more real, more wrong than carrying full-term. I get up in the morning and put on my jeans, and I think, “I shouldn’t be able to button these up yet”. I get the living room picked up, and I think, “It shouldn’t be this easy to bend down yet…” I look at myself in the mirror and I try to find any evidence at all that I just had a baby, and, finding none, feel unreal and dishonest and angry with my body for not giving me something to focus on.
The hardest part, though, is sometime not the loss itself but rather the domino effect of other issues and feelings that are related to, if not connected to, the death. I often advise (and, thus, must obey) that when we face grief, loss, anger, sadness, fear, we cannot shy away from the hard questions. “Was I at fault? Did I do something wrong? Was it the doctor’s fault? Did I eat enough? Could I have done something to prevent it? How will I face my husband, children, family if I was at fault? How will I face myself? Will I ever be okay again? Will I ever be whole?”
For me, the question is a little harder: “Why wasn’t I good enough?”
Understand, this question came up not just because of Toby but rather because of years of conditioning that I thought I’d finally overcome. (Again, grieving is a process that doesn’t end, it just gets easier with time… in theory.) I found myself asking this question, “Why wasn’t I good enough for him to want to stay and be born and be in my family, be my baby?”, based on my personal mythology that we all choose our lives before we’re born. We know what we’re in store for, and we choose our parents and our life-paths accordingly so that we can learn and grow and become more fulfilled and complete as the lifetimes go by. (This is not an uncommon belief, but it’s not Xian mainstream, either.)
That question is rooted even deeper in the first loss, the first betrayal, I ever expereinced. The original question is, “Why wasn’t I good enough for my mother? Why doesn’t she love me?”
She doesn’t. She never has. She’s squashed me and treated me at best with vague politeness and at worst with outright disgust. I was put in the place of raising and taking care of my four younger siblings, but maintaining a household and the kids and my schoolwork and myself was usually just way too much for me, and nothing I ever did was good enough, quality- or quantity-wise. I was regarded as distasteful and an embarassment by her, and every chance I’ve had to ask her for her honest statement about why has been met with, “Well, that’s just bullshit, I never did that…”
Her tight-lipped drawn mouth calling me down about anything that might’ve given me happiness (or, worse, might’ve gained her approval) still haunts me, her finger in my face and her voice dripping with loathing as she calls me a Lazy Good-For-Nothing Piece of Shit. Whether she ever used these words exactly is beyond me at the moment, but there it is, the archetype in my head, goading me to get up off my ass and do more, make more, be more. I have worked from sun-up until sun-down and well into the night, and it was never enough. It will never be enough. I drive myself to exhaustion, and still the shadow of that finger is stabbing at me, “pathetic lazy weak…”
And I still try. I don’t want to send my kids to school, not just because I fear for their immersion into a society I disapprove of, but because I should have the time to take care of them, and passing off that job to someone else is just laziness. It’s my responsibility first, after all, and I should be able to find a way to teach them at home, go to school full-time myself, get a full-time job, keep my house spotless, make sure dinner is on the table at 7, and have the energy to be a loving and passionate wife, on top of all the other things I do for my vocation as a minister, healer, and counselor.
Because maybe if I do enough, she’ll approve of me finally. Maybe if I get it all done, she’ll love me.
On my path as a healer, her Higher Self visits me and asks for my help, for my understanding, for my healing, and I try my best to give that to her. All I can really give her is my love, unconditional though unrequited as it is, because the attempts I’ve made to relieve her of her pain, of her soul-deep suffering, never gets very far – her Lower Self is so commited to the damage that it’s like trying to push a boulder up a mountain. It’s equal to pissing down a poisoned well. And still I try.
Because maybe if I can find the one thing to say to make her feel better, to help her heal, she’ll love me.
Her Higher Self is sad these days, and scared. I get the impression that she feels that she’s dying, and all evidence points to that real possibility. Last November, I called her with a message I received – she needed to see the doctor and look for a mass in her kidneys. She called me back and told me to stay the fuck out her head, I’m not welcome there. I told her that I wasn’t in her head, I was just passing along a message. We haven’t spoken in person since, and only exchanged two IM conversations. The letters that I’ve sent have been thrown away unopened, and the mere mention of me sets her teeth on edge.
I’ve been toyed with by an image in my head of sitting in her hospital room, the machines keeping her comfortable, and talking to her while she drifts in and out of a lucid state… I’m reading a book to her, crying softly, and finally, I just look up and pull my chair closer and hold her hand gently…
“I need you to know,” I say, “that I never stopped loving you. Even if you could never love me, I never stopped loving you. I was angry with you, and I was hurt by you, and I even tried to hate you, but I never got very far. Despite all of it, I still love you, and I never gave up on you, and I never will.”
And… I have to.
I have to let her go again, release her, finish it off, because I can’t live with the very real and physical pain of the blockage, the damage, that I’ve suffered. I can’t keep questioning if she’s ever going to change her mind about me, leaving that painful wound open for her to eventually, maybe, one day, come and stitch it back up. I can’t leave her there in my head because I have a beautiful family, beautiful children, who deserve to have me whole and present and not constantly questioning and second-guessing myself about whether or not I’m doing this whole “mother” thing right.
I don’t know how to be a mother because I never had a mother, and although I’ve muddled through by using universal truths as a template, there’s still the nagging question in the back of my mind that I might be fucking this up royally. After all, I don’t have that energy response, that “glow”, that other people get when they talk about their mothers – I have a sadness, a tightening in my chest that says I am somehow defective because I do not have that connection.
I want the world to be right again, I want to restore the natural balance and create that connection, and I know that can never happen. The mother-child relationship is established in the womb, but I don’t know if I was ever given that connection in the first place. Is it my R-level brain that focuses on the biological progenitor, or is it the social ego? Is it possible to create that bond with someone else, someone that provides everything except the womb-connection? Would that be enough to help me heal?
Ever since we lost Toby, I’ve been meaning to go over to Momma Lynne’s house. I keep feeling that if I could just curl up in her lap and cry, if I could sit in that safe, secure, sacred place and let the well of my sorrow empty, I would feel better. I’m almost a little afraid to do that for fear that it would not live up to my expectations, that I would only manage to get dehydrated and maybe be an inconvenience.
And yet… Momma Lynne is closer to being a mother for me than I have ever had in my life. Her quiet countenance and calm manner are a refuge for me, a temple from the storm, and I love her deeply and unconditionally. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for her. But I almost feel that I’m holding part of myself back from her because I’m afraid that my biological mother was right – Mothers Always Lie. Mothers don’t protect, they don’t take care of you, and they don’t show love. Ever.
Maybe that’s why I have a hard time thinking of myself as a “mother”. The archetype is still there, niggling in the back of my head, and I refuse to subject the people that I love to that weakness of character. Is it part of my character? Is it hers? It is not Momma Lynne’s.
Although I can only guess what the long-term effects would be as far as healing is concerned, both emotionally and physically, I’m considering asking Momma Lynne if we can have a formal adoption ceremony together, for me and her and Jae and Corbin. In this, our soul-family, it might go a long way to helping all of us heal within the web of our love-by-choice. I don’t feel that this would usurp or deny the families that we already have, but it would create a pod of commitment and membership with each other to add to our individual selves.
I hope she’s coming over today… I would like to talk to her about it. And I really, really, really want to curl up in her lap and be safe for a little while.