Toward the end of my session today with Lucy, I happened to mention to her that a few months ago I had the realization that for all the poetry that I write, nothing had to do with the loss of my first marriage. My divorce and the loss of my family got stuck between the midst of other traumatic events in my life. I never really processed it or grieved it.
And then I mentioned that I remember the first holiday after my divorce, it was so emotionally painful. I had always envisioned my children and grandchildren being at my house on holidays. I had dedicated my life to this reality.
Anyone who knew me or saw me with my children knew that they were my life, that I was deeply devoted to my family. In my future’s eye, there was no other vision. There were no other possibilities. In my heart and mind this was a guarantee.
Once you give birth to a child, you can never envision your life without them. Certainly not when they are still alive. There was no other future in my realm of possibilities.
That first holiday without my intact family was excruciating. The next holiday was the same. The pain and sorrow were unbearable.
Something died inside of me. To celebrate meant facing and realizing this loss. But the pain was too great. I didn’t want to feel it anymore. So I stopped celebrating holidays altogether.
Years have past and I still don’t celebrate holidays.
When I mentioned this to Lucy, she looked at me and said, “Maybe you are punishing yourself!” I wasn’t expecting that! My response was a hesitant, “Maybe!” I had never even thought to consider this as a possibility. We made arrangements for my next appointment and I left.
When I was about halfway through my drive home, her question came back to my mind. I started crying uncontrollably and felt the pain of the loss once again. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what I really felt. It was just a deep, deep sorrow.
It is one thing to grieve a loss through death. This kind of loss is final and devastating. There isn’t much inside of us to know how to process, much less grieve the loss of those who are still alive.
With death, you keep the memories of love and affection amidst the sorrow. When you lose someone who is still alive, it feels like this one is on you. As though you are not good enough or worth it. Every good memory is tarnished with the awareness that, in the end, you weren’t worth it. Nothing but shame and sorrow hang over you.
If I were to think about it, losing my family was the biggest failure of my life. There, I said it!
And now that I have, I realize, how can someone’s abuse of you be your failure? I don’t know, but I wish I could have at least saved my children from their father. And because they don’t fully know all that I went through in life or with him, they have no clue how much I was victimized by him as well.
He tried to take my life several times before they were even old enough to know what was going on. He harmed all of us. They were left to struggle through their own abuse by him, and rightfully so. There was no way for them to know fully what I have experienced from him as well.
They saw plenty, they saw his fist go through many or our walls and the dents in the dashboard of our car. They saw him drag me down the stairs by my hair and hold the hooked end of a hammer over my head threatening to hit me with it. They heard him tell me to get out, knowing I had nowhere to go. They know he killed our dog that we all loved dearly with his bare hands. They know what he did to them.
But how could they not wonder why I didn’t save them from him? I wonder this too! So yes, I do feel as though I failed immeasurably! I don’t know how to forgive myself, and so how could I ever expect that they could forgive me too?
Don’t get me wrong, my children wanted me to get free from their father. They were old enough and helped me to do so. I have even asked each of them to forgive me. But they just dismiss my apologies as if they are not even necessary. It is just something I feel or perceive deep inside. Maybe because I don’t forgive myself.
I don’t know if I am punishing myself or not by not celebrating holidays. But I do know that it has helped me to be able to stuff deep inside the pain that I feel today just thinking about it.